Nov 162013

I stumbled across a column in the November 14th issue of The Hooksett Banner by Amber Cushing, Director of the Allenstown Public Library.  The column does not seem to have been posted to the newspaper’s website, so I’m going to post it in its entirety before giving y’all my thoughts-

As I alluded to in the last piece in my column, I’d like to address the argument that “I don’t use the library, so it doesn’t need funding.”

Again, statistics alone disprove this argument.  At the Allenstown Public Library, 34 percent of the population has a library card, and circulation has increased every year for the past five years.  But as with my last column, I’d like to explre the roots of this claim.

When someone claims, “No one uses the library anymore, so we don’t need a library,” they most likely mean “I don’t use the library anymore, so it has no value for anyone else.”  This argument is akin to saying, “I don’t drive on Main Street, so it does not need to be paved.”  Just because one person chooses not to use a town service does not mean the town service ceases to have value for someone else.  A more accurate statement would be “I choose not to use some town services, so they have no value to me.”  OK.  Great.  You’re entitled to your choice.  However, when it comes to the library at least 34 percent of town residents do not agree with you.  And that’s OK, too, because they are entitled to their choices.

We get ourselves into a sticky situation when we assume that everyone should make the same choices we make.  The world doesn’t work that way.  Things get even stickier when we assume that everyone has the same financial means we do.  “I can afford to buy my own computer(s), books, DVDs, Internet access, etc., so no one else needs access to these things,” or “I don’t like to read, so no one else should be able to read,” don’t make for very effective arguments, either.

So when you think about your opinion regarding the necessity of the library, I challenge you to ask yourself: Am I trying to force my choices onto someone else?  Why?

There are a lot of problems with Ms. Cushing’s arguments, but I’m just going to address the most glaring. Continue reading »

Dec 142010

While heading out for a morning mail run I tuned in to KGO Radio to see what Ronn Owens was talking about. Turns out Ronn is on vacation, and Brian Copeland was sitting in for him. Brian had the Deputy Director for Planning for the San Francisco County Transportation Authority, Tilly Chang.

Apparently, traffic in downtown San Francisco moves at only 5 to 10 miles per hour. While this is clearly a problem, the proposed solutions discussed today were simply ridiculous. Continue reading »

Dec 052008

A few days ago I wrote a piece about Sears and their holiday wish lists for United States military personnel and feedback has been poring in ever since. I knew I’d get feedback on the post, but was a bit surprised at the angle several of the responses took. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

The Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry is a program Sears is heavily promoting that appears at first glance to be a way for those on the homefront to support soldiers overseas by helping them purchase much needed items for the holidays.  You know, things like kids’ coats, dresses for little girls, boys’ pants, Nintendo Wii’s, booster seats for baby and flat screen televisions.  Yes, you read that right:  Nintendo Wii and flat screen TV both made the top 100 list of items that U.S. servicemen need this Christmas.

So are you starting to see why I might have a problem with this program aside from my general distaste for the government stealing my money in order to oppress innocent people abroad?  I further took Sears to task over the fact that they aren’t putting their own money into the program, and aren’t even helping supply these so-called necessities.  They’re just offering to collect your money, turn it into Sears Gift Cards (which can obviously only be used at Sears), and hand it over to a select group of soldier’s families.  They didn’t even go to the trouble of setting up a charity to do so which means that your so-called donation isn’t even tax-deductible.

Back to the responses…

I expected much more of the “why do you hate the troops” and “you’re a communist idiot” type of feedback than I received.  In fact, a majority of it (by a narrow margin, but still a majority) was positive.  And I’m not just talking about from my anarchist and freedom-loving brethren.  No, even from much more traditional corners. As I wrote yesterday, I can still be a fan of Sears and be wholly against this program.  Just as I can still support the soldiers as people and detest what they’ve chosen to do for a living.  I would like nothing more than to have all of the U.S. military personnel home safe for the holidays.  I think the Iraqis and Afghanis would probably appreciate that as well. Then everyone could have a happy holidays and Sears would have quite a few more customers as well 😉


Dec 012008

Apparently, Sears thinks the government isn’t sending enough of our money to the soldiers and they’re ready to do something about it with their Sears Heroes at Home Wish Registry.  Make sure you read that title correctly.  Sears isn’t offering to send the soldiers more money.  No, they’re asking that you send more of your money to soldiers and their families in the form of Sears gift cards.  And they’re making it easy by setting up a web page (linked above) for just that purpose.

At first glance it may seem that Sears will be providing holiday gifts to needy military families.  But nothing on the site actually says this.  All it says is that donations are not tax deductible (which means they aren’t charitable donations of any kind under law) and that the funds will be used to purchase Sears gift cards to distribute to all “registered families”. It then provides a box into which you can enter the dollar amount you’re willing to give to Sears in order for it to be passed on to “registered families”.  I could not find anywhere to register to become one of these families, so have no idea what the criteria is, but there are even more problems with this Heroes At Home program.

There’s also a list of the Top 100 items that “military families told us they really need this holiday season”.  Number 13 is a Nintendo Wii, #16 – an ATV, #24 – Nintendo DS,  #31 – Giant Four Story Dollhouse, #42 – Sony PSP, #68 – Flat Screen TV,  #93 Video Camera, and #100 Automatic Pet Feeder.  Sorry, Sears, but no one (military or not) “really needs” a single one of those items.

Besides, as I always say when confronted with these “Support Our Troops” so-called charitable events: 1) they aren’t my troops, and 2) I’m already supporting them – my taxes are forcibly taken to pay their salaries.  If these families can’t afford to buy the stuff they want for the hoidays they should find themselves another job that pays what they think they deserve.

If Sears wants to supply selected military families with gift cards no one is stopping them, but I find it somewhat sickening that you’re asking others to do what you’re not willing to and profiteering off it in the mean time by forcing the recipients to shop at your stores. That’s not charity, it’s advertising.


Sep 132008

Not surprisingly, the Morgan Hill Police Department wants more money. And they’ve decided the best way to get it is to pass a 2% tax “on the use of gas, electric, water, sewer, garbage, telecommunications and video/CATV services.”  According to the full color (read: expensive) flier I (and probably you) received in my mailbox today if Measure G does not pass “the City will not likely be in a position to add new positions such as additional police officers,”which elicited a resounding “good” from me, but may not have from you.  So let’s review-

  • In 2004 the people of Morgan hill spent roughly $10,000,000 on a new police station.
  • In June 2008 Morgan Hill Police Chief Bruce Cumming reported that “[t]he department had a productive year, [in 2007]. Among the accomplishments, Cumming told council members, is the creation of a regional SWAT team with the Gilroy Police Department and the implementation of the anti-gang GREAT program in Morgan Hill schools.”
  • At the same time Chief Cumming announced that “[s]ome of the goals for the new year, which begins July 1, include reinstating the department’s K-9 program with funding from community donations and implementing a city-wide telephone notification system.  Cumming also hopes to increase the department’s 36 sworn officers with seven more sworn officers and two more multi-service officers.”
  • In July 2008, the Morgan Hill Police Department added five new officers.
  • In August 2008, the department “hired” Pax, an 18 month old German Shepherd, thus successfully “reinstating the department’s K-9 program.”

So why, exactly do the people of Morgan Hill need to supply the police with another $1,800,000?  They seem to be doing just fine without it and have already met the majority of their goals for 2008 in just a few months!

Again, returning to the flier, here’s the section on responsibility-

Q) What controls are there that Measure G funds will be spent responsibly?

A) The UUT Ordinance includes extraordinary accountability measures.  Every two years, the City Council is required to make findings that the tax is necessary for the City’s financial health or the tax expires.  It requires two-thirds vote (i.e. four of five Council members) to continue the tax.

Excuse me?  You call this “extraordinary accountability measures”? All this means is that every two years the council needs to rubber stamp the continuation of the tax.  They’ll ask themselves the question: “do we need this money?” For government, the answer to that question is always yes.  Nothing in this measure even requires that the money be spent on the police department!  It just goes in to the general fund to be used for whatever purpose the (then current) council deems appropriate.  And it’s not exactly difficult to make the case that the police don’t need the money…

Q) Why doesn’t the City reduce services in other areas such as recreation to enhance other City services such as police?A) Public Safety is currently the City Council’s highest priority as indicated by the fact the City spends 83% of all discretionary dollars on police and fire.  Over the past several years, the City has cut back on less critical service levels and eliminated positions from Park Maintenance, Human Resources and other administrative functions.

{emphasis added}

Again, that’s from the flier. Do not be fooled, this is not a “police funding” tax, or even a “public safety” tax.  It’s simply another way for the City Council to sugar coat their latest money grab.