Noble Cause, Wrong Vote

It’s mystifying. How could four Gilroy City Councilmen could
support sending nearly $24,000 of taxpayer money to the American
Red Cross for hurricane relief efforts?
It’s mystifying. How could four Gilroy City Councilmen could support sending nearly $24,000 of taxpayer money to the American Red Cross for hurricane relief efforts?

It’s a noble motive to want to help those in need, but it’s also an effort that should be made by the private sector, not by public officials using taxpayer dollars. It’s a breach of the city’s fiduciary duty to send money to the any hurricane relief charity. It also smacks of paternalism for Councilman to decide that taxpayer’s money should be sent to this particular charity and this particular cause.

In the last few years, the world has experienced horrific terrorist acts on Sept. 11 in our country and in numerous places around the world, the tsunami in Asia that killed hundreds of thousands of people, soldiers return home from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq maimed or in pine boxes, and we could go on and on. In the last few years, countless quiet tragedies have occurred. Homes have burned, businesses have failed, children have died of disease, neglect, or accidents. Innocent people have been assaulted, robbed, raped, murdered. Why is this tragedy deserving of city of Gilroy money, but others are not?

In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, dozens of charities are helping victims recover. The American Red Cross is doing laudable work, but so are many other nonprofit groups. Why does this charity a recipient of Gilroy taxpayers’ money, but others are not?

Perhaps the most relevant point is this: Gilroy, we’re repeatedly told by city administrators, is in difficult financial straits. Chronic state budget woes threaten local tax money. The city faces an arbiter’s decision on firefighter contract negotiations that could require huge cuts in programs and services. The city is dipping into reserve funds at the rate of more than $2 million a year to make ends meet.

Meanwhile, residents trip and fall over sidewalks that have been neglected for years. Residents wait – and wait some more – for long-promised, already-paid-for neighborhood parks.

How is it that the city has $24,000 of taxpayer money to send to the American Red Cross when these problems remain unsolved? The answer is, the city does not have the money.

Councilmen Charles Morales, Russ Valiquette, Paul Correa and Roland Velasco voted for this well-intentioned but ill-advised donation of Gilroy tax dollars.

Councilmen Bob Dillon and Craig Gartman remembered their duty to Gilroy taxpayers and properly voted against it. Mayor Al Pinheiro was absent.

Gilroyans have given generously of their time and money to help hurricane victims, and that help continues. Our community is hosting a Live Aid benefit concert to raise even more funds.

Donations to nonprofit organizations should be made by individuals and private enterprises to the charities they choose, for the causes they support. They should not be made by a paternalistic City Council on their behalf, when they are so many good causes and so many deserving charities, and most especially when the city is not able to make ends meet.

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