The two most consistent criticisms of Modesto’s Measure X involve distrust of government and concern for the poor and middle class. Both display a willingness to ignore facts.
Distrust of government is as old as the Constitution. But when the founding fathers settled on a democratic republic, they emphasized the need for an informed citizenry. In fact, James Madison wrote that, “a popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both.”
Traditionally, newspapers have provided the information citizens need to make government work. Today, newspapers like the Modesto Bee tell readers they can’t trust the very people they endorsed, including Modesto Mayor Garrad Marsh and most of the members of the current City Council.
If our distrust of government is really so indelibly scored into our minds, why vote? Why endorse anyone?
If the Bee really means it doesn’t trust the people it endorsed, why should anyone trust Bee endorsements?
Many in media today have jumped down the rabbit hole with Tea Party extremists who in one instance say they hate government and in the next reach for their guns at the thought of losing social security benefits.
Measure X has a six year term limit. Even if the Bee ignored government’s failure to deliver on its promises over a six year period, it’s not believable that Valley citizens would fail to demand the promised services. Today’s social media make it almost impossible for government or traditional media to conceal anything for very long, let alone a failure to hire police officers.
Opponents of Measure X also claim the one cent tax hurts the poor and middle class. That’s one cent on one dollar, ten cents on ten dollars, one dollar per hundred dollars, and ten dollars per thousand dollars.
For people who have had their cars stolen, that’s a small price for improved public safety. For people who have been burglarized, that’s a bargain, and for people held hostage by gangsters in their own neighborhoods, it’s a deal they can’t refuse.
Critics of Measure X want to talk about trust, and revenues, and expenditures. What they don’t want to talk about is crime. And they don’t want to talk about crime because they have offered no solution for our nation-leading auto thefts. They have offered no solutions for the burglaries, assaults, and murders. They have offered no solutions for the rising gang memberships.
They have ignored the cuts in city services, not just of police officers but of the clerks needed to process police reports. They have dismissed the reports that place Modesto among the least livable cities in the United States.
The way forward is not to give up on government. The way forward is to give government a chance and then accept responsibility for monitoring government performance. Measure X will test Modesto’s citizens’ willingness to play their part in making the city a success.
Let’s hope Modesto votes yes on X. Let’s hope we begin anew to restore faith in government and faith in ourselves.
John Wagner says
Eric — You’ve written an excellent, succinct review of the pros and cons and the costs and the benefits of Measure X. I hope many of your fellow citizens read this and similarly conclude that there really IS no free lunch, that a quality community requires some revenue and investment by all. JCW
S. Hansen says
Mr. Caine; what you fail to mention, in your pro-Measure X argument, is that many within the Latino community have lost “trust” with the Modesto Police Department. Many crimes are not getting solved because the MPD is not getting credible tips / “intelligence” from the community; because of this lack of trust. This proposed regressive tax does hurt the poor and working class the most; and as an educated man you of all people know this to be true. Would you like to know what else hurts the poor and working class folks, Mr. Caine? Let me answer that for you since you are not from “off the block” and can only make a guess from your ivory college tower …corrupt and abusive law enforcement officers hurt the poor & working class folks. What you and the rest of the pro-Measure X individuals need to understand is that the “people” are not going to vote to raise taxes on themselves for an abusive police force so you old folks can “feel” safe sleeping at night.
I do not mistrust all government per se; but I will side with those anti tax Tea party extremist opposing Measure X because … as the old saying goes…the enemy of my enemy is my friend 😉 …
When this regressive tax increase fails lets see how much the police union cares about “public safety” when they are asked to reduce their pay and benefits instead of laying off young police officers with families from their ranks. We all know how it will play out…they will send out pink slips and keep their pay all in the name of “public safety”….
Eric Caine says
Thank you Mr. Hansen. However, I don’t believe the crime rates will go down as the result of unsupported claims about abusive cops and clichés about the Ivory Tower. You sound like an intelligent man; perhaps you could lead the effort to rid our police force of bad cops and help inform the public about them. We’d be happy to help by publishing credible reports of police abuse.
S. Hansen says
Mr. Caine, I do not believe crime rates will go down just because some folks want to throw more money at the MPD. We all know the police can not “guarantee” crime will go down if this proposed regressive tax increase passes. They may insinuate that crime will go down but we all know that is just rhetoric. I’m sure the MPD will issue more petty tickets to the poor and working class folks, which does raise revenue, but does not necessarily reduce the crime you speak of in your article. In my opinion (& many others) the crime rate has more to do with poverty, the poor state of the economy (including the uneven wealth distribution in our society) and the lack of trust of our current police (meaning their missing community tips because many individuals refuse to talk to the police) than with how many officers are on the street. You must understand not everyone is just going to lie down and starve; some will take penitentiary chances and that is what Modesto is experiencing.
Dave Thomas says
Eric, you were not listening when anti-X Citizens produced many excellent suggestions on how to solve Modesto’s fiscal crisis. At least 2 former council people, multiple members of the Stanislaus Taxpayers Association, and other Citizens provided fiscal wisdom aplenty.
At his request, I submitted two papers to the Mayor indicating cuts to both the General Fund and the total Budget, saving $12 Million and $20 Million respectively. The Mayor failed to respond.
X lost because it was a horrible idea. It was unplanned, far too large and would have had no effect on how the City is run. Perhaps now, the undereducated City Staff and the unmotivated Council will figure out a way to live within its means.