by Leslee Kulba
Wild West blogger
Published with the current Asheville City Council meeting agenda is a copy of the legislative agenda for the League of Municipalities. (The link is here, and the NCLM materials begin on page 7.) The initial impression given is that everybody needs to make sacrifices to help government satisfy its appetite for expansion. The first priority listed, though explicitly not necessarily the highest, is making the state prosperous. Once again, government’s approach to making a healthy economy, as is its approach to fixing any problem, is to create a program that does anything but attack a problem directly. To create a vibrant economy, government would create a program and a revenue stream, create titles and paperwork, vision and plan – but never invent, harness, process, objects of value to be sold on the market.
Several things are in the document to make your eyes pop. A couple concern interest in allowing local governments to control real estate, which, incidentally, was made too expensive for tenants by, um, regulation, taxes, and a federal government pushing policies to get unqualified buyers over their head in mortgages? Nah, couldn’t be. If the League gets its way, local government will be able to work with an agency (MHO and OnTrack are the likely local prospects in Asheville, since they partner with government and receive grants for just about everything else.) to make sure the property is fixed up and lands in the right hands. Remember, market forces cannot do what omniscient members of city council can.
The state wants all kinds of new taxes, for things that managed to escape its grasp during the last long session. One consideration is changing the law to give counties power to levy land transfer taxes. This is after 23 counties put the matter to a referendum and the people voted it down in each case. Now, that’s the kind of government I want – folks who will use their power to grant themselves powers to go against the will of the people. On the same subject, the League wants to take away the ability of county governments to resist complying with a neighboring city’s ETJ and to have a say in whether or not cities enter into TIF projects. In the old days, when empire builders wandered outside their jurisdiction and started barking orders, they were sometimes met with resistance.
Another item of interest is impact fees for development. The report states, “Several studies have shown the local public sector costs of development exceed the local tax revenues derived from the development.” Huh? What? Everything I’ve read from government says recipients of corporate welfare have no negative components to their impact but only perpetually create vibrancy and prosperity. One gets the impression the impact fees are to help sock it twice as hard to those who get no corporate welfare to pay for . . .
It is suggested that, because government is spending all its taxes in the Sisyphan task of trying to create prosperity by doing no work, it can no longer pay for the rationales it gives for levying taxes – public safety and infrastructure. The League wants local governments to pay user fees for services rendered by public safety personnel (cops and firefighters). What’s good for the goose, isn’t good for the gander. User fees are good, and user fees are bad. If it is a matter of public safety, users should pay. If it is a matter of transportation, non-users should foot the bill so more choice riders can take the bus. Logic can wait ’til the Renaissance. We’re into gnomes and faeries for the moment. By the way, the bulk of concerns the League has with quality of life concern not peace and quiet, but whether or not government maintains control over alcoholic beverage sales.
Speaking of unquenchable thirsts, humans can’t go more than three days without water, so do you think government is going to leave that alone? No. Several controls for runoff, water treatment, etc. are recommended. A couple issues address sewage treatment. I wonder, since the League is so into the Medieval model, why don’t they advocate throwing the raw stuff into the street?