In the weeds

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Golfing is not my thing. A few years ago I tried, but I spent more time looking for my ball in the weeds or the rough than I did on the fairway. Doug, who was my golfing buddy, didn’t hit his ball in the weeds. He hit straight as an arrow and right toward the pin. I think he got tired of golfing with me, or I realized that it is frustrating for a good golfer to drag a bad one along with him. I gave him an opportunity to play with a more “gifted” player.

It’s strange the way our minds work.  Doug’s was piercingly focused on the game. Mine was thinking a thousand thoughts as I looked down at the dimpled ball perched on the tee – the swing, the miss, and the stumble. Concentration is an integral part of the game. If you watch professionals in a tournament, for the most part they are quiet, immersed in the game.

Gary Bartz, recalling a conversation with Miles Davis once said, “I remember coming to a concert where they had a big catered meal set out for everyone…I went and said, ‘Miles, man, you gotta see all this food they got here.’ And Miles said, ‘I didn’t come here to eat.’”

Two people can be talking, especially if one is me, and the topic is important, and we start out discussing X, but it isn’t long before I veer off the conversation and into the weeds. Then I can’t even stay in the weeds, I go into the bushes and then to the woods.

Experts say that a disjointed conversation can be a good way to create, to come up with new ideas, to brainstorm.  I think, that happens for me sometimes, but I probably should see a psychologist about Attention Deficit Disorder.

In today’s world we are surrounded by a plethora of distractions. I look down at my ball, notice the tee, OK now concentrate… What was the name of that new program?…concentrate…I wish I could get grass to grow like this in my yard…squirel…swing, whiff…

We have so many things coming at us today, 100s of television channels, disturbing news, sound bits, bills, kid’s grades at school,  ballgames, girl scouts, computer problems, car trouble, neighbors, drinking too much, taxes, not drinking enough, papa’s delicate condition, cell phone trouble, cell phone problems, can’t even afford a game of golf, my wife when she finds out.

Maybe – fits and starts – describes a lot of what many of us do. We start a project impulsively and then don’t finish the half-day’s work for a year. Dribs and drabs, I’ve heard it called. It is an old saying but they both mean the same. We lose attention so easily.

You can call a lot of government legislation that begins with fits and starts: the Affordable Care Act began with fits and starts; the 2003 American Dream Downpayment Initiative which helped non-qualifying home buyers get in over there head and began the downfall of the stock market in 2008; Bush reduced taxes four times during his terms although they not have a sunset in 2011 as originally planned – Obama signed the extension.

Locally, debt reduction, on high and at the state level, squeezed schools and Chesterfield’s budget. This allowed some county services to be reduced or eliminated. Some important services, as well as jobs, were kicked to the curb. I think that once we lose a service or the cost of the service goes up for the citizen, it’s never reversed.

This year the meals tax was to offset the cost of the debt of the school and emergency radio bonds that we voted for in November. The meals tax lost, so now we have to pay the debt service (interest) somehow or you won’t get a new or renovated school for your kids for one thing, and the 911 center’s 17-year-old radio system will grind to a halt. “This is 911, please hold; (on hold music is the theme from jaws) if you have an emergency, put your patient carefully into the back seat of your car and proceed to the nearest hospital, or a 911 operator will serve you in the order of your call; approximate wait time: 15 minutes – dum dum dum dum dum dum…”

After the humpty-dumpty meals tax had its great fall, what’s the king to do? The ball is in the weeds and how are we going to get back to the clubhouse. In other words, how will we pay for the debt service (interest) on the referenda debt.

Now we are looking at a possible increase in car registration fees; losing the two or three of the remaining bond referenda items we voted in favor of in 2004 and, you bet, probably a plethora of other fees or reductions in citizen services because someone wasn’t paying  attention and whoofed the ball.

We have to get our priorities straight in this county; a small tax on real estate for schools and other services, or lose more by paying more for things we take for granted. Have you ever driven to the dump with a big pile of trash or gone to the library and found them both closed?

As we see the County Administration present anything from a chicken coup to a soccer field or a shopping mall, we always here the term “quality of life.” It’s about schools, or parks or new industrial park and low paying jobs. But isn’t quality of life a full time library, decent recreation opportunities, expedient travel from here to there, pedestrian safety and high tech education, as well as artistic outlets for our kids? We are losing them all folks – dum dum dum dum dum dum…

Sure, the economy in general has come in fits and starts but it is funny, no one wants more taxes, but everyone wants accessible services. I suppose you realize that a loss of a particular service is the same as a tax.

Mercer Quality of Living Survey indicates, “The important criteria are safety, education, hygiene, health care, culture, environment, recreation, political-economic stability and public transportation.

“The list helps multi-national companies decide where to open offices or plants, and how much to pay employees.”

Then the “Popsicle Index,” another quality of life measurement conceived by Catherine Austin Fitts, tells us about the percentage of people in a community who believe that a child in their community should safely leave his home, walk to the nearest possible location to buy a popsicle, and walk back home.

Am I in the weeds on this, or am I headed toward the pin? Whiff.

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