Wednesday, December 31, 2014

A Christmas Tale

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to any and all finding this blog. Yes, we are in the midst of the Christmas Season. Contemplate the Twelve Days and purge yourself of the binge materialism that led up to the Day of the Savior’s birth.

Earlier this December, taking a time of reflection after finally getting out our Christmas cards and putting up the tree, I was sitting in our family room listening to Christmas music when suddenly their was a loud pounding on our front door. I jumped up, looked out the window but saw no delivery truck. I ran downstairs, as now our dog was barking, and went to the front door.

Opening the door I found a man, shorter than myself, his clothes a bit worn more than most. In a humble voice he asked me, “Do you need a lawn mower? You can have it for $10.”

I looked and behind him on the sidewalk was an old lawn mower, “No.” I answered with a smile.

“It’s only $10. Do you have $10?”

“No.” I smiled. A few more similar exchanges and he walked away.

I headed back towards my chair and then thought ‘This is Christmas.’ I grabbed some Christmas cookies from the kitchen table, wrapped them in a napkin and headed out the front door. The man was already several houses down, the lawn mower in tow. I ran down the sidewalk and approaching the man asked, “Do you want some Christmas cookies?” as I handed him the cookies.

He didn’t answer me but continued to ask if I had $10 for the lawn mower. He eventually took the cookies and I wished him a Merry Christmas. Walking back to my house, our neighbor was on his porch speaking on his phone, most likely to the police.

Yes, most certainly the lawn mower was stolen. Absolutely certain was the fact that no police officer was going to reply to such a low priority call. Our Milwaukee Police officers are continually processing crime scenes of a more serious nature, including murder and robbery on a daily basis. They generally do not have time to patrol. Then I thought, ‘Maybe we could hire an officer like nightclubs and other places do to patrol our neighborhood; it’s small and enclosed.’ I was quickly hit with the reality. ‘Wait a minute,’ I thought, ‘That’s what we pay taxes for.’ Silly me.

But a neighborhood like ours gets little to no service from the police unless someone sets up a drug house. They are overwhelmed by the crime of the inner-city which is made up mostly of black people. But I am not intending to now write about runaway crime, or the recent police shootings that inflame a vocal few. I am writing about our Mayor Barrett’s trolley that he is planning to push through for our downtown.

I have described this trolley project on another blog of mine as robbery; Mayor Barrett and those who promote this trolley as thieves.

First of all, I would hope that my tale has demonstrated that the tax money our government takes is not theirs and we give it to them to provide services to the public to promote the common good. It is a contract that has long been broken by insider dealings.

Is it wrong for me to display all those involved in this trolley fiasco as thieves? Is it wrong to judge? I mean, even tens of millions in un-admitted cost per year would cost a citizen like myself only about $20. What does it matter if ultimately no one rides the trolley? It will stimulate tens of millions in investment in our downtown, is one justification. But that is tens of millions from my pocket and those of my fellow citizens. Redevelopment via tax dollars is what people such as Mayor Barrett call stimulus.

It has come to the point where that $20 per year does make a difference, though we may not consciously notice it. It is just one of many such irrational and unfounded $20 that are being piled upon the tax payer. The city’s most urgent and obvious needs suggest that that $20 go to hiring more police officers and in saving our failing schools, not to a trolley.

What of the business owners along the route that will be irreversibly disrupted if not destroyed. What of the dreams and hopes, desires and goals of all those, in those businesses; the cost of education and medical leaving no room for a head of family to be even temporarily unemployed. As their dreams are crushed by this useless project how does that differ from the feeling one may have when coming home to find that one’s house has been robbed? The financial set back and a violation of trust are real in either case. These business owners believed in and invested in our once great city and its’ downtown. Must the business owners grovel before government just to get by until the project is finished after years, only to find in the future that their customers, if they ever choose to come back, have no more parking?

The planners have yet to explain how the trolley will operate in the Winter snows. I have suggested to others that they would have to heat the trolley way, using the steam tunnels which run under many of our streets. Several articles on Milwaukee’s steam tunnels have come up on the Internet over the last few years. Of course heating exterior pavement has been illegal in Wisconsin since the energy crisis of the 1970’s.

The financial folly of the trolley or any other rail system has been well documented, though ignored by the elite class. Some want to package such rail systems as a quality of life issue worthy of the cost. I’m not sure how an empty train running in a circle, taking away parking, unable to negotiate a situation such as a fire hose stretched across its’ tracks or the trolley getting into an accident, shutting the whole system down, can be considered a quality of life improvement. It makes you wonder why cities got rid of their trolleys or street cars so many decades ago.

Support of the trolley is an immoral stand. It may be understandable to see a politician without morals, but what of all the professionals involved in these projects? Modern profession codes of ethics require only a technical proficiency. I am sure any company in the arena of civil engineering will due a highly professional and extremely competent job at present. But why do they agree to do the work in the first place? One may find companies who refuse to do such work on local rail because they believe, as I and others do, in its folly and financial unsustainability. It is not weakness to hold oneself morally responsible for how the publics money is spent. One would think it would be an easy decision to decline profit from the public till when one knows the public is against the project in question. I would not be surprised if many such companies exist; companies that would have rejected the work on the Milwaukee trolley. I would also not be surprised if no such companies exist.

This loss of a social moral compass, the inability for our leaders and professionals to hold themselves responsible for the consequences of their actions, to live lives of virtue, puts our future in jeopardy. The consequences of moral ambiguity and avarice will eventually influence the professions themselves. It is all a question of judgment, or rather its absence. Every decision in life is a judgment call.

Emperor Constantine coalesced the Roman Empire, with the city of Rome still considered the center of power, for the final time through great military victories against his adversaries. Many monuments, triumphal arches and such, were built. The state of the arts in the Roman Empire had degraded to such a degree that many of the monuments to Constantine were adorned with statuary scavenged from monuments to the Emperor Trajan and others.

Not to say that we should be living in the past, just that we shouldn’t repeat it..