As the future ownership of our Chautauqua County Home is discussed, I think there are two different ideas on which people base their opinion: the business idea and the neighbor idea.
The business idea looks at the County Home issue with a concern about money. Does it cost money? Does it make money? Does it break even? How can we cut costs? How can we increase revenue?
The neighbor idea looks at the County Home issue with a concern for the neighbor. The concern is for the neighbor's health, well-being, nutrition, medical care, and connection to other people and family.
People act here out of love, compassion, or just being neighborly. And if it requires time, effort and money, they are given without thought or a need for thanks.
In our county budget, many programs are mandated. Mandated means that We, the People, agreed that a certain way of dealing with each other is how we will act. (It is the unfunded part of mandates that is a problem.)
We have agreed that reducing infant mortality is important, because no one wants their baby to die or their neighbor's baby.
So together we fund the Women, Infants and Children program (WIC). We fund education for all people. We are mandated to care for abused seniors, for people with mental illness (3,500 people cared for in 2010), for people on probation (1,608 at a cost of $3.10 per day instead of $89 per day if they were in jail), for veterans (12,000), and child support enforcement (25,000 parents and 12,500 children).
If our neighbor has no food to eat because there are no jobs, we help feed them (18,905). We keep 6,956 people warm in winter through the Heating Energy Assistance Program. We give medical care to children and the disabled through Medicaid, 25,000). We provide transportation to people so they can receive medical treatment - up to 25,000 oer year.
There are more mandates. The above are just in the Human Resources Committee. But oddly, there is no mandate to house the infirm or elderly who cannot care from themselves in their own home.
So, since there is no mandate, what do we do? We start talking of selling our County Home because we are not mandated to care for those people.
"Why do we have to care for the old? That is not the government's job."
Which again is odd because it is the government's job to care for mothers and babies and children and adults out of work. But as soon as we talk of the very old some say we should not be responsible for them because they cost us too much.
In other words, we are no longer their neighbor. But note, when we say it's not the government's job, remember that We, the People, are the government. And people make decisions about people based on the idea of care. "It is the human thing to do."
So, out of my responsibility to care for all the people of the county as a county legislator, I will vote to keep us, the people, as owners of our own Chautauqua County Home.
Timothy Hoyer is a county legislator from Jamestown.