The Star-News

What's five bucks worth to you?

Sat, Jul 14 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Carlos R. Davalos

How much is $5?

To some it's about as significant as a slice of bread at a Las Vegas buffet. To others that five spot is meaningful enough that spending it willy-nilly isn’t an option.

For example, five bucks to me can occasionally mean a gallon of gas which will get me to work and back home until the next day when I can dance the paycheck-to-paycheck tango.

Others might have to decide, literally, if they’ll use that money for food and meds or to pay their utilities bill.

And still others may think five bucks is a small price to pay for parking conveniently, say, at Balboa Park. Or opting into a program that would help protect them from rent increases.

Like most things in life, the value of $5 is relative.

During a recent City Council meeting, city staff and elected officials discussed a program designed to protect residents of mobile home parks from rent increases.

Participating in the rent control program would cost $60 a year. Or, in other words, $5 a month. The tone, at times, bordered on puzzled insensitivity. Why didn’t residents seem to grasp that the city simply can’t afford to provide a free advocacy program?

At the risk of being presumptuous, I’d be willing to bet the majority of people living in mobile home parks are part of low- or fixed-income households. For them, $5 is more than one-twelfth of an annual insurance policy. It’s a precious resource that’s not meant to be squandered. And while participating in rent-control isn’t wasting  money, it nevertheless isn’t the priority that food and medication are. And given that most of those on a fixed income have little opportunity to earn more money in the future, you can understand how a mere $5 expenditure might seem troubling.

Everyone understands Chula Vista, like most cities, is still struggling, and that some programs will have to be cut even further or  fees will have to increase. But not everyone seems to understand that “only $5” is only five bucks. It adds up.

Take for example the proposed parking garage in San Diego’s Balboa Park. When and if it’s built it’ll cost $5 each time you park there (more on certain occasions). During the summer the daily outdoor concert series attracts a significant number of seniors. If someone visits three times a week and likes to go throughout the summer ... well, doing the math shows you it quickly adds up. Of course, motorists could park in the free lots on the outskirts of the park but that doesn’t change what’s becoming a trend: We’re getting nickel and dimed $5 at a time.

To a lot of us, that is a big deal.  

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