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The Army of the Sane Makes A Stand

The Army of the Sane took the field when Commissioners Joe Hoeffel and Bruce Castor allowed the public to comment on a Tea Party-style budget that cuts spending with no tax increases.

 

 

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.

Paul Oneto Sr December 10, 2011 at 01:43 PM
Wow, after reading this article, it is real difficult to determine if the auther is a liberal or conservative! LOL ... He identified the tear inspiring comments, but did not identify the hardship increased County taxes will have on a lot of fixed-income seniors. (you know, its only a few dollars more) There is sure to be increased School taxes (only a few dollars more), the cost of everyday living continues to rise (only a few dollars more), but it's them bad "Tea-Party" people that cause all our troubles. You think it's bad now, wait until the State Pension increase goes into effect in 2013. Wonder where that money will come from. Yes, there probably will be a County tax increase, but lets hope they look very carefully at the County expenses and use a sharp knife when cutting.
Joe The Nerd Ferraro December 10, 2011 at 03:12 PM
What I saw was Democracy in action. I am sorry there would be a hardship on the seniors, but you seem to forget about the hardship on our young people. If they have no route to education - they are sunk because they are competing against a global economy that is equipped with a better educational system. Why is that? Maybe because every time the schools ask for a tax increase - the seniors come out in force to stop any updating of the system. It is the same old argument. The kids are finally getting it. They need to take to chambers like this to ask for the increases for their interests. What about the unemployed? They are using the library systems to find jobs. But you want to cut them too. Look, I feel bad you are on a fixed income. But I am providing you that income - and I doubt if I will see a dime of what I put into the system when my time comes. The VERY least you can do is allows the generations that follow you the opportunity to dig ourselves out of the hole you guys put us in.
Chad December 10, 2011 at 05:27 PM
"difficult to determine if the author is a liberal or conservative"... that sounds like a good thing to me! No disrespect intended to Mr. Oneto.
Paul Oneto Sr December 10, 2011 at 06:57 PM
"...hardship on our young people.: "If they have no route to education" ... "...competing against a global economy that is equipped with a better educational system." Then that would say that our school system is failing, so what are my school taxes being used for? Why do so many kids have to have remedial assistance at the higher education level? Why aren't they properly prepared for college? Taxpayers should not be required to pay twice for the same educational opportunities. "... schools ask for a tax increase ... the seniors come out in force to stop any updating of the system."... The decade of 1997 to 2007, found just my school taxes increasing 122%. Yes, I hope the seniors come out in force to question how their tax dollars are being spent! The reason my school taxes have not increased significantly in the last three years is due to the lottery distribution. ..."But I am providing you that income ..." Please, do not insult me. I worked hard for 41 years to provide a retirement for my wife and myself. Social Security income is well appreciated, but could not support us. And by the way, I contributed to SS for those 41 years! And if you want to see your monies, how about looking at your Federal Government and ask where all the Social Security monies have gone.
Paul Oneto Sr December 10, 2011 at 07:00 PM
A continuation from above. "The VERY least you can do is allows the generations that follow you the opportunity to dig ourselves out of the hole you guys put us in." Are you that uninformed that you would make a statement like that? I'm sorry I spent the time writing a response!
Joe The Nerd Ferraro December 10, 2011 at 09:47 PM
The schools are failing because selfish people like you got yours and are strangling the funding for the school system. The decade from 1997 to 2007 had a huge population boom. the decade before did not have 75% of the kids to be educated. The decade from 1997 to 2007 also had a lot of school districts updating their infrastructure - like building and maintaining schools. Starting in 2001 we also have a mass security hysteria that required schools to be fully secured with all sorts of cameras and entry systems... Oh - I am glad you worked for 41 years. Congratulations - you got to retire !!! That's fantastic. I doubt if I will ever retire. Why - because the seniors ahead of me in the country are living longer than ever before and our society has rightly decided to take care of you and them. I know the resources won't be there for me, but I am cool with it. However, I take exception when you further drain our society when you make it more difficult for those coming behind you to get ahead. You got educated and you got your shot. You are pulling the ladder up on those behind you.

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