OUR VIEW | Spilled Bilk? No Use Crying Over It

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People are running out of ways to say the economy is in an unstable position: Tough times, economic doldrums and dire fiscal straits are played-out indicators of not just the citys and countrys financial situation but also of the publics reaction to it.

Amid the budgetary challenges the city faces are tough choices that will have human repercussions this is no secret. Service cuts have been proposed, as have city layoffs. The plight of small businesses right now is unattractive to say the least. But the city government is actively working for the citys subsistence (just as it does during prosperous times, though premeditated pro-activity should always trump reactionary tactics), not trying to bilk taxpayers out of services, greedily allocate our money against our will or politicize the financial crisis.

But government, of course, is just one element of society. All of us individuals and organizations have moral obligations to do our part.

One may not be happy with decreased leaf collection services or the almost 13 percent drop in expenditures by the Office of Citizen Assistance, the very organization intended to be an ambassador between the people and the government. But if the city governments reaction to the economic crisis is an active and serious one, (regardless if you agree or not with its policies, the city staff is not kicking their feet up on their desks in the face of financial hardships) then so, too, should the peoples.

Civic responsibility and accountability is as real and necessary as the municipal governments official duties. Look to the Alexandria Chapter of the Red Cross and Volunteer Alexandria, an organization that places volunteers with volunteer sites, to see a creative reaction to the tough times. They moved into the same building and are now collaborating. The move alone provides the Red Cross with $20,000 in additional income and will save Volunteer Alexandria $12,000 over the course of a year.

The citys human and social service agencies are likely to have their budgets reduced, making it more important than ever to donate our time and expertise. Donating it to a shelter or another cause can help people worse off than you. It will not be wasted time. In a time of decreased resources such personal efforts can maintain the quality of life Alexandrians are used to. Civic responsibility and action, effectively, are equal to revenue.

The citys Give Alexandria initiative, which helps showcase nonprofits and other social volunteer opportunities, is a modest start (though the campaign should remain and even expand in prosperous times as well). It is a few inches of attention that could go a mile in terms of community service rates.

The city is struggling economically, meaning government workers, officials and residents are in the bubble together. It is easy to be downtrodden and pessimistic about the current and forecasted financial state of the city. But just as the city government must make adjustments, so too do the governed people.

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