Craig Middle School seventh- and eighth-graders recently entered an essay competition that emphasized local government.
Their prompt was to respond to a complaint the city does nothing for residents.
The top three essays in each grade were entered in a state competition.
The two first-place essays are included below.
On Aug. 2, 2012, a city government meeting was taking place in High Water, Colo. Everything was going smoothly.
First, we talked about the new jobs that were available.
Then, we talked about the roads.
After that, we talked about the taxes.
Then it was time for questions.
A polite young woman said that she didn’t think that we played a big role in her and her sons’ lives.
She also didn’t think that her money was being put to good use.
Everyone was in shock about this question.
After everyone settled down, I replied.
“The city government does play an important role in your life. If we don’t play an important role in your life, there would be no pool for your family to go swimming in the summer.
“That would mean you wouldn’t have any place to cool off. And the city pool is a summer job for many people of all ages.
“Another thing we do for the city is provide a Parks and Recreation Department. If we didn’t provide parks (and) rec, your kids would not have sports to play.
“Without sports, your kids wouldn’t be as active as they need to be. But we (want) our kids to be as active as possible. We supply the fields for the game, too.
“Your money is being put into good use. Without taxes, we wouldn’t have smooth roads. We wouldn’t drive anywhere in the winter because we couldn’t pay the people to plow the road for us.
“We couldn’t pay for new park playground equipment without taxes. The pool wouldn’t be here if we didn’t have taxes. We couldn’t pay the coaches for parks (and) rec to coach the games if we did not have taxes.
“The city government provides law enforcement. Without law enforcement, the city would be overrun by criminals, but we don’t want that, do we?
“The law enforcement keeps the roads for the city safe for the kids that like to go explore. Your money in the bank wouldn’t be there if there was no law enforcement. They patrol the streets at night just in case there is a criminal trying to rob a store or bank.
“If the law enforcement people were not there, you most likely wouldn’t have a car. It probably would have been stolen.
“We take care of the water supply. We buy the water from larger cities to give to the people of the city.
“If we weren’t here, how are you supposed to get water? Then everyone would starve because there would be no water to water the crops. “We supply the sewers, too. Without sewers, the streets would be filled with water.
“The streets would smell very bad without the city government. It would not be good for your lungs.
“The city government provides recycling. Without recycling, there would be no tree in the city. There would be many landfills and no room to put more.
“We wouldn’t have city parks because the equipment is made of recyclable material.”
The nice lady said, “Thank you,” and sat down.
The meeting was getting late and everyone (wanted) to go home.
We were all happy that we got a city government.
— by Nick Pugh, seventh grade
During a Craig City Council meeting one summer afternoon, a rather large woman came bursting in the meeting.
“What does this city council even do?” she roared.
“What gives you the right to take our money and spend it any way you want to?”
“Spend it any way we want?” the mayor yelled.
“Who do you think pays for the roads, and if your house catches on fire, who pays for the fire department?
“It doesn’t just magically appear, does it?” explained the mayor.
“Well, how does this affect me and my children on a daily basis?” asked the woman.
“Do your children play sports? Do you throw out the trash every day, and do you drive on the roads to work?” the mayor said.
“Umm, well, yes, I do. How about you tell me what the government does for this town?” asked the woman.
“How about I start with the roads. Roads are very difficult to manage. They require lots of time, patience and money. One of the main issues in Craig when it comes to roads is the snow. The city government pays for the snowplows and the people to run the plows. The roads also require repairs often. Since it gets cold during the winter, the roads crack vigorously, so we pay for the tar, which fills in the cracks. We also pay for new roads and we paint the curbs,” said the mayor.
“That must not be very much money. We pay millions in this town, what else is there?” she asked.
“Well,” continued the mayor, “there is also the cost of trash and water. How often a day do you have a glass of water or flush the toilet or take out the trash?”
“More often than I can count,” said the woman.
“We provide the city with clean water. If you didn’t have clean water, you couldn’t wash the dishes after a hearty meal or clean your clothes at the end of the week, or even have a drink of water to simply survive. We use water for almost everything.
“We also take care of trash. Every Wednesday the (city’s) trucks come through and pick it up. What would you do with trash if we didn’t pick it up for you? As well as trash, the city runs the landfill. Where would you take old furniture, extra boxes and other excess trash without the landfill?” said the mayor.
“OK, that makes sense,” she said. “What else does the city government do?”
“The city government also provides for the police and fire department. If there were not police, crime would be running amuck. Drugs, violence and theft, all of this is prevented by the local government. Your children are safe and secure due to the local government. Plus, if your house, field or a surrounding house catches on fire, the firefighters come to the rescue, paid of course by the city government,” the mayor said.
“What else does the local government do for my children?” asked the woman.
“Do your children play sports?” asked the mayor.
“Yes they do, but what does that have to do with anything?” asked the woman.
“Well, the local government pays for the sports and sports equipment. Whether it is peewee football or soccer, it gets paid for by the local government. We also pay for people to maintain the sports fields. Plus, we pay for the pads and coaches to teach the children. Sports also need referees; they don’t simply work for free. So you see, the local government pays for this and many more things,” said the mayor.
“Wow," she said, obviously impressed.
“I didn’t realize that the government does so much with our tax dollars. The next time that I don’t want to pay for my taxes, I will remember what the city government actually does with our money.”
Then she stood up kindly and left. That day made the mayor (feel) good about himself.
He hopes that more people will realize what the local government does with the tax dollars.
—by Jacob Archuleta, eighth grade