In this social and economic climate, we have collectively, as a society, decided that a few things are certain: we don’t trust our government with our money, we don’t want higher taxes, and we don’t want government interfering with our lives or our businesses. We have reached a consensus that the majority of us are financially strained and therefore, most of us have nothing extra to give. While some people are still giving, many have tightened their belts and clamped down on their wallets. Times are tough. Just exactly how tough it is depends on the individual.
Beyond the proverbial and “what if” scenarios, we have reality. Last Sunday, the Ventura County Rainbow Alliance announced it was closing its doors (see our news story on page 8). Because of the budget crisis, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2009 slashed funding for various social services, a financial setback the organization never recovered from — a cut of $500,000 annually for its HIV/AIDS-related services. While the state took away major funding for all organizations comparable to the alliance, donors also sent their money to other similar, but more prominent causes perhaps not fully realizing the impact this would have on VCRA. Because we as a society have insisted we don’t want to be taxed more, and somehow we let something as important as the alliance fall to the financial wayside, the Rainbow Alliance is set to close as of June 30, and the hundreds of members of the LGBTQ community — youth and adults — and those infected with HIV/AIDS will have to go elsewhere, if they get the gumption to go anywhere at all now that their local safe haven is gone.
Next on the chopping block are local anti-truancy and drug counseling programs. Police and prosecutors may also be dealt a financial blow, thanks to an increase in our vehicle license fee that is about to expire. Because legislators in Sacramento won’t push through a special election, local officials are expecting a $4.7 million shortfall, possibly resulting in the loss of the aforementioned programs and a hit to the district attorney and law enforcement. To be certain, though, the mood appears to have been set by too many Californians having professed that they don’t want to be taxed or deal with additional fees any more. So even if a special election came to fruition, the fate of such programs seems doomed already.
Down at the beach are more casualties. McGrath State Beach is already set to close in September and while it may not seem much, the state beach parking lot at the Ventura pier just raised its fees from $2 an hour to a $10 flat fee and validation is no longer accepted — local business owners are already feeling the hit. The failure to pass Prop. 21, which would have raised fees for car registration to go toward state parks, has led to a crisis of park closures across the state — a significant impact to tourism and related service industries where those parks are located.
For every action, there is always a reaction. We voted against higher taxes and continue to shake our fists at the idea of extending them. We are letting valuable resources and programs become defunct, for what? Our distrust of the officials we elected and how they spend our money? Our fear that if we get taxed more, we won’t have as much? With just a little more out of own pockets, we could have saved so much. (Note, however, bloat in government is detestable, but even with the shortcomings in government, we should still feel an obligation to maintain what we can for the common good.) In the meantime, while we are watching out for No. 1, many more casualties are falling down all around us. It’s too bad, though. Once a great nation, it appears we stand divided, but fall united.