The City of Asheville can afford to commission studies about sidewalks, studies about parking garages that can be disregarded after a few hundred thousand dollars are sunk into the design phase, and studies about a green roof for the civic center. It can commit to giving Biltmore Farms, one of the wealthiest local developers, a $2.5 million economic incentives package. It can budget for education and outreach programs that teach citizens that when it rains, dirt turns to mud, which flows downhill and into streams. Amazing, huh?

But there’s one thing city government cannot fund. According to council’s agenda, they are entering into a memorandum of understanding with the Department of Justice to receive grant moneys for the purchase of police equipment. The contract states, “Due to . . . budget constraints with the passing of each fiscal year, each department is not always able to provide the needed equipment for our officers to perform their duties safely and properly.” Ten percent of Asheville’s police budget comes from “intergovernmental” sources.

Some silly precepts learned in civics class come to mind: (1) For all practical purposes, power can be considered to follow laws of conservation. It can neither be created nor destroyed, only transferred. (2) Too much power in one place is a bad thing lest it fall into abusive hands. (3) Power is never transferred to the federal government without strings attached.

The JAG grants give Asheville and Buncombe County $53,641. In exchange, the local police departments give the federal government quarterly accounting and annual performance reports. Terrorists might enjoy having so much information about public safety in one, centralized location. Better yet, Bush-haters are expected to take the carrot dangled by Bush and his Big Oil Neocons, with its conditions of federal oversight, because, as they have asserted in the past, federal grants are free money.