I fear that we are becoming a people at war with ourselves. The religion of what we cannot afford has replaced what was once the dream of what we can do. Our fear has so tainted our trust in those we have employed to take care of our basic social needs that we are threatening to destroy the things that define who we are.
Is it possible to cut so much from the public sector that we render the services useless? Perhaps that’s the plan.
The reality is that the public employee unions didn’t cause this economic crisis and they aren’t the reason we can’t provide low-cost lunches to the 25% of school children in country currently living below the poverty line. Teachers aren’t sheltering $1.9 trillion dollars in off-shore profits from federal corporate income taxes, and there aren’t many new Porsches in the parking lot at City Hall. It’s not their fault.
At some point we have to realistically look at what we think we can’t afford — great schools, parks, clean streets and neighborhood libraries — and come to the realization that we really can’t afford to live without them. Proposition 13 isn’t helping.
We recently closed escrow on a new home for our newly expanded family and most important thing on our list was a great school. It was the most important thing on my parents’ list, too. Some things never change. We refused to look at whole areas of beautiful neighborhoods because the numbers didn’t look good.
I felt guilty. All of our schools should be great. We should be trying to find ways to make teachers better at getting through to our children and give them the resources they need to be more effective. Instead, we are making them compete for their jobs in a test-based evaluation system that is some kind of cross between “Survivor” and Dancing with the Stars.”
The fact that the authors of Proposition 13 engineered the tax code so that we have to pay nearly $9,000 more per year than the previous owner of our new-to-us home took a lot of that guilt away. It is, quite frankly, a little irritating that the only practical way to increase the tax base to provide necessary services is to soak the new kid on the block.
I think the tax assessor should at least send a nice thank-you card.
Maybe the incentive to creating a more fair and equitable system of taxation is to envision what we could actually do with the money.
We could be expanding police outreach programs during and after school; increasing library hours in our communities, not shutting down branches; adding bike lanes and public access to transportation alternatives, not eliminating them; and we should be finding green space and funding the arts to utilize them.
We should be doing these things because they help define our community, and, by extension, ourselves. It makes this place — and this country — a better place to live.
I know that local governments don’t have the cash they need and I don’t expect elected officials to spend money they don’t have. But I would like them to wish they could.
That’s why elections are important. I want leaders who aspire to make things better, not smaller, and we should consider giving them the resources to make it happen. We should also give them our vote.
MICHAEL TEAHAN lives in the Adams Hill area of Glendale with a clear view of the Verdugo Mountains so he can keep an eye on things. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.