A number of polls came out this past week that confirm what you and I didn’t need a poll to tell us – Americans are fed up with their government. No doubt the spin masters on both ends of the political spectrum will use those numbers to attack their opponents instead of offering up solutions — and then they’ll wonder why we’re fed up.
Usually, local government does a better job than their state or national counterparts of conducting the people’s business. But not always. Normally about this time of year the Muscatine emergency responders would be out trying to collect money for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. The money raised stays in the local community. They would set up at a couple of local intersections, boots in hand, asking for passing friends and neighbors to donate a few dollars to the cause. Not this year. This year, the city administrator, with the backing of some on the council, has likened the boot campaign to ‘panhandling’ and has forbidden these folks from taking to the streets. Of course the City has law on their side. The law has been on the books for years, while all the while the emergency responders have been able to do their fundraiser. Up until now, the city council approved the fundraiser and nobody worried that they were 'breaking the law.'
Either someone in Muscatine with some influence complained to the administrator and council about those pesky firefighters blocking traffic in an effort to raise money, or the City was looking for a way to anger and demoralize the firefighters and its citizens. The City did offer up a compromise. They’d allow the responders to set up outside the soccer complex while a national soccer tournament was in town so that they could try to solicit money from visitors. It seems to me that out-of-town guests may not be as giving to local charities as Muscatine citizens. They may also resent being asked to donate while they’re in town. From what I understand, the soccer tournament wasn't interested in this “compromise” and neither are the firefighters.
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Now the emergency responders are scrambling to find alternatives. I’ve heard that they are in contact with area businesses to hopefully do their fundraising on private property instead of public property. I’m sure that in the end, the group will find a good alternative for fundraising and that the community will be just as generous as it has been in past years. It’s just too bad they were forced to scramble at the last minute to come up with an acceptable alternative. It seems to me that a little advanced planning and communication from the City may have resulted in a plan that was acceptable to everyone.
Instead, the city just made it more difficult for the firefighters to accomplish their goals. These days it seems like that is what government excels at – making life more difficult instead of less – let’s hope that in the future the City works proactively to find solutions to problems instead of just creating bigger ones.
Or better yet — maybe if enough people in the community complain — the city will change its mind, get out of the way and let the firefighters back on the street to raise money for this worthy cause.