Police and streets

Friday, July 23, 2010

How many times have you read a Speak Out comment starting something like this: "I am against the (fill in the blank) tax because we're already taxed too much."

OK, I'll agree that we pay a lot of taxes, but how do we expect to receive all the government services we depend on unless we're willing to pay our share? If I don't pay, who will?

There are some tax proposals that come along that deserve to be opposed. Voters have their say at the polls, and bad taxes generally don't pass.

When I see "I'm against all taxes" comments in Speak Out, I assume someone is venting his general frustration over the silly things governments do with our money. In reality, though, I don't think there are many reasonable folks who believe the government services they enjoy should be funded by someone else.

All of this is to say how disappointed I am in the Cape Girardeau Police Officers Association, which has been running ads in this newspaper opposing another five-year extension of the Transportation Trust Fund sales tax that has paid for $60 million of street and sidewalk improvements over the last 15 years.

I am not disappointed because the police officers are against the tax. That's their right. I'm disappointed because of the reason they give: "Because we have no trust in city government."

The real issue, as best I can determine, is police officers feel they have been shortchanged and further believe city officials have failed to keep their promises regarding better pay.

I don't know all the particulars of the officers' concerns. And neither do you. The police officers association is asking voters to oppose a street tax that has served this city enormously well without telling us any of the reasons for their beef with city officials.

When you get right down to it, they sound like those Speak Out contributors who believe the only guidance you need when faced with important ballot issues is a slogan: Just say no.

Surely the police officers -- who, in my opinion, deserve to be paid fairly and competitively, which means they are probably long overdue on raises -- realize how lame their "we have no trust" reason for opposing the TTF tax extension for another five years sounds to level-headed voters who want to continue a key city program and make sure the officers get their due.

What's missing in this anti-TTF campaign is an explanation to the public from the officers. And even if this information was forthcoming, it would be a difficult stretch to imagine it has anything to do with city streets.

Look at what has been accomplished with TTF-1, TTF-2 and TTF-3. And imagine where we would be without those improvements. More than that, imagine what the police officers' pay scale would be if the city had to pay even for minimum maintenance of streets out of the same fund as the city payroll.

The officers haven't explained why they don't trust city officials, and they haven't offered a single argument against the TTF plan. When voters see the TTF issue on the Aug. 3 ballot, surely they will see streets and police pay as two important -- but separate -- issues. If the officers want the public's help in resolving their concerns, give us some facts.

jsullivan@semissourian.com

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