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Story Time

No easy fixes

There is an interesting divide among some of the candidates vying for the local city council seats that are up for grabs this fall.

The platform of some is law and justice...apparently do whatever it takes to rid the community of criminal gang activities.

Others have taken a stance of fiscal conservatism, basically intimating that not all of the city's assets, and financial reserves, should be allocated solely to the police department.

One thing I've gathered from listening to both sides, is that all of the candidates want the criminal gangs gone. How to achieve that, however, is what separates the candidates, as well as their supporters.

Some in Sunnyside believe huge chunks of money should be spent on bulking up the police force, with manpower and crime-fighting tools. Others seem to think that the job of eliminating gang activities should not come at the expense of doing away with, or paring, other city programs and personnel.

Don't look to me for the answers. I have none.

What I can tell you, from covering and reporting on city council and school board meetings up and down the Yakima Valley since 1981, is that time and again I've seen huge chunks of money thrown at a problem. In most cases, initially there are signs that the problem is on the way to being solved. More often than not, though, the money runs out and the problem persists.

Let's use my business, for an example. Say someone gives me a one-time big pot of money, so I can produce the best community newspaper that's ever been seen in these parts. The first thing I'd do is run out and buy a state of the art printing press that's capable of producing color photographs on every single page of our paper. I'd then contact all of those Purdue, Northwestern and Indiana State journalism graduates who had been working for the large metropolitan newspapers, but lost their jobs when our industry tanked a couple of years ago. Obviously, to get these top-notch professionals on board here I'd have to offer them the types of salaries they'd deserve for their talents and experience, and to which they are accustomed to receiving.

No worries, though, because I've been given a huge chunk of money to spend as I see fit.

Unfortunately, about this time that big pot of money I'd been given is about bone dry.

Now I have the problem of selling enough new subscriptions and bringing more advertisers on board so I can continue to pay these new, exorbitant salaries, not to mention the extra costs I'll be incurring for all that colored ink I'll be slapping on each page of our newspaper.

Don't get me wrong, it's going to be a grand product we start putting out on the newsstands, well written and very flashy. Sustaining it, that's another matter.

We're already getting into nearly 4,000 homes here in the Lower Valley each day, so really, we have good saturation and there won't be all that many opportunities to bring in more revenue with new subscriptions. Most of the merchants in our area are already using the services we provide, so any new advertising revenue is going to be minimal.

Which means, something's going to have to give. Sacrifices are going to have to be made. I'm probably going to have to let a few people go...some front office staff, a couple of our inserters in the back room, definitely most or all of our less experienced reporters who were on board before I hired the new staff, and heck, maybe even one of our ad reps. I might even have to consider letting the head honcho go.

As time goes on, with fewer staff members here, customer service will likely drop off, those expensive new reporters will get tired of being asked to carry more of the load and both subscriptions and advertising revenue will surely decline.

Sustainability...that's really it in a nutshell, no matter what kind of a problem you're talking about.

You can pick up a huge chunk of money and throw it at a problem, much like you'd toss a handful of wet, sticky spaghetti against a wall, but in the end, in most cases, all you've got is a big mess right there lying in front of you.

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