by Barbara Walvoord
Originally published in the Lathrop Lamp Post, Dec. 21, 2018.
The new Republican tax bill is all over the news lately, but we’re not the first people who’ve had to think hard about taxes at this holiday season. Hannukah celebrates the rededication of the temple in the year 165 BCE, after the Jews, oppressed by cruel taxes and other wrongs, had risen up and defeated their Greek occupiers. In the Christian story, the reason Mary and Joseph were in Bethlehem in the first place was because Rome had decreed that “all the world should be taxed,” and Jews must travel to the town of their family’s origin to pay up. A carpenter and his 9-month pregnant wife had to walk or ride a donkey to a hugely overcrowded town with not enough hotels. American colonists were so mad about British taxes on tea that on December 16, 1773, they dumped their own precious tea into the Boston harbor.
But there’s a different kind of tax story I want to tell in this season of peace and hope. It’s the story of how local citizens vote to tax themselves in order to support projects they care about–including protection of native habitat and wildlife.
Both Northampton and Easthampton voted some years ago to join a state “Community Preservation” program in which the town adds a surcharge to its real estate taxes to support low-cost housing, historical preservation, and open space protection. Lathrop received grants from the Northampton Community Preservation Committee in 2016 and 2017, to remove invasive plants on both our campuses.
So in this season, as you look out over our land, or walk in our “free fifty” acres of woods on both campuses, you’ll see the dead stumps of Oriental bittersweet, shrub honeysuckle, Japanese barberry, burning bush, and other invasives we’ve removed, and you’ll see the winterberry, blueberry, gray dogwood, and other native plants that do a much better job of providing food and cover for our native insects, pollinators, and wildlife. Rejoice! This is how taxation should work in the just world that people of all faiths yearn for, in this season of hope.