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  • Last modified 2277 days ago (June 27, 2012)

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Government waste is set in concrete

Anybody up for a car wash to pay for fixing Fourth Street across from the new jail? We seem to have tried everything else. And I don’t know about you, but I’d pay plenty to see scantily clad versions of Dan Holub and Mary Olson tossing sudsy sponges back and forth across the hoods of dusty cars fresh off the back roads of Marion County.

The current standoff between the city and the county over who will pay what portion of how big a street project would be comic if it weren’t so tragic.

Details are largely boring — promises and percentages and plans for grade levels. The simple fact is, neither the city nor the county has the money to pay for what they, using our money, messed up. Already we’ve charged the jail, complete with stuff it probably didn’t need, on a gigantic credit card — a bond issue we’ll be paying on for years to come. The city’s only hope of doing anything with its streets similarly depends on finding yet another gigantic credit card to further mortgage our future.

A favorite pastime these days is to blame Congress and the president for creating huge deficits. Exactly what do you think the city and county have been doing? We’re living so far beyond our means we probably can’t afford sudsy sponges for Mary and Dan to toss around.

Do we need the street? Absolutely — it and a lot more, including repairs to the suspension-wrecking alley behind Central National, repairs to which died Monday after a series of rather unusual votes and abstentions.

What we don’t need are all the other trappings that the city and county bureaucracy have accumulated over the years — massive increases in hiring and pay, a seemingly endless fleet of vehicles for the burgeoning bureaucracy to drive, and office space that swells larger and larger even as the population paying for it gets smaller and smaller.

Maybe the federal government can get away with programs that do things like pay farmers not to farm one out of every 20 acres of cropland in the county. County and city government cannot.

The problem is that bureaucrats, not elected officials, appear to be the ones in control. Take, for example, the city administrator’s annual performance review. Not a single council member Monday questioned why they should agree to evaluate him on only three of the 17 responsibilities in his job description. Nor did they question his own suggestion that they evaluate him not for how well he deals with the public or city employees but rather for how well he deals with council members.

Until we are willing to tell city, county, state, and federal governments to cut their pay and their staff the way any private business confronted with budgetary shortfalls would, we’re going to continue to do without needed streets and instead have such things as expensive new parking lots for employees, like the one being constructed behind the jail.

All that concrete would have been put to much better use on the street in front of the jail, where actual taxpayers drive, instead of creating nicer parking spaces for people the taxpayers pay.

— ERIC MEYER

Last modified June 27, 2012

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