Sunday, September 26, 2010

Flush Forced Annexations

HARBESON: I was forced to write this column

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Sellersburg government’s attempt to forcibly annex the Covered Bridge subdivision and surrounding areas received more court action last week. Many people in the area do not want to be annexed and by law if at least 65 percent of property owners object and sign a remonstrance, they can stop a local government from grabbing control. In this case, a whopping 81.5 percent of the property owners signed on.

Usually, that’s the end of it, but there is a controversy over whether many of those people who signed can actually do so. Sellersburg government says most of the signatories are property owners who lost their right to object because of a previous agreement made with the original developers when Sellersburg provided sewer service.

This is being battled out in the government court system and Sellersburg’s lawyer explained that the town held up their end of the deal. He said, “Once this sewer service goes into effect, that’s a condition that triggers this particular provision.”

That certainly sets up an interesting situation for the homeowner. I can imagine him now, contentedly sitting on his new toilet in his new home for the very first time, probably reading the opinion page of this newspaper and completely oblivious to the future implications of that first flush.

I have even greater sympathy for the property owners outside of these subdivisions. When the subdivision homeowners are subtracted from the total it still leaves about 136 official signatures. If the battle is about the right to remonstrate, then what about these people? Where do they fit in?

They did not buy their property under any developer-government sewer agreement, so aren’t their rights being completely ignored? If their right to remonstrate for the 65 percent figure is tied to the people in these subdivisions, then their right to remonstrate has been completely taken away from them when they didn’t even sign anything.

It’s one thing to fight over an agreement that developers made with the government over sewer services in those subdivisions, but it’s an entirely other matter for these people who had absolutely nothing to do with that. Do these 136 property owners have the right on their own to tell Sellersburg to go jump in the sewer?

Will their rights even be taken into account during this current court battle? The ability to remonstrate has to exist for Sellersburg to say people signed away the right. So if the courts say the property owners inside the subdivisions can’t remonstrate because they did indeed sign this right away, then it will also be taking the right away for those who did not sign any deed restriction. It would be a self-contradictory judgment.

Forced annexations have to be one of the worst aspects of government and Indiana is not the only state wrestling over this kind of abuse. Last week Rock Hill, S.C., caught lots of attention. The situation was quite similar to what we’ve seen here locally in that the property owners were receiving a single service from a town government, except in this case the service was water. The government made news when they threatened to turn off water service, not for nonpayment, but as a threat against property owners objecting to forced annexation.

Isn’t it amazing how governments work to grow and expand? When a government entity gets involved in providing a service, it’s not good enough that people simply pay for the service.

No, unfortunately power hungry government control freaks will go for nothing less than complete territorial rule. There is one thing to be thankful for though, at least they don’t mark their territory like dogs do.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson can usually be found hanging out in the yard because her favorite activity is marking her territory.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jeffersonville's Wi-Fi Welfare Zone Creates Government Granted Monopoly

HARBESON: Why is there Wi-Fi welfare?

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Business owners who happen to be located in Jeffersonville’s new Wi-Fi welfare zone sure seem happy about being given the chance to benefit from other people’s money. I don’t blame them though — it’s not their fault. As far as I know none of them went to the government begging for this handout.

I don’t know where the idea for government-funded Wi-Fi came from. I do know the money is coming from government organizations that need to find ways to look useful and justify their existence. This means creating projects so they can spend the coerced funds that fall under their authority. Well, after they siphon off lots of it for expenses, of course.

The business that won the bid for this project wants you to think this is a great idea because it supports small businesses. This is just another example of someone who benefits from a government program doing their best to frame the message so it sounds fair. But for clarity, accuracy and truth, what the company representative should have said is that this project supports “some” small businesses.

As anyone who’s ever been in the Wi-Fi welfare zone knows, the businesses that have a market-based reason for providing wireless access to their customers could already do so. There was opportunity for any technology-based businesses to make money for their families by offering various competing technological services to these downtown businesses. This opportunity is no longer possible in this Wi-Fi welfare zone. What exists now is a government granted monopoly to, effectively pushing out competitors.

Also consider the small businesses located in less favored areas of the city. If they decide Wi-Fi is important for their business model, not only do they now need to invest their own money for their business, they also have to support those in the Wi-Fi welfare zone, who could even be direct competitors.

In addition, since Internet users can hook up anywhere in the Wi-Fi welfare zone, they don’t need to spend a dime in anyone’s business. Gone is the natural market environment of mutual cooperation and exchange, where the customer is happy to purchase goods and support a business in return for the extra customer service provided.

This project does not support small business. It only serves as another sad example to clearly demonstrate the harmful consequences of government intervention into free and competitive enterprise.

Some readers might be irritated at my use of the phrase, Wi-Fi welfare zone, and you may have a point. After all — as most of us understand welfare — it is intended to be used for those in hardship or need. Yet this situation is like seeing people who can already afford to eat fancy steak dinners every night and government deciding they need to spend other people’s money so these folks can continue eating the fancy dinners. So I guess it’s not like welfare. It’s worse.

Another stated benefit is that this project will increase the hits to the city’s website. Why is the city trying to buy hits to its government website? Do they want to show increased usage in order to justify future expenditures? And why would more people go there? Are we really supposed to believe that new visitors and shoppers to the area will be spending their time on the Internet so they can watch Mayor Galligan videos?

However, if this project is going to provide links, let me suggest that would be a great one to add. This would prove useful to anyone interested in learning more about economic freedom and get a better understanding of how government intervention can only lead to dependency.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson creates irritating phrases when she gets irritated. If this irritates you, then irritate her by sending your own irritating phrases to her.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Sheeple In Training?

Does anyone else find this creepy?

Free the Children!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Staring Blankly Is Hard

HARBESON: Readers write, Dear Debbie

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — This past weekend, if someone mentioned my column or a local controversial issue, I just stared at them blankly. Even if they mentioned a local politician, I still just stared at them blankly.

Then when they asked if I was feeling OK, I shrugged my shoulders and said I just didn’t have an opinion one way or another. Then they stared at me blankly.

All of this blank staring was beginning to look like a legislative session so to snap us out of it, I explained that I was only trying to celebrate Labor Day weekend the way most people do — by taking a rest from my work.

It completely wore me out.

I don’t have the energy to write a column now so you know what that means. Yes, time to share reader’s opinions.

The column about storing a gun in your locked car while at work led to several people writing in with additional examples of why someone might want to do so.

One writer said, “No pun intended, but you hit a bull’s-eye on this one. There are a myriad of reasons for possessing weapons secured in your automobile on your employers property while you are working. Following are just a few of many:

1. You live in a desolate section of Clark County with the nearest neighbor 1/2 mile through the woods and you return from work at midnight.

2. Your workplace parking lot is unlit and unsecured. You work the second shift. You would want your weapon handy

3. Coming home from work at midnight — or any other time — your car breaks down on a desolate stretch of a county road.

4. Car jackings at night at stop lights are not uncommon. You would want your weapon handy.

You get the drift ... Galligan doesn’t!”


Several people wrote in response to my column on the tax referendum for Clarksville schools, where I suggested that those for a tax can always pay it voluntarily. Some didn’t seem to think my idea would work:

“I’ll bet this one is going to go over well! I’m amazed how often people will demand a general tax increase; but, if there is not one, they will be the LAST people on earth to freely give any money to the cause.”

“Gee, I know those people that voted yes will run right over to the school and give them money.”


After a recycling column, I found out one reader also shares her opinion regularly with the solid waste district:

“Every year the bill irritates me no end; I write [in red] “Paid under Protest” on my check and the bill remittance.”


The responses on the Lee Hamilton column had the predictable love it, hate it responses but I found out that many are a bit conflicted about our government system:

“Your article on Hamilton and career politicians was 100 percent accurate. Hopefully people will listen. Having said that I still would prefer Hamilton over Hill if that were the only choices I had. Naw ... maybe I just wouldn’t vote. I hate voting for the lesser of two evils.”

“… I have to commend you on an honest look at what Lee was saying … Lee did some good things. But I agree with you, he was very instrumental in giving us a huge government that appears to be nearly out of control.”

Finally, let me share one last tidbit from someone advising me on my topic ideas:

“Ease up on my buddy, Tom, would you? Give somebody else your attention for a while. How’s this for an idea: ‘The reason I write so much about Tom Galligan is that he appears to be the only elected official in Clark County who is really making things happen!’ ????”

When I read that, I just stared at my computer screen blankly.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson enjoys staring blankly at readers’ responses.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Government Gone Wild: Ohio River Bridges Project

HARBESON: Delusions of a grandiose bridges project

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — I was in my PJs reading this paper’s front page article about Jeffersonville’s credit card statements when my husband rudely interrupted the fun.

“Debbie,” he said sternly, “You’re working on a column about Peggy Wilder aren’t you? I see it in your facial contortions.”

“Of course. It’s just so deli-,”

“Stop right there. You said you wouldn’t write another column about it.”

“Yeah, but ...”

“Debbie, you promised.”

I pouted for a while but I knew he was right. It would be personally unacceptable to break my promise. I got dressed and thought about a new topic. I put on my bra, the one I bought from Victoria’s Secret with my husband’s business credit card. Fortunately, that gave me all the support I needed and a new topic pushed up immediately.

I remembered I wanted to respond to a guest column written by Michael Dalby, president of One Southern Indiana. In this column, Dalby derides people who aren’t too enthusiastic about the direction of the Ohio River Bridges Project, our best local example of all that is big government.

See, some people actually have the nerve to think that the project should be scaled down. They believe that doing more than building the east-end bridge right now is unacceptable. Dalby said they are delusional and not living in reality.

As soon as I read that, I immediately sympathized because I’m called delusional all the time. Sure, it may be for completely different reasons, but still I know how they must have felt.

Dalby doesn’t want to scale down to just an east-end bridge because he said it will do nothing for the transportation problems downtown. He is in full support of the project as is, which is nothing short of humongous, involving two brand new bridges and a total revamping of Spaghetti Junction. The cost estimate is staggering — more than $4 billion and counting. For that kind of money, it seems like we should be able to just part the river like Moses did with the Red Sea.

Dalby also took these people to task on tolls. Many people already dislike the idea of tolling on a new bridge because they feel like they are already paying with gas taxes, but they really became upset when they heard the discussion move toward the possibility of also tolling existing bridges. Dalby said if tolling is needed to finance the project, then he thinks it’s a good idea and is confident the bi-state bridges authority will set up a smaller toll for local residents. He then claims that the current estimate of $3 is unacceptably high.

Really? Couldn’t this be a delusional vision on his part, to think the entire project could be done without a $3 toll on local residents? What will he say if $3 is considered to be the only way the souped-up version of the project will get accomplished? Will he accept this as reality?

If it can be considered delusional and lacking in reality for one group to claim that parts of the current project are unacceptable, then the same principle must apply to Dalby and anyone else making claims of unacceptability — on any part of the project.

It’s sad that tolls are even a part of this discussion because it implies that tolls are not ever a good idea. But tolls would make perfect sense as a pricing mechanism in a competitive transportation market.

The reality is that government involvement and monopolization in transportation has led to central planning, which has led to the heavy subsidization of one particular politically favored mode of travel over others, which has led to everything we’ve seen happen with this bridges project over many, many years.

Or maybe that’s just my delusion.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson often finds herself in discussions that involve a bridge project because people are always telling her to go jump off of one.