The envelope (with all the money), please!

I listen to the City Council with rapt wonder. How they discuss money, taxes, expenditures and budgets!

My mind boggles as they go on and on with dire projections of services cancelled, needs met and, “How can we keep going?”

(Actually, I have never heard such a cry for help, but their language and their sour faces, rigid poses and heavy shaking of heads reveal all.)

This would never have happened in Dodgie Shaffer’s house. (I am considering city budgeting as a vastly larger household budget.)

Dodgie was a fast friend during the Fifties. She rented an apartment in a historic home that had slave quarters and a staircase where a suitor had shot himself because a belle refused him. Once, Dodgie had said, “If these walls talk, take it down... it will sell.”

Her dinners were wonderful occasions.

I asked her how she could afford such splendid dinners on an architect’s salary and she said, “I use the envelope method.”

“And, what is that?” I asked.

I had envelopes but no budget. What needed paying I tried to pay or delayed paying until guilt overtook me.

She retrieved a box from its hiding place, unlocked it and revealed 10 envelopes, some bulging with cash, others sadly empty.

Rent was one title followed by Insurance, Utilities and Food. “If we run out of money in one envelope, we stop spending,” she said.

One envelope must have been labeled Joy or Entertainment or Education, for she knew about the enriched life.

“Why don’t you stay for dinner?” she asked me, though I saw the Food envelope was slim.

The grits were delicious as were the sausage. Frozen grapes were dessert. I had a fine time with artists, writers and those who like to talk.

I left feeling I had had a lavish dinner, but ate another dinner when I came home.

The message, if there is one, is that I wish the city had envelopes.

For example, there could be an envelope entitled, “Grant money.” This envelope would always contain cash because grant money is money given by our munificent government and can only be spent for a specific project.

An Administration envelope must also have cash and usually does because the employees who keep us going must be paid. (Woe to those who don’t pay salaries. Talk about outcry!)

Many more envelopes would follow, too many to list here.

My most favorite envelope would be the Endowment envelope.

The arts have proven to be moneymakers, for every survey reveals that patrons spend more money in additional services — eating out and shopping — than the amount the city pays the organizations. The theater, studio tours, lectures, exhibitions and garden tours enrich the community. They are priceless.

Support for the Arts envelope in the council box should remain equally as full. Didn’t the city accept the Cultural Facilities Element in the city’s comprehensive plan?

City Council members who insist that the Endowment fund must be cut would have to leave the dais and literally take the cash from the Arts Endowment envelope.

Woe to those councilpersons!

Another outcry will be heard from audiences, teachers, performers, salesmen, children, craftspeople, students, and people in this city who rely on the arts for moments of joyful pleasure, inspiration and education.

I could ask Dodgie to come up here and help keep the envelopes in order, but she’s scared of flying. She never had a Flying envelope.

Sally Robison is a Winslow artist and the author of “The Permanent Guest’s

Guide to Bainbridge Island.”

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