At the town political debate on Feb. 6, I was impressed with the candidates' knowledge of many issues, but I was disappointed by their lack of touch with reality.
When the candidates addressed the need for affordable work-force housing, they talked specifically about teachers, nurses, police and fire workers. Nobody acknowledged housing needs for people making far less money than these professionals.
Many folks in Payson work for $5 to $8 an hour as child-care workers, teacher aids, nursing assistants, fast-food restaurants, hotel maids and other necessary tasks that we all take for granted. It seemed, in the minds of the candidates, that these people do not exist.
Answers to questions about the increase of alcohol, methamphetamines and family violence primarily emphasized stricter law enforcement. Barbara Underwood and others did address a need for education, but most acknowledged that our schools presently do a pretty good job of education. Nobody addressed poverty issues leading to the disenfranchisement and hopelessness of these "invisible" folks working in the really low-paying jobs. It is these folks, along with their children, who are most at risk for using drugs and alcohol and engaging in destructive behaviors.
There was only brief acknowledgement of the need for wholesome activities for our children and teens. A YMCA was discussed, but YMCAs, at least the ones to which I have belonged, charge membership fees. Low-income families cannot afford those fees. What about a Boys and Girls Club or another town-supported facility, properly supervised and free of charge?
Activities for young people and recognition and support of truly low-income people would cost money. However, it would be cheaper than hiring more law enforcement people to round up every adult using illegal drugs and every under-age person using alcohol and "put them in jail and throw away the key," as Mike Vogel suggested. If we realistically could ratchet up our law enforcement to a point where we could do that, many businesses would have to close, school enrollment would plummet, and already overworked Child Protective Services workers would have dozens more foster children to place.
The candidates running for office are, I believe, dedicated and hard working. Perhaps if they spent time talking to teachers, counselors at Rim Guidance, CPS workers and people who work in nursing homes and McDonald's, it would bring them into touch with a segment of our population that should not be ignored.
Elaine Bohlmeyer, Payson