Tuesday, January 8, 2008

I'm not a hippy, but...

(not that there's anything wrong with hippies)

I read an article recently about a group of people who are refusing to pay a portion of their federal income tax, in response to the war in Iraq, right around the time I read that homeowners in Trenton are looking at a 5+% tax increase.

No one likes a tax hike, but I think many of us will agree, that from time to time, tax hikes are necessary. But is the one in Trenton totally necessary? All 5+% of it? How much of our tax money really goes to services? And how much of it goes to paying for Mayor Palmer's plane fare for his Conference of Mayors activities? Or his long-distance phone calls? How much of it goes to putting gas in Police Director Santiago's city-issue car, which makes a 100-mile round trip every time he reports to work? How much of it goes to putting gas in "gang expert" Barry Colicelli's car? Irv Bradley's car? What about other members of Palmer's inner posse who get free cars, but don't live in the city — how much of our money pays for their gas? How much of our tax money goes to the security outside of Palmer's house in Trenton, where he doesn't even live full-time? What about all the bullshit contracts our city enters? How much are we wasting on legal fees, accountants, and other professionals for programs that never, ever come to fruition? What about all those consultants we don't need when we have perfectly good people here who would work for less money and provide better services? What about all of those lawsuits we see on each and every City Council docket? What the hell are our taxes paying for? Our damn street didn't even get officially plowed the last time it snowed in 2006: a plow came through on the warmest day, when nearly all of the snow was melted.

Good citizens here spend their waking hours cleaning up the litter, running off prostitutes and their johns, and devising ways of making their corners inhospitable to the drug trade. Good citizens do not get the services we should be getting; our taxes are very high for the amount of bullshit we endure in this city.

So, I'm wondering what would happen if a large group of us in Trenton withheld a percentage of our taxes — let's say 3% of that 5% increase, paying enough to cover the new police officers? But in good faith, instead of just keeping that 3%, what if we donated that money to, say, the Boys and Girls Club in Trenton, or a literacy group, or an organization dedicated to getting reformed gang members back into the mainstream? Or a garden club who will beautify our streets? What if we wrote letters to the city, with proof our our donations, to make our point clear?

I know this sounds like 60s-style hippy-druggy-feel good stuff, and while I don't want to dismiss the efforts of that generation out of hand, because a lot of it was motivated by good intentions, please keep in mind that some of the most upstanding, influential people in relatively modern history also withheld taxes: Henry David Thoreau, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Mohandas Gandhi. Plenty of influential, creative sorts have also resisted: Henry Miller, Norman Mailer, Betty Friedan. Even though it seems to me that ultimately, it is nearly impossible to beat "the man," I am impressed with the mark the above people have left on humanity. If a large group of us protests this tax increase by a refusal to pay it in the full, we may all get fined, but we'll also raise awareness as to what's happening in this city, and I believe that kind of press coverage outside the city that might force real change within it. It's been my contention from the minute we moved to Trenton, that the shit we endure — the open-air drug dealing; the wackos who cut their hedges with machetes and sing Stevie Wonder songs while doing so; the mounds of litter; the constant robberies and assaults; the plethora of boarded-up and crumbling buildings houses; Council President Paul Pintella's utter disdain for the outspoken members of our community; the mayor's temper tantrums — would never (ever) be permitted to happen anywhere else in the country.

I really don't know about this. I'm just putting it out there. We have major problems here, and change cannot happen overnight, but we are getting no cooperation from the very people we elected to look out for us. These people need to receive a message they understand what we're saying, and a wallop in the wallet sends a clear message like no other.

Think about it.


Irving Bertrand Clean said...

"Santiago's city-issue car, which makes a 100-mile round trip every time he reports to work?"

I don't know why this point got my dander up, but I drive a fairly sensible car (read - NOT a City-issued Crown Vic or Town Car). A quick crunch of the numbers shows that if I had a commute like Santiago's, I'd be in the hole to the tune of $120 per WEEK in fuel, and I'm sure I'm low-balling this figure.

How many of the people Santiago is ostensibly here to serve and protect would not be absolutely crushed by such a fiscal reality?

Chrissy said...

It's mind-boggling, isn't it? The only saving grace, if what I'm reading over at the TrentonSpeaks forum is true (and I do think it's true), is that Santiago doesn't come to work every day. Although, now that I think about it, that's a slap in the face too. The dude is the Director of the Po Po in the capital city, which has an unfortunate lopsided ratio of losers to non-losers. We need the head of police nearby, to care about our city. Instead, we've got an explosive little db who only cares about his pension and suits and hair. Must be nice to make that kind of coin and hang at home so much.