Do you wonder how they do it? How do they take your goodwill, your trust, and your money? This is more of a local story, but applies to every city and every State in the era of funny money and your family's ability to survive. You may think the amounts I am about to relate are peanuts, comparatively. (Peanuts managed to put Jimmy Carter in the White House, don't forget) It all adds up, until eventually you get mountains of overwhelming debts.
In May of 2010, the voters in Gastonia turned down a referendum for parks and recreation. Additionally on that ballot was a referendum for street and sidewalk improvements which passed. Shortly thereafter, our mayor at the time and the council who sat with her, decided to ignore the voters and borrowed from something called a two-thirds bond. This allowed them to by-pass the voters and go merrily about borrowing money for parks and recreation anyway. I guess the operative phrase that comes to mind is, "Up yours, voters!"
So here we are after a 2011 election and we have 4 new council members and a new mayor. Hope springs eternal. What does the planning department do? This coming Tuesday, the planning department is presenting yet another borrowing opportunity for parks and recreation.
Fortunately one can read the upcoming council agenda online. The proposal for parks and recreation is there for anyone to see. This time it is paving bike trails on or along an already superfluous greenway project. The reason for the proposal? A North Carolina State grant from NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources combined with another grant from a non-profit business coalition. Hmmmm. (Money for nothing and your chicks for free?....not quite.) The entire project for 3 miles of bike trail is $156,000.00. This comes to $52,000.00 per mile. The grant from the non-profit business coalition is $10,000.00. So tax payers would be on the hook for $146,000.00. The State of North Carolina is, according to Civitas, $9.4 Billion in debt. The grant from NCDENR is $86,000.00. The rest of the cost would be borrowed from something called a General Obligation Bond for Gastonia residents to cough up $71,000.00. (The GO Bond may be already borrowed and sitting there for the city to tap into. I'm not sure, but looking into that.)
A pittance, you say. What is $146,000.00 in the big scheme of things? Can't we all just get along? Let's give the biking enthusiasts their 3 miles and just move on. Eh? Who wants to fight over peanuts, anyway?
The proposal sites two things as reasons to do it. One is that "bike trails fit" into the 2025 Comprehensive scheme cooked up by the Sustainable Development and Smart Growth folks. That was a plan voted on by the former mayor and previous council, but was never on a referendum, so the voters were just told to stuff it down and like it. The other is that this is just the beginning of making bike trails fit into the coming flow of bike lanes and trails throughout the streets and beside the streets in Gastonia. That statement leads to the conclusion that bicycles are now part of the transportation system, more than recreation. So which is it? Transportation or recreation?
According to the grant from NCDENR, it is "recreation." (Remember, the voters here all turned down borrowing for recreation.) Which makes me wonder why NCDENR doesn't give a grant to Kate's Skating Rink. After all, Kate's is promoting healthy exercise and good cardio activities. But Kate's doesn't have a non-profit "coalition." The biking coalition is called Bikes Belong." On their site it says this: " Since 1999, Bikes Belong has awarded 236 grants to municipalities and grassroots groups in 46 states and the District of Columbia, investing nearly $1.9 million in community bicycling projects and leveraging more than $657 million in federal, state, and private funding." That is a 2-657 ratio of return on investment over 12 years. Nice work if you can get it. I think that is approximately a 28% per year gain on money invested, using our tax dollars of course.
Notice how they (planners and politicians, scammers and bureacrats) manage to circumvent the voters and just plow over them, borrowing more and more money and giving tax breaks to favored businesses while the rest of the schmucks get saddled with paying for it all. That is how they are breaking the public trust bank in America. The method is the same from here to San Francisco. This is just one tiny little microcosmic episode to illustrate the reason citizens are just a little bit upset and more than disenfranchised at this point. I guess some small percentage of biking enthusiasts are tickled pink. And some environmentalists who can't wait to take all of our money and get us out of our cars are dancing at the Governor's mansion in Raleigh (and the White House in DC). The rest of us can go fly. Right?
We don't know yet if our new council and mayor will take the bait. I am hoping they see through this entire scheme and refuse to do it. Our voters have said, "No," twice. First when they turned down the recreation bond, and then last fall when they removed the offending mayor and 4 previous council members from their posts. Now we will see if the rubber meets the road, one 3 mile stretch at a time.
North Carolina State Debt Clock