This morning while I was in the kitchen making a late brunch, I heard a familiar buzzing and popping sound, followed by a louder “boom” and the lights went out for a couple of minutes.

I have lived here for four years, and every spring and summer during high winds a tree gets blown over and falls on the electric wires along Wyandotte Street, going up the hill to Penn Valley Park. I stopped being freaked out by this after the second time it happened the first year we lived here, so I have a routine when this happens: I went out on the back deck and spotted where the tree was on the line. This was pretty easy, it was sparking and sizzling and an electric fire was dancing on the wire where the tree made contact, then I placed a call to 9-1-1 at 11:44 to report it.

A dispatcher answered my call promptly, and efficiently and professionally assessed what the emergency was and transfered my call to the KC Fire Department, where a firefighter picked up promptly, took all the information I had to give him and told me he would contact KC Power and Light.

The timestamp on my email for this, the first picture of a fire truck blocking off Wyandotte Street, is six minutes later.

First on the Scene

I’m glad that they responded so quickly, because a grass fire broke out almost immediately and charred the ground at the base of the tree. That firefighters were on the scene when the grass started burning kept the fire contained to the small area of black that you see at the base of the tree.  The timestamp on this photo is just 12 minutes later:

The fire didn't spread

I don’t even want to think about what an inferno that innocuous little grass fire could have turned into with winds like we are experiencing today if firefighters hadn’t been on the scene when it started.

And that, people, is why we need to turn out to vote on Tuesday to retain the earnings tax and keep our city alive.

Taxes are the price we pay to live in a civilized society, and the people who fancy themselves rugged individualists are self-deluding morons. There is no such thing as self sufficiency unless you live out in the woods, off the grid, and you toil from sunup to sundown and then toil into the night just securing a shelter and a food supply, so don’t spout Rand-worship or Galtian nonsense to me.

I don’t want a dystopian nightmare to unfold in my city. I don’t want the city services to go away. I don’t want a future grassfire to take out several city blocks. I don’t want insurers to stop writing homeowners policies in Kansas City zip codes because the 9-1-1 response time is too long or auto policies because the car thefts are rampant and go unsolved because we have cut back on police protection.

Cops, firefighters and first responders are not the enemy; they are who I want to show up when I call 9-1-1. On the other hand, people who tell you that cops, firefighters and first responders are the enemy are the real enemy. Instead of being scammed into demanding that public servants give up their hard-won rights and benefits because you don’t have them, too, grow a backbone, join or form a union, and demand that you get those rights too.

Railroad baron Jay Gould made an astute observation over a hundred years ago when he said “I can always pay one half of the working class to kill the other half.”

So why are people falling for it all over again? Time to fight back.

Start by retaining the 1% earnings tax in Kansas City and St. Louis on Tuesday. It’s not just the livability of our cities that depends on it; literally, the very roof over your head could be at stake.