Letters to the Editor

Taxes help fund vital programs | LETTER TO THE EDITOR

To the editor:

Anger about the state of affairs locally, and nationally, then voting the "scoundrels" out is not going to remedy the economic and employment crisis that our society is experiencing. If you are angry or reacting to radio and television pundits, negative campaign ads or emotional rhetoric, please consider sitting back to think through candidate platforms. Think about how they best address and serve our communities and what the consequences of their implementation might be.

Let’s take, for example, the Island County commissioner race between John Dean and Kelly Emerson.

I want to focus on the 1/10th of 1 percent sales tax that was approved by our county commissioners, two of whom were Republican. They did so because state funds to provide human services were being severely cut and the Legislature provided a means for individual counties to step up and assist people who were falling through the cracks. It is interesting to note that more than 300 community members were involved in the development of the programs and more than 150 people attended public hearings where no one spoke against these services or tax.

According to a recent newspaper article, Ms. Emerson thinks these services are a failure and would like to repeal the program. She apparently believes that this would be of greater benefit to our community.

As a member of the Island County Advisory Committee for Mental Health and Substance Abuse, I know that Ms. Emerson has never spoken with the county program directors, or visited any site associated with these services. John Dean sees these programs as being integral to his effectiveness as a commissioner and essential to the well being of our community.

Programs and services funded through this small tax include the school-based mental health program which is serving all four school districts. This program provided individual and group services to more than 5,000 students last year. The mental health professionals in the schools provided almost 600 hours of mental health consultation to school staff and provided crisis intervention to more than 200 students.

The vulnerable adult program, which is staffed by a part-time person, receives most of their referrals from law enforcement. The staff person works with individuals who are not eligible for other services and, by taking referrals from law enforcement, reduces their work load. The program serves 10 or more individuals a month.

The newest program started this past April and provides mental health counseling for those who don’t qualify for publically funded mental health services and/or don’t have insurance. The human services department has contracts with 20 private therapists, who take clients for far less than they usually charge, and to date has served more than 80 individuals. Additionally, these funds help support youth and adult drug courts and family therapeutic court.

We read, and hear through the media, that many people are angry and are voting for candidates they think will lower taxes and end government as we know it.

When I apply that reasoning to the 1/10 of 1 percent sales tax, what I see is thousands of people being cast out into our local communities without a lifejacket. Remember, people receiving these services are your friends and neighbors and kids living down the street from you. Not only will their lives be negatively affected, not only will they suffer, but we will all be severely affected. Our communities will be less safe and the costs for addressing problems at a crisis stage will increase the use of law enforcement, emergency room care, the court system and other expensive resources.

As you question candidates’ positions, I think you may find that many of the proposed ideas in this season’s election will have a long-term negative impact, costing more over time, and severely diminishing the quality of life for people and the environment. Thank you for your careful consideration of these issues.

Jan Pickard


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