Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Living Up to Our Responsiblities

Gwendolyn Burton is a responsible member of the community. She has worked hard, apparently paid her bills, and expects other people to do the same. But the community is not living up to its responsibility according to an Oakland Press article on line, April 10, 2010.

In February of 2007, Burton’s home was damaged by an electrical fire. When she received her insurance claim she contracted with Rick Ballard to repair the damage. Apparently, Ballard claimed he was a licensed contractor, but wasn’t. Burton paid for some of the work in advance. Ballard after a period of time stopped work on the home and would not return Burton’s phone calls. Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Bruce U. Morrow sided with Burton. In August of 2009, 9 months ago, he ordered Ballard to pay $61,000 in restitution and serve some jail time.

Burton has not been paid a dime nor has Ballard spent any time in jail. A warrant has been issued for Ballard’s arrest but no action has been taken. None, nada, zilch.

In a Responsible Community individuals are to live in a responsible manner, one that Burton seems to have done for her entire life. A successful, retired school teacher that now expects others in the community to live up to their end of the deal. But, the court system and its enforcement arm, has not taken any action other than the court order. In this recession, tax revenues are down so agencies have to make cuts. These cuts affect the efficient operation of government. This leaves Burton to protest in front of the contractor’s house, with a home not finished and $61,000 short.

When we formed communities, on the top of the responsibilities for the government was to enforce the law. After all, the deal was that we would not take law into our own hands, leaving that task to the government. But before we all just blame the government, the sheriff department of Wayne County and the courts, let’s take a closer look.

Without enough people to enforce the law, the government has to make priorities. The priority being, hopefully, to enforce orders for the most dangerous and the largest amounts of money. Burton even suggested this when she said she realizes this is not a lot of money in the big scheme of things, but it is big money to her. But, if the courts were properly funded, they wouldn’t have to make a list of priorities. Ballard would be in jail and Burton would have her money.

It is tough in a recession to dig a little deeper to find enough money for taxes. Foreclosures, unemployment, and decreased income have taken a toll on people and families. But the “cut taxes and force government to do more for less” concept isn’t working for all the Burtons out there. As a community we must set our priorities then make the proper investment in those priorities to make it work. And that is just the opposite of what we are doing.

Here is a suggestion. The next time we vote for someone to represent us, ask him or her to make a list of the most important things that the community needs to do. Since Burton and the rest of us agreed to not take things into our own hands, enforcing the law should be right on top. Now, here is the hard part, if you agree with the priorities, be willing to pay for them. If that means increasing the tax rate during a recession to make up for the lost revenue, then agree to it.

If you don’t then you aren’t living up to your side of the deal. Crime will increase, there will be more Burton’s out there and someday, it will be you.

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