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MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
(415)868-1600 - (415)868-0502(fax) - P.O. Box 31, Bolinas, CA, 94924

 

SKEPTIC'S JOURNAL
La Vie Americaine, Chapitre Un, 2005
By Jeanette Pontacq


   I was a student at UC-Berkeley during the FSM imbroglio and the Vietnam War. After graduation, I worked for a year to earn enough to move to France. Upon arrival in France, I was told in no uncertain terms that I needed to learn French if I wanted to live there for real. So I enrolled in L'Alliance Francaise and La Sorbonne, for total immersion, while I worked au pair. Speaking English was not an option at school, but there were so many English-speakers hanging around Paris at that time, along with Europeans wanting to speak English, that immersion got watered down and I was hard put to become completely fluent in French, even after two years.
   I tell you this old story because Reed Hastings just lost his seat on the California State Board of Education. He was thrown off the Board because he tried to require waivered bilingual classrooms to teach in English for at least 2.5 hours daily or lose federal funds. Hastings, who speaks both English and Spanish fluently, had served twice as the Board's president with distinction, and was generally considered a very intelligent and knowledgeable member. His day job is running Netflix, the DVD subscription service that he founded. Representative Don Perata voted against
Hastings, but said losing him was "regrettable." It was obviously not regrettable enough for Perata to act his conscience instead of caving in to Latino special interest groups.
   Reed Hastings was right. The rest of the world knows that total immersion is the way to go to get children up to par and part of the mainstream quickly. And
Hastings was not even asking for total immersion all day... just for 2.5 hours! The vote to oust Hastings was a classic example of political cowardice on the part of state Democrats in the face of the growing clout of Latinos. Unfortunately, the result is that too many kids will be kept as second-class citizens by not making good English a priority. It is so counter productive that it makes one want to cry.
   Moving on... in case you missed the news, the three public libraries in the town of
Salinas have closed for an indefinite period as of January, 2005. Why should you care? Because Salinas is the canary in the California coal mine. Salinas finds itself required to reduce its community services by $9.5 million dollars. More than libraries are on the chopping block. In California itself, serious cuts are being made that impact the quality of life, and even the life expectancy, of those with no place at the political table: children, the disabled, seniors and minorities.
   The State of
California has been "taking" county property tax receipts for the last several years to bolster its own deficit spending. Thus the need for the counties to reach down to the local residents to pay again for what they thought they thought they were paying for via their property taxes.
   Take a look at the add-ons to support this and that for your local communities. In West Marin, property owners pay a line item amount for School Bonds, Water Bonds, the Fire Departments,
Shoreline Schools, Paramedics and our Libraries. These individual assessments (generally called parcel taxes) are over and above the basic assessment on the worth of the property in question (per Proposition 13). Next year, there will even be another additional assessment to support our recent inclusion in the Marin/Sonoma Vector Control District. Marin has been able to pay extra to keep services, but poorer towns (like Salinas) cannot. The division between haves and have-nots is widening to a chasm.
   How all this happened is a long, unsavory, corrupt and disheartening saga, based on special interests and a total lack of understanding that the people should come first, not business interests.
   Our elected officials seem unable to cut through the maze of foolish and greed-driven legislature that hobbles any semblance of financial reality. Joe Nation, for example, is trying to lower the number of votes it would take to vote in new parcel taxes on property owners. This, instead of having the courage to simply take away Prop 13 protection from the big box stores and large commercial properties, leaving homeowners alone. Common sense is in short supply, while short-term fixes based on protecting greed is rampant.
   So watch the rich build gates to protect their property while the other end of the financial spectrum becomes more unstable. Water rights, casinos, transportation breakdowns, infrastructure deterioration, a population explosion and the dumbing down of our formerly-excellent education system are only a few of the issues that seem insolvable in this time of cowardice.
   Locally, while East Marin continues to make itself into one big parking lot with less and less charm, at least West Marin is still here, and the tides come in and go out on time, even if Tomales Bay is somewhat polluted and Bolinas Lagoon is filling up. Population pressure is increasing here too. Mostly, new residents have no idea what West Marin has been about and only want a place to escape from what is happening elsewhere. Which puts more and more pressure on what is left of long-time activists to keep standing up for West Marin. I wonder what it will all look like in ten years?

 

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