Friday, March 11, 2005


It's funny. I have heard many general objections to the idea of Libertarians serving in government, usually based on misconceptions, resulting in preposterous doomsday scenarios.

My favorite is the hog farm scenario. Because Libertarians believe in the right of private owners to enjoy the fullest property rights possible, some interpret this to mean that hog farms will sprout up next to their fine suburban home or church. They want zoning to ensure that the hog farm will be kept away. What would really keep the hog farm away is the value of land in the area. If there are $200,000 homes on $40,000 half-acre sites, there is no way a hog farmer will be interested in the adjacent parcels. In order to make a living, a hog farmer needs acreage that goes for about $4,000/acre, not $80,000/acre. That price will keep him away better than any zoning regulation. After all, zoning regs vanish with the payment of the variance fee.

In the confusion over the distinction between libertarianism and libertinage, we find that some people think that anarchy will plague any jurisdiction that elects even one Libertarian, with rioting in the streets, and the city in flames.

So, at last, I arrive at my long-winded irony. Whenever I see a major party mayor or governor looking at a tight budget, the first thing out of their mouths is the threat of layoffs affecting police or fire forces.

Indianapolis Mayor Bart Peterson, a Democrat, proposed an intriguing plan to consolidate the police and sheriffs departments. It's worth a look, and if the consolidation can produce savings to the taxpayers without a loss in efficiency and effectiveness, it's worth doing.

Because the consolidation apparently needs legislative approval, and the Republicans in the legislature are stringing the approval along, the Mayor fell back on scare tactics. Peterson put the following items on the block, to various degrees, per the Indy Star:

Mayor Bart Peterson outlined some services he said could be cut if his
Indianapolis Works plan to streamline local government is not approved by the
General Assembly. Peterson said not all of the cuts likely would have to be
made. Here are examples:

Police officer layoffs
Firefighter layoffs
Reduce street sweeping
Reduce garbage collections
Eliminate non-required water qulaity monitoring
Close city parks
Reduce staff in the Mayor's Action Center
Eliminate historic preservation planning.

This is the kind of slash-and-burn cutting that we get accused of, but would never propose. We propose the removal of frivolities. Mayor Peterson proposes to eliminate the essentials first while maintaining the frivolities, to reduce quality of life for all citizens rather than for political hacks.
"We need to do whatever it takes to avoid making these choices," Peterson said.

Very well! A Libertarian wants to cut many things from a city budget. Funding for the police or fire is not one of them. I wouldn't dream of proposing to close parks or stop picking up garbage. Since he seems to be begging for it, let's give the Mayor a little free help.

Any lobbying a city does, such as for a football stadium, should be cut immediately. No city or other government entity should ever be involved in the promotion of the arts. Art is in the eye of the beholder, so the last thing I want is a soul-less bureaucracy enforcing official beauty. Cut all associated expenses immediately. Pie-in-the-sky, speculative alternative transportation is the stuff of billionaire adventurers, not responsible cities. Cut it immediately. Is it really necessary that the Mayor's staff be as large as it is? Cut it immediately.

Go to the City's website. There is all kinds of pork ready to be chopped. Chop it out and see if there isn't plenty of money suddenly available for the proper functions of government, such as safety forces.
Hamilton County Liberal Republicans 2

If you want proof that government is growing, look no futher than the buildings government occupies.

The City of Noblesville's government is growing. The proof is the land the City purchased, and the buildings on that land that were demolished or being moved. From the Noblesville Ledger story:
In February, the Noblesville Common Council approved a maximum $16.4 million
budget to build a two-story addition and renovate the existing City Hall. The
budget is based on an estimated cost of $175 per square foot.

If you want proof that local Republicans are becoming tax-and-spend brethren of the Democratic Party, look no further than the language loaded with mollifying justifications.
"We don't anticipate it will cost that much," Mayor John Ditslear said
Wednesday, pointing out that costs were estimated high.

A resident who owns a $150,000 home would pay an additional $21 in annual
property taxes in 2006 if the city approves the maximum budget. In 2007, the tax
goes up by $31, the highest increase expected during the 21 years needed to pay
off the bond issue.

The problem with this attitude, whether in Noblesville or in Carmel, is that there is a cumulative effect to be considered. This Noblesville bond will be repaid over 21 years. How many other bonds, existing and yet to be concocted, will City residents also be paying off over that time? To paraphrase Senator Dirksen, $31 here, $31 there, and pretty soon you're talking about real money.

What possible benefit will the citizens really gain from the additions to City Hall? I can't think of any, and I haven't seen any specified. I can point to the costs, though. Since it is true that if you build space for bureaucrats, the space will be filled with bureaucrats, we can expect that in addition to the cost of the building, and the cost of taking the land off the tax roll, there will be the cost of the bureaucrats- salaries, benefits, vehicles, clothing, etc.

Hamilton County Republicans continually show themselves to be fiscal liberals. This is just the latest example.

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

Don't Let The Door Hit You

Tonight is Dan Rather's last telecast. When Rather announced that he was leaving, I thought that after years of not watching network news, and with him and Brokaw both leaving, I would give the networks another shot.

I did. Once. I quickly remembered why I stopped watching. Most of what they air just doesn't strike me as news that matters. Since they are broadcasting to a national audience, I expect issues of national importance to be covered. Wars, the Congress, the White House, the economy- these are all items of national importance.

Local weather events don't qualify, even if they are of great magnitude. Random acts of violence don't qualify, either. Yet, these make up the bulk of the reports. Thus, it's a waste of my time.

Like an increasing number of people on this planet, I get my news online. I go to news sites I like and in 10 seconds or less, I skim the headlines. If anything grabs my attention, I read the article. No waiting for a loathsome story on an ice storm in Wisconsin to pass. No yawns as a story about shootings in Mississippi drags along. I like to cut to the chase.

Rather's last broadcast doesn't interest me in the least.

Monday, March 07, 2005

Liberal Republicans Overrun Hamilton County

The re-invention of Marion County is beginning to get out of hand up here. The worst public proposal in the history of the County, seemingly backed by every Hamilton County Republican, is the $800 million light rail boondoggle proposed for the Nickel Plate railroad corridor. If successful, it would remove almost 4% of cars from I-69. Almost. If it removed 60%, I'd be impressed. Alas.

Pointless waste of this magnatude is hard to top, but three-term City of Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard is doing his level best.

The first project proposal that rankled fiscal conservatives was the lavish Central Park. I am all in favor of public parks and greenspace. However, this item includes building a water park, which is something best left to private enterprise. Sadly, there was very little backlash within the GOP.

Finally, the most recent proposal has allowed some Republicans to notice that the spending outside the proper functions of government is getting ridiculously out of control. This time, the Republican mayor wishes to build an $80 million concert hall. From the Sunday Star:
One of Indiana's most affluent cities soon will begin debating whether to build an $80 million concert hall -- but amid growing concern that Carmel finally has found something it can't afford.
"The mayor has spent thousands and thousands of dollars getting this project to this point, and he's just assuming, like everything else, that we're all going to buy into this," said City Council President Kevin Kirby, among critics who suggest Carmel should deal with problems such as annexation and traffic congestion before signing the biggest check in city history.

"To me, $80 million seems like an absurd number. Right now, there's not a whole lot of support on the council for this."

Good. There shouldn't be any support on the council for this. $80 is an absurd number when talking about the proper role of government and spending on an arts center. Government shouldn't even be spending a nickel.

One correct role for the office of mayor when seeking a concert hall is to seek a private developer to build it, and a promoter to operate it. The proper role of city government is to ensure the public safety, to manage the public infrastructure, and to manage a small number of services. Anything above and beyond that is the sort of liberal noodling the GOP used to torment the Democrats about. This is especially true on the arts, where certain Republicans made a living attacking the funding the NEA received. Anymore, it's hard to tell the difference between the two parites.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Sunday's Letters

The Indy Star featured two letters from Libertarians- from me and from Chris Ward. Here's Chris':
I am sincerely dismayed at the actions of the House Democrats this week. Sacrificing the people's business to counter what they perceive as a Republican "power grab" was narrow-minded and extremely arrogant.

Wasting two days of the General Assembly cost Hoosier taxpayers thousands of dollars. Democrats should be ashamed of their fiscal irresponsibility. First, they ran up the deficit the state currently has, now they want to waste even more of the taxpayers' money by not even showing up to work?

In 2006, I hope that citizens remember what happened this week. If you want true bipartisanship and officials who care about your individual needs, vote Libertarian.

Christopher D. Ward
5th District Representative, Libertarian Party of Indiana
New Palestine

I can't say what Chris originally wrote, but my letter was slimmed down a little bit. Here's what the Star printed:
Michele McNeil's article on lobbyist activity was enlightening. It is important to track the various interests that try to influence legislation.

So, it was of great interest to see that the city of Indianapolis was listed as one of the top 10 lobbyists, ranking ahead of AT&T, the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association and Trump Casinos.

I expect gambling interests to spend big money to influence legislation. While the ethics of lobbying and its effects are subject to debate, nobody can question the fact that it's their money to spend. In the case of the city's lobbying efforts, tax dollars are being spent.

This is a moral outrage and an indictment on the priorities set by the mayor. Given the chance, the people would never vote to have tax dollars spent on lobbying.

Tax dollars should be used for funding safety, sewers that work and other proper functions of government.

Mike Kole
Secretary, Libertarian Party of Indiana

Edits occurred in the original's final two paragraphs, with portions chopped out highlighted in bold, as shown below:
This is a moral outrage, and an indictment on the priorities set by the Mayor. Given the chance, the people would never vote to have tax dollars spent on lobbying. The Mayor struggled for months to find the money for the Police, but could squander six figures on lobbying for a stadium.

If the Mayor wants to secure his legacy with the help of the legislature, he should spend his own money. Tax dollars should be used for funding safety forces, sewers that work, and other proper functions of government.

I was pretty keen on reminding people that the Mayor played hardball with the Police, claiming there was no money. If there is no money for police, a very proper governmental function, how is there money for a frivolity such as lobbying? I was also very interested in making an overture towards the possible motivation for this spending, and to name the moral outrage. Trump spent his own money on lobbying, so I won't be taking him to task. The Mayor spent the people's money! While I might raise an eyebrow at the Mayor if he spent his own money, I wouldn't be able to cite it as a moral outrage. It would be his money down the hole, and his money is his to blow.