‘A Nice Break from the Mueller Report’

by on July 16, 2019 · 0 comments

in Ocean Beach, Politics

Since 1896, Ohio voters have picked the winning candidate in all but two presidential elections – 1944 and 1960 – giving rise to the state’s renown as a “bellwether” to which candidates cannot afford to turn a deaf ear.  If Ohioans are going to be so influential, maybe we could help inform their future choices by sharing some concerns from the Golden State.

By Joni Halpern

Dear Ohio,

The politicians and media commentators all have assured us that Americans will never read the Mueller Report, especially since, at this point, the report is considered ancient history.  But I like to discourage the idea that Americans are too lazy, short-sighted or just plain obtuse to try to understand what a whole slew of smart guys took more than two years to produce with taxpayer dollars.

So I am still slogging my way through the report. If Ohioans are doing the same thing, they, like me, will need an occasional break. I recommend the draft Comprehensive Plan for the City of Canton as a source of pleasure reading.

You see, Dear Ohio, the Mueller Report is a tale of grasping, groping, grabbing selfish human beings interested only in their personal ambition, doing whatever it takes to rise among the ranks of the rich and powerful.  Even though a criminal charge never emerged from it, the Mueller Report testifies to the belief that every person who wants more must cast aside the rest of us in order to reach his or her individual pinnacle of success.

The Canton Comprehensive Plan, on the other hand, is a bright spot that calls upon a community to roll up its sleeves and join the effort to save a city.  It is a plan that concedes success – namely, a better city in which everyone thrives – is a shared responsibility that can never be achieved by leaving others behind. Kind of like a nation.

The Canton Plan admits that today’s urban life, even in its less populated versions, has fallen victim to forces beyond our control.  Technology has accelerated the loss of jobs. The unfettered movement of labor, capital and production across the globe has replaced most of American manufacturing, just as urban manufacturing once replaced most of America’s family farms.

The shrinking federal investment in states and cities, the deterioration of state and local budgets, the demise of unions, the rising proportion of low-wage jobs, and a host of other forces also have helped reduce the urban civic budget to a battle in which we fight each other for scraps.

Over the decades, urban residents in Canton and other cities across the nation have intensified the impact of these forces by acting as if a city is composed of groups large and small that deserve to be left behind, because they are a drain on all of us who work so hard.  We do not know these people as neighbors or friends, so it is easy to blame them for what our cities lack.

We also blame government.  Even though we are constantly clamoring for government to do something about our cities, we still complain government is too big and has too many regulations.

Maybe we could keep our own water clean? Isolate ourselves from contagious diseases? Pay for our own potholes? Fight for safer pesticides on our own? Provide our own parks, cemeteries, freeways, law enforcement, fire fighters.

If our kids are grown, we can’t see why we should pay for schools. We tell ourselves that every person is responsible for what happens to them, not illness, disability, job loss, death, divorce or any other major life event.) We are all separate from each other, set to sea in our own little boats.  If some capsize, it’s their own fault.

The Canton Plan sees things differently.

It is centered on the premise that we are all in this together.  A city rises or falls as a whole. In Canton, most people who work for the last few large employers live outside the city, so their taxes go elsewhere.  Most tourists limit their visits to the Football Hall of Fame, so their spending is limited. What is left of the once burgeoning manufacturing metropolis is a landscape dotted with abandoned buildings and schools, dilapidated houses, and deteriorating roads.  Some thriving neighborhoods are still present, but as whole, the city’s vitality has shrunk to a core that cannot be sustained if the whole is not revived. Canton is serious about this truth and states it boldly in its plan.

The Canton plan is not silent about remedies, but proposes a step-by-step program of decision-making, responsibility, and sacrifice that must be shared by all residents if the city is to survive.  Perhaps it is easier to see the wisdom of this within a small city rather than a larger city. The guiding principle of Canton’s renaissance, however, is that a community cannot afford to leave any group behind.  We are all tied to each other’s success, just as we are in a family, a neighborhood, a community, a nation. We can absorb a certain amount of selfishness, but we can’t survive a widely accepted ethic that denounces us for needing each other.  It isn’t human, it isn’t kind, it isn’t economically feasible for any but a very few.

A woman I knew who served other families as a devoted caregiver all her life died recently in a subsidized apartment, having lived a meager subsistence on Social Security, receiving medical care from Medicare.  Some of her disposable medical supplies were provided by a county agency. If she had just been more crooked, more self-serving, more like the folks who populate the Mueller Report, she might have had more in life.  But she was more like the folks called upon in the Canton Plan, to give for the good of others, and in doing so, improve the quality of life for all.

You should read the Canton Comprehensive Plan, Dear Ohio.  Maybe we all should. It contains the seeds of a hopeful future.

Joni Halpern is a Point Loma resident, an attorney for low-income families, a former contributor to the San Diego Free Press, and an award-winning journalist.

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