Archive for June, 2009

No representation without taxation

No, the title of this article is correct.

We had our monthly Ojai Valley Library Friends and Foundation meeting last night.  I’ve been the treasurer since the end of the ice age.  Lots of good folks on the OVLFF board.  We don’t always agree but we seem to get things done.

The Foundation has been blessed of late with more income than expense.  Funds provided by the community let us support the three branches in the Ojai Valley by providing equipment, building improvements, and programs that augment what the County spends.

The Wright Library is located in Ventura and is not in our sphere of influence.  Hard times have hit Wright as County tax revenues have fallen.  Cuts have been made.  Wright has been targeted for closure even though it is an active, busy place.  As with any change, those most affected by it have risen to Wright’s defense.  The Friends Foundation in Ventura that supports Wright has taken on a herculean task to keep the doors open.  The community is up in arms, money raised, ballot propositions written, sales tax increases contemplated, and commitments extracted from elected representatives.

Ray Bradbury even rolled in, headlined a fund raiser, and the NY Times wrote about the library’s plight.  Nevertheless, Wright may be wrong.  It may all be to no avail.

At last night’s OVLFF meeting, one of our board members who’s done much for the Ojai libraries, has a good heart and a strong community commitment, offered a suggestion.  “Since OVLFF has some bucks, maybe we could donate a few of them to Wright’s cause.”  A reasonable idea.

Now I’m no book-burner.  And I obviously have a soft spot for libraries.  But I think the idea of writing a check to keep the library open deserves closer examination.  Let’s put aside the issue of “what do we do next year after we save Wright this year.”   Instead, let’s focus on who’s responsible for keeping libraries open.

Is it a small group of committed individuals who dig into their pockets every year and subsidize staff, books, lights and heat?  While the rest of us sneak in, borrow books, use computers, ask the librarian questions, attend community meetings, provide supplemental schooling to our kids…and then bad mouth the tax collector.  Better keep those committed individuals healthy and happy…and pay heed to their values and politics, good or bad.

Or is it the community at large that’s responsible?  Doesn’t the entire community benefit from the library?  Even if half of them never set foot in it?  I have a confession.  I never borrowed a book from the Ojai Library until last year.  Shame on me.  Would I care if the library shut its doors?  Do I want to dumb down kids and adults only to have them be a bigger problem than they are now?  Perish the thought.

Would I have a fund raiser for Sheriff Bob’s police department if the money ran out?  Would Sweetie bake cookies for it?  No.  I’d camp out in Sacramento or the Ventura Government Center until they paid attention.  I’d oust my elected representative.  I’d vote.  I’d pay taxes.

Quiet, you say.  They’ll hear you.  They’ll raise our taxes.  The scoundrels that we put in office.  The ones who are supposed to make our community better.  The nerve.

And that’s why I don’t want to give money to the Wright Library.  And that’s why I don’t want to subsidize the basic services of schools through auctions, tea parties and private solicitations.  I want the Government to do its job.  I want there to be such an uproar in the community that we will actually force our elected representatives to raise our taxes.  To pay for things that benefit the entire community,  just like my folks did.

Sure, my dad complained about taxes.  And so do I.  It’s the American way.  But so is responsibility.



Open wide

Routine enough.  Visit the dentist for my semi-annual teeth scraping.  Piece of cake.  Sure.

Arrive at Dr. J’s on schedule with Sweetie in tow.  Hygienist greets me.  “Hi Fred, plunk yourself down.  Comfy?  How about a pillow for your head?  You’ve got great teeth.  What’s your secret?”  OK, fun’s over.

We’re half-way through the scraping with that tool you think will slip and rip your gums to shreds.  “Oops.  Look at that.  Your crown popped off.  Good thing it didn’t happen while you were eating.”  Ugly thoughts speed through my mind.  “We’ll get Dr. J to glue it back in place.  No big deal.”  Sure.

We finish the scraping, gagging, gargling and spitting.  Good boy, Fred.  As an aside, why do hygienists ask rhetorical questions while your mouth is full of flotsam and jetsam?  Do they expect a response?  Are they insulted if I remain silent in order to avoid strangulation?  I’d like to see a sign on the wall that says  “Don’t worry about responding to the hygienist.  They don’t give a shit anyway.

I spend ten minutes in the waiting area moving little bits of granite around my mouth and am then escorted to Dr. J’s recliner.  “Hi Fred.  Good thing this happened while you were here.”  I know.  “We’ll have this back in place in a jiffy.  First, let’s make sure it fits before we glue it.  There, how’s that?”  Fine, I say.

Gwen the techie applies the glue.  Dr. J slaps it in place.  “Here.  Bite down hard on this piece of flotsam.  Harder.  There, how’s that?”  I gnash my teeth.  “Hmmm, seems a little crooked.”  Dr. J grabs a wooden stick.  Just like the one  in that John Wayne movie.  The one he bites down on as they remove a cannonball from his ear.  “Now bite down harder and hold it for a couple of seconds.”  I obey.  “How’s that.”  Mmmmm.  “Not any better.”

Still smiling, maybe not so broadly, Dr. J says “I’ll have to pry it off and redo it.  No biggie.”  Sure.  “Hmmmm.  Tough little bastard.”  Dr. J bears down with a determination only matched by my desire to be somewhere else.  My tooth is about to be yanked out of my head.  “We’ll have to go to Plan B.”  “What’s that” I say.

“You remember Jujubes?  Those cute little candies that stuck to your teeth most of the weekend?  Well, we put one like that on the crown, you close your mouth, then open it.  I’ll help.  The crown will pop right off.”  Sure.

Gwen heats this Jujube blob from outer space.  Dr. J slaps it on my crown.  I clamp down.  “OK, now I’m going to give you a little help opening your mouth.” Dr. J grabs my jaw.  Gwen the Barbarian presses my head to the chair.  “Come on, open up.”  Easy for them to say.  I have ugly visions of Arnold Schwarzenegger prying the monster’s jaws apart until he rips it a new smile.  Pop.  It’s done.

“Well, the crown’s off.  But the faux Jujube blob is stuck to your upper teeth.  I’ll have to pry it off.”  Dr. J isn’t smiling anymore.  Dr. J grabs an instrument that looks as big as the tool used by Paul Newman when he worked on the road gang in Cool Hand Luke.  Twenty minutes pass.  “At least you won’t have to floss those teeth anymore.”  Not funny, I think.

We finish.  “I think I’ve got TMJ.”  Maybe they won’t charge me for the time spent on the rack.  Sure.

Cool hand luke

Bummer, lost again

Darn it.  I lost again.  Did great work on three stunning photographs and didn’t even merit an honorable mention.  Spent hours at the Old Mill renovation in Santa Paula risking life and limb to get the National Geographic award of the year and all I get is chopped liver.  Where will it end?

The Ojai Art Center Photography Branch hung another standout show at the Art Center this weekend.  Thirty photographers qualified fifty photos in the Branch’s annual show Visions of Change.  Well the only thing that didn’t change was my winning nothing, nada, zilch.

I blame Greg Cooper and Attasalina Dews, the two judges who crowned the winners.  Yeah sure, I know that Greg currently teaches full time at Brooks Institute School of Visual Journalism in Ventura.  And Atta has established herself as a successful wedding and portrait photographer.  But I ask you, shouldn’t they have accepted the gratuity I offered in return for a first place ribbon?  Ingrates.

But enough about me.  Roger Conrad did another class job of curating the show.  And that’s on top of his uncanny ability to herd the Photo Committee members into line over a six month period as they argued about the show’s theme, the color of the table cloths, and the font style for the announcements.  Weighty stuff.

Myrna Cambianica was largely responsible for the goodie table at the Sunday reception.  In addition to the yummies, Myrna’s ecology mania guided her selection of biodegradeables, including the wine cups which had to be emptied within ninety seconds or they would stain your shoes.  Three separate recyclable containers were provided, prompting long lines to form as guests attempted to select the proper bin for their garbage.  Wrong choices resulted in expulsion from the reception.

Food kept appearing as if by magic.  Erin O’Loughlin and Genevieve Woods were stellar representatives of YES.  The Youth Employment Services, a non-profit group of Ojai students, can be proud of the way these young ladies kept the guests’ tummies full and the tables spotless.

The show runs through July 8 unless all of the photos are sold before then.  But have no fear, I’m sure we can find replacements.  So hurry on down to the Art Center.  You can easily identify my photos.  They don’t have any ribbons.


Brother, can you spare a dime?

Carin sent me an e-mail this morning asking that I write my state legislators and tell them that we should keep the parks open.  The Governator has proposed shutting most of them down to keep California finances from falling into the Pacific.

Now I like trees as much as the next guy.  But I have so many requests to contact my legislators that I don’t know where to start.  Food for the home-bound, health care for the indigent, school class sizes smaller than the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, help for single mothers with a dozen or more kids housed at Motel Six, prison guards who won’t be able to spend their normal two weeks on the French Riviera, and my own local library that may have to burn its books.  What’s a guy to do?

Budget cuts are rampant.  The Democrats, held hostage by minority Republicans who are the beneficiaries of the super-majority requirement bestowed on them by us, are catatonic and incapable of doing anything but closing down the state.

As the NY Times reported

The Democratic-controlled Legislature has been uncharacteristically silent on most of the cuts, most likely because lawmakers know that tax increases are not politically palatable, that huge cuts in some form are in the offing no matter what, and that any program they wish to spare will quite likely have advocates among their ranks.

Letters to the editor abound.  “About time someone took an axe to the state budget.  The voters have spoken.  No tax increase.  Cut out the waste.  A pox on their houses.”  Many cite the evidence of the overwhelming defeat of the recent unintelligible ballot propositions as clear evidence that tax increases are unacceptable.  Maybe.  Maybe not.

Less than a third of California registered voters participated in the election.  Last week American Idol polled about 100 million votes.  I’m proud to say that I voted in the election.  I’m also proud to say I’ve never seen American Idol.

I voted against all of the propositions, even the one that passed.  The one that punishes the legislature if we run a deficit.  I’m not sure why the legislature should be punished.  We’re the ones who’ve hamstrung them.  Maybe we should get a pay cut too.

I thought a long time about the propositions.  Maybe ten minutes which, at my age, is a significant commitment.  I realized that passage would be a band-aid on the real problem only to be followed by more ballot propositions.  And we would continue our role as the state’s budget experts and chief financial planners.  A dubious honor, the silliness of which is supported by any discussion overheard at Ojai Coffee Roasting.

No, I voted against the propositions in the hope that the Rapture would begin.  A wholesale slaughter.  The coming of the Messiah.  A cataclysmic event that would move the electorate.  An event so overwhelming and distasteful that we would admit to our wickedness.  And beg for change.  Beg that we change the way this state is run.  Beg that the legislature take over from us, the incompetent.  Beg that, unless we are trampling on individual rights, that a majority of our legislature enact the law.

So, please don’t ask me to tell my elected representatives to keep the parks open.  Don’t ask me to make donations to keep the schools open.  Don’t ask me to take over the legitimate responsibilities of our elected representatives.  Do ask me to vote for a change to the way this state is run.  Do ask me to support legitimate public services by paying my fair share.

Meanwhile, brother, I can’t spare a dime.




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