As the holiday season approaches, we offer our wish list for the communities we all share.
Twelve drummers drumming: Our frequent plug for increased music and art in the schools and in the community. Our bright students—our hope for future world leaders—can learn science, math and languages, and they should. No amount of knowledge, however, will give them what it takes to turn today’s knowledge into tomorrow’s innovation. That takes creativity, and creativity can’t be found in the math book or the science book. It’s found in the arts. If we fail to systematically develop the creativity in our students, they will spend their lives serving those whose societies had the wisdom to develop their creativity.
Eleven papers paping: Okay, we know there’s no such word as “paping.” But it’s our plug for ourselves and our competitors to vigorously and responsibly use the freedom we too-often take for granted under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, and to encourage more voices, not fewer. Today’s trends favor media consolidation, and we know we’re going against the grain, but we’re comfortable there.
Ten Fords-a-sleeping: Our cry to the entire transportation industry to think beyond today’s profits, products, projects and processes; and bring our society out of the dark age of oil dependence. The technology exists, but the research and development are lagging. The Hiawatha Light Rail is a good start; those in the know say it will be decades before we can make similarly-efficient mass transit available throughout the metropolitan area. It doesn’t have to be that way.
Nine babies enhancing: Our plug for early childhood education. Study after study confirms that investment in early childhood and parent education saves society tons of money and heartache that we spend when we clean up after the crime and poverty that’s almost inevitable when children don’t learn how to learn at a very early age.
Eight raids on bilking: While we don’t subscribe to the notion that hiring more police officers in itself makes anyone safer from crime, we do believe that police staffing should be sufficient to allow for community involvement, proactive investigative work and rapid response to non-life-threatening conditions. This requires more dollars from taxpayers and constant efficiency improvement within police departments. May this be the year when that balance is found, or at least improved.
Seven swarms-a-skimming: These are the people—residents and officials—who “skim the fat.” They monitor public operations and push for greater and greater efficiency, so that when society finally realizes that our basic services—health, public safety, education, public works—need far more resources than they’re now getting, the public has the confidence to make the investment.
Six fees abating: In harmony with some of the items above, this is our plug for deciding what government needs to accomplish and then taxing the public to pay for it; rather than taxing the public as much as officials think they can and then seeing how far the money goes; and then trying to make up for it by adding lots of user fees. Whether we drive or not, we all depend on the roads. Whether we have kids in school or not, we must pay to educate youth. In these and many other areas, “user fees” don’t make a lot of sense. We hope our leaders will focus on results; if the results are there, the residents will ante up.
Five gold slings: Like the legendary $500 toilet seats, the gold sling is our symbol for a health care financing system that’s out of whack and cannot sustain itself for the long term. The rich can afford it, taxpayers buy it for many of the poor, and those in the middle have to make more and more difficult choices, deciding what level of health care they can or cannot afford. It will smell like socialism to some; it’s actually just deferred maintenance. We will pay dearly for having a system built on greed rather than need; the sooner we fix the system so that it provides reasonably for all, the less it will cost in the long run.
Four enthralling nerds: These are the extremely bright young folks whose sense of creativity was nurtured by the twelve drummers drumming noted above; who lead us to innovation and efficiency we never thought possible.
Three stench pens: Another symbol—the compost pile—that demonstrates how we learn to “think globally and act locally.” We can legislate better environmental policy, and we should. We can also each do our share—one decomposed orange peel and recycled bottle at a time—to put those policies to work.
Two fertile gloves: Our plug for those private and public gardens that make summers beautiful and winters tolerable because we know the warm weather and the beautiful gardens will eventually return.
Finish the song any way you like. Happy Holidays.
Kerry Ashmore is the editor/publisher of the Northeaster and North News in Minneapolis.