Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Impertinent Observations

1) I saw, with some relief, that Whatever It Takes was denied any part of the $30 million Promise Neighborhood “implementation grant” up for grabs.  A couple of years ago, WIT received a $500,000 “planning grant” from PN to develop a series of proposals to hopefully address the appalling academic underachievement that has characterized the Clarke County School District for so long.

The result was a 77-point program released just a month or so back.  I read the proposal; many of the points seemed to simply duplicate existing services and many others seemed related only tangentially to the ostensible purpose of the program (kind of like the “stimulus” crap up in D.C., the WIT proposal read like a wet dream of every taxpayer-funded idea its members could imagine).  So, in the end, we blew half a million dollars of grant money trying to secure yet more grant funding.  It seems this is how so many of such efforts end – not with a bang, but with a whimper.  To paraphrase Limbaugh, I’m glad they failed.

2) According to the Gainesville Times, the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, the lobbying organization for the state’s counties, is pushing for a change in the SPLOST law: “Currently, the voter-approved 1 percent sales tax can only be used to fund the construction of big-ticket items, such as parks, libraries, roads or sewer lines. Once those projects are built, their operation is largely funded through property taxes and user fees . . . The ACCG wants Georgia's law changed in 2012 to allow as much as 15 percent of SPLOST revenue to be used for operating costs.”

This would be such a bad idea.  It seems that government has discovered a strategy to move things that used to be financed through the general budget into their own “dedicated revenue stream” funds (LOST, SPLOST, ELOST, TSPLOST, stormwater utility fee, septic tank fee, trash-hauler fee, etc.).  That would be okay if general fund expenditures decreased accordingly, but they never do – the dedicated funds simply allow government to spend more while claiming that taxes (and/or fees) are not going up to cover the new spending which, of course, is sophistry.

3) I realize that I criticize local government quite a bit.  Unfortunately, though, the folks down at City Hall keep serving up those hanging curve balls that beg to be smacked.  A case in point is the local “public art” ordinance.  Passed in December 2010, I noted at the time that I thought it was a bad idea because it mandated unnecessary spending and created and funded yet another bureaucracy.

Be that as it may, our betters down at City Hall claimed to not have understood the ordinance they passed and we ended up with the prospect of spending some $520,000 on public art at the new county jail.  Faced with a tide of public outrage at this, the Commission backtracked and revised the ordinance.  My reading of the revised ordinance, however, leaves us right back to where we were before we had any public art ordinance at all (City Hall can require some unspecified percentage of the overall construction budget of SPLOST projects be spent on public art – or not).  A full year later we right back where we started, having accomplished nothing other than the recognition that some of the folks inside the rail do not pay attention to what they are doing (not once, mind you, but twice now on this same issue).

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