What do you want?

In the past couple columns, “Down in Jungleland” and “Trickle-down in Jungleland,” I’ve relayed differences of opinion over safety nets strung by the federal government to mitigate the hazards of pure, Darwinian capitalism.

It’s important to note that protective measures didn’t start with the Obama administration and a supportive Congress; it just seems so, since the sequence of bailouts, economic stimulus and re-emphasized social programs came so quickly, and so closely on the heels of laissez-faire.

The government—actually, governments, including state and local—came into this position over the course of centuries. Since the days of the Founding Fathers, we Americans have asked for intercession, giving up freedoms for security.

The gist of the tradeoff remains how much intrusion is acceptable. Or, to put it another way: At what point does help become a hindrance? Perspectives vary (see above), which is why we have such heated debates and elections.

I have my own take, obviously, but I’m not going to use this space to sway you to my way of thinking (… at least not today).

Instead, I’m going to make a plea for involvement.

It’s easy to sit on the sidelines and complain about how things are going. Elected officials pay some attention to disgruntled constituents, but not as much as to people who are cogent in their complaints.

They pay even more attention to people who participate.

This got reinforced during my recent sit-downs with two former mayors of Chico. Independent of each other, and on different matters, both talked about the impact of informed citizens.

On disc golf, Andy Holcombe noted how attendance at public meetings has waxed and waned. True, there have been a lot of meetings, and maybe Gregg Payne (an artist) is the only Frisbee-tossing enthusiast with enough flexibility in his work schedule to make ’em all. Still, from Holcombe’s vantage point, there seems to be more cyber-carping than collaboration.

On the city budget, by contrast, a citizen cadre has enmeshed itself in the process. Scott Gruendl appreciates these self-appointed watchdogs at Finance Committee and City Council sessions who ask specific, pointed questions. In fact, they’ve helped spark added transparency at City Hall; soon, along with budget reports, Chico’s check register will be accessible online.

Big deal? It is for citizens who want to track where tax money goes.

Point is, we all have a stake in what local, state and federal officials decide. Their actions affect how we work, how we live and—to the chagrin of most of us—how much we pay. (Tax day cometh; feel the shiver …)

The more we ask from government, the more government takes.

What do you want? That’s the bottom line here.

If you want more cops on the streets and firefighters in the foothills and teachers in schools, ponder the ramifications during these recessionary times. Are you willing to forgo other services? Or—gulp—get taxed a bit higher? Or, perhaps, have you found a flaw in the budget that precludes this bipolarity?

Get involved; get heard. Government can’t be all things for all people. Ensure that it’s for you.

“Community Closet”: Speaking of former mayors, Georgie Bellin is organizing a benefit for Catalyst Domestic Violence Services. Participating businesses and organizations will gather in the Shoe Pavilion building by the Chico Mall over the last weekend of April for a rummage sale of items donated by the community. For details, call Ashley Conroy at The Group at 864-9349.