On a ballet, is “bonds” short for bondage?

July 10, 2014

Having recently written a fairly pointed column about how the people in Austin are busy working to vote themselves a lot more municipal debt, in the form of bonds, imagine my chagrin when the local city government where I live announced it was going to form a citizens committee to look into having a bond election. Notice that I didn't say "imagine my surprise". Sadly, it doesn't surprise me at all when a municipal government starts asking for a bond election, but I do find it depressing. Not so much because of the dollars involved, although that is a factor, but because the constant drone of "bonds, bonds, more bonds please", from government entities is a symptom of other, larger, problems. To my way of thinking, bonds, or any other type of debt instruments, are the "crack cocaine" of government, municipal or otherwise.
Oddly, this particular municipal government, which has just voluntarily started putting together a citizen's committee for something they want, apparently doesn't respond quite so well to unsolicited requests from citizens.
Very recently, some citizens asked the Mayor and City Council about putting term limits (for City Councilor members and Mayors) on the next ballot, and it seems the response was something along the lines of "Harrumph (and I'm thinking along the lines of Governor Lepetomane from Blazing Saddles here), that's something that should come from the citizens themselves and for that to happen you will need to gather verified signatures from ten percent of the registere…, you get the point. Wouldn't you say it's odd that the same group of people who have no problem talking about burdening the citizens with debt, are unwilling to put term limits on the ballot unless they are forced into it? Actually, I think the two things go hand in hand, but that just goes to show that we don't necessarily have to look at the federal government to find overspending and entrenched bureaucrats. One thing which does puzzle me about this is that in this particular municipal government, the City Council members and Mayor all draw one dollar per year each, and no other pay. Since the bureaucrats at the V.A. actually get paid, including bonuses, it's easy to see what drives their (tragic) misbehavior. Locally however, what about the one dollar per year salary in this municipal government is so attractive that people in those spots are so determined to grow local government?
Another thing that I find to be a dichotomy is that I live in a state where the state government constitutionally has to pay as it goes but municipal governments don't have to. With both the bad example of the federal government's massive amount of debt, and the good example of a state government with no debt, which one do you think a local government, theoretically run by concerned citizens, should opt for? Yeah, I don't quite get the logic here either, but clearly, our local officials think the debt path is the better system.
Knowing that there are a large number of people who would, and do, tell me that bonds are necessary to take care of "big ticket", or "one of" items that really aren't part of a regular budget, I would like to dig into that a little bit.
First, as much as I think avoiding bonds (meaning debt) should be done if at all practical, I will admit that there are going to be times when they may be either necessary, or the best way available to handle something. The problem isn't so much that bonds are debt, but rather that instead of something that's turned to after all other options have been exhausted, they are more and more becoming "just business as usual" or even expected on a regular basis. In fact, one of the comments put forth in the news about the bond committee is that we haven't had a bond election since 2006. My thinking is "good, let's see if we can go another eight years without one. As much as I think eight years without a bond election should be called a good start, I have to wonder if other people are thinking "eight years? Well, it must be about time to pull out the old bond credit card and do some of that big spending".
Secondly, a quick web search shows me that our city government already has close to a hundred million dollars in debt. "Harrumph, harrumph, we better not mention that while we're trying to convince voters we need to take on more debt". Since the amount of debt our city currently already has is well over its total annual operating budget, I have to think we should be concentrating on getting some of it paid off, not increasing the amount.
Thirdly, last year our city government committed us to a sixty five million dollar water plant project that is going to have to be paid for at some point. Now, it would be easy enough to say, or think, something along the lines of "pay that through water use fees, or come up with some kind of water district to handle it". In fact, it isn't going to matter one bit what method is used to come up with that sixty five million dollars, the burden of paying it is going to fall on pretty much the same people who pay the taxes that finance the city budget. While it may be good politics to increase the water bill by fifty dollars a month, to keep something like that off the city budget, in the end the taxpayers/water users are going to be paying the same amount of money to the city either way. I'm not saying we don't need a new water plant (although sixty five million dollars seem really pricey), but I am saying that in effect, we just committed ourselves to sixty five million dollars of spending, and personally I think that's enough extra shopping for now.
Fourthly, the main school district here, which doesn't quite perfectly overlap with the entire city, but comes fairly close, just held, and had passed, a bond election with an amount of more than eighty seven million dollars. You should have seen the electoral gymnastics employed to get that through. Mobile voting stations sent to schools so teachers could be "encouraged" to vote. Temporary early voting stations set up at schools during times that just happened to coincide with large PTA functions at the same schools. Open campaigning by the school administration for passage of the bond. Regardless of what I think of how it was done, the bond passed, and it was for eighty seven million dollars, but only as part one of a three part project. In other words, the school district, which taxes most of the same area that the city taxes, is planning on asking, in phases two and tree, for enough additional money to bring the total amount of bonds up to over two hundred and twenty million dollars. And by the way, the school district wasn't debt free either before this last bond election.
Even further than all of the above, because our area is chronically short of water (one of the reasons we need a more efficient, and apparently veeery expensive, water plant) we are trying to build an additional, new, reservoir. Right now, nobody is sure if this is going to happen, or exactly what it will cost if it does get built, but at this point it looks like our part of it (several cities are cooperating, at least for now, in paying for it) could easily be over seventy million dollars. In fact before it's all over with, I'm confident it will be much higher than that.
My math skills may not be all that great, but my pre-Department of Education addition makes me think my city already has enough debt and financial obligations to go around without seeking more of either.

Bruce Kreitler is the author of Obamageddon (the Culmination of the Progressive Looting of America) and posts this and other articles at BruceKreitler.com.

Arkansas and Texas revisit an old rivalry in the 2014 Texas Bowl. Big 12 Insider Wendell Barnhouse...
Sweetwater boys host Coleman — freshmen at 4:30 p.m., JV at 6 p.m., varsity at 7:30 p.m. Sweetwater...
The Roscoe girls basket-ball team lost at Haskell, 57-34, to start District 7-2A play on Tuesday....

 

Premium Drupal Themes by Adaptivethemes