PHIL WIELAND: Government can never please all the citizens

2013-08-23T00:00:00Z PHIL WIELAND: Government can never please all the citizens
August 23, 2013 12:00 am

Abe Lincoln, the inventor of the penny, allegedly said, "You can please some of the people all of the time and all of the people some of the time." What he forgot to mention was the government probably can't please anyone at any time.

I wrote a story a couple of weeks ago about Valparaiso's plans to build more pathways. Valpo's been adding two or three miles of pathways a year. Some are paid for with tax dollars, and the city requires developers to foot the tab for pathways in front of their property.

The pathways seem to be used quite a bit, and communities all over the area have been putting in pathways in bits and pieces for a couple of decades so the pieces now connect into a fairly efficient transportation system for those who actually get out of their car occasionally.

To which people like Jim in Whiting say, "Big deal!"

Jim wrote me that the trails he sees, presumably in Whiting and nearby, have little traffic of any kind. Including Jim.

"I am too old to be doing much biking now, but, when I did, it was because I had a destination in mind," he wrote. "Work, the beach, shopping or just getting together with friends."

I know how Jim feels. I was a busy biker in my youth, but I'm not likely to be found pedaling a pathway soon because of my severe, probably terminal, case of LOMS -- Lazy Old Man Syndrome. I call it lazy old man although I've had it since my teens.

The question Jim raises is whether we have too many trails already. In surveys of the Valpo residents, more trails top the list of recreational needs. Although he probably won't be going to Valpo soon to use them, Jim worries about all the tax money being spent to build and maintain them.

"Couldn't this money be better spent on things that would be for all the citizens?" he asks.

"All the citizens" is a matter of interpretation. In Jim's case it appears to mean only the things he would be likely to use. Pathways are for "all the citizens" even if the actual users represent a small share of the total population. Sort of like mass transit. Or, for that matter, almost anything the government does.

The government provides a lot of services whether "all the citizens" need them or not. Even roads aren't used by everyone. Communities have tons of recreational activities besides pathways, but participation is unlikely to approach half the population for the full gamut.

By Jim's reasoning, we should probably get rid of the Congress because tax money could certainly be better spent for "all the citizens." Lobbyists' money appears to be very well spent there.

The opinions are those of the writer. He can be reached at or (219) 548-4352.

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