Who’s gonna pay?

Hoo Boy, I love’s me a City Council Candidate Forum! Them’s candidates just say the dumbest dandiest of things.

Take Kathy Greathouse, candidate to replace Marilyn Marler in Ward 6, who was explaining her dislike of SID’s and other maintenance districts. Last night, Kathy said, “It’s just a tax to cover what the city budget doesn’t cover anymore.”

OK, I’ll admit that I don’t like the nickel and diming approach to paying for our city’s infrastructure. Every time we vote, either directly through the ballot for a mill increase or indirectly through the passage of SIDs by City Council, we are raising our taxes. It’s just that each little piece seems important enough. After all, how else are we going to pay for our fire stations, storm water systems, schools, museums, sidewalks, weed control, street sweeping and such?

Listening to the other ‘conservative’ candidates might help us answer that. According to the Missoulian, John Quandt, a candidate for Ward 3 where Bob Jaffe is the incumbent, isn’t in favor of maintenance districts unless there’s an offset for property owners. I guess that means that non-property owners will pay more!

Furthermore, Quandt suggests another way: community members who care about their neighborhood can volunteer. I know how well that’s going to work out. With our busy, busy lives we’ll now all be out there plowing the streets, teaching our neighbors children, forming a posses to round up the criminals, and giving immunizations at the city health clinics!

Then we throw in Ryan Morton, candidate for Ward 1 against Dave Strohmaier, who says there must be a decrease in general taxes as part of the package. Ward 5 Councilman Dick Haines agrees, saying he would lop $2 million off the city’s budget.

Do you get the pattern? Their vision for the city is no SID’s, an offset of taxes for property owners, and a lowering of general taxes. I don’t think the conservative candidates addressed impact fees (i.e. those who cause the impact should pay), but if they tow the building industry line they’ll be against them. Neither do they talk about local sales tax options, but the Republicans in the last State legislature were against them.

So, boil it all down and no-one should pay! Everyone will like that, right?

Down with government. Bad Government. And these are the people who are asking to run the local government? eek.

Self-fulfilling Prophecy

In my local, rural community, we have no sewer system. We get our drinking water from the local lake, and the private land around the lake is filled with homes and septic systems. The septic systems drain into our lake. See the problem? So a Sewer Board has been developed with the purpose of bringing a sewer system to our town.

The Sewer Board has been around for over four years, and we still don’t have a sewer. I went to a Sewer Board meeting this week, and I discovered why we still don’t have a sewer: one of the four board members is (openly) vehemently opposed to a sewer system. He sits on the board specifically to block it from achieving its goal of bringing a sewer system to our town.

Yesterday, I was visiting with a colleague about national politics. We were discussing the senators from Oklahoma (where I grew up): Jim Inhoffe and Tom Coburn. Inhoffe believes the sun revolves around the earth (not joking). And Coburn filibusters every single public lands bill. Why? Because he thinks that government is the biggest problem in our country and works very hard to prevent government from accomplishing anything.

My experience at the Sewer Board meeting and my conversation with my colleague led me to wonder whether there is a self-fulfilling prophecy when you have someone serving in government who thinks government is the problem or someone serving on a sewer board who is dedicated to preventing a sewer system from being built?

Perhaps the reason our country is in such a shambles is because the people who have been running it for the past eight years (Republicans) operate under the philosophy that government is the problem and can’t be part of any solution. The truth is that our country cannot exist without government. We need government for infrastructure, military, public lands management, health care, etc. No matter how much someone may hate government, it’s not going away. Given this, wouldn’t it be better to put people in charge who will work to make government part of the solution to our country’s problems?

Et tu, Brute?

Were you accused, by the Montana Republicans, of breaking the law? Are you having to prove your innocence? Should you have to prove you have the right to vote?

The state Republican Party this week challenged the eligibility of 6,000 registered Montana voters in seven counties historically considered Democratic strongholds.

“The integrity of the voting process is something that has to be above reproach to have faith in the system,” state GOP executive director Jacob Eaton said. “We aren’t trying to prevent anyone from voting. We want people to register properly.”

Note that there is no evidence of fraud. Note that the selection of counties was clearly made on a political basis. And, note that Eaton didn’t say he wanted every vote to be counted.

If you donated to the Montana Republicans, then you might want to ask for your money back. Their actions are simply intimidation. Their only aim is to stop people from from exercising their right to vote. This is undemocratic and it’s patently un-American. Politics can be dirty, but this is thuggish.

The New Republican Talking Point

“The reason this campaign has turned negative is because Obama refused to do town hall meetings throughout the campaign.”

I’ve seen this new talking point on The View, Meet The Press, CCN, and in the Washington Post.To me, this is the ultimate example of not taking responsibility for your actions. What they’re saying is that they have no control over their own actions and that they are completely reacting to what Obama is doing.

This is utterly ridiculous. We are all responsible for our own actions. If someone punches me, I have the choice to either punch back or not. My actions, no matter the actions of others, are in my control. The McCain campaign is alone responsible for the McCain campaign’s actions. And McCain has chosen to base his campaign solely on base, personal attacks against his opponent and on distractions from the issues at stake in the country and in this election.

Neither can the McCain campaign claim that they have to attack Obama personally because they don’t know where he stands on the issues. Obama has gone to great lengths to explain his stance on a number of policy issues. He even appeared on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News to talk about his stance on the issues. He discussed his stance in his acceptance speech in August. He discusses them daily as he’s traveling across the country.

The McCain campaign needs to step up and accept responsibility for its own actions.

Jesus and Gay Marriage

Let’s get something straight. The message of Jesus was one of compassion, love, and inclusivity. It was not the message of division, lies, exclusion that the Republican Party tries to make it out to be. The issue of gay marriage provides particular insight.

I do not believe for one second that Jesus would want homosexuals to be relegated to second-class citizen status simply because of their sexual orientation. Would Jesus think that homosexuality as expressed in a committed, monogamous relationship is a sin? Maybe, maybe not. While we don’t know his views on this for certain, we can look at how he dealt with the second-class citizens of his time to get an idea. Did he run away from prostitutes and tax collectors? Did he exclude them from his love and grace because they were “sinners?” No, he didn’t. He welcomed them, as they were, into his fellowship. They had full membership in his inner circle. And he didn’t say, “First you have to quit collecting taxes or quit being a prostitute before I will welcome you.” He welcomed them, fully, as they were. Their decisions to give up tax collecting and prostitution were their own decisions, not ones that Jesus’ imposed on them or forced them to make. Looking at this example, I believe that Jesus would have fully welcomed practicing homosexuals into his community. He would not force them to change or give up their homosexuality first. Maybe, later, they would choose to give up their homosexuality (if homosexuality is a choice…I believe research shows otherwise), but I don’t believe Jesus would have made that a prerequisite for being in his community.

Denying homosexuals the right to get married and to experience all the legal benefits of married couples (being able to visit their spouse in the hospital, being able to file a joint tax return, being able to reap the benefits of their spouse’s life insurance policy) is discrimination based on sexual orientation. And the Gospel accounts reveal that Jesus never would have supported discrimination of any form.

“The Fundamentals of our Economy are Strong”

So say John McCain and George W. Bush. I could maybe buy what they’re saying. Experiencing a tough time in the economy doesn’t necessarily mean that the fundamentals of our economy are weak. But then, just now, I clicked over to the front page of the New York Times. The top three headlines are as follows:

Lehman Expected to File for Bankruptcy

Bank of American in Talks to Buy Merrill Lynch

Rush Is On to Prevent Big Insurur (A.I.G.) from Failing

When our the entire financial industry is on the verge of collapse thanks to the deregulation of Republicans, I think it’s safe to say that the fundamentals of our economy are NOT strong. I also think it’s safe to say that we need to do more than cut earmark spending and root out corruption to fix these fundamental flaws in our economic policies.