From the Publisher/Arnold G. York


    Why I support Measure S

    Measure S, the proposed parcel tax to help avoid some of the education cuts that are flowing our way out of Sacramento as a result of a $38 billion dollar shortfall, is generating a storm of letters to our newspaper. The truth is, I’m not quite sure why.

    The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District is going to have to cut back on teachers, school nurses, librarians, after school programs, janitors, music, art, physical education, teams and a host of other things because the money is just not there. The termination letters have already gone out. No one is kidding around. Judging from the tone of some of the letters, you would think the district was cutting back because it is selfish and venal, or because district officials were just bluffing. Well, it just isn’t so.

    Last week, my son Tony and I were up in Sacramento. We went to the governor’s budget revise press conference. You might remember that’s when we have the real numbers and everyone has to confront the real arithmetic. The governor lays out his plan (really his prayer) for fixing the budget.

    The bottom line is the state is in a major financial bind, and unless the economy shifts upward rapidly, which doesn’t look very likely, it’s going to take a few years to work ourselves out of this hole. I’m sure some of it is due to stupidity, some incompetence and some to greed, but most of it flows from the fact that there is an economic cycle about which the governor, let alone the president, has little control. The high-tech and dot-com industries tanked in California as they did in many states, and there went all our extra bucks. Were they spendthrifts about it? Probably so. Was it bipartisan failure, despite all of the rhetoric? Absolutely. The Democrats added programs and the Republicans cut taxes, and both got their way the last few years because there was a great deal of money. There was so much coming in so fast, they didn’t know where to put it. People were buying and selling dot-com stock and the governor and the Legislature were saying, whoopee.

    Well, whoopee time is over and people are angry. I’ve been around long enough to know that whoopee time never lasts. At some point it ends and then we have to tighten our belts and ante up for the things we think are important.

    People say the school district should have anticipated it and so it wouldn’t have been caught short. Unfortunately, the school district’s tealeaves weren’t any clearer than most of our tealeaves. Things go up and things go down. I only wish I had known when they were going up. And, even more important, when they were going down. Like many of you, and that includes the state, I hung in too long and ended up with some stock I’d be happy to sell to you at a very reasonable price.

    Come on. We’re the grownups and it doesn’t seem fair to take it out on the children. It wasn’t their fault the economy tanked and is slow in coming back.

    We all went to school and we had all those extras, except they weren’t considered extras in those days. I can remember a music class with Mrs. Murphy, our 350 pounds of “Don’t cross her or you’re dead” music teacher. Or art class, or gym, or after school with Mr. Faber who disappeared during ski season. I remember the trips to the nurse, with major illnesses-real and feigned. Or the time Joey A ran headfirst into the pole holding up the basketball net and damn near split his head open, blood everywhere, and Mrs. Watson, the school nurse, coming to the rescue, stopping the bleeding and sewing him up. We all had those experiences.

    Most of us in Malibu are better off, live in nicer homes and are infinitely more comfortable than our parents were in the places we were raised. Somehow they thought our educations were really important and they found ways to raise the money. They voted for the bonds and taxes to make it better for us. Don’t we have the same obligation to the next generation?

    California is the largest and richest state in the Union. Our taxes are high, but no more so than any large industrial state, and a hell of a lot less than some of those industrial states.

    Our education spending used to be down with the likes of Mississippi and Arkansas. We’ve managed to get it up a little, and now, if we don’t pass this proposition, we’re just going to slip back into the toilet where we were before. We owe it to the children to give them as much as we got, if not even more. We have to stop grousing that the system isn’t perfect. It wasn’t then and it isn’t now, and we owe it to ourselves and to those who sacrificed for us to dig in our heels and support Measure S. We must get that two-thirds vote needed to pass it, and try and give the children at least as much as we had.