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Archive for September, 2010

Think Globally

A splash park, a dog park, more signs, . . .

If people read the bumper stickers, they don’t understand them. Local headlines for the past few years have been packed with stories of community visioning sessions. All kinds of departments have master plans which involve community outreach in which people are asked to dream big without regard to funding. Then, elected representatives are put in a position of looking like ogres if they say there isn’t enough money to go around and fill all the tall orders in all the master plans. Any global thinker the least bit acquainted with physics accepts that our physical universe is one of finite resources, and the game of life boils down to Buckminster Fuller’s ambition of putting available resources in the best places – not cultivating insatiable appetites to pillage your brother for senseless whatnots.

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Free Markets Make Good Decisions – Naturally

The Haywood County Commissioners are considering options for privatizing or partially privatizing their landfill. Refreshing for political speech is a quote from Commissioner Bill Upton:

I worry about what I don’t know might bite me.

Siting a landfill is always traumatic for NIMBY’s. One thing the commissioners are considering is selling off parts of the landfill. Before government became synonymous with abracadabra, the obvious solution would be to do just that, and introduce competition. A probable outcome would be that the specialists who have to turn a profit to stay in business would realize greater efficiencies for satisfying customers. Government, on the other hand, might see it is losing money in the venture. Haywood County saved $145,000 when it turned its garbage collecting convenience centers over to private operators. If government, relying only on user fees and not general taxation, outperforms the private sector, then the public should be expected to enjoy its low rates and quality service.

Other considerations include the fact that costs will go down if people send more stuff to the landfill, a practice about as un-PC a “Bush 2012” bumper sticker. Also, North Carolina waste sites are so regulated, it is almost cheaper to carbon footprint the trash to Georgia.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: To those who are familiar with modern connotations only, I use the word “free market” to refer to markets where it is against the rules to buy government (e.g., campaign contributions cannot buy legislation to lessen special interests’ tax burdens or undercut the competition). Traditional capitalists want government entirely divorced from economics.]

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No Such Thing

Because there is no such thing as a stupid question, I don’t know what this is:

What is the origin of the expression “profit motive”?

From mass media reports, one would think the phrase is a figment of a fractured imagination. Government operates under the assumption that those who want to work one job to pay for a house should work two in order to buy a house for somebody feigning a disability. Those holding elective office have records so expunged, they can’t conceive of a fallen world in which a handful of us ignorant masses might do something dishonest to abandon wage serfdom for the life of the leisure class.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: For those of you without a sense of humor, I am being sarcastic.]

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Boaze Straightening Board

The Department of State Treasurer has “concerns” about the Whittier Sanitary District, which supplies water to about 100 people in Swain and Jackson counties. They include failure to adopt a budget, operating at a loss, providing free service for board members, foregoing a statutorily mandated audit, and failing to bond the financial officer.

Local governments aren’t exactly sure what they can or should do, since the district is in two counties. The board consists of three elected members, but two resigned this year. John Boaze was appointed to fill one of the vacancies, and he is working hard to make the board compliant with the law.

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Return of the Freedom Club

Are you familiar with the state budget? If so, are you comfortable there is no wiggle room in financial reporting for waste, fraud, and abuse?

Joe Coletti and Becki Gray will host a WNC Freedom Club event at the Renaissance Hotel in Asheville Tuesday, October 5, at 6:00. The topic is transparency in state government. The event is free and open to the public.

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Don’t Feel All Alone

You are surely used to the stories about local governments getting federal money through a state grant for a wetlands study, a nondescript gang prevention program, or a multicultural center. Maybe your competition got federal money through the state to capture market share, or maybe your company received federal stimulus leaving you with the choice of cooperating as a socialist or going on the federal dole. Many local governments are projecting shortfalls for next year and are in need of additional partnerships, revenue streams, or other euphemisms for taxes. The state is looking at another shortfall, which it likes to fix by putting teachers on the chopping block so taxpayers can feel good about paying ransom.

Americans for Prosperity has been roving the state in a new loud bus that is not as ugly as the last one. This bus is even hauling a trailer. The purpose is to raise awareness that you are not the only person who finds government’s excuses for spending revolting. That’s why the tour is called the Spending Revolt. Actually, the R is backward. You may be fed up with paying for sweet nothings government dangles before you as they grab more and more power, but you are probably not as infuriated as AFP’s state director Dallas Woodhouse. Maybe you’d like to catch up with the tour and commiserate with fellow Americans who don’t want to feign a disability to collect free shelter and victuals – and then get excited when government announces it will put a monument on your street to give your community an identity.

Rallies are being held in several NC cities. Unfortunately, the bus came no closer than Charlotte. I was going to post something earlier, but the web page chokes my computer.

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Putting out Fires with Gasoline

Justin Hembree, town manager of Tryon, thinks certain regulations may be hampering business downtown. Rather than directing staff to examine the town’s ordinances and shuck a few items, the town council approved vying for one of thee spots in “a NC Department of Commerce program through the Office of Urban Development and the Community Planning Program.” The Tryon Daily Bulletin says the program within a program is billed as being able to help local governments identify and amend any ordinances that “might be inhibiting” business. Anybody brave enough to perform a little gedanken experiment could figure this one out with their eyes closed.

This is one of those things one must hold a public position of prominence not to understand. Consider the following taken from Agenda 2010:

  • In a 2005 John Locke Foundation survey of more than 600 North Carolina business leaders, regulatory burden was ranked as the second most important factor reducing the state’s economic competitiveness. (Only North Carolina’s tax burden ranked higher.)
  • About 81 percent of N.C. business leaders said that the cost of most government regulations exceeded their benefits.
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More Fettered Speech

The Haywood County Commissioners decided to tighten the rules on public comment at their meeting after the time was used for a free political ad. Public comment is televised at a cost to taxpayers of $175 an hour.

Public comment on the public comment weakened the guidelines. The commissioners were going to limit public comment to half an hour, while retaining the three-minute time limit for individual presentations. To make matters worse, persons interested in speaking would have to sign up, and the commissioners would get to choose who they wanted to hear first or at all. Some objected to a requirement that presenters provide the board with fourteen copies of their comments.

The commissioners eased up on the proposal and lifted the thirty-minute limit. They also explained that fourteen copies were needed only if a speaker wished to provide all policymakers and reporters with the information.

For the record, I’ve only attended about fifty meetings of the Buncombe County Commissioners in recent history, and the claim that they don’t show up until after public comment is over was not true in any of those instances.

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Just Because I’m Sick of Complaining Doesn’t Mean It’s Right

Reading the Asheville City Council staff reports this week, I was reminded of a Bill Cosby comedy act in which he explained why teenagers dressed so strangely. They knew their parents were going to complain no matter what, so it hurt less to make up superficial stuff to kindle their wrath, rather than let them jab at the core. With local government, it got old six years ago trying to talk about constitutionality or even economic prosperity. Intellectuals needed only make fun of the way I dressed to prove I knew nothing about money-in, money-out – but that’s not my point. What I was trying to say is some of this stuff sounds made up. Once government decided it had power to overrun personal liberties and the ability to levy taxes – er, partnerships – to pay for it, the sky was the limit. Consent agendas these days are full of stuff requiring the taxed class to work even harder for government’s whimsies.

Back to Cosby, lost are discussions about regulation driving up the cost of construction. In their stead are arguments over whether a developer should be required to make 10 or 25% of units affordable, or what number of workforce units would provide an equivalent community impact. It’s like the steep slope arguments focusing on stabs at 1200 or 1500 feet instead of whether a person should be personally liable for dumping mud all over his neighbor’s yard.

The last time council met, a developer wanted public dollars for his project when he couldn’t get private investors. The city didn’t have a precedent, so this week staff is proposing a new policy that would guide council to approve a project that looks exactly like the unprecedented one. If council votes to approve the policy, they will be able to give tax and fee breaks to projects that are “appropriate for the economic development of the community.” In addition to providing a number of subsidized-rent units, the developments also have to create jobs, 70% of which provide competitive salaries. They also have to be in designated “transitional” areas that encourage walking to work and stores. The development in question just happens to be in one.

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Creative Financing

The City of Asheville has been talking about October 8 for some time. Now the details have been published:

The Asheville City Council will hold a Capital Improvement Program Planning Retreat on Friday, October 8, 2010, from 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. in the Pisgah B Room at the Hilton Asheville Biltmore Park, 42 Town Square Boulevard, Asheville, N.C.

I’m not sure how renting hotel space is going to help.

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September 2010
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