My car tax bill showed up on Friday; yours, too, I bet. As Oliver Wendall Holmes once said, “taxes are what we pay for a civilized society.” I’d note there’s a world of difference between civilized and civil, especially when municipalities struggle to pay for all the goods and services, we, their citizens, want to have.
It seems every year there’s all kinds of brave talk in the halls of the state legislature about equity of opportunity and fairness in fund allocations. Yet, when it’s voted on and the Governor signs it, we’ve just changed directions of the circles in which we keep chasing our tails.
National and state leaders talk about tightening belts and lowering expectations in light of austere circumstances, et cetera ad infinitum (or so it seems to me), with, this time around, some COVID-19 damages and post-pandemic recovery concerns thrown in for good measure. The actual impact, however, is felt on our streets, in our homes and most especially in our wallets.
I was impressed by the State’s approximation of that infamous Charles Schultz prank with a one-time, three and a half million Distressed Municipalities Grant that was in the state budget as early as February for Norwich (among others), until both houses of the legislature passed the budget last month, and the grant was no longer there at all. Talk about Charlie Brown getting snookered by Lucy. All magic. No football.
Shouldn’t we know better by now? What’s that expression, “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” What iteration are we up to now? (Asking for a friend).
It wasn’t so much short-notice as no-notice on the state’s part. So, our City Council at the mid-June meeting they’d originally intended to approve a municipal budget ended up, instead, performing meatball surgery.
The dialogue I had hoped for on what should (city) government do and how much of it should be done (and how do we measure that) became instead a “Honey I Shrunk the Kids” approach which didn’t do anything but keep our collective noses just above the rising water line (sure hope your tippy-toes muscles are strong because you’re going to need them).
The discussions and decisions we need to have about how to deliver world-class education to our children, funding and financing infrastructure ranging from roads to information technology, and determining the shape and size of our public safety professional and volunteer communities, is through stimulating sustainable development. In short, every aspect of reinventing our city for this century and beyond and what all of that will do to our property taxes and community quality of life has now been delayed by circumstances we pretend are beyond our control.
Except, like it or not, those decisions still need to be made, as unpopular as some will be, and sooner than we’d like with less and less tolerance for differing and dissenting viewpoints and far less margin for error.
Remember J. Wellington Wimpy? He of the ‘I will gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today’ school of finance? Remember how well that worked out? Exactly.
If we were smart, we shouldn’t be too quick to reach for the ketchup any time soon.