24 October 2007: Invest in the Future

Invest in the Future with Ballot Issue 1A

Pay now or pay later. That’s an old American aphorism, if we only we believed and practiced it. Since the rise of Ronald Reagan’s “me generation,” from spending and saving habits to attitudes and practices about education’ climate change, and health care, we seem to have forgotten that lesson.

That may be changing, however, as the sense of community is slowly re-surfacing.

Last week’s edition of the Courant provides excellent examples of that. In a splendid article, Linda Trenbeath eloquently describes one tragedy underlying our failed health care system relating to under- and uninsured children—children whose families are above the poverty line but are without coverage, often due to pre-existing conditions the treatments for which would cut into Big HMO profit lines.

In a very articulate letter, David Stahl delineates his concerns with Issue 1A that will raise our taxes to improve our county roads. He writes that the mil levy increase is “not without merit, but several issues raise eyebrows.” Stahl concludes that he is “not necessarily opposed” to the proposal but would like to see it amended. Fair enough.

Finally, congressional candidate Senator Joan Fitz-Gerald insightfully comments, “From what I can see, people are more enthused about education and health than they are about infrastructure.” As for me, I’m happy people are enthused at all. Nevertheless, Fitz-Gerald has a point: We need to take the same approach to infrastructure as we do all the rest—either we pay now or pay later and, assuredly, at a far greater cost.

In his Sayings of Poor Richard, Ben Franklin observes, “A little neglect may breed great mischief…for want of a nail the shoe was lost; for want of a shoe the horse was lost; and for want of a horse the rider was lost.” For Ben, it comes down to taking care of the little things before they erupt into disasters.

I love bottom lines, so a partial list of “If we would only’s”:
* Take our supplements, eat healthy foods, and exercise daily, we would go a long way to preventing disease.
* Invest in early childhood health and education, we would save greater long-term costs in juvenile and adult health care, social-welfare, and criminal justice.
* Talk and work with our global neighbors, friends and foes, we would avoid trillion-dollar wars, thousands, if not millions, of lives, and enhance our national security.
* Buy fuel-efficient cars and modify our driving habits, we would lessen substantially our impact on global climate change and be better prepared to absorb $4.00 a gallon of gas into our limited budgets.
* Tend to our decaying infrastructural needs, we would assure greater dividends because, sooner or later, our roads will get the attention they need, now at $10 a month over 8 years or at a higher cost—forgive the pun—down the road. Additionally, we would also avoid excessive wear and tear, and thus repair costs, on our vehicles.

The last point gets to the nub: As we know, nothing in life is free, but tangent to that, doing nothing results in greater costs. Someone(s) somewhere at some time will pick up the tab for whatever is done or not done. Consequently, politics is often a game of shifting those costs among interest groups.

Fitz-Gerald points out that Clear Creek does not have a strong underlying commercial tax base. Thus, the burden falls inordinately on private property owners. Commissioner O’Malley’s goal is to change that by attracting more business. To do that we need to fashion a community that is attractive to potential businesses and future residents.

It’s important, also, to keep in mind about how the towns will benefit as the county will allow each to keep 100 percent of its tax dollars. That means property owners in the various towns will pay nothing for the countywide improvements beyond their borders. Instead, their dollars would go directly to their community’s huge road and bridge needs. For Georgetown alone, that means an additional $750,000 for R&B over the next 8 years.

Pay now or pay later means investing so to avoid costly consequences. With Issue 1A we have the opportunity to invest a little now to avoid paying a future greater price with the added benefit of realizing a greater return down the road from outside investments. While there may be disagreements on the particulars, in the final analysis Issue 1A is a solid, well-researched, and reasoned plan that deserves a thumb’s up from the voters.

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