Strategy Session Notes

Feeling comfortable in my new public service role, I have no trouble letting my philosophical beliefs become known.  I openly embrace debate, and as many have seen here before, I have no problems issuing opinion.

The Grand Traverse County board of commissioners had a strategy session today.  In it, we begin to develop a list of priorities for dealing with future plans and upcoming issues.  Essentially, we posted issues we could get behind, then put them on up for agreement by other commissioners.  In the process, I felt it was important  to explain part of my philosophy, and perhaps help sway some to consider what might not normally be considered before pressing their own agendas.   I had this to say as my opening remarks during this session:

What is the purpose of forming a public body or government, and giving it “power” to levy taxes or special fees on us at any given time?  Is it something we need?  Are there limitations? At what point has it done its work and run its course?

Perhaps at any level, part of the answer ought to be “to provide the sharing of resources in a way that provides an equal access to those resources by all within the governed district in a structured manner.”  For the remainder however, it must be based on how much the community is willing to suffer to provide to itself.

In our county we make these decisions when we elect our commissioners.  If we want gold plated park facilities, then we must elect those who would take our tax dollars to make that happen.  If we want a governing body that wants control over the minutia in our daily lives with the take over of such things as Baseball team organization or garbage, we must be prepared to pay for it.

We should remember however, that some things do not provide any value to SOME folks, yet those folks still have to pay for it.

Grand Traverse County has limited resources.  Like any governing body short of the Federal Government, we cannot print currency to provide all things to all people. So we must choose what is most important to ALL the residents, and find the best way of providing it in the most efficient manner.

Currently the reserve we enjoy is being picked apart by a combination of lowered revenues and increased costs.  This impacts what we can provide for services to our residents.

Do we reduce the level now or later?

Do we continue to provide some services that are marginally important now, and face draconian cuts later?

Our Bond rating is dependent on the level of reserve the county has.  Grand Traverse County currently has a very good rating.  This affects all the municipalities in the county, (the townships and city shares this) and has kept bond interest costs to a minimum for township and city projects.  If the reserve falls much more, the interest cost on future bonds goes up.  It then adds a cost for our municipal governments to do improvements and infrastructure work.

It takes away from the ability to efficiently plan the best service for the community.  At some point we will not have the luxury of ‘deciding’ whether we can afford it.  The added cost of reduced ratings will hasten the time to that day where we can no longer afford ‘reasonable’ expenses, and must even face the possibility of substantial cuts into public safety.

Leading the dependent into a false level of comfort.

If there is a manner in which a desired service can be provided outside of the resources of county government, then THAT is the first and last place to go.

When any program outside of those statutorily required depends on public largess, it automatically becomes a potential victim. ..And faces the possibility of disruption, or abandonment.

Again, ask yourself, where will we go to look for savings when times are tough?

We in effect, harm those who wish to have certain services and programs available to them when the other shoe falls.

Our mission ought to be providing a barrier free environment for the organization of business, charity, and community collaboration. To provide access to county resources fairly and consistently with little or no added burden on the taxpayers.

My point is pretty simple.  Expanding government beyond what is necessary is counter productive.  It can harm the very people we are trying to help, as well as place undue burdens on others who get nothing.

I will continue to post more as my term goes on.

1 comment for “Strategy Session Notes

  1. Bruce Barlond
    January 23, 2011 at 2:55 pm

    More county commissioners around the state and country need to make decisions based on the same criteria.

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