Attention needed: Raise taxes to fund improved streets, sidewalks

By Jim Matthews

Taxes, like death, are something very few want to talk about. I actually want to have you think long and hard about taxes. And then I want you to talk about it with each other and with me.

In the last 35 years the mention of raising taxes has sounded a death knell for many a political career. There is some very distinguished precedence for this. One of the grievances cited by colonists toward the British government was excessive taxes and taxes that were decided upon by a distant government.

The idea Americans are taxed by a distant government in Washington seems to echo the claims of colonists. But is this a distant government by the choices of those in that government? Or is this government distant because the American people hold it apart? We are the government in Greenfield and Indianapolis and Washington.

We are a people governed by ourselves. We select our leaders from the local level to the national. We are a representative republic. We seem to have lost that identity. We decry politicians as evil. They are another group we love to hate.

I am fond of saying we are the government. Each and every one of us is responsible for what happens in our city and county councils, our statehouses and in our Congress. This means we have to pay attention. We have to communicate regularly and often with the people we elect to represent us. We need to let them know they work for us. And they need to know we are watching and will hold them accountable for what they do on our behalf.

We need to seek out the best candidates for public office. We need to stop waiting for political parties to do that for us. This is not a sports team that chooses who will coach and play for a team we like. We are the managers and coaches.

So what does this have to do with taxes? Remember the whole idea of taxation without representation? I have outlined above how we can and should be represented in government. That is taxation with representation.

I would assert we need to raise taxes. We have heard much about our crumbling infrastructure around the country. If you travel the streets and sidewalks of Greenfield, you will see places that are approaching impassable, were not for the frequent patching done by the street department. There are sidewalks that are impassable for all except the most able. Some of these sidewalks have been deteriorating for the last decade. These are not new problems.

As a medical scooter and wheelchair user, I am appalled by the large number of missing, broken and poorly built curb cuts. Streets used to be a refuge from this deterioration. That is no longer the case as the streets are allowed to continue to deteriorate. City officials respond with the reassurance that these problems will be addressed as soon as a street or sidewalk is to be repaired. This is too little too late.

I have heard this through at least three administrations. Most of the problems have continued to deteriorate. And still nothing changes — unless we raise the revenue to repair the streets and sidewalks we will continue to use.

Let us move forward with a plan that will restore the streets and sidewalks of Greenfield to a functioning system. The longer we wait, the more expensive the repairs will be.

Jim Matthews is a long-time resident of Greenfield. You may share your comments at