Governmental overreach begins a lot closer to home than Washington DC. In fact for a lot of DC legislators, local government, where many of them began, was an apprenticeship in governmental bloat. For local politicians that need little more than popularity and a modest amount of cash to get elected, it’s easy to be caught up in the desire to be all things to all people. Especially at the local municipal level of government. The ability to provide for people is a heady ego trip for the uninitiated which brings with it titles, perks, acknowledgement, and sometimes lucrative business opportunities. Of course the local elected want that to continue; who wouldn’t? So the desire and requests to do more things for more people bring closed the full circle and the steady growth of bureaucracy is maintained.
Now consider the two main tenants of local government; to provide basic services and to provide for life safety. That means access to clean water, electricity, sanitation and police and fire services. That rather falls nicely in line with a Conservative view of government and there is no legal requirement for government to do more.
That, however, is rarely enough. As cities grow and mature so does the bloat, the bureaucracy, and the drain on the taxpayers.
My city, a well run financially solvent organization, does all of the following in excess of their primary two required objectives. As a result the citizens are taxed accordingly for the laundry list of services that should rightfully be left to the financial responsibility of HOAs and other community, non government organizations that citizens affected elect to belong to.
For clarity and understanding, add the words “…for which they need government employees and a tax payer funded budget” after each of the following and you will begin to see the problem with local government bloat:
- Maintain an award winning Parks Department
- Maintain an award winning Senior Center
- Maintain a Civic Center for local events
- Maintain Manicured street and highway medians
- Host special community events, parades and street parties many times per year complete with fireworks
- Police a very draconian city wide parking ordinance
- Maintain a very draconian esthetic compatibility ordinance for anyone wanting to improve their homes or property.
- Maintain a very restrictive Arbor program
- Maintain a restrictive Sign ordinance that hinders business
- Provide reduced cost meals to Seniors and Students
- Provide Youth Summer Camp
- Provide lucrative economic incentives for business
And the list goes on.
Some of these ‘amenities’ have come about because residence looked to the city to be their de facto HOA. Some because a particular developer or business sold the city on an idea. But all of them happened because an elected official wanted to do more things for more people, to make themselves more popular or to spread the wealth. Isn’t tax money free money after all? (Especially if it’s not mine?)
There were times not so long ago where it was difficult for local governments to spend all the money that was coming in. It made bloat easy and it didn’t seem so bad. But rising costs and falling property values are no longer keeping up with the increasing demands of a local population who are used to great parks, social events, and parades on the public dime. It’s not that local government has become as bloated as DC. It always has been. Think about how much the average tax burden might be reduced if government did what it was supposed to and no more.
So with just two years to go before the next election and less than a year before many municipalities see the start of their local campaign seasons, what is the solution?
We should take a page out of the GOOOH Party (Get Out Of Our House Party) play book.
- Form grass roots organizations now to seek out candidates you can believe in and who believe in the ideals above and then support them with your time and treasure.
- Make every candidate for municipal office sign a contract with the people, in the media and put it out in the public domain that they pledge to uphold the fiscal responsibility of small government.
- Make them commit to having the fortitude to say no, even if it means not getting re-elected.
- Say No to special interest
- Say No to fulfilling roles not clearly defined in the Charter
- Push back into the communities what is theirs to deal with and leaving to the marketplace what the free market does best.
- Make them know that each term is dependent on their performance to their pledge.
- And elect qualified Conservatives who will serve with their honor and integrity intact.
That is how real hope and change are made.
Government works best that is closest to the people, the smallest size possible, and which taxes people the least.