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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

A Welsh School and Los Angeles Buses

 Dyfrig Jones is a Nationalist councillor for the Gerlan ward in the Welsh county of Gwynedd. As a Welsh separatist he has been a lifelong supporter of furthering the use of the Welsh language at all levels and has fought valiantly in the past to ensure not just language survival but its growth and development. Recently a decision was made by the County Council to close a school, Ysgol y Parc. The council decision was based on fiscal necessity, the school housed 18 pupils. I suspect that here in America the decision to close a school that small would hardly raise an eyebrow but in Gwynedd it caused a storm of protest. Dyfrig was one of those who voted to close the school and it resulted in Ffred Ffransis, a respected and well known figure in the Welsh community, calling Dyfrig and others who voted for the closure "Traitors" Osian Jones, a friend of Dyfrig since they were 15 also referred to them as traitors, another member of the audience referred to the councilors as "Pigs" Dyfrig talks about it on his blog; Blog Answyddogol  (The Unofficial Blog) it's in Welsh but if you use google translator you will probably get the gist of it.
Celtic passions run hot and there is a lot of anger about such decisions, especially in Wales. Because the school is in a small rural area and is a Welsh speaking community. The children will be moved out of the community and that is what has raised passions. The existence of the school ensures the future of the community as one where the natural language is Welsh. The first language of the children is Welsh. Such heartlands are necessary for the survival of Welsh as a living language, not just an academic interest. These Welsh speaking communities make a vital contribution to the vitality of the only living language that has written poetry going back to the 6th century.
This brings up a major point. What happens when ideals and principles face the harsh reality of fiscal restraint. How do we balance the things we believe in with the things we can afford?
The question of Ysgol y Parc, put in its simplest terms is the question of how to protect and improve the quality of life of a community.
To put a different perspective on this; Wales is about 8,000 square miles. Los Angeles is about 4,000 square miles. I've driven buses all over Wales and L.A. and L.A. has its communities too. They need protecting and they can get pretty upset when threatened. Unfortunately there is a very real threat looming. The United Transportation Union representing some 3,500 bus drivers, just had a strike vote. The vote was 87.5% for strike action.
 Here's the problem: In this recession with layoffs and not much happening to boost the local economy, not to forget rising gas prices, more people are riding the buses. Trouble is no bus company can operate from the fare box, aid is needed, from the federal government and the state government. In these austere times spending on transportation has been cut. A large portion of the funding also comes from sales tax. With low spending on luxury items that money is not what it should be. So the company and the union are at loggerheads. The bus company points to the sad and sorry cash register and the deepening recession to propose what amounts to a steep reduction in take home pay. Also, even though demand is rising the bus company intends to cut services.
I don't really have a solution to any of this. I can't see a satisfactory end to the problems of Gwynedd or the problems of Los Angeles. Not that I'm a pessimist by nature, I prefer optimism, I would like to see a rainbow's end. There are those in Wales and those in the Bus Rider's Union who say that when the monetary based system fails the community then it's time to change the system. Perhaps it is but let's not have too much malarkey on the streets this time. My instinctive sympathies lie with the pupils of Ysgol y Parc and the drivers and passengers of L.A. Los Angeles needs a full and efficient bus service with a far more efficient use of resources than is the case at present and the County of Gwynedd, and Wales itself for that matter, needs a way to have a more real control over it's resources and a wider perimeter for its functions. Including innovative ways of funding. When it comes down to it though, all that corporate leaders and elected politicians can do is cut. When will anyone reach out and grab the creative solutions that are staring them in the face.
 I fear I'm asking too much.

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