First…been a LONG time since I’ve blogged. I’ve been so burned out at work, I just haven’t been in the mood, although god knows there’s been one HELL of a lot of juicy material to blog about lately.
But, instead of breaking my silence talking Republican idiocy on ObamaCare, the debt limit, next year’s budget, or practically any other issue, instead I’ll look local. I live in Brandon, South Dakota, a nice, quiet little town about 8 miles east of Sioux Falls. We’re definitely a bedroom community to Sioux Falls, with about 8,000 people compared to Sioux Falls 150,000 or so. There is one supermarket in town, and a few fast food places, but in reality, whenever we want to go out to eat, or when we want/need to shop, we head into Sioux Falls. Without much of a business tax base, property taxes are a primary means of generating revenue.
I honestly don’t know if our property taxes are high or not compared to other locations, I just haven’t worried about it. However, this week the Brandon City Council is outlining a bond proposal that will be voted on in October. The issue? To me, the issue is little town envy of our big cousin to the west. We have one stinkin’ hotel. We have no good restaurants. It’s not like Brandon is a tourist Mecca. However, the brilliant powers that be have decided that Brandon needs to compete with Sioux Falls and other surrounding cities for the softball tournaments that bring in outside folks.
We already have a nice large park with multiple softball fields in the complex. However, the “softball lobby” in Brandon is pushing for a massive upgrade. How massive? A $14 million renovation, to be mostly funded by a proposed bond measure. The measure would call for $12.5 million to be raised, paid for over 10 years by a $3 per $1,000 house valuation increase on property taxes.
$3 per $1,000…maybe doesn’t sound bad, but do the math. Let’s say you’re a young couple just starting out, and you buy your first house in Brandon. A “starter” house would probably be $120 to $140 thousand. That comes up to around $400 a year more for property taxes, or $4,000 over the life of the 10 year bond. And that’s for a CHEAP house, for people who undoubtedly would feel the pinch of a $400 increase per year in their property taxes.
And what do we get for this massive tax increase? A stinkin’ softball field. Really? PLEASE, Brandon City Council, enlighten me as to the return I myself would personally get on my $10,000 “investment” in your softball field? In a town with NO infrastructure to support tourists, do these bozos really think spending $14 million on one softball complex will make the town into the Las Vegas of the softball world? Are tournaments and tourists going to flock to small-town Brandon?
To me this brings up a MUCH bigger issue, though. South Dakota is a state that breezed through the recession without a lot of pain. We’ve got a big budget surplus at the state level. Despite that, education funding has been under pressure from funding CUTS. The message I get from the idiots in this state, and from the idiots in my town? We don’t CARE about education, even in a state that could easily afford to spend more. What we DO value? Sports.
And therein lies the real purpose of this post, the incredible, screwed-up value people seem to assign to sports, as opposed to “minor” issues like educating our children, protecting our environment, or helping the poor. We’ve got a 10-year old son, and we’ve certainly seen the pressure many parents place on their young kids, shuttling them from one sporting practice/event to another. Talking to some parents, you’d sometimes swear they were talking about their son/daughter the professional athlete…not their elementary or middle-school child that has sporting events 6 nights a week.
We’re a sports-crazed nation, but I swear to god what we really are is just “crazed”, period. It’s one thing to see a parent I know devote every evening and weekend to getting their kids to sporting events (particularly when their kid doesn’t WANT to do the sport, something I also see a lot). That at least is a personal choice, something that by itself may be harmless. But when state and local governments consistently work on CUTTING education funding, but actively lobby for multi-million sports complexes?
Call me out of touch with the sports-crazed wackiness that seems to rule American culture, but wouldn’t it be nice to see a proposal to spend $14 million to upgrade teacher pay? To increase computing resources and access? For music or arts programs?
I can think of about 100 ways to spend $14 million that would benefit our community, and our children, more than a stinkin’ softball complex.