Trading places and Tin cup finance

Valley Voice

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Trading places

Another election is finished, but not the abuse of its political hot air. A long tunnel of mirrors has closed; the oft-mentioned Biden and Pelosi were not running for office in these parts and Trump never waddled onto a Kansas stage to bleat about his troubles.

Nonetheless, tribal warriors have split us with a sneer and we are left again to deal with worries that continue: health care, rural broadband, urban transit, an economy under siege, money for schools, colleges and universities, help for the poor and sick, aid for struggling farm towns and diminished urban neighborhoods, bad roads and frail bridges – for openers.

Issues that confront state legislators and local boards are not the province of political cults. Nor are they mash for distant cause lobbies ginning up their culture wars and conspiracies.

They are recurrent, long-standing matters that affect all citizens. In better times, torment drew rural and urban interests to collaborate at home and in the legislature. Hunger and health care are issues in the cities and out on the plains. So are poverty, roads and bridges, internet access and other predicaments, regardless of party or tribal affiliation.

A sick child, a worker out of a job, tuition out of reach, a farmer with no crop, a merchant without inventory, a school without materiel, a neighborhood robbed of dignity – all and more are hardships beyond any political label.

Disquiet and affliction infect metropolitan regions and rural hamlets, but in different ways. Legislators and constituents should understand how predicaments are shared, how resolution can be a mutual ambition. Relief should defy the political sketch and invite the common cause.

A glimpse of one possibility comes from local schools that offer foreign exchange programs; youngsters from other countries attend high schools here and live with local hosts. Our students do the same abroad. They learn about life elsewhere, what concerns others, what gives them hope. They return with a better understanding of other lives and cultures.

The principle might be applied to Kansas territories, starting with rural and urban students, and especially legislators. Farmers, doctors, journalists and others also might trade places, exchange scenery. A look at trouble from the other side may lead to understanding the similarities and differences and to steps toward a shared undertaking. Kansas already has an assortment of groups capable of exploring such an exchange.

The aim is to share – and improve – life everywhere without the disruption of political  labels and meddling.

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Tin cup finance

A recent letter from Jerry Montagne, the McPherson County Sheriff, seeks donations to “provide desperately needed resources for all Kansas Sheriffs and deputies.” Donations, he said, will support continuing education and training for deputies, improve public safety, push back against “modern crime, emergent crises, and violent attacks on our neighborhoods.”

A donation, he said, will help to provide “critically needed assistance to keep our communities safe.” A tax-free contribution – $25 or more – buys a membership in the Kansas Sheriff’s Association, based in Topeka. At base, the letter says county law enforcement needs money, much of it for sheriffs to lobby the legislature.

Here is tin-cup finance at work. Budgets for local institutions are crimped by commissioners who have been short-changed by legislators. Legislators, repeatedly suspending state aid to cities and counties, can boast about their frugality while forcing the locals to panhandle.

Law enforcement is among the primary obligations of local and state governments. How well it is funded is up to local councils, commissions and the legislature. How poorly law enforcement is funded may be gauged in part by the number of letters from officials asking for help.

Nearly every item mentioned in Montagne’s letter reflects some shortfall of local investment because legislators have repeatedly suspended the state mandate for aid to cities and counties.( The idea decades ago was to relieve pressure on local taxes by returning a portion of state taxes collected locally.)

Letters from Montagne and other sheriffs are not designed to sweeten a jail kitty. The letters arrive every year, and that’s the problem: Dry budgets, starting with low pay and stingy oversight, compel law enforcement to re-start campaigns for citizen donations and to finance their lobbying group in Topeka.

Tin cup finance is a sad contrast to politicians who go on about cutting taxes and budgets. Properly funded, sheriffs could save the time, paper, ink and postage for all those donation mailings and focus on law enforcement.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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