I can’t imagine that I’m the only person relieved that the country’s quadrennial madness is once again in our wake and that for at least a year we can concentrate on some real issues, free from the cumbersome burdens of political expediency and candidatorial hyperbole. (OK, so maybe there’s so such word in the dictionary, but there ought to be, and besides, you know what I mean.)
What no one at the federal level wanted to talk about this past season was the precarious situation in which—lacking the “cure of the printing press” to cover shortfalls in their overstressed budgets—many of our state and local governments find themselves. Bad enough that income, sales, and property taxes have plummeted in the downturn, but such traditional cash cows as waste receipts have taken a hit as well, pushing many municipalities to or over the brink of bankruptcy.
Although it may comfort some in high places to blame poor planning and profligate fiscal behavior on the part of their predecessors, such conscience-salving does nothing to meet the growing list of crises that assail even the most prudent of public service providers…waste managers, in particular, whose fiefdom lacks the immediate concern accorded such high-profile activities as police, fire, and employee retirement fiscal demands.
If you, as I do, have begun to believe that what we’ve seen over the past half-decade is only a prelude to tougher fiscal challenges to come, then it’s high time we work to change the experiment. What this suggests to me is that we, and by that I mean to include not just public works managers but those in charge of all municipal service departments, need to work in concert with one another rather than as separate budgetary entities…a rather lengthy call for municipal statesmanship by whatever name you wish to call it.
Maybe your constituents are willing to accept higher taxes and/or user fees to shore up distressed public programs, but those burdens do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, they impact the very fabric of our free enterprise system based on the ability and willingness of citizens to invest in areas of personal interest rather than paying for the ever-growing welfare of governmental agencies.