The government is using your tax dollars against you, financing the campaign for a tax increase.
Last night I attended the Boone County Pachyderms meeting to listen to the debate about the proposed 911 tax hike. The ever-principled and polite Steve Spellman made well-reasoned arguments against the tax increase and against the hastily ill-conceived plan to rebuild the entire 911 department.
Boone County Commissioner Janet Thompson and Joel Bullard, member of the Blue Ribbon Panel which devised the plan, both spoke in favor of the plan.
All three speakers made the case that the the Boone County 911 system is in need of a serious overhaul. Where they differed was on how it should be financed and the need for and feasibility of the grandiose plan.
Mr. Bullard gave the usual “it’s for the children” argument, and both he and Thompson cited anecdotes where 911 emergency callers were placed on hold. Bullard also said, “The sheriff came to us and said that he needed 25 employees, so we gave him 25 employees.”
Everyone knows that when a government wants something, it sets up a panel of yes-men (and yes-women) to formulate a plan. When the sheriff asked for 25 employees, did anyone ask if the job could be done by 20 employees?
From the discussion after the presentations it became clear that a privatization option was not explored. Since the Boone County Fairgrounds was mismanaged by the county for decades and only pulled back from jaws of bankruptcy after being turned over to a private company for management, it seems like the privatization option should have been explored. If Ed Robb’s tenure on the commission had not been cut tragically short, I’d bet privatization would have been on the table. Considering that with Ed’s untimely departure we were left with three big-government Democrats on the commission, a tax increase for bureaucratic growth is par for the course.
In fact, no other options were explored. If the county said it needed an $11.3 million building, the Blue Ribbon Panel said, “OK.” There was no out-of-the-box thinking. It seems there was no thinking at all. Like most bad government plans, this deal was rushed through a vetting theater and rushed to the voters with no public input.
As should be clear by now, Keep Columbia Free has mounted official opposition to this new tax. We believe that the city and county should use existing money to fix the problem. Over the past four decades our leadership has squandered our tax money on silly projects while ignoring 911 Emergency Management and Joint Communication. The city and the county have failed to cooperate, each grabbing their proverbial slice of pie and each refusing to fund 911. Instead, our city leaders have spent $22 million on a giant parking garage that sat empty until the city decided to lease spots to its own departments, are building the Short Street garage to serve private developers with an initial cost of $12 million, offered a $3.1 million underwriting package to American Airlines, spent $28 million painting bike lanes that make intersections dangerous, paving unneeded bike paths along Providence, and $3 million of that to market the bike ideas, and are now considering a $500,000 investment in the Blind Boone home. Our local government is like a gambling addict who loses his paycheck at the black jack table and then asks a friend for money to pay his electric bill.
Shouldn’t the 911 service have been funded before these silly plans? Shouldn’t these various local governments find a way to cut the waste and apply those savings to the 911 issue?
As the only official opposition group, our task seems like an uphill climb, especially when we are working against paid government employees who are spending public man-hours actively campaigning in favor of the new tax. How do regular citizens stand a chance against these well-paid officials? Isn’t it ethically questionable for paid employees of the county to campaign to fill their own coffers? All three Boone County Commissioners have been making the rounds speaking in favor of the tax increase and all three commissioners are each paid well over $80,000 per year. Sheriff Carey has also been actively campaigning in favor of the tax. The Sheriff makes well over $100,000 per year.
Since these officials are paid by our tax dollars, dollars that are taken from us by law whether we like it or not, when we pay our county taxes are we not funding the campaign for this tax increase? When the county spends public money campaigning to raise taxes it seems to me to be a clear violation of basic ethics. How in the world can normal people compete with the deep pockets of a government monopoly?
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