As of this morning we have twenty-three Lyon Countians circulating the petition to put the “extension decision” on the ballot. We’ve been out and about¸ engaging in a labor of love. Over the past week or so we’ve met a lot of wonderful folks. Like us, they understand that the right to petition our leaders is precious. Our Founding Fathers weren’t given this right. They had to earn in. When they’d earned that right for themselves, they enshrined it for every future American generation. We intend to do our part to honor them and to honor our fellow citizens. We will meet the goal and the issue will then be decided at the ballot box.
We’ve told everyone, whether they are for or against the decision, that we would gladly accept their signatures on the petition. A few have declined. That’s also an American right. But, there’s something we’ve found mystifying. Some folks are being told they shouldn’t sign the petition. That’s unfortunate. All that we want, as petitioners, is to have the issue put to the vote. We want the people to decide. We believe that the collective wisdom of the people is always better than the wisdom of a few. That’s the American way.
There are moments when the notion that people shouldn’t sign this petition troubles us, but then we’re re-invigorated when we meet folks as they gladly sign the petition or seek us out to sign it. We will meet our goal and we will all decide the issue in the voting booths.
No one in Lyon County has anything to fear from us. We’re your fellow citizens. We don’t fear your ability to reason. We don’t fear information flow. We don’t fear the outcome of a vote. We embrace all these things and believe that every citizen of Lyon County should as well.
When the issue is brought before the people there will plenty of time for debate. We expect it will be vigorous.
Right now our focus is on getting the required number of signatures on the petition. That’s a very personal task. Each signature is of great value. It represents one person. As the process unfolds the ones build upon one another until, collectively, they become the voice that says, “We the people!”
Those who favor the extension vote tell us that the extension service is made up of people too. We agree, and the generosity of the people of Lyon County reflects that understanding. Over eighty percent of the allocated dollars from the County to the local extension goes to agent salaries. Over eighty percent! The outcome of any vote won’t change that generous spirit.
But there’s another personal side to this issue. It’s the people of Lyon County. In his January 25th editorial Chris Walker expressed it beautifully. Tax increases, some large, some small, have placed a heavy burden on all of us. Collectively, they inhibit economic growth. They eat into fixed comes. They take money that could be spent buying or repairing homes. They take money that could be spent at local businesses. Proponents can say that the cost will be negligible, but, as they say in the backwoods, “That dog won’t hunt.” A penny or two here adds up to a significant amount to a small businessperson trying to keep the enterprise afloat. A portion of a mill here or there is often a backbreaker for someone living on minimum wage or a fixed income. What seems a small amount on one side of the equation adds up to a lot to the person on the other.
It’s very personal. I know. My property taxes have doubled in the thirteen years I’ve lived here. The same is most likely true for many of you.
For me and my wife it’s even more personal. We moved her mother to Emporia a few years back. Velma is 92. She’s a widow living on a fixed income. She’s not at all atypical in this county. She’s one of the many voices who want to be heard.
Before many of us were born, Velma spent the early forties working on a B-25 sub-assembly line, soldering the wiring for radio units. Her hand was steady. She took great pride in the quality of her work. She spent the post war years caring for her family, one of whom was developmentally disabled. She never complained. She was just doing what love required of a mother and a citizen.
Last week, as she was signing the petition, her hand trembled. It was no longer as strong and steady as it was in the forties. But Velma was determined to sign the petition.
Velma has earned the right to speak for herself. So have the people of Lyon County. This is what the people’s petition is all about!