For the last two-plus years we have been subjected to the steady drumbeat of the insanity generated by the Tea Party. Those who weren’t yelling like idiots with tri-corner hats and snake flags were relegated to the sidelines.
The battle is starting to turn.
Montgomery County Commissioners Joe Hoeffel and Bruce Castor took the logic of the Tea Party to its outer limit. They went public with a Tea Party-style budget that cut spending with no tax increases.
Then they allowed the public to comment on it.
From about 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Wednesday the commissioners held a hearing where sane person after sane person stood up and said that you cannot cut things like libraries, the Montgomery County Community College, the park system, the planning commission, trails, legal aid, the Police Athletic League and myriad other services the county (and government) provides to make our lives more livable, easier and enjoyable.
The Army of the Sane used the weapon of logic to a devastating effect. An unassailable pincer movement of librarians speaking about how job seekers use their facilities to get on their feet, to write resumes and surf the web for jobs was augmented by Montco Community College students telling the commissioners how they were bootstrapping their lives by using education to get ahead.
The most brilliant maneuver was by MC3 student William Reynolds, who noted the ripple effect of the volunteerism on the part of students who perform required (and unrequired) community service projects that only exist because these students are attending MC3. He suggested the energies of these volunteers are part of the uncalculated monetary effects of keeping the school’s cost down. Why not put a man-hour rate to the time the volunteers spend making our lives better?
Interspersed with the students and librarians were the planners, art majors, bicycle cavalry and walking infantry. This group unleashed the unintended consequences of entropy – what happens when the county walks away from the museums and real estate holdings? What happens to the Audubon’s original works at the world class art facility at Mill Grove when the heat and AC are turned off? What happens when the county leaves the trails to become overgrown with weeds (and four wheelers)? How do we meet our state mandates for highway systems without a planning department?
Showing how the smallest among us are affected by these cuts, how do we protect our poor without a functional legal aid office. The small stipends given to legal aid and PAL are returned tenfold in what they do for our society.
The bravest speaker of the day was 12-year-old Souderton Charter School student Daniel Nixon who fought off tears as he explained the park system is the only thing he can share with his dad, who is fighting his own battle with MS.
At least two people, who identified themselves as Tea Party members, put up the white flag. They understood from the number of people who were willing to give up a large portion of their day to stand in line and have their say that the Tea Party has to give way to the real majority. I doubt if there were enough Tea Party folks who showed up that could flip the digits on my right hand.
Unfortunately, a representative from the Occupy movement showed up and wasn’t watching what was going on. She ranted about oppression and slavery and how they were coming for us. It was a little psychotic, but everyone gets a shot at the microphone.
What she didn’t see right in front of her was elected government officials – of both parties – listening to the needs and concerns of the citizens they represent. This was representative democracy at its best.
At the start of the process a Draconian budget was presented with plenty of cuts and no tax increases. For four hours, a parade of displaying every walk of life got a shot at the microphone – from 12 year-olds who will be the future to the 80-somethings who have seen it all. There was no hand waving or shouting.
Anyone paying attention to the proceedings could see the commissioners are going to protect the interests of these folks. There will likely be a tax increase. If you spoke at this forum or agree with what was said, it is incumbent on you to give a measure of support to those who listened to you. That means you need to give political cover to the commissioners as they will need to withstand the bad press associated with the first tax increase in eight years.
Both commissioners did a great job of showing the end result that the government can be moved when the Army of the Sane takes the field.