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Keeping it close to home
Let's start with the math.
I've never been good with math, but that's what the organizers for the Buy Local campaign are giving us and it's as good a place as any to begin.
The simple equation we've heard before. It goes something like this:
* Sales taxes=police and fire protection, health services, parks and zoos.
* Buying local stuff=more sales tax=more money for police and fire protection, health services, parks and zoos.
In actual math, it works like this: The sales tax in Fresno County is 8.975%, of which California gets 8.25%. That's right off the top. The state then gives 1% of that 8.25% back to the county and local governments to be split between county transportation funds and city and county operations. That 1 percent adds up to somewhere in the realm of $54 million in Fresno alone. The other part, (that .725 %) gets kicked down to the voter-approved stuff — the public library, more transportation and the zoo (measures B, C and Z, respectively).
Of course, what the organizers of the 18-month campaign are really saying (and what they're afraid of) is that people are A.) not buying, and B.) not buying locally. The nerves are on point because, duh, there's this whole economic hullabaloo happening and people are getting all sorts of choosey with their money. And less sales tax is problematic because it accounts for more than a quarter of the city's general fund, which pays for all those goodies we like. The city of Fresno lost $11 million in collected sales tax revenue last year.
But this is something we have control over, says Steve Geil, CEO of the Economic Development Corporation serving Fresno County, which is spearheading the campaign.
We determine where we spend and how, and the campaign seeks to shift the paradigm of shoppers — putting local businesses top of mind when people think about what they need (and want) to buy.
Now, this is probably preaching to the choir.
But we're going to jump on board anyway, kicking the whole thing off with the Famous Buy Local Challenge, May 18 to 25.
The idea is simple: Spend the next week buying local.
To make it a real challenge, we'll define “local” as independently owned local businesses — no big boxes or chains. If you want to get really hard-core you can try to buy local-only products.
At the end of the week, check back in and tell us your story. And I'll be right there with you.
Don't worry, there is no judgment. No one is going to stone you in the street for buying Mark Arax's new book at Amazon.com or at Barnes & Noble — as opposed to the Fig Garden Bookstore. We won't be sticklers if you want to shop at Save Mart (as opposed to Bentley's or The Market). We just want to start a conversation about the choices we make on what (and how) we buy.
Joan Obra's story in this week's Fresno Bee is also a good start.
As a jumping off point for the challenge, here are a few suggestions:
I have a closet full of Target shirts. I'm wearing a pair of Gap pants right now. But there are plenty of boutiques in town and more than a few really good thrift stores (check out the corner of Van Ness and Inyo). So, take the week and do some searching. You might be surprised what you find.
With the amazing amount of diversity in Fresno there is no need — none — to ever eat at Applebee's again. Go to the phone book, flip to the Rs and pick a place. For groceries, check out the Fresno State store or any of the city's farmers' markets. A new one started on the Fulton Mall this week.
I won't insult your intelligence by suggesting there is more happening in town than the weekly blockbuster down at the megaplex. You know this. So go catch a local band (Rademacher is in the midst of a Thursday night residency at Tokyo Garden), or see a play. Or go bowling at Cedar Lanes (they're locally owned and have late-night bowling on the weekends).