BY KATHERINE KELLY
We the People, we’re the government. Or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. We the People vote for other people to represent our best interests in the day to day operations of our City, or at least that’s the way it’s supposed to work. Educated and ethical, knowledgeable about the world and current events, compassionate, resourceful, broad thinkers who can look at the Big Picture are what we hope for when we send a representative to hold office, any office, in charge of making decisions for the masses. But what we actually get is vastly different. Take our current city council for example.
The water rate increase debacle we have all just lived through is a shining example of a disconnected and out of touch city council. In an ideal world with representatives that hold the qualities mentioned above, this water rate increase would never have happened. If we had broad thinkers who could relate the current state of our National politics to our small community, they would have known that the hardship the majority suffer precludes their ability to absorb another assault in their already- fragile living conditions. Instead we get myopic bubble-dwellers who can’t think past their noses, relying on the same old protocol that won’t work in our current situation. And they defend their wrong thinking with a vengeance, maligning anyone who tries to point out the error of their ways.
Is this what we bargained for? I certainly hope not. We always go into elections with the hope that the candidate we root for will be The One to actually represent our needs as a community and as individuals. But that’s rarely what happens. Instead we get the same old faces with the same old mentality doing the same old job the same old way. Which, if you haven’t noticed, is not working for us or our community and it never will. Entrenched in the Club, doing favors for friends, not listening to the entire community when they speak, and taking the easy way out is the pattern, almost the tradition, of our Crescent City politics.
People, we need to get proactive. There are too many in this community that have given up, or feel too disconnected from the political machine, or hopeless that they can make a difference. If we are to have a community that functions for ALL, then ALL need to get involved. The power is truly in our numbers. You’ve heard the old saying, “throw the bums out,” well, when our elected body fails to do its job for The People, it needs to be restructured. New blood, better thinkers, more Connected to The People types need to replace those who only care for Some of the People. Our current City Council is the latter. Kathryn Murray exemplified that in her statement that if you can’t afford the water rate increase you should move. She only recognizes Some of the People as being valid and worthy citizens of Crescent City. The rest of us should go somewhere else and be someone else’s problem. After all, it’s easier for her to do her job when she doesn’t have to think outside the box and provide solutions to benefit the entire community and not just the worthy ones.
The majority of our population here is disenfranchised. We are not represented by our elected body. When we speak of our issues we may as well be screaming into the wind: no one is listening. We are ignored as if we are an abstract instead of a reality. The food stamps cuts that just passed, the stimulus spending that’s about to expire, the sequester cuts that will hit even harder in 2014 are just a few examples of that reality; a reality that’s being completely ignored by our city council. We are not exempt from these conditions. In fact, we are probably hit even harder because the poverty level in our community is so high and our resources are so low. Is anyone of our city council members aware of the current problems facing the low income people, of which there are many, in this county, in this community? If not, then they need to spend some time reading about the state affairs in the world. And if so, then raising the water rate was a cruel and heartless act, a thoughtless and lazy solution to a problem of their own making.
So if you’re one of those who think our city council is doing a good job, then you aren’t paying attention. Think about what just happened. In a city with over half the population living in poverty, they decided it would be wise to raise our water rates by 150%. When vast numbers of citizens protested the rate increase, a message to the council beyond legal requirements and law, they simply ignored the outcry and went forward with their flawed solution. Ignored the pleas of thousands. They were being told by THOUSANDS of people they were elected to represent that this rate increase would be harmful, if not impossible to manage for the MAJORITY, and they basically turned a deaf ear and said “move if you don’t like it.” They’re bad representatives if they don’t listen to the People. And, they’re bad managers of our resources.
The sewer, the pain in everyone’s behind because of the large increase in the rates for something we simply couldn’t afford, is in debt. They’re running a deficit despite telling us that doubling our rates in 2007 would solve our problems with wastewater discharge and provide us with a modernized treatment plant that would serve us for decades. They bungled that one so badly we are now looking at a deficit in the millions. What’s to say this water rate increase will be managed any better? It’s the same old Club, doing the same old job in the same old way running the water department as well as they did the wastewater treatment plant. And what’s to happen when they bungle it so badly they need even more money? Since they are in the process of a rate study for the wastewater treatment plant as I write, how will they manage that deficit without doing what they always do, their answer to every question, asking for another rate increase?
These rate issues are just one example of faulty representation. What else is going on behind the scenes that we don’t know about? We do know they lied and cheated to win the prop 218 protest. Many valid protests were disqualified because they think they can get away with it. And maybe they can, but it just goes to show what level they will stoop to carry on the tradition of not serving the people they were elected to represent. The City of Crescent City deserves better. If this rate increase goes to a special election, I hope the people turn out in droves to vote their voice on the matter. We need, as a community, to speak loudly with our votes and tell the City what WE want and not settle for what they allow us under our current elective body. Then maybe we should think about shorter terms. Two years is long enough to have an ineffective representative doing his or her best maintain a status quo that isn’t working.