We are gearing up for another election year in Klamath County. One of the new phrases you may hear by those running for public office (whether it be city council or county commissioner) is “Economic Development”. Economic Development is such a positive sounding term. When someone running for office says it most think, “This is a wonderful person who wants to help our economy.” However, if you think a little more, you have to ask yourself, “What do they really mean?”
To be frank, Economic Development is another leftist term — or at least one that has been cooped by the central planners. When someone running for office (or in office) refers to “Economic Development” what they mean is that they want to use tax payer dollars to lure a particular industry or business to Klamath. More often than not that industry or business will personally or politically benefit the public official in some fashion (a form of crony capitalism). The other problem with this approach is that there is no way a few government officials can possibly know of all the options and all the opportunities in the county in which to make the best decision. So by definition, the best they can do is make a decision that is less than the best. Often times government directed Economic Development is simply a waste of tax payer dollars, because there is no penalty for risks taken — it is not their money and they’ll get another stash of tax dollars next year — and without risk, decision making becomes very skewed or warped.
The answer to this dilema is to bring in “economic experts”. In Klamath’s case these experts wear the name KCEDA (Klamath County Economic Development Association). This private organization raises money by extracting tax dollars directly from the city, the county and through grants offered by state and federal agencies. For instance in 2016 Klamath County will give KCEDA around $200,000. For what purpose? Economic Development. And what is that? Anything KCEDA needs it to be. Since KCEDA are not elected officials they can spend the money virtually anyway they want. What’s more KCEDA is not directly held accountable by tax payers for their results (or more often the lack of results). In essence, our tax dollars pay people to run around trying to recruit new business to our area. When one does come (whether through the efforts of KCEDA or not) KCEDA will run in front of the cameras to take as much credit as possible.
Does it? Does government have enough money and resources to do what it needs to do? That question is the fundamental issue behind each new tax levy and each new ballot measure where government asks the citizens for more money.
First it is important to think about need verses want. What is it we citizens need government to do, as opposed to, what do some want government to do? Much too much of what Federal, State and Local government does is not for the real needs of its citizens, but rather for the wants of special interests. These special interests have cleverly disguised their interest as a public concern and then tricked tax payers into funding their venture. Did we need to rebuild Henley elementary or KU? No, the buildings were just fine. They are old, but they certainly functioned. No one was dying in them. No one was getting sick, and no one injured. But the real-estate/construction/public-union/government sector drool over such public building projects because they funnel money from your pocket to theirs at inflated, government mandated, wages. Is it nicer to drive by a new school building rather than an old one. Sure. But does it educate our children any better? No. And there is a prime example between need and want. The real need is to educate our children. The want is to do it in the best and most expensive buildings in the county. Do children win? No. Do the special interests win? Yes. And special interests win all while fooling the public that we now have “better schools”.
Second, why should government continue to get more and more of our tax dollars? When your income increases, did you know that the amount of money you send to government also increases? So when wages in Klamath County go up, government already gets more money — at the same rate of the citizenry it serves. Likewise, when income goes down, money to the government decreases accordingly. Why then when incomes decrease should government continue spending at the same levels or higher? Why should government be given more money when the rest of us are doing with less?
What if one day $10,000,000.00 fell from the sky and appeared on Main Street between the Court House and Government Building? Immediately the police are called in, surrounding the large bundle of cash,... waiting for the County Commissioners and City Council to decide how best to utilize this gift from heaven for the local community.
One choice would be to allocate the money to City and County Government. Some of the money could go towards budget-starved agencies to help with any revenue shortfalls. Some of the money could be used for economic development (promoting tourism, attracting businesses to move to the area) and community efforts such as better parks, better streets, a few more police officers and emergency personnel. Also the money could be used to solarize certain government buildings, helping our city and county move towards a sustainable green zone.
The other choice would be to divide the money up among the citizens of Klamath County and let them determine how best it should be used.
Which way is best? Which way would help us grow our local economic pie? Which way would be better for economic growth and stability of our community? Which way will deliver money in the most efficient manner to the goods and services that the citizens of Klamath County value most?
This past Sunday, front and center, was a puff-piece for “Yes! on 18-104” — the current Fire District 1 bond measure. If you read the piece you would be left with any wonder that a sane person would be opposed to this wonderful spend of tax payer dollars or that there was anyone opposed to the bond measure.
This is the socialist-left at full-speed. There is not a recent tax measure that these editors have opposed or have given fair and balanced coverage. The editors at the Herald and News are pro-tax-and-spend socialists and use the paper’s power and influence to effect the thinking of people in the Basin — and it has been working for quite some time now.
For those asleep during the summer, it is time to wake up and take notice that another business is closing its doors in Klamath Falls. If JELD-WEN officially moving its headquarters to Charlotte, NC for a more business friendly environment wasn’t enough, now Haggen is closing its two stores in town. What? Haggen, when did they come to Klamath Falls?
Earlier this year Safeway and Albertsons merged into one company. The merger was approved by the FTC only if they would sell off 146 of their combined stores. Haggen won that bid to purchase those stores and went from an 18 chain grocery store to 164 overnight. Talk about a growth spurt. In Klamath Falls both Safeway locations were converted into Haggen stores. However, within months of Haggen’s acquisition, Haggen was losing money — and a lot of it. Haggen needed to borrow $25 million to weather their cash flow problems, which increased their total debt to $270 million. Did Haggen bite off more than it could chew?
What Went Wrong
After Haggen took control of their new stores, Haggen immediately incurred losses in several of those stores. Local customers either did not know the brand Haggen or thought it was too pricey compared to the previous occupant. There was an error assuming business would continue as usual. Clearly this was not the case everywhere. An outside consulting firm was brought in to do some analysis. They found stores fell into two groups: core and non-core. Core stores were profitable. Non-core stores were losing money. The non-core store loses occurred because of either a lack of traffic (revenue) or they were too costly to support. Some non-core stores were also in remote locations where Haggen did not have efficient distribution. The Klamath Falls stores most likely fell into both categories and easily made it to the Haggen chopping block.
Most of our local leaders, and many of our State officials, are leftists. I use that label not to ridicule, mock or scorn them. I call them leftists because it is an accurate description. When it comes to political leadership there are only two camps: left and right. However, some may claim to be neither left or right but “moderate” (aka reasonable). Yet, a better way to describe moderates are those who sit on the fence until the political winds blow strong enough in a particular direction and then rush to the front of the line to “lead the charge”. Moderates are not moderate, they are populists. And being a populist is not leadership.
Left or Right. Socialist or Conservative. Our leaders are one or the other. If they claim to be moderate, then they are really socialists because they have no back-bone or spine to stand for anything that may appear harsh or uncompassionate towards the poor and less fortunate. Therefore these moderate-populists vote for more money to fund government programs and enable more money and benefits for public union government employees. A populist’s direction always leans the same way as a socialist’s. Populists may be slower in implementing socialist plans but make no mistake the only difference is speed, not direction.
So what does any of this have to do about JELD-WEN? Everything.
I just described the climate in Klamath and in Oregon. Socialists (socialist policies) are ruling the roost. Local county and State governments are growing everywhere and contracting no where. More taxes, more programs and more welfare (farm, corporate and personal). Utopia is just around the corner, but to get there the socialist idea says we must give more our wealth to a benevolent group of government lawmakers and bureaucrats. Only they can protect us from our selfish selves and lead us to nirvana.
You probably did not know this (and that’s why we work hard at KlamathNews.net, to report the truth), but your dedicated Klamath County Commissioners received a 1% raise on July 1, 2015. This is only fitting. You see Klamath County Commissioners have not received raises since way back in 2010, and the time had come to correct this problem. We can’t have these public servants starving or falling behind. $68,000 a year is just not enough in 2015.
But wait, the two oldest tenured commissioners started serving in 2013. Both Commissioner Bellet and Mallams have only gone through two budgets without a raise (in other words they haven’t even finished their first term). Kelly Minty Morris has barely got her new curtains up in her office and she also got a raise.
The justification for the Commissioner salary increases can be seen in this presentation (PDF). The bottom line is that other Oregon counties of similar size are giving their commissioners raises, therefore Klamath should as well. That type of thinking is like your teenager demanding that you to buy them a car because their friend’s parents bought them a car. Government employees should only receive a raise if that person is doing a superior job compared to the previous year. Using that logic, Minty-Morris should not get one, because she has barely warmed her chair. Bellet and Mallams also should not get one either because they continue to support (or remain silent on) tax levy after tax levy each election.
In the 1980's an anti-drug campaign led by First Lady Nancy Reagan urged young adults to “Just say no” to drugs. The liberals mocked the campaign, and Mrs. Reagan, as being too simple. You see the drug culture was much more complex, much more nuanced. For her to expect youth to Just Say No when offered or encouraged to take drugs would never work.
Funny though. If you Just Say No and don't do drugs guess what — you don't do drugs. Will power IS enough, you just have to have the courage (this of course does not include those already addicted, where more is required).
This is exactly the same is the message we need to send to the county clerk's office this month when we turn in our May ballots. Just Say No to bigger government. Just say no to additional taxes. Just say no to public unions ever increasing salaries and benefits. The dirty little secret why county government is shedding services left and right is not because we don't send them enough money, rather it is because they have signed an unholy alliance with public unions which ever increase their costs — no matter what the surrounding economy is doing.
Of course you’re going to support the farmers, ranchers and children by voting Yes on 18-101: the KBREC OSU Extension Center levy. Who would be against such a thing?
This is the perpetual lie of the Left. They claim that if we continue to acquiesce and send more of our disposable income to government that County and State officials know best how to bring about utopia. 18-101 is no different.
Previously the OSU Extension Center and 4-H were funded by our general property taxes. This meant the County Commissioners looked at their budgets and allocated a certain amount for these services. Since 2007, when the housing bubble burst and economic collapse ensued, the Commissioners have steadily been setting aside less and less for this program. It isn’t that they think the OSU Extension Center is a bad program or that 4-H is not worth funding, but the County Commissioners had to make a decision with their limited resources and decided that the county had higher priorities that needed to be funded. (Why can’t we also claim the same thing with our limited budgets without being labeled “selfish”, “cheap” or “uncaring” by those with a differing opinion?)
Last night I had the opportunity to attend the Klamath County Republican Central Committee meeting. A gentleman spoke on reasons why we should vote no on both the Public Safety levy and the KBREC levy. It was an entertaining and informative talk.
What surprised me were two men who disagreed with the speaker’s point of view. During the question and answer session there was some discussion about how the county jail has been funded with Road Fund dollars and whether that was a good or bad idea going forward. One of the two gentlemen blurted out “We can’t continue to steal from the Road Funds.” Note, he is in favor of passing the Public Safety levy.
That comment stuck in my craw the wrong way until I realized why. This pro-Public Safety levy man was claiming it was wrong for the government to take money from one government account (set aside for a specific purpose, in this case roads) and use it for another government need (the jail). However at the same time he was perfectly fine taking money from my (personal) account to use on another government need (the jail). That’s when I had that “ah-ha” moment. What had bothered me was his hypocrisy, because if one action was stealing, then both actions were stealing. It just so happens that one scenario “steals” from a government account he wants to protect, but when “stealing” from my wallet — he could care less. “Hand it over”, in other words.