In response to California’s budget crisis, legislators and the governor have passed a budget fix that takes needed funds from our local governments. This isn’t new. When politicians are forced to cut, they seldom cut bureaucracies; they cut local services.
Ventura’s Deputy Mayor Bill Fulton observed: “The state budget deal has proved once again that we…just can’t count on the state. If we are going to maintain the quality of life in our communities, it’s time to take control of our own destiny.“
In ages past, Americans were far more focused on their local communities. News of national catastrophes would take days before it could be covered; international news even longer. The papers focused on local problems. When Martha crashed her car, they’d cover the local church woman's group taking casseroles to Martha’s family. They'd show a community coming together to rebuild a fire-damaged barn.
We were a powerful people, because we could handle the problems we faced. Those local stories and problems still happen today, but they’re often buried in the back pages of the newspaper. Too many have been numbed into inaction by distant wars, large-scale disasters and economic downturns that are beyond our ability to fix. Instead of being powerless observers watching the news, it’s time to make a little news.
The local needs are growing, and the state’s “budget” fix is a house of cards waiting to collapse. With insufficient revenue numbers, an explosion in employee benefit and entitlement costs, and growing state unemployment, there are likely to be more service cuts and raids on local government funds.
Our nation may be politically divided, but when people in our midst are in need, we tend to put those differences aside. Lynn Bulock, community educator with the Ventura County Homeless & Housing Coalition, has seen that unity in action: “Homelessness and poverty are issues that tend to bring us together. No child should sleep on the streets, or in a car. When the Ventura City Council was considering resolutions on homelessness in May, over 130 people rallied on the steps of City Hall. They were led by a collection of faith leaders you don't usually see standing shoulder-to-shoulder: a Unitarian minister, an Episcopal priest, a UMC pastor, a Reform rabbi, the local head of the Salvation Army and several evangelical pastors. Since that rally, they’ve stuck together to bring fresh ideas to the Ventura Social Services Task Force. “