One year, our family went back to visit relatives in Texas during the Fourth of July holiday. While we like to think that here in the Bay Area, we light off a lot of fireworks to celebrate Independence Day, in Texas it’s like you are in the middle of a battlefield.
And standing in the midst of it all was one of my more frugal cousins, who kept calculating the costs of every bang, burst and fizzle.
“There’s a dollar right there. There’s five bucks gone,” he would say with so much pain in his voice that you’d think it was actual firepower cutting down soldiers in warfare.
He never could understand the value of the spectacle for those watching it.
I was reminded of this last week when so many fireworks displays were canceled around the Bay Area, particularly the tradition here in Livermore with our annual family-friendly Fourth of July fireworks.
Any reasonable person could accept the fact that times are tough for government entities. People are losing their jobs and budgets need to be trimmed. Some of those budget cuts slice deeper for some than others. And in the overall scheme of things, losing a fireworks display is less painful than someone’s job getting cut or a social service left unmet.
So while our neighbors gathered for our traditional potluck barbecue last week, we knew it would not be capped off by watching fireworks.
But there were some explosions around our chat circle after the sore subject of City Council's most recent wasteful dollar decision was raised. The council felt that in these times it needed to spend up to a whopping $250,000 for yet another .
Haven’t they studied this thing to death? One more study is not going to do anything but line the pockets of consultants who have been profiting from this for quite some time.
The prudent thing for council members to have done would have been to allow the measure to go on the ballot and then mount a campaign that would present their side to the voters. It certainly would have cost far less than another study regurgitating the same story.
The people in favor of the route through downtown have valid points as to why they believe this is the right thing to do. If the majority of voters agree, then that is what will happen.
If the voters want BART to stay on I-580 and keep that congestion out of our downtown, they have a right to vote that way as well.
With money so dear these days, who can even say if there will be anything in the coffers to support a costly plan that would bring BART through an underground tunnel to the surface downtown?
All those money incentives could be whisked away as easily as the shutdown of a fireworks display, which seemed like small potatoes in the budget stew.
Mayor Marshall Kamena says the study will clarify the issues for the voters. It seems that the issues are already clear. We know the pros and cons of each route. No one is saying that any alternative is perfect. But when looking down the tracks at a project decades from completion, one thing we all need to keep in mind is that this country is running low on funds.
And while we might not want to give up even the simple pleasure of a fireworks show, the truth is that we cannot afford to be wasteful. Approving a study that won’t give us any more information and could cost up to a quarter of a million dollars is certainly a waste of the worst kind.