Summer scandals in Rockland

By David Grima | Aug 13, 2020

First, a couple of rumors.

It is alleged by certain parties from the Camden region that our most recent former president and his wife were seen in that town a few days ago, both on a boat in the harbor and downtown.

This particular former president is the chap whose very existence causes nightmares for the incumbent, poor Lord Prez Trumpleton.

Why, the Lord Prez ran for election with a firm promise to eradicate the health care program signed into law by his predecessor, and yet failed miserably to do so. Also overlooked is his promise to “drain the swamp” of Washington politics, despite turning out to be something of a Swamp Monster himself, the poor fellow.

His only defense against such charges has been to a) forget he made those promise, b) to hope his supporters have forgotten them too, and c) to hope that they forgot everything else he promised he would do for them which he has not done.

If only the old fellow had a sensible grasp of decent religion, he would find his situation more than amply covered in the Prayer Book, wherein is a prayer designed specifically for people like himself who have done the things they ought not to have done, and left undone things which they ought to have done.

Instead, lacking the comfort of even a shred of true religion, our Beloved Lord Prez is left to shiver alone in the dark hours before dawn.

No wonder the old boy thinks he sees his predecessor hiding behind the curtains in the Oval Office, or lurking in the shadow near the refrigerator in the White House kitchen when he sneaks down to snack on cold hamburglars most nights, after a hard day spent watching television in his room, followed by sleepless hours of self-inflicted torment.

On a more local note, there is also a rumor that a popular breakfast-lunch-dinner place will reopen on Main Street soon.

I decline to say which place of course, on account of my lousy recent track record in making pronouncements about certain other downtown commercial properties, statements which turned out to be defeated by subsequent facts.

* * * * *

I am reading a science book right now that suggests people are made of particles, all of which behave all the time according to the blind laws of physics.

At least, at not yet quite half way through the book, this is the message that emerged so far. Who knows where the book might eventually lead?

But if there is anything even slightly true in this peculiar idea, perhaps we are seeing one version of it playing out on what passes for Rockland politics these days. I speak, naturally, of the petitions floating about concerning the Rockland PD; one to “defund” the department, whatever this latest buzzword means, and another one to leave things be.

The interpreters of other people’s words have already begun to sow their tares of bafflement within the original crop of ideas on both sides, and already those weeds are growing up to obscure whatever little meaning might have existed in the idea. But of course!

The absence of logic in many public arguments and the confusion of one idea with another is often what emerges almost automatically from situations like this. Within five minutes or thereabouts, you can see that nobody is talking about the root of the idea. Instead 300 people are flying off at 400 tangents.

The word “defund” in connection with police departments arises from specific circumstances, in the general hope of removing some of the power to commit mayhem and murder from certain specific PDs in the country.

Rockland PD is not one of those PDs associated with committing M&M (see sentence above if you need to) but these potent words have nevertheless been foisted upon them, and therefore also upon us, by certain parties.

Then comes the dimly related fact of the recent city-wide property tax revaluation, waking up many of us to the raw and unpleasant facts about how public services are paid for; not on a modern progressive basis by which we are taxed according to income, but on a 19th-century basis where we are taxed according to a hypothetical value said to reside mysteriously in land and buildings, (rather as the mind is said by some to reside in the brain, although nobody has ever seen it.)

The tired old statement that we own and enjoy the value our property taxes are “calculated” has long been discredited. The only way for a property owner to actually get access to this hypothetical value is to cease being a property owner. It’s an absurd argument, making about as much common sense as some of the weirder propositions made by quantum mechanics.

But let’s set aside the debate about how irrational property taxes are – remembering that many countries do not do it as way we do, so there is nothing inevitable or logical in it – and instead look at how this latest alchemical juggling of our local tax situation is mixed with the so-called “defund the police” petition.

Suddenly, at a time of property tax stress, somebody says we should reduce the annual budget of a big city department. Sounds like a match made in cliché heaven, doesn’t it?

If that is really all that had happened, then this discussion would only be about property taxes. But it isn’t. Despite the laws of physics containing no ban on time working backwards, we still live life in only one direction. The defund movement began before the property tax revaluation issue arose.

Maybe it’s a happy coincidence for our defund petitioners, some of whom might actually live in Rockland. An immediate local financial issue has arisen that could influence their wider political goals. How awfully jolly convenient!

This might be a hopeful sign for the defunders, because it seems to me that their chosen political argument for cutting expenses at Rockland PD is made of nothing more substantial than popcorn and paper. Although we have been told that all politics is local, it seems obvious to most of us that the circumstances behind the national defund movement are not local at all.

The only serious hope for local defunders might be for a city-wide revolt against the cost of local government. This dim possibility wins a tiny bit of credibility from another recent coincidence: that we are in the middle of a baffling and anxiety-provoking economic disaster.

With hindsight, (yes, here comes a silly pun) it seems likely that city councilors were truly caught with their shorts down when the current plague-induced recession hit, because they had ordered up the property tax revaluation when everyone assumed we were doing rather well financially (unless you are a lobsterman) in a fairly decent economy.

However, the possibility that the new property tax revaluations might somehow reinforce the defund protest is really only small.

In my career as a real newspaperman I must have produced a barrel of stories on the same subject, and they all followed an identical trajectory. Initial horror and relief on the part of the losers and winners; strong individual protests by prominent losers; followed by tax bills and then the long forgetting. Such stories do not end; they merely fade away.

If the dubious argument from physics is that all our human actions are limited by predictable laws, then this summer scandal will also fade and die. A review of Rockland’s police spending will be attempted, some ideas will be discussed, maybe even a few dollars will be taken away from Peter and given back to Paul, and yet little or nothing in the big picture will change in the long term.

Why? Because everything is built upon the basic facts that affect the shape and the mechanics of local government, and these facts are not determined locally. In a powerful sense, the actions of local government are closer to being predetermined by external forces than are the lives individual human beings.

The handful of defunders have no large rational local argument to make, and so their movement will fade with the first hint of cold weather. People upset with their new property tax bills will be told, in the politest way possible, to pay up or get out of town. So they will.

When winter comes again, which is indeed a predetermined law of physics, many of us will have a lot more to worry about than the latest summer scandals in Rockland.

David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at

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Comments (1)
Posted by: Crawford L Robinson | Aug 14, 2020 09:09

So this is the long version of: 'The more things change.. the more they stay the same'. Got it!!!

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