Part 2: What does ‘essential’ mean locally?

Cal Beverly's picture

We began a conversation last week about defining the essential functions of local government. I placed as my number one priority public safety.

I have since been challenged online about what “essential” really means. The assertion was that I define “essential” based on my biases. So let’s see if we can come to a common agreement on our terms.

Let me be more precise: I define “essential” as closer to an absolute rather than a relative term.

For example, judge between these two choices:

1. “It is essential that I show up with a wrapped present and thoughtful card for my wife’s birthday party tomorrow if I expect to continue living.”

2. “It is essential that I find and drink some quantity of water sometime within the next three days if I expect to continue living.”

Well, maybe those two are equally essential.

But play along with me here.

Remember Tom Hanks stranded like Robinson Crusoe on a desert island? Suppose his wife’s birthday is tomorrow back in the USA, and suppose that he has on his desert island absolutely nothing available at hand to quench his growing thirst. In that specific case, would those two choices be essentially equivalent?

I think you see my point.

Some things, some services, some activities are relatively essential but are not absolutely essential.

Maybe we can get to some agreement if we pair off the choices that many families now face.

1. “I have $100. I am $100 short of having enough cash to pay my monthly home mortgage. I am three months behind on my mortgage. They will foreclose if I miss this payment and I will eventually lose my home. My home is essential to me and my children.”

2. “I have $100. There is no food in this mortgaged house. My kids are hungry. It is essential that I provide my family with food today. I can feed my family for the next week with this $100.”

Within those narrow parameters, which is more essential? (Yes, I know: The destitute parent could seek food at Fayette Samaritans. And maybe Obama would ’copter in with a rescue mortgage payment. But where’s the next $100 coming from, and the next mortgage payment? Play by the rules here.)

Do you start to see my notion of “essential” as defined in this discussion?

Government — down to and including the smallest units of local governments — is like that mule the farmer strikes full-face with a 2X4 beam. A passerby asks in bewilderment, “Why did you hit that mule? He was just standing there.”

The farmer replies, “He never moves in any direction unless I get his attention first.”

The precipitous decline in local property values and the subsequent drop in local property tax collections have gotten the dazed attention of local governments.

We the people now must take the reins in hand and get that mule moving in the direction we determine is absolutely essential. Not relatively essential. Absolutely essential.

Part 3 will get down to cases.

[Cal Beverly has edited and published The Citizen since its inception in 1993.]

roundabout's picture
Joined: 01/01/2011
Sounds like the following:

There are known essentials; then, there are unknown essentials; then there are essentials that we don't know that we know; then there are essentials that we know that we know but can't remember; then there are unknown knowns about essentials; and last there are known unknowns.

DarkMadam's picture
Joined: 01/25/2006
Isn't it wonderful...

That in this country that we love that everyone has the right to freedom of speech. EVERYONE.... it is truly a blessing

Ninja Guy
Ninja Guy's picture
Joined: 06/26/2010
Essentially Essential Essentials

Editor Cal, when you are out traveling, do you choose the cheapest hotel to stay in? After all, it meets your definition of essential. It has four walls, a roof, a bed, linens, and all the things necessary for an overnight stay. Who cares if it is located in a high-crime area? The private security guard provided by free enterprise will ensure adequate security I'm sure! Or, do you choose a more expensive hotel with better amenities, a better location, and higher-class clientele?

Wake Up! You get what you pay for, whether its city services or private-sector services! Time to pay up or move to Palmetto! Low-tax loving moochers and parasites---move on out! Let's keep PTC a great place to live! We need to replace that water fountain thingy in front of City Hall with a Randian $ sculpture! Instead of feel-goody water fountain symbolic of harmony and all that socialist tripe, we need to let readers of Family Circle and Money magazines know that PTC stands for high taxes, high services, and a high standard of living!

Go USA Women's Soccer!

roundabout's picture
Joined: 01/01/2011
Cal wouldn't take the trip at all!

A lot of this stupid talk floating around is politics pure and simple.

For instance, I have watched some FOX news today to see what their spin is on their boss, Rupert Murdock in serious trouble in England and here , and don't you know they aren't covering i hardly at all! Saw one ten second bit about parliament and and arrest!

Then, it got so bad in Washington, that Eric Cantor, a stand-in for McConnel told the President he proposed a very short term expense budget---the very thing the President said was not good for the USA or the world. The President took it as a "calling of his bluff." He isn't bluffing!

Mr. Trump is saying that the republicans are "El Foldos!" Isn't that the opposite of what the republicans are saying?

A budget of less than one year or more, possibly, will not change our possibility of catastrophe! Even the republicans have said that.

The TEAS have struck! Told you!

PTC Observer
PTC Observer's picture
Joined: 04/23/2007
Ninja - I think

I think Milton Freeman said it best:

"Freedom to Choose"

roundabout's picture
Joined: 01/01/2011
Beverly: essentials

Some here do think that we could go on raising taxes and fees until we are destitute----well maybe just to the edge of destitute. I don't disagree with your thought about cutting to essentials.

Now we must define essential. I know it is a relative term depending upon individual thoughts, but there is a way to apply it to a city budget.

I think where we often go wrong is to pick on the costs we alone think we should cut and leave the rest alone. That of course is selfish, but natural for a human.

The fact is this is the proper approach and I hope you will pick your cuts accordingly:

You mentioned "safety" as a first priority. The question is can we have less heads and expenses and still have a relative safety. The whole question is whether we are currently safe enough or too safe for the money!

I think we are too safe for the money.

Capital equipment expenses is one where some money can be cut for several years. For example, replace only the very worst equipment each year and none of the equipment which will still function adequately.

I think the Motorcycle can catch me if I run. Heck, dump trucks last forever. Do some farmer fixes as necessary (hay bail wire and fodder twine.)

Building repairs can always wait, in some cases some longer than others.
For instance, I think the current library repairs is stupid especially since we are buying few books due to budget!

Is the library to look at or educate? (or to satisfy librarians who are complaining.) They have no budget sense.

Would it really kill a bunch of us if we closed a couple of fire stations, especially those with bad driveways! Throw in a few more cots in the ones kept.
Work four shifts eight hours per day with the fourth shift swinging on a 2-day first; 2-day second; and one day third shift, then two days off.
I have been involved in this and it works wonderfully--biggest problems: eggs for dinner and BBQ for breakfast and sleeping problems for fourth shift.
So, swap fourth crew around with other shifts.

That way one-fourth of the whole crew will always be available all of the time.

Radical? Yes. Cheaper. Yes. Full crews At less stations? yes.

There is a solution for vacations, sickness, etc., also but this is getting long--I'd be glad to engineer it for the city for free.

How high can a stack of papers get in front of a computer before it becomes inefficient to keep it caught up? Pull a Cindy Anthony's boss for that one---when someone not there the boss catches it up----oh, mercy, no!!!

I could go on but you will have to get away from the words "my essential."

ssidenative's picture
Joined: 03/18/2009
PTC poverty stricken? Not hardly...

Taking your analogy further, you believe PTC to be down to it's last $100?

Ain't so, Cal. You know it's not so, yet you continue to claim civic poverty. Cash reserves, a still strong business base, and home prices that have declined at a much slower rate than other Atlanta areas all contribute to a relatively strong local economy.

Want PTC home values to decline faster and further? Eliminating amenities, lowering services, and reducing the basic standards of this community is the fastest way to decimate our way of life. Put this community on that road and see how fast people find somewhere else to raise their kids and live their lives.

Operating in a fiscally sound, financially prudent way is essential, of course. But quit poor mouthing this town. You've cried financial wolf way too many times.

As commented to Mr. King yesterday, quit bitchin' and start paying, or find some other third world, low/no tax place to live.

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