Wasting Money or Making a Difference

The daily prompt for a blog post topic asks us to write today about one thing we would like our elected government official (local or national) to accomplish during the year 2013. That is a loaded question…meaning, it would take many blog postings to accomplish that task. And they would be long. And they would probably be boring…or controversy inciting (depending on my mood as I write). So how do I choose? I don’t. I will write about a different topic.

Actually, what I have to say today could tie in to some things I would like to see accomplished, but they can’t be shared in one simple posting. So enough of this wishy-washy, blah, blah blah…

In my community we had a little bit of an uproar these last few months about a proposed increase in property taxes. In the initial reports, the taxes were to help pay the costs for a community service that is going bankrupt and not providing service to the whole community. The service has oversold itself on what it would do and under-provided on what it actually does. And because the company got in bed (metaphorically speaking) with the city council and mayor, the citizens were being asked to pay the bill. A bad business deal, that I don’t even have access to, was going to increase my property taxes without me ever having any benefit. Sounds like government tom-foolery to me.

Quickly a petition went around and many concerned citizens signed it…which in the end required that the issue be put on the ballet during the November elections. And so it was. And then suddenly the information about the tax hike started to change. “The city needs this…” or “City employees will have to go without pay raises” or “We have to work with old computers” or “We will have to cut law enforcement…” were the cries from City Hall. There was flip-flopping on a local level like I have never seen.

Hold on, I am going to write something that I would like to see done during the next year…and by my locally elected officials. Sorry, but I must yell.

STOP BEING FINANCIALLY IRRESPONSIBLE!!!!

(And that goes for the national government…but they have already heard it enough and aren’t doing much about it, so I won’t even try with them…at least not in this post.)

The minute I heard the law enforcement excuse I lost all respect in my elected officials. And I don’t mean anything against the law enforcement community. I have friends and neighbors that are police officers and I respect what they do. But to in essence hold the public “hostage” for a tax increase by naming a service that protects everyone is ridiculous.

Here are some of the areas of cuts that they were proposing to the police department: fewer officers on the street (through attrition), not having new cars, and as a result of both, less ability to patrol the city, protect the citizens, and respond to incidents. Here are my solutions. I think they are fiscally responsible and would hope that they could make a difference.

First, when there are five librarians on the city payroll that each make more than double the starting salary of a police officer, there is some financial irresponsibility taking place. Dewey decimal and quite time police don’t need to be paid so much. I heard our governor, who happens to be a citizen of this community, is hoping to get a job as a librarian here when he is done being the governor so that he can get a pay raise. City payroll should be distributed to the different department more responsibly.

Second, with how well the cars are taken care of, they should be able to last longer than the five years needed to get the full tax deduction. Yes I know that some of the patrol cars are older than mine…but they also get serviced more than mine. They should run better. But that isn’t the part that frustrates me the most. I am sick and tired of seeing patrol cars used for personal transportation by off-duty officers. Especially when they aren’t following the traffic laws themselves. I don’t like seeing police cars parked at the cops house either. Or at some random place to be used as a deterrent to speeders.

Now don’t get me wrong. I know that they can be effectively used in those situations, but when a department is crying about funding, maybe those are some areas that can be re-evaluated, even temporarily until the economy gets better. When every patrolman gets to take his own car home, that means that there are cars that sit in a driveway more than half of the time of their existence. Time that they could be used by other cops to patrol the city. Thus making it unnecessary for so many cars. Hey, the citizens have to make due in tough times, this is just one way that the city can as well. Having a cop car parked on the side of a road as a deterrent for crime is not going to deter anyone when they notice that the cop car has six inches of snow on the top of it and it hasn’t snowed in two days. Just sayin’.

Third,computers. If the computer is still running on Windows XP because it can’t physically can’t be upgrades due to hardware limitations, then by all means replace it. But if the job can still be done with what you have, keep it. Maybe you need a new hard drive because you need more storage. Fine. Memory is so much cheaper than a complete new system.

One thing I heard a lot growing up that my wife and I talk about occasionally is the phrase: “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” That is a pretty sound fiscal policy on all levels if you ask me. I guarantee you that my home computer is older than what the city employees use. If they tax me so that they can buy new computers for them, how will I be able to get one for me?

Fourth, I am all for salary increases. I am not for increases for everyone if the salary breakdown from department to department is ridiculous (see my comment before about the librarians). I do not live in a privileged community, but some city workers seem to think so.

Look, it’s simple. In tough times, you have to re-evaluate the situation and see what you can do differently. Economic hardships are felt by us all. When governments, whether local or national, want to increase your taxes to make things better for them without seeing where they can make changes within their own organizations, it makes the citizens feel those economic hardships even more. It starts looking like the Disney version of Robin Hood when the Sheriff of Nottingham is going around collecting taxes.

I am not a politician, government employee, or community volunteer so I may not have a complete view of the situation. I’m not an accountant either so some of my ideas may not actually make much sense. But it comes down to this…I expect my elected officials to make a difference rather than waste money. We as citizens should expect that of all elected officials.

There you go government people…my request of you for 2013.

Just another view from a palmtree.

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Trying to Make Sense

It has been two days since the senseless mass-murder at the elementary school in Connecticut.  There has been a lot of sadness, a lot of tears, a lot of grieving…and there will continue to be for a while.

I don’t know what I would say to the families that lost someone in that horrific event.  I can think of a lot of things I would like to say, but once in the situation I’m not sure what I would.  Maybe a hug and a shoulder to cry on would be the easiest.

My religious views may not be that of some victims’ family members so some of what I would think to say may not resonate with them.  Truth be told, there may not be anything I have in common with those families that would help me think of something that I could say that would bring them comfort.

But I am a father.  I have five children with my youngest being the same age as many that were killed in that school.  But I still can’t even imagine how I would react if she were to be taken from me as those kids were taken.

A lot of blames has been passed around over the last couple of days and a lot of political banter on what the government needs to do to prevent this.  Some say we need more gun laws.  Well, the shooter broke 40+ laws…they didn’t work.  And that is in a state with some of the strictest concealed carry laws in the country.

Some people say that there needs to be more mental health treatment for people with disorders such as the shooter apparently had.  One article that I have read on-line sheds some light on the need for that and what parents of children with behavior disorders have to deal with and worry about.  Click here if you are interested in what parent has to say.

Others have said that the problem lies with the decline of values within our society.  There is more violence being sensationalized through the media and made more and more available to kids at a younger age.  We have less religious tolerance, in fact, less religion period in the public arena because of political correctness.  There are higher levels of immorality, drug use, alcohol consumption, smoking, etc. because of increased peer pressure and public tolerance.  All reasons that I have seen, not just in the last two days but last few months, that people have used as the reason for the decline in tolerance and increase in violence in society.

Maybe everyone is right.  Maybe there are some things that can be done with laws, with healthcare, and with social values.  I don’t know all the answers.  That is the difficult part…there is more than one answer and the people who make the decisions can’t agree on those things.

I am a religious person who doesn’t like to see the decline that is happening in society.  I am a gun owner that is responsible and believes that the second amendment in the constitution should remain in force.  And I am a parent and church Primary teacher that deals with kids that have emotional and behavioral issues.

And I am trying to make sense of it all.  Not just now, but every day.  I am trying to be a responsible adult and parent.  I wish everyone else would too, rather than leave it to those that don’t share their ideas, understandings, and beliefs.  Maybe there wouldn’t have to be government involvement in regulating so much if there was more parental and community involvement.  I am sure this wouldn’t solve all the social problems we face today, but it is a good start.

Just another view from a palmtree.