Saturday, November 13, 2010

The Efficiency, Professionalism and Cooperation of Local Governments

HARBESON: Don’t pool your resources

SELLERSBURG — I can’t say much about the rest of my body, but after diving into the details of the Charlestown pool controversy, my head sure is swimming.

In case you’ve been busy with other recreational activities not run by government, let me catch you up on the basics.

Greater Clark County Schools needed land to expand Charlestown High School. The city government swimming pool happened to be on land the school corporation wanted. So, these two government entities supposedly entered into an agreement for a land swap and the new government school was built.

This is an example of the efficiency, professionalism and cooperation of local governments, right? Wrong.

No written and signed contract exists for this land swap deal, so when the time came to actually complete this transaction, government officials didn’t agree on the details and the fighting began.

Government lawyers — probably the same ones who should have made sure signed contracts were in place to begin with — now had plenty of work to do. After two years of negotiations, appraisals, threatened lawsuits and other legal wrangling, the two government entities settled and the school corporation agreed to pay the city $122,000. No land swap was included.

Now at this point you might think the city would take this money and put it toward replacing the swimming pool that was destroyed. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead the money is going into a fund for a much bigger project.

Mayor Bob Hall wants to spend money on a “total youth and family activities complex” which he says will cost more than $2.5 million. Of course, the mayor has no clear idea where this money will come from.

I don’t know what it is about mayors in Clark County, but every time plans are made that involve water, they fall off the deep end with grand visions that require spending other people’s money at exponential rates.

A group of residents who want the current pool replaced don’t really care for Mayor Hall’s plan. They just want a new pool built. This group collected signatures and showed up to share their views at a recent council meeting.

At one point during the meeting, the pool debate actually started to veer off into the area of voluntary action when a councilman asked a speaker if he would donate land for the pool. The resident said no, but offered to match any voluntary dollar contribution this councilman would donate.

In response, the councilman said something about the resident’s money being “too dirty.”

I don’t know what he meant by that. I do know that any government employee would be very wise not to ever mention the term “dirty money.” Of course, I’m assuming he actually has a real understanding of how the money is collected that pays his salary.

It’s too bad this councilman chose to muddy the conversation right at the point when the discussion was starting to move in the direction of respect for all by way of voluntary donations — particularly since neither the government nor this group of citizens pushing for the pool are considering the people who don’t care to be involved with any form of government-provided water recreation.

When you really stop and think about it, what is government, which was originally set up to protect individual rights, doing in the pool business anyway? Or to put it another way, why aren’t they also in, say, the bowling alley business?

This isn’t really about a pool. This isn’t about swimming. This isn’t even about “the children,” or sprinklers or water guns. This is about who has control of the government gun.

Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson says her favorite swimming stroke is the unregulated freestyle.

1 comment:

  1. I've mainly considered the pragmatarian approach at the federal level but no reason it wouldn't work at the local level. People could divvy up their property taxes among the various local public goods.

    The Mayor might want a $2.5 million dollar rec center but whether his plan received sufficient funding would depend entirely on the tax payers.