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LEADS FORUM: Sandusky needs priorities, not tax target

Commentary • Mar 29, 2010 at 4:58 AM

By CHARLES BRADSHAW, VP-Entertainment, Cedar Fair

Member, Leadership Erie County Class of 2010

Sandusky has decided it will probably have to close Fire Station No. 3 and lay off a large percentage of its police force unless taxes are raised. At the same time, the latest newsletter from my state representative used a full page to describe the serious health problem of childhood obesity and the steps the state legislature is taking to battle the problem. Understanding federal, state and local governments are separate and often competing entities does not lessen the seeming unbalanced priorities. No one denies childhood obesity is a problem. But is it as big a problem as insufficient fire protection and law enforcement? I have to think there are many other important issues our representatives are handling for us that also drop below the obvious priorities of fire and law.

When a family or business finds itself lacking sufficient resources it prioritizes expenditures. We first take care of actual needs and then handle those things that would be a good thing if we can afford them with the leftover resources. Unfortunately, everything government does seems to be lumped into the "actual needs" category. We are told that spending resources on solving the problem of childhood obesity will save health care costs and lead for better life quality issues, so obviously we "need" that. How many other "needs" are really good things, but unaffordable in lean times?

We have only ourselves to blame for this. It seems every time there is a problem we look for the government to help solve it. Whether or not it's any of the government's business (yes, I'm a bit of a libertarian) or if it would be better taken care of individually or through private charity, we run to the elected parent. Unfortunately, the government is more than willing to assume that role. Problem is, the more that government takes care of our problems the bigger it has to be and the more resources it requires. Once these services are entrenched into the behemoth bureaucracy they become obviously "needed" and cannot be prioritized lower in the lean times. There is also the issue of the quality of government services. They don't have a great track record.

On the other hand, I have seen incredible charities and private services here in Erie County these past few months. Amazing people and places that take care of unimaginable needs. And they do it more personally, more efficiently, more effectively and with more personal willingness than government could ever hope. These are the places that need our support and they would receive it if more of our resources weren't siphoned by the government. We have also heard of regulations and costs imposed by governments on each other and these charities that hamper their efficiency and lessen the impact of their good work. Our governments should be working for us, to help us help each other, not throw up roadblocks with unreasonable regulations and costs.

But what about fire and law (I'm surprised they didn't throw in teachers for the perfect trifecta)? These are the true needs of our government. Forgive my skepticism after decades of being threatened with the loss of essential services unless we gratefully raise our taxes. We've heard it before and now we're hearing it again. A targeted tax on one business, Cedar Point, a business that already covers a quarter of the tax base, not including the additional revenue drawn to the community peripherally by the tourists it draws, is not only unfair, it's incredibly short-sighted.

This is an unadulterated attempt to take more from an individual business during a very difficult time for that business. It would seem better to try and reprioritize the true needs of government and support the charities and individuals that cover the rest.

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