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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR | Safety provided by taxes
To the editor:
For the past two years, I have served as a citizen volunteer at the monthly meetings of the Island County Law and Justice Council. Our purpose is to coordinate and advise on issues related to the criminal justice system in Island County, including the wide range of efforts, among other responsibilities, to provide public safety, support those in crisis, support victims of crime, try, sentence and house those who commit crimes, and offer support to those reintegrating into society following incarceration.
Each meeting we learn about the various responsibilities and challenges covered by our law and justice staff as they respond to the various crises and problems many of our fellow citizens face when they are victims of crimes or commit crimes, or are beset with problems caused by addiction, neglect, abuse, poverty and bad choices of behavior. We also often hear how stressful it is to try to meet their obligations professionally and humanely because of budgetary restraints and thus fewer staff and less time to meet these often increasing demands.
Our law and justice staff and all government employees are ultimately meeting the needs of all of us, not just those in crisis. It is all too easy to forget that our strong community life comes at a price, both in terms of voluntary service from many of us, but more importantly, the price of paying for critical professional staffing and infrastructure to responsibly meet these personal, social and community needs. This is the role of our government, and the specific price for our government to meet our essential health, safety, and community needs is paid through our taxes.
It deeply saddens me when I hear my neighbors and others fail to acknowledge and accept the communal responsibility to pay our due for assuring that we have a safe, supportive, and caring community for our children, our elders, and our ordinary citizens — that is, for all of us! I am especially aware of the work and needs of our law and justice community, but I would include all those who serve us through our county government, making a commitment to see that they are well-supported and appreciated.
My plea is for all of us to pause when we are about to complain about taxes and think about them in terms of the personal safety and welfare services they provide on an hourly, daily basis. We can rely on the safety of our homes, the roads we travel, the food we eat, and a whole range of emergency services knowing that we also could be in a crisis at any time.
I think of the faces of people who provide health care, safe roads, protect our environment, and assist those who need counseling, health care and other emergency needs. We need them to support us, and we need to support them. That is the basis for a healthy, safe community governed by responsive, democratically elected officials, implemented by well-paid and well-supported professional staff, and adequately supported by our taxes.
So simply stated, I am concerned that we are increasingly failing to adequately support our governmental functions in Island County. There is often a voice in our communities that declares taxes and government are to be resented and neglected. If we are to have a strong community we need to support our county government and the requisite staff to carry out our expectations of safety and service through our willingness to pay adequate taxes. Is this in any way an unreasonable or naive expectation? What is our deep sense of community in Island County worth? For me it is worth the price we pay in taxes as responsible citizens for all of us to be safe, cared for and well governed.