The following is a letter I sent to the board of supervisors of Milwaukee County. I urge you to send a letter of your own. To access the list of supervisors click on County Board.
Dear Board of Supervisors,
I spoke at the public hearing Monday evening at the Washington Park Senior Center. However, in the allotted two minutes I was unable to complete my statement.
Here are the essential points I’d like to make:
· The Parks budget should be reinstated in full.
· Separate, dedicated revenue sources should be sought for both Parks and Transit.
· One possible source for dedicated Parks funding can be the half-percent sales tax that was passed in a referendum in 2008 but never implemented.
· With due speed, an independent regional Parks District should be created that would be responsible for Parks budgeting and the Parks budget removed from the county budget.
· Transit is critical to the poor, to students, and everyone who uses it to go to their jobs. We must have convenient, affordable mass transit.
· People need health care and equality of services.
· The county budget should not make poor people suffer.
· One possible source for money to balance the budget without sacrificing services that benefit the poor or support county workers is a progressive tax increase.
· Funding the Parks benefits everyone, including the poor. Decreasing Parks funding hurts the poor disproportionately since wealthy communities have proven that they can support their neighborhood parks, pools, etc.
· Estabrook dam should be removed. Trying to repair it would waste money that should go to other priorities.
The last point is tangential to the others, but telling. Supervisor Lipscomb has a responsibility to his constituents, but the few property owners who would benefit by having a lake in their backyards should not drive the rest of the supervisors to do the wrong thing.
It was clear from Chairman Holloway’s opening remarks and throughout the public hearing that the overwhelming majority of people who attended were those who will suffer if the proposed budget is passed with its severe cuts to services. The people who would complain – and we know they would – if their taxes were raised were mostly not present. Why? Clearly they take for granted that they have nothing to worry about.
I’d like to conclude with a short personal observation. I have a new son-in-law from Nicaragua. He is continually amazed by the quality of services that we have where I live in Wauwatosa, including things we all take for granted, like garbage collection and leaf removal. (He has yet to experience snow plowing.) His observation is that we enjoy visible benefits because we pay taxes. That is not his experience in Nicaragua.
Someone suggested on Monday evening that the county board try getting around to work and their other daily activities entirely on the MCTS. That would be instructive. I’ve long thought that federal as well as local government officials, along with the anti-tax faction of the general public, would get similar personal perspectives if they spent two weeks or more living in a low-tax place like Nicaragua.
Our taxes should provide services for the common good, especially for the neediest people.