You Get What You Pay For — By John Reed

You Get What You Pay For
I spent a long weekend in Boston recently, and came away impressed. Folks who don’t hail from the Northeast tend to think of the cities up there as dirty, crime-infested hellholes. While I’m sure there are sections of town where it wouldn’t be wise to hang out alone after dark, certainly we can say the same about Savannah, Macon, or Jacksonville.
What I found was a remarkably clean, remarkably secure, and remarkably green city. Trees, gardens, and parks vied for prominence among the streets and avenues. There was no litter to be seen. Anywhere. I walked the streets as an obvious tourist and wasn’t approached by a beggar or homeless person even once.
To my mind, two things stand out as likely causes: the population in general is more educated than here, and they pay higher taxes…much higher. While I’m sure there’s a certain amount of graft and corruption, it seems the majority of the taxes are being spent where they were intended: mass transit; landscaping; police; trash pickup. In other words, the kinds of services we should expect from any city or town.
To be fair, Boston has had 400 years to figure things out, while Hazlehurst is coming up on only its sesquicentennial net year. But surely 150 years is enough time for us to figure out trash, water, sewer and other basic services. It’s human nature to blame current politicians for everything that goes wrong, but plenty of mistakes were made in the past. The major sticking point to improving city services is money. Our taxes are ridiculously low compared to most Northern towns.
This is also true for our school taxes. What little money we do pay for education doesn’t always go where it should. Local voters, taxpayers, county and school officials have built fine facilities, staffs, and support systems for quite a variety of sports teams, serving kids from age 6 on up. Yet, the academic teams…hardly exist. Spelling bees, quiz bowls, National Honor Society, International Baccalaureate programs…nothing.
To be clear, I’m a huge supporter of our kids who are involved in extracurricular activities like band, football, etc. But I’d guess fewer than 500 kids total participate. The other 2000 students deserve at least as much support. I’d love to see a few thousand townspeople cheering on the math team…if we had one.
Until we as voters and taxpayers are willing to pony up a bit more, our pipes will leak, our roadsides will still be filthy, and our students will achieve greatness in spite of, instead of because of us.

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