Santa Cruz Indymedia :
Santa Cruz Indymedia

Is "Peace" an ingrained habit yet?

With all due respect to those who were at the protest -- an act that I admire and applaud -- I wonder how many of them voted this month to retain the city's Utility Tax, literally taking an average of around $250 yearly from all who voted to repeal the tax or who didn't vote at all.

I received campaign literature that warned of devastating cuts in essential safety and infrastructure services, when the $8.4M in anticipated utility tax revenue wouldn't even cover the full budget for the Parks and Recreation Department. Said another way, even if the Utility Tax were to disappear tomorrow, NO CUTS need occur in any department other than Parks and Rec, and even that Department would still retain $2M of its originally planned budget. Truth, it seems, is a major casualty in the campaign to maintain taxation, even as it is said to be the "first casualty" of war.

Of course, losing $8.4M in one fell swoop would definitely devastate the Parks and Rec Department, but the opponents of Measure P, with whom I exchanged views, would not even consider the possibility of voluntary means for filling in the budget gap: higher user fees and charitable contributions, for instance. Had the people who voted against Measure P simply sent in their own $250 -- instead of nominating their neighbors to contribute involuntarily -- that would have made up $3M of the shortfall right there! From that point, careful management of funds throughout the year might have restored the Parks and Rec budget to nearly the originally planned funding level, and given us a year to decide how to restructure city government to live within more limited means, or find more and better funding than the Utility Tax had provided.

But no: voluntary means were seen as clearly "insufficient" for the important civic task, if they were considered at all. Over 12,000 citizens voted to force at least 5,000 or more to kick down the average $255/yr., essentially to subsidize parks, pools, after-school and summer youth activities, and the like. An onerous tax on necessities, used to fund discretionary amenities, was allowed to stand.

How long a leap is it, from saying "no, you can't keep your money to spend as you see fit; we can and will take it to spend on things WE deem important," to saying "no, you can't stop paying and dying for this war because we who know better understand that prosecuting it is in the national interest"? Not a very long leap, it seems to me. War entails naked force and involuntary servitude, but so does the act of voting for a tax, or for a law that coerces behavior which does not itself cause harm to others. It would seem to me that someone who were truly serious about "Peace" would understand that all the small misuses of force eventually combine into a dark mass of disrespect for people and their lives, which acquires a momentum that enables large, egregious misuses of force, such as war. Respect for people and their property, and an emphasis on voluntary approaches to solving civic problems, would seem to be to be the hallmark of the genuinely "peaceful" way. So I wonder, did any of the protesters vote to retain the Utility Tax? And if so, how did they reconcile their embrace of the "little war," even as they advocated a "larger peace"?

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