Over the Hill

A hopeful time in Paso Robles

Special to The TribuneApril 24, 2014 

Phil Dirkx

I guess you’ve probably heard that things are looking hopeful here in Paso Robles. Hope is starting to bloom along with our roses and bottlebrush bushes.

Last week our City Council awarded a contract for more than a million dollars worth of street repairs. That sounds bigger than it actually is. It really involves the full lengths of only two streets along with portions of two others.

But it’s a step, or dump-truck trip, in the right direction. Since the Great Recession in 2008, Paso Robles’ streets have pretty much been left to crumble, except for a few Band-Aids here and there and a project or two that were paid for with government grants.

But this street repair work will be paid for with the sales tax increase that we Paso Robles voters approved in 2012. We agreed to a temporary half-cent increase in the city’s share of sales tax. City officials predict that $4 million will be available from it this year. So we can hope for more street repair.

And you probably read in Wednesday’s Tribune that the March unemployment rate in San Luis Obispo County was the lowest for that month since 2008. The March rate of unemployment countywide was 6.1 percent.

That was just a slight drop from the 6.2 percent rate in the previous two months, but still it was a hopeful improvement from the highest countywide March unemployment rate of 10.4 percent in 2010. But it’s still well above what it was in 2008 when it stood at 5.1 percent.

And I’m sorry to say unemployment was even higher here in Paso Robles. One thousand of our 13,400 eligible workers were still out of jobs in March. That’s a 7.3 percent unemployment rate. But the countywide employment improvement may give our unemployed people hope that they’ll soon find jobs.

I suppose some people think that hoping for things is foolish and useless, but I believe hope is human nature. Hope is what keeps many of us going when life is unkind, painful, debt-ridden, frightening, boring, overcrowded or lonely, as life often is. Hope keeps us from quitting.

Of course, it’s possible to overdo hope. The Powerball and MEGA Millions lotteries come to mind. They bring on epidemics of hope running amok, accompanied by extravagant daydreams.

But there are other widespread undertakings that give us justifiable hope. Examples are education, Social Security, Medicare and the Affordable Care Act. And in religion, of course, hope is a virtue.

But the hope I like best is described in the poem by Emily Dickinson that begins, “Hope is the thing with feathers/ That perches in the soul/ And sings the tune without the words/ And never stops at all.”

Phil Dirkx has lived in Paso Robles for more than five decades, and his column is published weekly. Reach him at 238-2372 or phild2008@sbcglobal.net.

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