Editor's note: Each quarter, two or three readers join the editorial board of the Opinions pages as visiting editors. They contribute views to many of the editorials (Our Views) that we publish, but we also invite them to share their own views on public issues.
We need more, get less
Robert Fores: Despite all the positives about living in the San Joaquin Valley, we face higher poverty rates, greater health risks, difficult educational challenges and higher unemployment than the rest of California. We are among the lowest performers in these indicators nationwide.
Yet, even with our greater need, we receive substantially less per capita in net governmental spending than the rest of the state and the nation.
On top of that, the reality is we are likely to see tax increases in the future -- some for specific purposes, some for general government expenses, and some to finance our nation's debt. Unfortunately, not much of what we pay in taxes will come back to us in services or capital improvements.
What can we do about this?
We can whine, but that accomplishes nothing. We can help ourselves -- and we must. We can demand more of our elected officials at every level. They need to fight harder for us. We need to tell them how much we appreciate it when they do. And we need to tell them we notice when they don't.
There's no reason our area should not receive greater government resources. No one likes pork-barrel spending. But roads, hospitals and water facilities aren't pork. They're necessities.
We must demand our fair share. Our council members, supervisors, legislators, representatives and senators must know that we will stand with them when they stand with us, and that we will find others to stand up for us if they won't.
Whither animal shelter?
Bill Moore: It's been a short 18 months since local residents read that the Board of Supervisors named another leader for the Stanislaus County Animal Services Department. For years this department has been plagued with controversy and conflicts. The new director, Mike McFarland, made promises in the hope the shelter would be brought into conformity. This past December, McFarland pushed for mandatory neutering of all pets with a five-year goal of reducing the staggering 72 percent of animals being euthanized down to 45 percent. The county approved an increase in license fees for unaltered dogs.
During McFarland's first year, the euthanasia rate did fall as promised, by 5 percent to 67 percent. Still, as of July 1, 18,281 animals had been brought into animal services, and 12,238 of them were killed during the year. Sadly, the rate of puppies killed only dropped 17 percent.
Admittedly this was a reduction, yet still too many put to sleep to be ignored. Without much notice and effective Oct. 5, McFarland resigned. The shelter is again embroiled in controversy. What will it take to finally bring animal services out of its distress? If a man as experienced as McFarland was unable to make the needed changes, who will the Board of Supervisors tap next to take on this challenge? With a new complaint about the shelter being filed with the civil grand jury, will the task of finding a new director be possible? County residents will be watching and waiting for the answer.
Foster program leadership
Eileen Wyatt: When I learned of Rep. Dennis Cardoza's efforts for foster youth, and former foster youth ages 16-21, the term "leadership from the top down" came to mind. After 18, they are no longer the responsibility of the foster care system, but remember how you were at that age? Did you possess independent living skills? How important was family at this time? Imagine having no family to support your transition to adulthood.
As a social worker, I'm aware of "leadership from the bottom up" when it comes to foster youth and former foster youth in our community. There are many examples of personal sacrifices of time, talent and resources by county workers and foster parents. Instances when homes and wallets are opened to these young people. Someone in the audience to cheer at a school or boot camp graduation, attendance at a bridal shower or wedding, a baby shower or the birth of a baby, support and guidance when they become parents.
I've heard of adoptions, even after the age of 18. The Foster Parent Association runs a food bank for older foster youth. County workers purchase hundreds of gifts for foster youth during the holiday season; the list of giving goes on and on. Leadership is going above and beyond the call of duty. Whether from the top down, the bottom up, or somewhere in the middle, it means everything to a former foster child. It means family. For information on becoming a foster or adoptive parent, call 558-3983.