In last Sunday's Herald and News, the Editorial Board picked their candidates: Kelley Minty Morris for Commissioner Position #1 and Todd Kellstrom for Commissioner Position #3. While we think it is fine for an editorial board to endorse candidates, the reasons why they chose these two is somewhat odd.
Apparently the Herald and News editorial board is hip on glitz and glamor and not so much on substance. The editorial board said their choices were filtered using the metrics of leadership and vision. Unfortunately the Herald and News didn't define what they meant by these terms. To me, someone showing these qualities would first understand government has no cost-containment structure. Matter of fact it's just the opposite. By its nature government is set up to always cost more each year for the same or fewer services. And those costs never align with inflation or tax receipts. Government wages, benefits and costs are in their own little world. Real leadership would involve fixing that problem whether people on the receiving end like it or not. Vision would involve making county government efficient and affordable for the people who live here, rather than giving businesses more and more reasons to leave.
The Herald and News only left us with this description to define their meaning, "Kelley Minty Morris, a hardworking campaigner with plenty of ideas, for Position #1..." Morris' web site explains how she is a former television broadcaster and manager for a well respected charity. Both of these are supposed to demonstrate qualities of leadership and vision.
Friday's Herald and News had questions and answers from the four Klamath County Commissioner Position #3 candidates. The question that grabbed the front page head-lines had to do with the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement (KBRA) and asked why a candidate was for or against the agreement.
Both Cheyrl Hukill and Todd Kellstrom stated they were for the KBRA and gave their reasons. However, what is more important to understand are the principles used by Hukill and Kellstrom to build their answers. By understanding their principles, then one can predict how either one will behave given any kind of issue. Principles do not change with issues, but are consistent from one issue to the next. Without principles candidates waffle all over the place, saying almost anything that seems to gain them political favor.
Cheryl Hukill’s Comments:
In 2010 the Tea Party burst onto the political scene in amazing fashion. At that time the Democrat controlled House, Senate and White House was running rough shot over what the people clearly wanted — or didn't want. The Tea Party got its name from the Boston Tea Party. Both were in revolt to taxation or fiscal injustice. However just two years later it seems the Tea Party has lost its way, and that is mainly because it has a serious flaw.
The flaw of the Tea Party is putting preferences over principles.
While many in the Tea Party claim they are a principled group who want fiscal responsibility in government, this notion quickly comes to the test in the real world. My good friend, Mr. P. Henry, wrote about how Commissioner Switzer was essentially calling farmers "sissies" because ranchers and farmers couldn't take care of a task that their forefathers took for granted as part of the job. But the problem is much deeper. Whether one is talking about county funding for tourism, trapping or soil and water conservation — these are all preferences. There has yet to be a principled argument made why these (and several other items) should be paid for by government. If these items have real value, if they are indeed needed services, then those who benefit will surely pay for them out of their own pocket. But there is no principled reason why tax dollars collected from the general public should pay for them — only preferencial ones.
Today County Officials approved budgets for several items. One of those items was funding for the county trapper. The argument goes that without this important service provided by the county, agriculture will suffer.
I say horse-hockey.
Chuck Cleland is a nice fellow and a very skilled trapper. From what I hear he is well liked and takes special care to make sure he is courteous to people and at the same time tenacious to get his prey. Fantastic. But that has nothing to do whether the county should fund this activity. It also doesn't explain why the family living on Esplande or on Hope Street should pay for a county trapper. The idea is that if the county didn't provide this service, livestock would be killed and farmers would suffer. Again, I repeat, Horse-Hockey! Look, from what I know about farmers it's that they are very skilled at fixing problems one way or another. So when an unwanted coyote or mountain lion decides to show up, I can guarantee you the farmers I know, know how to fix that problem, without a county paid trapper. If for some reason they are unable to do this, then I see no reason why they couldn't pay for a private trapper to come do this for them. Look when I don't have time to change the oil in my car I don't expect the county government to collect taxes from everyone else in the county to pay for this service, I pay for it myself.
Today's Herald and News featured two articles about how rising tuition might lead to lower enrollment. Then at the same time the school is facing fewer and fewer dollars coming from Salem which means it is having to make tough choices to cut services and some personnel.
This is what the Herald and News and OIT call a budget shortfall.
As mentioned several times in this blog, budget shortfalls are caused by two things — not just one. When looking at budget one must look at the revenues and look at the costs. Both articles in Herald and News focused solely on the revenue side of the equation. The Herald and News was all to eager to report tragic news that state funding is decreasing for OIT and how that translated into higher tuition for students. Students are being told they need to bear a larger burder for their own education. Imagine that?! And yet each article was whisper quiet about ever-increasing rising costs (even when cutting jobs).
Al Switzer has been county commissioner for 16 years. He is trying for another four so he can reach the magic number of "20 years of service" and retire like only kings used to dream.
Having been county commissioner for 16 years Al is most accountable for the condition of Klamath County today. Al's had the most time to shape policies, spend money, raise taxes and all the rest more than anyone else.
I want to spend a moment analyzing Al's response to a question by Ernie Palmer in the Herald and News from Friday, April 13, 2012. Rather than making empty claims, I'm quickly going to put some muscle behind the idea that Al doesn't have a clue and needs to go.
The Klamath Public Safety Advisory Committee — set up by both the City of Klamath Falls and Klamath County to solve the "funding problem" for County patrols and jails — has lost its way. First, there is no longer an urgent need for their service. Initially, they were to recommend a short-term fix to fund Jail Pod B for next year. However, this was solved when the governor waived the restriction and allowed Klamath County to use money it already had in its bank account (nice system when you can't use your own money without special permission). If the PSAC had its way, the citizens of Klamath county would be swallowing a $4.2 million tax increase each of the next three years.
Next the PSAC was to work on a long-term solution to Public Safety funding, so jails could stay open and there would be enough patrols to keep our streets safe. However, unless this committee gets serious about the ever-increasing costs associated with union labor, they will never solve the problem (without ever-increasing taxes that keep pace). So far costs have been missing from their conversation (you see the problem is completely a funding problem).
It's amazing how many smart candidates we have this year. It doesn't matter whether they are running for County Commissioner, County Sheriff, State Representative or State Senate. Almost everyone is saying the same thing:
In order to solve government's fiscal problems, we need to create more jobs.
Seems like a simple statement. Seems like the right thing to do. But here's where the rubber meets the road — how? The way someone answers how they would "create jobs" tells you much more about them as a potential government official, than does their statement that we need more jobs in our local economy. That part is easy. Just say it. Now you are brilliant too.
The Klamath Falls City School and Klamath County School Districts have both approved "Open Enrollment." Open enrollment means that students (grades 7-12) can apply to switch schools before the April 1st deadline. If you don't like the current middle or high school that you are forced to go to based on geographical location, you now have an opportunity to switch and go somewhere else.
While open enrollment is in the direction of liberty, we still aren't there yet. What if someone wants to go to Triad or Hosannah? Since those aren't public schools, those don't count. You can go, but will have to fork out an additional $5-6K/year. Competition works best when pricing is involved. In combination, price and competition always turn out the best product or service — in this case schools.
If the two public school districts would embrace a voucher system, where parents get $10K per student (what is currently spent on each public school student), then we would have real competition. Nothing would be free as each school would have a tuition and parents then can make informed choices on where they want their child to attend. The school that is most popular would probably become the most expensive, but that's okay as other schools would rush to make their schools better. And there is the key, schools that are highly motivated to make their school better than the others. Price, like no other mechanism, automatically does this better than any central planning agency could ever dream.
We can breath a sigh of relief now that the County Commissioners have come to their senses and removed the three year Public Safety levy off of May's ballot. It is amazing that when properly motivated the commissioners could find the needed money that was there all along. Apparently, it was just in a different account they weren't allowed to touch without the Governor's permission. Imagine that. Government regulation getting in the way of being able to govern. Laughable if it wasn't so sad.
So now it's the Klamath Falls City School District's turn. They don't have enough teachers and their text books are old and outdated. Well who has been in charge the past ten years to let such a thing happen? We're supposed to pretend that the powers in charge just found themselves in this situation by no one's fault. It just happened. And now the taxpayer needs to dig deep into their pockets to help the City Schools out (again).
We need to remember that the district receives around $10,000/student per year from the county, state and federal government. If a class room has 22 students it means that class room gets funding of $220,000 each year. If the average teacher's salary & benefits package is $100,000, there is still $120,000/class room per year to account for. Seems one could buy new text books every month with that amount of cash!