Local Government Faux Conservatives
- 11 September 2011 by Author 0 Comments
Local Government Faux Conservatives
By Richard Larsen
Published – Idaho State Journal, 09/11/11
America’s fundamental principles of life, liberty, and property are as critical, if not more so, at the local and state levels of governance as they are at the national level. The larger national issues are, to an extent, easier to juxtapose with the founding principles to illuminate the errors and voice our grievances. But those same precepts are under assault at the city, county, and state level as well. And unlike the national level where one voice is drowned out by the cacophony of millions of similar and dissimilar voices, at the local level, a few well-founded voices can make a difference right here at home, where it arguably matters most. Let’s examine a few examples.
The Greenway has been discussed ad nauseam over the past couple of years. And it still astounds me that we have city officials who would vote for, and express support for, the trumping of individual property rights by the special interests of a few influential activists. While they will rightfully say that the property owners who’re unwilling to surrender their property for the greenway would be offered “market prices” if eminent domain is declared, they would still be forced to sell their property. It’s bad enough that the government, with all its supposed omniscience and wisdom, dictates so much regarding land use. But it’s even worse when local government feels it can force their citizens to do something with their property because of someone’s “feel-good” idea. Individual property rights must be preserved and protected at the local level if we ever have hope of protecting them on a national scale.
Closely related to the Greenway issue is the “Open Space” plan adopted by the city, with the mayor casting the tie-breaker vote. Open space is another of those great “feel good” plans that on the surface seems so innocuous and positive for preserving our quality of life that no one should question it. Yet all across the nation, those feel-good open-space plans have turned from a good idea, to policy and statute curtailing private property rights. Will Pocatello’s well-drafted and craftily worded plan turn out any different? It’s not likely, as it represents the nose of the camel invading the tent of personal property utilization rights.
While we’re on the subject of property, what are we to think about a city council that authorizes the purchase of a piece of property for over a million dollars that just over a year earlier had been appraised for about $300,000? I would be willing to bet that none of those councilmen would be willing to shell out a 330% price premium on a piece of private property they wanted to buy. But for some reason, such transactions are okay when done with someone else’s money.
The city’s recycling plan is a noble effort and is commendable. It is logical to have that service available at a reasonable cost in a municipality of this size. I also appreciate the fact that participation with the program is voluntary, as it should be. However, with a voluntary program, it rather seems that the cost should be borne by those who volunteer to participate with it. Instead, all city residents pay for it whether they participate with the program or not. As a matter of principle, it seems a bit incongruous and even disingenuous to offer a “voluntary” program to citizens but have everyone equally charged for it. Many government services’ costs must be spread across the tax-payer base, whether the services are used by all the taxpayers or not, but voluntary “opt-in” programs should not be. As is, the funding formula is just like government-funded abortions: everyone pays for them, but participation is “voluntary.”
At the county level, no discernable progress has been made to undo our recent massive budget increase. Three years ago the commission increased the county budget by $10 million, nearly a 30% increase in one year. Two of the three commissioners involved in that fiasco have been retired by the voters. Our present county commissioners sold themselves to voters as conservatives, promising more fiscal restraint and judicious spending. Unless something is done in this regard, the present commissioners just might be facing early retirement as well.
In spite of the fact that we have more self-avowed “conservatives” on the city council and on the county commission, local government continues to grow, budgets expand, and costs of government continue to escalate. “Bait and switch” is illegal in marketing, but obviously is standard practice in politics. We need people in those positions who would be as parsimonious with our money as they are with their own.
AP award winning columnist Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.