As I drive around Madera I am saddened to see trash strewn on streets and in medians, abandoned cars covered in dirt with spider webs extending to the ground in many neighborhoods and homes in desperate need of upkeep with dead lawns, bushes and trees everywhere.
When and why did Maderans cease taking pride in the way our community looks? Why has Madera become a magnet for people who cannot afford to live in the Bay Area, Los Angeles or other metro areas and who, in some cases, bring problems with them that only exacerbate the problems we are already faced with?
How can these issues be remedied so that Madera can once again become a vibrant attractive community that attracts (Not continues to lose) the best of the best? Why do people who are fed up with the way Madera looks move to other communities such as Clovis, Fresno, Riverstone and Tesoro Viejo? Why do so few kids who graduate from college come back to Madera to start their businesses or families?
The answers to these questions, in my opinion, ultimately leads back to leadership, or lack thereof.
The public and school district leaders whose salaries are well over $100,000 a year, yet decline to live here or be part of our community, is a monumental problem, as I see it. How can these supposed leaders possibly know what this community needs if they won’t live here, shop here, be involved in sports with our children, sleep here or experience daily life here? How can they possibly set examples for or properly lead our citizens?
I have heard the story from several of “these people” who have told me “I have lunch in Madera every day.” Big deal! Does that really qualify as helping to better our community and is it really keeping our tax dollars here? Madera is good enough to take our tax dollars home to enrich other cities and businesses but not good enough to be a part of?
Start hiring people who want to be a part of our community and are willing to work to make it better and our increased median family incomes will be reflected in the demographics that companies look at when deciding to locate a store or restaurant.
I continually hear people complain about the lack of restaurants or places to shop. What most don’t understand is that when businesses look at our community one of the first items they review is demographics. In other words, what is the average age and income of our community.
In the case of Madera our Median family income is only $40,731. (As a side note Median Family Income in Clovis is $81,016, double Madera’s. Median Family Income in the United States is $70,850. (www.bestplaces.net/economy). Madera’s low income numbers could be pulled up substantially if those high income earners lived in Madera.
I feel that another problem is some politicians who are more concerned with their next move up the political ladder, or feathering their own nests, rather than being fiscally conservative and minding the taxpayer’s dollar. (You know who you are)
Set examples for Maderans and encourage them to do better. (Tell them to stop throwing their darn trash on the streets, take their junk cars to the recycler and clean up their yards and houses.
And to landlords who let their properties go to ruin; have code enforcement fine the heck out of them). Get the water rates in line with other Valley towns so that people can afford to water their landscaping and make this community look beautiful again.
Current water rates are a travesty, the highest in the valley and a theft of resident’s hard-earned money that could be put back into the local economy.
Stop “kissing babies” to get re-elected and do something to better our community. Look out for the taxpayer’s money and make sure that they get what they pay for. (It isn’t your money Mr. Politician.) Make sure that city, county and school district employees are paid a fair living wage. This is not San Francisco, so six-figure salaries should be far and few between, not the norm.
Find a way to get out of the Calpers Pension System that is bankrupting most cities and will eventually consume a huge portion of the general fund. Start new hires on a 401K plan, like the rest of us that will eventually end our yearly outrageous payments from our general fund to Calpers because of their poor investment strategies.
Move Code Enforcement away from the Police Department and give them the resources they need to do their job. (If you spent more on code enforcement, such as was done by Jim Taubert when he was Redevelopment Director, and less on consultants this town would already look better).
As to what citizens can do to make Madera a better place to live in I have the following advice:
1. Get active. Pay attention to city, county and school district meeting agendas and when you see something you don’t care for say something. Be sure to go to their website and read the Staff Reports to fully understand what they are attempting to accomplish. Either voice your concern at City, County and School Board meetings in-person or write a letter or email to the boards or the Tribune editor. (You can find their email addresses on their websites.)
2. If you see trash on the street, pick it up as a community service. If you see abandoned cars on the street or in driveways, yards and homes that are degrading a neighborhood or a business area that looks shoddy call code enforcement and complain. (You can call the Madera PD to be connected to Code Enforcement. If they do not respond in a timely manner call them again until they do.)
3. Vote in every election and pay attention to what the candidate’s real platform is, not just the fact that they smile, show up for every photo op and kiss babies. Ask the tough questions of every candidate such as “How will you fix our fiscal problems without raising taxes”? “How did you let this happen on your watch”? Don’t leave politicians in office for more than two terms. Politicians have egos and those egos get bigger with time. At some point they stop listening to their constituents and believe that they know what is best for the rest of us and that we are incapable of running our own lives.
4. Don’t fall for every proposition on the ballot because it sounds like a good idea and someone is trying to sell you on it. Remember that propositions are placed on the ballot by groups wanting something. Make sure you understand what the proposition is and don’t fall for the “bait and switch” that is used when a “No” vote means “Yes” and a “Yes” vote means “No”. Special interest groups and politicians all use less than honest tactics to achieve their goals. (How’s that Proposition 47 working out for store owners? Shoplifting is off the charts as a result of it and you probably voted for it thinking it was a good idea.) Just like anything else you will pay due to stores having to raise their prices to cover the losses from shoplifting.
5. NEVER vote for a bond measure without understanding that you will be the one paying for it. School bonds are always added onto property taxes. Increases in property taxes are always passed on to tenants. Don’t fall for the old story that “Rich Property Owners” will pay for it. This is a ploy to divide us. You will pay one way or another.
I know that I have left a lot of my questions from the beginning unanswered and I could probably write a book with my opinion on how to solve all these problems but I will end it by saying get involved and demand that your Pubic and School Officials look out for our tax dollars as if it was their own money. As my Father used to say “It is real easy to write a check out of another man’s checkbook.”
— Michael Pistoresi,
DMP Development Corp