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Our View: Community heroes save Wonderbus

Heroes don't have to be swashbuckling comic book figures who achieve the impossible. In fact, usually they aren't. They just have to be people who work hard for a good cause.

Last week, a community of heroes in Crescent City finally saw their hard work for a good cause come to fruition. The Del Norte County Library, Del Norte County Unified School District, First 5 Del Norte and Crescent City resurrected the Wonderbus.

The Wonderbus program used to bring books and educational materials to young children living in rural areas. But since the summer a lack of money in the library budget left the Wonderbus on blocks.

Under the agreement, First 5 Del Norte will own and operate the bus with the library holding the lien. The school district will house and maintain the bus. All four entities will allocate money to keep the bus rolling.

Running any program with four different groups – three of them governments at that – is difficult and something most elected officials shy from. Accountability for tax dollars, restrictions on how grant money can be used and turf wars cause most governments to simply avoid operating joint programs.

That needs to change, however. Taxpayers increasingly demand, and in many cases even need, more services. Too few want to pay more taxes, however. In many cases, simply sharing power and programs can ensure more services are provided more efficiently. It not only eliminates government duplication but also can fill the gaps. It can mean better coordination and communication between governmental departments and levels.

In the case of the Wonderbus, no one of the four groups could afford the $80,000 needed annually to run the program. But divided between four entities, the program is more affordable and can even cost less.

Certainly the Wonderbus will pay back to society its annual expense. Many rural children do not have access to books or computers, putting them at a disadvantage when entering school. But if only one child a year is inspired to stay out of trouble because he or she discovers the joy of learning and is better prepared for school, we'll easily save the $80,000 in law enforcement, court and jail costs.

And that's quite a heroic achievement itself.


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