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by: Phillip Fletcher,
Executive Director,
City of Hope Outreach Ministry, Conway

Our cities are a complex structure of people, institutions, commerce, and traditions. In cities, people are the driving force behind the creation of culture, finances, aesthetics, and the cities’ overall care.

As cities grow, citizens must recognize that growth brings greater complexities and within these complexities are persons that will require some type of assistance. In Conway, several government funded programs seek to address assistance in the areas of housing, food, utilities, transportation, and community improvements.

None of us would argue against the facts that, in order for persons to have an adequate quality of life, these areas need to be in place.

These government funded programs primarily coming from the federal government (HUD, DHS, CAPCA and CDBG) and then locally funded transportation programs (Conway City government) are all funded by taxpayer dollars. Government is not capable of producing its own revenue to fund these programs; therefore, government uses tax dollars — or the people’s money — to finance these endeavors.

The question before us is, “How can local government best serve its citizens without unjustly burdening one group in order to relieve the burden of another group?”

Many of those in work similar to mine consider it a just act to tax one group heavily in order to relieve the burden of another. But I must respectfully disagree because one act of injustice to one person does not justify the relief of another person. No, we must seek a freer and more just action in which both parties are rightly served.

Local government can best serve its citizens in two ways — through responsible questioning and promotion.

In regard to responsible questioning, elected officials need to ask pointed questions of non-profits seeking to use tax dollars to fund programs non-profits have chosen on their own accord to implement.

Let us remember, private citizens come together to establish a non-profit because they have identified some particular need. The responsibility of funding must be addressed along with the establishment of the organization.

Questions like these could be asked:

• Is your current program sustainable?
• Do you need to cut somewhere else in your budget in order to sustain this program?
• Is there someone else in the city doing similar work?
• Can your organization collaborate with another organization and share the financial responsibility?

These are responsible and common-sense questions that elected officials can and should ask non-profit organizations. We must remember that the responsibility of local government is to only provide for the safety and security of its citizens and maintain infrastructure. Anything outside of these parameters should be voted on and duly determined by the citizens after these questions are asked.

The second way local government can serve its citizens is by promoting the necessity for private citizens, churches and local business to get involved in local non-profits and service agencies. This involvement means volunteerism and finances.

As these increase, citizens are actively stating that people — not a government bureaucracy — take care of people. Our goal as citizens should be to prove to elected officials that private citizens, churches, non-profits and service agencies can compassionately and effectively care for one another without the need for governmental assistance.

And what is the danger if government, at any level, continues to assert itself as the provider of assistance for those in need? It will create a population of slaves.

We will have in our cities, states and nation men and women who have had their resources taken in the name of compassion and who will be held captive by a Pharaoh or Pharaohs who will require double the work with less resources. Additionally men, women and families will be so bound by the illusion that only government can provide housing, utilities, food and basic needs that their basic ability to work with their own hands will be bound, thus reducing the spirit of freedom to a mere dream.

We are all in this together. The rich and the poor have their basic freedom at stake. People are not meant to be enslaved to each other — or to some government system.

Freedom is the eternal echo that resounds in our souls and was put there by God himself. And with this freedom we are to love ourselves, our neighbors and God above all.