“Gilbert may reject U.S. funding.”
Like me, you might’ve awakened to that headline in the Arizona Republic last week. The article reports that the Gilbert Town Council, in a study session, voted 4-1 to reject $800,000 in federal grant money, with Councilman Ben Cooper being the dissenting vote.
Like the council majority, I believe our government must do a better job of corralling the ever-expanding debt. We have to make serious changes in programs that bleed our budget. Major entitlement programs need careful reform. Almost everyone agrees about that.
I get the principle behind the rejection, but I’m confused.
This Council majority — driven by tea-party values — rejects $800,000 in grants that mostly go to public safety and the elderly, on the heels of slowly eliminating the town’s own contributions to non-profits. Apparently, the majority believes that helping the poor and elderly in our town is a function of the private sector.
But at the same time, this same majority has no problems creating a slush fund to use for corporate welfare, money they throw at businesses in the form of subsidies and breaks to attract those businesses to town. This council has doled out tax breaks and other subsidies to out of town businesses to attract them to Gilbert, on the supposition that future sales tax revenues plus will someday, hopefully, offset the immediate costs the town incurs.
But isn’t that just another form of welfare? And aren’t our tea-party conservatives supposed to believe that welfare is bad, that it breeds a kind of permanent welfare class? And if so, are they not only creating a welfare class in Gilbert — businesses coming to town expecting some kind of break from the town — aren’t they also now getting themselves in the business of picking winners and losers, something the tea party types are allegedly adamantly against?
How is welfare for the poor bad and corporate welfare good?
I’d like the majority to address that.
But that’s not my only confusion.
In the article, Mayor John Lewis had this to say about funding for housing:
“There will be a day when we need it [the funds for housing] . . . but right now, the impression is there’s a need, but not of great magnitude.”
Okay, fine, but that’s not what others of Mayor Lewis’ ideology claim.
Just a few weeks ago, Gilbert School Board member Julie Smith, a political soul mate of the town council majority, voted against placing an override on the November ballot.
In part, she said, because so many Gilbert families were hurting, some desperately.
Which is it? Are we a town where the federal grant money is unnecessary, or are we so poor that a school override — which doesn’t raise taxes, by the way — will break many of the desperate poor living in Gilbert?
I’m confused. Hopefully, the council will make my confusion disappear when they meet to actually vote on the federal grants.
I hope they explain why they continue to cut funding for the neediest in town while continuing to give breaks to businesses in town. I hope they clear up how much of our town is still hurting from the recession.
Of course, I don’t believe they can explain the latter. And I’ll bet they don’t want to even touch on the former.
Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.