Kingsport has become a “Progressive” Community
I would like to a thank our current elected City officials for their service and their willingness to grapple with some very difficult questions. When we criticize them, we should remember the words of Teddy Roosevelt, “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again…”
I have been there; public service is often not an easy or pleasant task. Yes, we should be grateful for their exertions, but simply putting in the effort, does not make the outcome correct. We should applaud their efforts, but not their actions.
Our community has recently gone through a fairly contentious debate about how much the city ought to spend on making our life better. Of course, the other side of the coin is how much they ought to take from us on our behalf. Apparently, taking and spending is the answer. We have become what the liberals would call “Progressive.”
Fundamentally, the trade-off was painted as a choice between looking towards the future and standing still; maintaining momentum or “do nothing.” This is simply incorrect. I am afraid that we have created a false dilemma.
First, we should note that there is nothing on the spending list that will allow us to “make a quantum leap forward.” The approach is incrementalism, so the issue is not how to take a great leap; it is how to fund things that will make us “a little better.” Put it this way, “If all of the projects are completed, how many new jobs are created and when will the tax expenditures be paid back?”
Therefore, the real choice is between creating discipline and efficiency in the public sector or taking the easy way out and simply passing the burden of the government “to do” list on to the community. We have chosen the easy way out.
There was ample opportunity to confront the staff and force them to find the saving necessary to undertake the discretionary expenditures proposed in the ONEKingsport spending plan. Our leaders have left us wanting. Balancing the budget on heals of a significant surplus last year and a windfall of new funding from previous tax increases and a future franchise fee on power was not a supreme sacrifice.
This process, the failure to demand the government be more efficient, is the exact same issue we face at the national level. It is also the same problem that the real Conservative community has battled for decades. Government always finds a need for the money and they always demand more resources.
The newly proposed budget is purported to establish numerous new government jobs. In a community that has not significantly grown for decades (other than through annexation), this is unconscionable. No Board of Directors would tolerate adding such magnitude of cost without a demonstrable return on that investment. Yet, our current Board of Mayor and Alderman did just this.
Kingsport is simply increasing the size and power of government bureaucracy. Does anyone believe that the “fees” now being instituted will ever go down? The fundamental problem is that no one seriously challenged the City staff, rather they presume their expertise. We must remember that an organization’s one clear area of expertise is in growing themselves. This is not a critique; it is simply a truism. This is a skill that must be challenged and checked.
As Regan so aptly put it, “No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear.” A fundamental role of our elected officials must be, not to just check the growth, but to roll back the ever pervasive march of government. We have failed on both accounts.
Sadly, our City leaders are following lock step with the very same Federal government we so lambast. It is about tax and spend. The only difference is the things on which they want to spend. “There is no worse tyranny than to force a man to pay for what he does not want simply because you think it would be good for him.” (Robert Heinlein)
Winston Church put it concisely when he said that for a community “to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” This is exactly what we are trying to do. It has not worked in the past and it will not work now.
I do not know where we will end up. What I am certain is that after this event, the precedent has been set. Whenever the city thinks it needs more resources, be it for schools, roads, amenities or anything else, it will simply look to the citizens for the money without a second thought. Be it taxes or fees, it matters not.
Thank you for your willingness to enter the “arena,” but I really do wish you would stop trying to “help” me. I’m not sure how much longer I can afford your “help.”