Tuesday, February 2, 2010

From Boulder County to Haiti

It's Groundhog Day, and Punxsutawny Phil saw his shadow, foretelling another six weeks of winter. It has been an unusual winter here in Boulder County, where the sun has remained hidden behind high winter clouds for days that have steadily progressed into weeks. We Coloradoans are spoiled by more than 300 days of sunshine, more days of sunshine than I experienced annually after 15 years of residence in Honolulu. There is something spectacular about the brightness of the sunshine against a clear blue sky on a day with temperatures in the 30's that warms both body and soul.
When Herb was here for two weeks over Christmas and New Year's, I asked him if it was unusually dark at night. Or, I secretly feared, was my night vision failing even further? He pointed out that the cloud cover was still there at night, and the reflected city lights that usually light up the night sky were hidden from view. Thus, the drives back from Denver and points further south have been fraught with worry for me, because the lane markings on the highways have also dimmed from the wear and tear of snow and ice scraped by the omnipresent snow plows.
We live in rural unincorporated Boulder County and have just learned that our roads are maintained but not repaired or replaced by the County. It's the responsibility of the approximately 100 subdivisions that own more than 150 miles of roads to repair and replace those roads. Yet, many of those roads are collector roads that feed into larger thoroughfares, and some of those roads also front public schools. I attended a public meeting sponsored by the County Director of Transportation to inform citizens of the status of a year-long Work Group's study of the road situation. (A tip of the hat to the president of our Homeowners Association who has faithfully participated in that Work Group on our behalf.)
Parsing such ideas as how much or how little the road in front of one's own house is used, how many vehicles are driven within a single household, and what constitutes a parcel (big house, little house, townhouse) is just silly. I do have some concerns about any taxation method that is regressive. However, I think the Work Group's recommendations of options that include Public Improvement Districts that fund repair and replacement in the first five years and ongoing maintenance thereafter, seem appropriate and worthy of support. I think that it would be shortsighted to address only the initial repair and replacement of roads without allowing for ongoing maintenance. We should be looking for and supporting a long-term solution so that future citizens won't have to go through the same drill.
It is an unfortunate fact of life in our democracy that there still exist those citizens who fail to appreciate that there is such a thing as community and the greater good and that all citizens must support infrastructure for the continuing good order of the community. But then, I come from both a refugee-immigrant background that causes me to say, "Thank you, Lord, for letting me live in America," as I write my check to pay my taxes, and experience from as far back as my high school years of supporting mil levies for public education. I won't be one of those senior citizens who grouses about taxes for public education because I don't have school-age kids. (That's not the same as saying I won't also be critical of throwing money at problems instead of developing solutions that have a chance of improving the problems.)
Ultimately, our civilized human existence is about interconnectedness. What we do in Boulder County impacts what is happening to the citizens of Haiti, who are now struggling to survive, never mind rebuilding, a subject for later after the immediate humanitarian needs are grappled with. The Colorado Haiti Project is headquartered in Boulder County, and it has staff on the ground in Haiti that is lending assistance to the aid efforts from their headquarters in Petit trou de Nippes, which fared better in the earthquake than did the epicenter near Port-au-Prince. At St. Aidan's Episcopal Church in Boulder, a project called We Can Live with Less is reminding us that small sacrifices we make in our daily consumption can be shared with the people of Haiti.
I am proud that my two grandsons, ages 10 and 8, are being raised with a social justice consciousness, nurtured by both their divorced parents, each in her or his own way. It matters that we raise our young people to care about the welfare of others, even those living across the globe whom we will never meet. The boys have donated their birthday money to animal welfare, shoulder length hair to cancer patients, and time to walking the dogs at the county shelter. My father, who worked 6-1/2 days a week in Chinese restaurant kitchens, somehow found time to help other Chinese immigrants with filing immigration and tax forms. Yet, Dad surely would have shrugged off the concept of volunteerism, because to Dad, it was all about helping his community.

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