Posted by: Lisa Pampuch | December 21, 2010

Review of a rough decade about to end

“Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.” ~Groucho Marx

We’re fast approaching the end of 2010, and I’m realizing how much faster time seems to move with each passing year.

I understand why the phenomenon exists: As we age, a unit of time is a smaller percentage of our lives than it used to be. So, while a year is 25 percent of a four-year-old’s life, it’s only 2.5 percent of a forty-year-old’s life. That’s why next Christmas seems unbearably far away to a four-year-old, but a forty-year-old thinks that last Christmas was just last week.

We’re not only at the end of a year, but also at the end of a decade, and an auspicious one at that. It’s a good time to review what’s happened and how we’ve changed since the turn of the century.

This decade saw the terror attacks that dramatically changed our country. The attacks led us into one war and were part of the flimsy excuse for another war. We’ve been involved in both the Iraq and the Afghanistan wars longer than we were involved in World War II and involved in the Afghanistan War longer than we were involved in the Vietnam War. Those wars have cost American and foreign lives, injuries and treasure. They’ve affected our economy and had a significant part to play in 2008’s economic meltdown.

We’ve has made great advances toward equality for homosexual citizens, although much work remains. Several states legalized same-sex marriage this decade, although the battle continues in California. Who would have thought that Iowa would have marriage equality before the Golden State? However, many more states discriminate against same-sex couples than don’t, and the federal Defense of Marriage Act is still on the books.

Just this weekend, the United States Congress finally repealed the heinous, discriminatory and national security-weakening Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy that required homosexuals — but not heterosexuals — to hide their sexual orientation in order to serve in the military. The debate featured Sen. John McCain using pitiful and desperate measures, including ignoring his own previous promises and statements, to try to block the repeal that is supported by a whopping 77 percent of all Americans (including a majority of Republicans).

I couldn’t agree more with conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan, who wrote of McCain after the Senate approved the repeal:

“The disgraceful bitterness and rancor and irrationality that the Senator has shown these past few months reveal just how important it was to defeat him and his deranged, delusional side-kick in 2008.”

Which reminds me, Americans elected our first African-American president this decade. Now that’s progress!

Locally, another decade is on the books and the PL566, the flood control project for the Upper Little Llagas Creek, remains stalled at Buena Vista Avenue. This project’s been planned for more than five decades, but it’s been idle since the mid-1980s when money ran out. Flooding is so chronic and so routine that sand bag distribution is a regular feature of the winter season in Morgan Hill.

Thanks to the economic crisis of 2008, homeowners in South County experienced stunning drops in home values while foreclosure rates reached all-time highs, skyrocketing right along with unemployment rates. Zillow.com’s home value index shows that Morgan Hill home values dropped from a peak of $789,000 in 2007 to $500,500 today, a drop of 36 percent. Zillow.com says that Gilroy home values dropped from a peak of $725,000 in 2006 to $391,000 today, a drop of 46 percent.

Meanwhile, Morgan Hill unemployment is at 15.2 percent according to Sperlings, and Gilroy unemployment is at 17.5 percent. Is it any wonder that municipalities and the state government have seen revenues drop dramatically? In response to plummeting home values and increasing job insecurity, people reduced spending; thus, revenue from consumption taxes (like sales, gas, hotel and alcohol taxes) declined. Combine that with lower income, payroll and property taxes and budget slashing ensues. This is why cities, counties and school districts must cut services, reduce workforces, and renegotiate labor union contracts. The money simply is not there.

We’ve made progress, but on the whole, it’s been a rough decade. When this century and decade were brand-new, no one could have predicted these events or how we would react.

I’m hoping that as a nation and as a local community, we’re wiser, more tolerant, honest, transparent, rational and diplomatic in the upcoming decade.

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