Consider This

Here is a post ostensibly on the school budget vote but at its core, a perfect distillation of the mindset miring this city from any meaningful change and progress. And yes, this will lead us to the Chalmers debate.  Because is not life  a perfect circle that forever brings us to Chalmers… Anyway, here’s the post in question:

Has anyone taken into consideration that a lot of our residents (voters) are seniors that live on fixed incomes? These people cannot afford any more tax increases. Without radio stations like WCSS their issues fall on deaf ears. It is so funny that you are so concerned about what is said on talk radio. What’s wrong folks, does the truth hurt? Next the mayor and her lackey will find that she has the power to close radio stations that allow people share have their point of view? It saddens me to say, but if this ridiculous scenario was at all possible, OUR mayor would do it.

Let me deconstruct this post so we can look at the elements of how debates get framed and articulated:

First, we get the righteous indignation about seniors on fixed incomes: how dare we not consider the seniors and even consider anything that raises taxes for a program or initiative. HOW DARE WE?!

Let me dare. In fact, our community actually has more members and interests than those of seniors. Heresy I know to actually state facts but facts are stubborn things. Anyway for those who always proclaim the interests of seniors especially those most economically vulnerable , ask yourself some tough questions:

  • If we’ve always been looking out for seniors and their tax rates, why do we leave them today with one of the areas’ and even nationally highest tax rates? Why has your rhetoric fallen so far short of its stated goal?
  • If we’ve always been looking out for seniors, why have we left them with the least amount of home equity than most other local communities? Why have we left them with a crushing tax rate and dismal home equity values?
  • How do you take a morally defensible position as a politician or voter  if you support a tax raise such as the recent school budget knowing that your vote will subject seniors to economic collapse?
  • How do you reconcile your respect and concern for the most vulnerable when you daily rail on local radio and to your friends and neighbors against welfare and other programs whose very existence contributes to caring for the most vulnerable of seniors?

But what strikes me as most offensive in the debate is how the politics of seniors is used as a cynical albeit effective way to frame the debate on a host of issues such that if you hold a counterview, you are immediately on the defensive: how dare you not consider seniors!

I think it’s no longer time to play defense; it’s time for offense.

Simply put: why should I not have a vote or say in what matters to my interests, my family’s interests or broader community interests? What gives you the right to subjugate my interests to those of another group by default? Do I even count in this community if I am not a senior?

Consider how arrogant and self-serving the statement sounds to a parent with children with a home and with the demands of a career, family, yadda yadda: your kids academic programs don’t matter; your kids sports don’t matter; your property values don’t matter;  your interests don’t matter; you don’t matter. They matter.

Instead, it’s seniors who exclusively matter by the poster above and their ilk. The very ones who support policies that do the very opposite of what they intend. And the rest of us should merely go along as we are not them.

I think not.

But of course they and only they speak ‘the truth’. And where do we get the truth: on WCSS and local radio. The assertion is so utterly laughable if not for the impact on the local debate and local elections. Let me choose a simple example that illustrates how the hosts treat truth with our favorite topic, Chalmers. For months, the meme on the radio was that “no one on the south side wants the Chalmers project” or the variant “everyone on the south side wants Chalmers to come down”. Yet when the Chalmers meeting was held lo-and-behold a fair number of south siders were in favor of Chalmers.

But the drumbeat for killing Chalmers continued and I daresay with renewed intensity. And the drumbeat against the school budget. And the drumbeat against the second school budget. And on…

And what drives that drumbeat but the desire to defeat and destroy: Knock Chalmers down! Vote no to the budget! Vote no on taxes! No more welfare!No socialism! No dictatorships!

They are against things real and imagined but what exactly are they for. I have not a clue.

So for those of us who look at Chalmers as much needed residential development and as a financial signal to other investors that Amsterdam is on the upswing;  for those of us who actually believe that a high performing school district matters to our children’s future and our community;s future; for those of us who care for thoughtful debate and analysis; for those of us who recognize that we did not get to today just by fate but through the collective decisions of past leaders and their policies; and for those of us who try as we might see no way this city will ever get better if we hold onto the dominant mindset of the past years and decades, I see no way that I can continue to live here..

Consider that.

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