Originally published Sunday, October 8, 2017 at 06:00a.m.
Many years ago I had the pleasure of reading one of my all-time favorite books, Studs Terkel’s “Hard Times.” It took me through the Great Depression, and I found out a little bit what the world was like when my grandmother, the great Margaret Free, was in her teens and early twenties.
If you have never read “Hard Times,” I highly recommend it. Folks from all walks of life present their memories of that time in history and how it affected their lives in the future on a day-to-day basis.
It’s hard to fathom just how poor the country was back in those days, though we did get a taste – only a taste but not the meal – when the 2008 recession hit.
An economically promising future wasn’t anything the people suffering the Great Depression were banking on. The workforce in the industrial cities was crippled by severe unemployment, and what seems as the only hope was to pick from where you lived and move on.
The federal government, led by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, began with projects to put the people back to work. Projects like the Lincoln Tunnel that connects New Jersey and Manhattan, the Overseas Highway connecting Miami to Key West, the Great Smoky Mountain National Park of Tennessee, our personal favorite Hoover Dam, and the Grand Coulee Dam in Eastern Washington, to name a few. It worked.
Those times and projects have proven to me that when economic viability is stagnant, then the only way out is to get busy. It’s why I’m in favor of the Interstate 11 – Kingman East Connection Project. Two interchanges, one project. Let’s get busy.
Many are concerned about raising the sales tax rate from the current 2.5 pennies on the dollar to 3.5 pennies. It means for every $100 spent in our stores, it’s going to take an extra $3.50 to run our city government and all the functions of it we need. There’s now an extra .50 cents per $100 dedicated to road maintenance (we all know how bad that is needed), and there is now .50 cents per $100 to pay for the project.
Many have cried about this increase, and I have heard them. Our city sales tax is the only way our town is funded. We don’t have a property tax and we don’t have public safety district taxes. The sales tax does not include food purchases. Sixty percent of the sales tax collected actually comes from those who don’t live in Kingman.
Another common cry I hear is about the condition of the roads. “How can City Council even entertain the thought of two interchanges when our roads are awful? Just look at El Trovatore Hill!”
The roads are in the condition they are because the money isn’t there to maintain them. It’s been 10 years since the state decided to drastically reduce the money Kingman received for its roads. If the conditions of the roads is a primary concern, then we have to solve it ourselves. A status quo of the current tax rate would make the roads worse. Imagine Stockton Hill Road in the same condition as El Trovatore Hill.
The city recently reported they need $60 million in repairs to the water system. The status quo tax wouldn’t help get these improvements made.
If I had to pick just one of the interchanges, I would pick Rattlesnake Wash. We need jobs, Kingman. Livable wage jobs, not more $10, $11 or $12 an hour jobs. We need the availability of $20-an-hour jobs.
Kingman Crossing alone isn’t going to bring them to us. If we let KRMC do the project its way, yes, the hospital is going to bring in $100,000-a-year jobs. We won’t be getting a whole lot of $20-an-hour jobs for the residents of Kingman. Those $100,000-a-year jobs will go to people outside of Kingman who will move here to get them.
An industrial corridor at Rattlesnake Wash has the potential of those $20-an-hour jobs. Bringing in more $10-an-hour jobs isn’t going to repair our roads and fix our water system.
Kingman’s economy is stagnant. If we don’t start looking out for ourselves, roads will deteriorate and pipes will leak.
We need to take the lessons from the Great Depression and apply them to our current situation.
Let’s get busy.