A Local Project to Thank Taxpayers for their Contributions to the Common Good

In April of 2013, I worked with the League of Women Voters in my hometown, Northampton Massachusetts, on a project to thank local taxpayers for their contributions to the common good. The idea was to remind our citizens of all the good they are doing through the city government programs funded by their taxes.  We created a two-sided flyer that was included in the local newspaper, The Daily Hampshire Gazette.   On the front was a picture of our downtown and the words:  “Thank you, Northampton Taxpayers!  You are helping to make Northampton a better place for all of us to live.  Together, during the last year, we helped to educate 2,700 children, recycle 7.5 million pounds of valuable materials, respond to 4,992 emergency medical calls, maintain 150 miles of road, and much, much more.”  The reverse contained a detailed list of many of the important government programs that benefited local citizens.  We pointed out, for example, that their tax dollars made the city much safer in the last year by enabling the police to respond to 43,784 calls for assistance, investigate over 1,700 serious crimes, and arrest 856 suspected criminals. (For the full list, see below.)

This is a project that you could easily do in your hometown. Most of the information about the many benefits of local government is readily available at city hall or your city government web site.  A few e-mails to local government administrators will probably be necessary to fill in some of the blanks.  And then money can be raised to pay for the flyer.  Our flyer cost about $400 for a newspaper that covers a city of 30,000 – and it was generously paid for by the Northampton League of Women Voters.  Taxpayers are often only vaguely aware of how their dollars are being spent.  This kind of project can be a valuable and effective way to show people the enormous benefits of collective action through our local governments.


Second Page of Flyer:

Here are some of important things Northampton taxpayers helped to do last year:

•Enabled the fire department to put out 75 dangerous fires and respond to 4,992 emergency medical calls.
•Maintained the vital city infrastructure that we all use, including 150 miles of road, 20 bridges, 70 miles of sidewalks and crosswalks, 3 miles of bicycle paths, 115 miles of sewer pipes, and a wastewater treatment facility.
•Made the city much safer with police responding to 43,784 calls for assistance, investigating over 1,700 serious crimes, and arresting 856 suspected criminals.
•Encouraged healthy lifestyles by maintaining 150 acres of recreational fields and running sports and exercise programs that served  thousands of adults and kids.
•Improved the lives of over 4,000 elderly citizens with programs to help them with meals, transportation, home repair, medical issues, library books, and heating assistance.
•Kept us healthier with immunization programs, communicable disease investigations, and over 500 inspections of restaurants and food facilities.
•Enabled Forbes Library to educate and entertain city patrons by loaning out over 340,000 items.
•Provided 2,700 of our children with a well-rounded public education that prepared them for college and the workplace.
•Conducted 561 city inspections of deli and market scales, gas pumps, taxi meters, and supermarket scanners to ensure that we actually get what we pay for.
•Responsibly disposed of 5.8 million pounds of trash and recycled 7.5 million pounds of valuable materials.
•Maintained reservoirs, water sheds, and treatment facilities that provided city residents and businesses with over 1,000,000,000 (one billion) gallons a year of clean and safe water for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
•Conducted over 2,000 building safety inspections including gas, plumbing, and electrical inspections to make sure that our homes and places of business were safe and secure.

“I like paying taxes.  With them I buy civilization.”
        Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes