Tag Archives: democracy

Fairfield Fantasy

Imagine that the residents were offered an opportunity to have a township celebration at the municipal building and surrounding recreation fields. There could be refreshments and rides and music.  It would rival the Harvest Festival, but admission would be free.  Unlimited fun while children and adults engage in countless activities.  This event could be planned annually for the next ten years for no additional cost!  The only cost would be a one-time fee of $20 by each tax payer in the township. Wouldn’t that be great?

How about this instead?  Imagine planning for a community center for the entire township. With a game room, big screen televisions, and a dinning hall;  a recreation area for community events and staff to facilitate, we’d have an asset that would rival neighboring communities. Again all of this (with some creative planning and about a $20 contribution from each tax payer) could be ours. How cool would that be?    Alright!  One more idea–what if we could get a discount on an emergency vehicle that could supplement the emergency medical services for all of Fairfield Township. The vehicle could be paid for with grants, but mostly with the funds that could be raised from consenting taxpayers. It would cost a minimal $20 times all 4000 tax payers.

Now here are the requirements. We can only choose one of these delightful options. Either a 10 year festival that celebrates the residents of the township, or a community center for all of the residents, or an emergency medical vehicle that services the entire community.  Which would you choose?  The entire township would have to vote, and the winning selection would be acted upon immediately.  Every tax payer would be pledging the minimal one-time-only fee of $20.  Wouldn’t that be fantastic?

The Math

There are approximately 8000 residents in the township, but not all are tax payers. Excluding the children , the seniors, the renters, and the other family members that live in each household, there are about 4000 folks who are eligible to pay taxes. But that would be enough to meet these goals. If everyone made their mandatory contribution, the fund would amass a whopping $80,000!  Imagine that!  An annual celebration would cost about $8000 a year.  With proper planning and community development, a community center could be developed. Non-profit organizations right here in Cumberland County have done it for less! Emergency vehicles are expensive, but (again) with proper planning, research, and a lot of tenacity a vehicle could be purchased for nearly the same amount of money.  It wouldn’t be easy, but nothing worth having is ever easy. This doesn’t have to be a fantasy. This $20 we speak of is smaller than the additional $30 a year that we WILL be paying due to the most recent tax hike. That’s NOT a fantasy!   

Now imagine instead of getting one of these amazing projects, we had to give that entire sum to one person.  Would you be as excited?  Collectively, would we consent?  Perhaps if you had an explanation?  Imagine that the reason is because that individual claimed that he or she felt entitled because the system failed him or her.   All of those who already consented to the other project(s) have already made their mandatory contribution. No party!  No community center!  No rescue vehicle!  Instead a law suit must be settled. It’s sad but necessary. No refunds will be given.  No further explanation will be offered. How do you feel about that?

What if I told you that this is one of many reasons that residents loose interest in local government.  Is this the reason that so few residents vote?  Would our participation adversely impact the final outcome?  So often great plans crumble as a result of exchanging the wants for a community for the needs of a few.  This is the Fairfield Fantasy.  Or should it be called Fact or Fiction?  Either way the residents will get an F.   

WTFUND

What the Fund?!?!?  I’ve watched.  I’ve participated.  I’ve become an activist. I’ve contributed to the union.  I’ve supported the lobby for education. I’ve done what I was suposed to do.  I’ve done what I was asked. I’ve followed the law!  I’ve religiously prayed about the situation, and every set back has forced by faith to grow–because I know who the victor is in the end.  I’ve been ethical, logical, and rational.

I’ve voted for the underdog in every election in the hopes of positive change. I’ve gone so far as to BECOME the underdog in my own election AND WON–so that I could be the voice of the the residents, the voters, the children, the victims, and the dedicated employees.  I represent the educators and the students, the parents and the grandparents, the academics and the vocational scholars.  I represent the volunteers–as I should because I am one (too).  Winning was the easy part, but fighting the others in power was the challenge.
We were winning!  We had hope.  We are still here, but the fight is not over!

Now that my pension has been corrupted, misused, and taken away I must take a hard look as to how I plan for my future.  Our life savings that were supposed to be secure, invested, and available has been given away. Not stolen!  Given away without our consent…

Am I supposed to continue my fight?  For what???  There’s nothing left to fight for.  We are in ruins because of the leaders WE elected.  They were wrong!  But we were wrong for electing them.  NEVER AGAIN!  They thought they could do what THEY thought was acceptable. They mistook our silence for consent. Wrong!  They ignored us!  And now we ALL pay the price!

Am I supposed to write to my elected officials now?  I’ve written my congressman. I’ve tweeted my governor. I’ve “thunderclapped” and memed my way to become that labor activist. I’ve Facebooked and instagrammed. I’ve delegated and public spoke. I’ve abandoned what is grammatically and academically acceptable to try something innovative and inventive to no avail. And now what?  Frustration?  No!  Determination!!!

We didn’t get here because someone gave us something.  Advanced placement classes, SATs, college acceptance, all-nighters, study groups, student loans, college work-study, struggles to get home on holiday, cut funds, cafeteria food, GREs, and more student loans. Deferments, and forgiveness; job searches and rejections.  And finally a career in education with a promise of a comfortable retirement only thirty years away.  Perfect!  Let’s buy a house. Let’s start a family.  Let’s root our lives right here in New Jersey.  For what?!?  To have it all taken away???

And now the next big ideas develop.  “Hey let’s do a work action.”  “No wait, let’s all take the same day off!”  I’ve got an idea… Let’s shut the freak up.  Just kidding!  “How about we all take out pension loans (and pay application fees and interest). That will show them!”  I’m sick.  I already pay hundreds of dollars per pay for the last pension loan that I HAD to take out to get me through the summer. I’m already paying the increased rate!  In addition to all the other “garnishments” of my wages (dues, healthcare, taxes, support, PENSION contribution, loans, etc), I can’t escape my pension loan payments unless I quit. And if I quit, the IRS taxes me for unreported income. Brilliant idea.

This essay is written in anger. I did not do what we teach  (“wait a few days before we publish, children”).  I feel!  I’m disappointed. I’m angry. And tomorrow can’t get here fast enough. Happy June, my fellow educators!  It’s time to start that non-pension-contributing summer job that pays less than a livable wage, with no benefits, and a hefty tax liability. Doing so makes me stronger?  No! Doing so only makes me hope for September–when I came come back to my career and be abused some more.