Monday, April 26, 2010

A Little Political Commentary….

I find myself a bit disgruntled with the “Tea Party” movement that has recently swept the nation. While I acknowledge this group is largely made up of anti-Obama sympathizers, I think both parties need to address the damage this group is doing to our nation. Initially I tried to ignore these “protesters” because I believe that in this country we have the right to voice our opinions and stand up for our principles. However, I think party leaders on both sides need to take this group more seriously and hold them accountable for the prevailing attitudes of anti-government that they are promoting. I could waste my time (and yours) by pointing out that these people choose to take time off from their jobs to congregate on public (government) property to protest government spending and activities, but I won’t belabor that point – it has already been done by many who are much smarter and better informed than I. Instead, I will give an example of how this group is hurting our local government.

I am a member of the Joplin Parks and Recreation advisory board for City Council. My position is appointed, not elected, so I have no particular political persuasion when making recommendations to the city council regarding issues about our city’s parks and recreation programs. Ten years ago the citizens of Joplin voted in favor of a sales tax increase which provided funding for park improvements, swimming pool renovations, the construction of walking trails, and the construction of a city athletic complex. All of these projects have now been completed as promised (and some even more than expected), and we are gearing up for a vote to maintain the tax in order to complete Phase II of this project. This second phase will include the construction of a youth softball/baseball complex – which our city currently does not have. While we do have many baseball fields scattered throughout the city, the majority of these belong to the city Little League organization, and are therefore unacceptable for use during weekend tournaments which would draw visiting teams to the city for competition purposes.

The problem for the city’s parks and rec department is the fear that ANY tax request made to voters will be denied, which would make the construction of the baseball fields impossible to accomplish. A recent proposal by the museum board for a sales tax increase for renovations to our Memorial Hall which would also be used as a new city museum was overwhelmingly denied by voters. Unfortunately, any request for taxes is being turned down during our current political climate.

Do we have excessive government spending? Absolutely. Should citizens be concerned about out-of-control spending? You betcha. However, punishing our children by not properly funding such items as education and recreation is not the proper way to make a political statement. A community is only as good as its schools and the quality of life it provides its citizens. Unfortunately, both of these things take money, and neither is a revenue producer. The only way local governments can properly provide for the needs of their citizens is through taxes and whatever private funding they can solicit. While none of us likes to give away part of our hard-earned money, if we all give a little, collectively we can provide enough funding to help our local governments enhance the overall quality of life in our communities.

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