Monday, December 17, 2012

Local Control For Sale

We in the 'Wood wax poetic about "Local Control". "Local Control" is the cornerstone of City governance based on the superficially obvious observation that it is smaller and generally in closer geographic proximity. But miles are not the only measure of proximity and the ballot box is not the only means of control.

A perfect and quite transparent object lesson is had by juxtaposing the High School Roundabout with the Village Parkway. In the former case Council "bowed to the will of the people" allegedly receiving a Sagan-esque "billions and billions" of emails. The objecting noise over the Parkway is unceasing and protesters have literally taken to the street. To no avail. For the Parkway matter Council hides behind "The Master Plan" claiming it is well vetted, the product of public input and not subject to further review or modification. The same could be said of the roundabout, but it isn't, and the Smart Folk are left to ponder why.

The differentiator is as simple as it is obvious. Much of the Parkway funding is from grants while the roundabout is simply our tax dollars at work. And when City Hall taps Other People's Money, these Other People tap them--on the shoulder and direct them to do what these Other People want and do it the way they want it done. If that happens to align with your "vision" and achieves your goals, and only your goals, then it is little more than another source of funding. Of course this is never the case. If you were going to do something as these Other People would have it, why should they pay?

The problem is increasingly obvious. The Other People are much more subtle than a tap on the shoulder. They tell the City up front what "their way" is making it clear it is "their way or the highway". Consequently our City bureaucrats are not identifying and characterizing problems in order to propose one or more solutions for public approval and funding but instead look to what funding is available, determine what strings are attached and then craft a "solution" tailored to the grant requirements. Problems themselves are discussed only as it furthers grant approval and characterized only to the degree required to squelch public outcry. We're not very good at the second part.

As few grants cover one hundred percent of costs these Other People are buying influence and taking the "Local Control" we've entrusted to the City at a very steep discount. It is increasingly apparent that Council exerts as much power at City Hall as the DeKalb Board of Education does over DCSD Administration.

At the end of the day when grant prospecting influences what this City does and how it is done unelected City bureaucrats are selling OUR "Local Control" for their benefit.