An emergency we need to manage

Is it just the heat, or does it seem to others that government has devolved into little more than a sophisticated form of panhandling?

Rather than actually providing services to taxpayers, the primary function of many highly paid local positions seems to be seeing how much money one agency can wrangle out of another.

Rather than designate one among a handful of key local officials to be overall coordinator of emergency services, the County Commission wants to hire a full-time coordinator so he or she can pursue federal money for such things as snow removal.

Wasn’t the reason for having an emergency coordinator to ensure that police, sheriff, fire, and ambulance workers pull together in times of crisis?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to simply designate a top official from one of those branches to coordinate with the others when an emergency strikes?

Does our ability to cope with disaster get better or worse if, instead of a person experienced in dealing with emergencies, we hire someone whose expertise is in filling out paperwork to recover road workers’ overtime when it snows?

God knows Marion and Marion County need work on streets and roads. Why is it the first cost taxpayers must endure is not for repairs but for a grant-writer to see what money can be eked out of the state or federal government?

And why would the state make money available to rebuild bridges only on dirt roads?

Do our legislators, who already seem to spend inordinate time devising inane rules to ensure handguns always are present in public buildings, have nothing better to do than think up odd provisos that force local governments into spending more and more time panhandling for unneeded scraps?

The federal government apparently wants to undermine local auto dealers by providing vehicles at cost — but only if the vehicles are used for police, not medical responders. What sense is there in any of this?

We’re not about to suggest that the city or county unilaterally disarm themselves in the ongoing intergovernmental war to panhandle for bigger shares of state and federal money. We are suggesting that the overhead needed to operate this bizarre game of grantsmanship is one of the reasons taxes at all levels are higher than needed.

Instead of worrying about policy, all government wants to do is grow larger. Opposition to the Keystone pipeline and support for wind farms had very little to do with environmentalism or efficiency and much more to do with potential revenue the county can or can’t cash in on.

Although some still lament windmills’ incursion into the bucolic beauty of the Flint Hills, wind power is no more economically viable than the pipeline. Both depend on huge subsidies and complicated sweetheart deals cut by lawmakers with the involvement of multi-national mega-powers.

The key difference is that the county was barred from cashing in on one deal but smartly allowed to stick its snout in the trough for the other.

In the end, rather than encourage government to save and focus on needed work, the system urges local officials to panhandle for scraps then go even more deeply into debt to pay for what’s actually needed.

J. Wellington Wimpy, who would gladly pay tomorrow for a hamburger today, would be right at home in local halls of government. Unfortunately, we see no way around it.

— ERIC MEYER

 

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