Tuesday, November 27, 2007

How Local Governments Can Also Over-reach

My wife and I own a second home out in northwest, NJ, in a beautiful, but fast-growing town called Sparta. It used to be an “exurb,” but now it’s more a suburb of New York City, with a constant influx of new people, most of them demanding more services and changing the once picturesque landscape into something a step closer to the urban experience.

It’s an irony that the very things that draw people out here, are often the first things people want to change.

The latest proposed change out there is the township proposing a township-wide solid waste collection, or garbage pick-up.

This has many of the long-time residents there up in arms, as many of them do what part-timers, like my wife and I do, take their own garbage to the local dump. It’s easy and a lot more cost-effective. A basic private garbage contract would run about $35/month or more, while an average trip to the dump costs about $3 or $4 per week (appx. 30 cents per pound). That’s about a week’s worth of garbage to a full-time resident and about a month’s worth for part-timers like my wife and I.

Of course, the local government contract would set a fee, set as either a surplus to one’s property tax bill, or a separate fee and would bar any “opting out” by any resident.

The current estimate of $230/year is based on a house valued at $250,000, a house assessed at $500,000 would be double that. Moreover, the contract is based on a three year contract, which increases significantly each year and does not include either a recycling pick-up, or leaf pick-up and it’s subject to a fuel surcharge.

Suffice to say, my wife and I are looking to attend the community meeting scheduled for 7:30 pm on Tuesday, November 27th to oppose this “service.” I’m heartened to have spoken to many other residents in that area who plan on doing the same.

Now, some of those people in favor of such a proposal may feel that part-timers like us shouldn’t be allowed to have a say in a matter in an area we don’t live full time, and certainly shouldn’t have a vote on such an issue, but the reality is far different. As property owners we SHOULD be among those voting on this proposal, it’s the renters and non-owners who SHOULDN’T be allowed a vote.

A short-sighted renter may get the idea that he may be able to get something (free garbage pick-up) for nothing. Of course, that’s inane! The leasor, must, like ANY commercial entity pass on any and all costs of “doing business,” and renting to tenants is really nothing more than “doing business.” Ergo, the costs of that garbage pick-up will be passed on to the tenants, in fact, since most of the rentals in this area are single family homes, if the garbage pick-up comes as a separate fee for service, that, like oil, phone and electric would probably be left to the tenant to pay.

So here’s an example of a local government run amok. A government who doesn’t really seek to “offer a service,” but set up a contract (perhaps with friends or associates of local politicians, perhaps for unnamed kickbacks) that would force all their neighbors to pay for something a large number of them do not want.

That, is how governments, even local governments one would expect to be more responsive to their immediate communities, often over-reach, and over-reaching is the foundation or beginnings of tyranny.


heidianne jackson said...

well said. this is a property owner's issue and should be votable only by those people. unfortunately, for you, the number of renters who will show up to vote in favor of this will probably out number the owners. sad, sad, sad, but true.

JMK said...

Well, Heidianne, it's worse than that.

It seems the local government there had already decided that issue and signed a contract that basically mandates residents to pay for a service (garbage pick-up) that many don't want - many have their own contracts and others find it easier and cheaper to directly take their own garbage and recyclables over to the local Municipal Dump.

America's Founders favored local governance ("State's Rights") and sought a very weak central or federal government because they assuned that local government would be more responsive to the people.

Apparently many of today's local government folks have forgotten that...I'm hoping they'll learn a very valuable Civics lesson in the enxt election.

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