“I don’t understand why my taxes have to go toward fixing up the Shore,” the woman behind us at the school area band concert complained last night.My sister-in-law and I sighed. Then she pulled out her cell phone and showed me photos of the devastation at the Jersey Shore, where her boyfriend lives year-round. When Hurricane Sandy hit his town last October, the water rose from the canal to the top step of his two-bedroom rental house. He was lucky; many of his neighbors’ homes flooded.
“I mean, why should I have to pay for other people’s summer homes?” the woman whined.
Meanwhile, I looked at photos of flooding, destruction, and devastation in his neighborhood, and in nearby beach towns. The photos of Ortley Beach — reportedly hit hardest with nearly all of its 2400 homes affected by the storm’s flooding and wind — showed especially heartbreaking scenes of destruction.
House after house flooded, their bottom floors covered in sand, and homes moved off their foundations and smashed into each other. How can an entire town of 2400 families with no homes, no heat, no running water, no functioning businesses, fix itself?
“Besides, they charge me to go on the beach down there.”
Ortley Beach. Seaside Heights. Belmar. Toms River. Spring Lake. Point Pleasant. Mantoloking, Brick Township, Atlantic City. Summer homes, year-round homes, small businesses, beachside bars, mom & pop shops, tourist favorites, and even a roller coaster, still largely intact yet sitting in the ocean.
Why should this woman help them? I mean, she doesn’t live there, and she doesn’t seem to want to vacation there either. She lives up north in Morris County, New Jersey, were there are no beaches, no living rooms filled with sand, and no pieces of boardwalk wedged into front yards.
I wanted to turn around and ask her why we should all pay for her kid to be in a public school band. I mean, my taxes help pay for her child’s involvement in the French horn, or whatever. But my kid plays the clarinet. I don’t care about the French horn or about her kid, because he or she is not my kid and we are not a French horn family. Maybe I want my taxes to pay only for teaching the clarinet. Where are my rights, huh lady?
Now, if she had questioned why taxes should go for anything beyond direct emergency aid for the storm, like the proposed $25 million to improve weather forecasting and $118 million for Amtrak when only $32 million is needed for storm-related repairs, I’d understand her objections. We’ve got entire communities “down the shore” unable to get into their homes still, and yet some members of Congress are trying to sneak in $2 billion for highway spending nationwide that has next-to-nothing to do with Hurricane Sandy.
Rather, she was saying, “I don’t live down the shore. I don’t vacation there. My house is fine. Screw them.”
Well, Angry Taxpaying Mom, consider this:the tourism industry that fuels summertime in Monmouth County, where most of the hardest hit towns are located, helps pay taxes in New Jersey. Without the taxes that tourism brings to our shore towns each summer, every New Jersey household would have to pay an additional $1,380 per year to cover the difference.
So should we help pay to fix up the shore towns, some of them that have had boardwalks since the 19th century? Should we Restore the Shore?
Yes. And throw in a French horn lesson, too.