• Arne Mortensen

Thoughts about recent issues

For the past two weeks, I have read Facebook entries and TDN articles from a distance, and here are some thoughts on issues raised:

Lack of leadership: We are told that the BoCC lacks leadership because they do not do what Teresa Purcell wants.

The truth likely is the opposite.

Teresa Purcell presses for government programs to help the “vulnerable,” but what does she do materially to help those “unfortunate” people? Don’t answer that; it is an irrelevant question. The relevant question is whether her proposals respect property rights while improving the conditions for her target group. So far, I have seen nothing from her that resembles a viable solution. It resembles the typical accusatory call for someone else to do something.

After decades of the same government sponsored solutions, throwing money at the problem, we still have poverty. Yelling for the government to do more of the same, is ignorant and is a display of lack of leadership.

There also is the moral issue of charity. It is charity when we use our own money, but it is not charity when we use taxpayer money. By using government money, we destroy the voluntary nature of charity and the good citizenship that goes along with caring for your neighbor. We also drive out the many private charities as the government assumes responsibility for many aspects of people’s lives. The welfare system is a cure worse than the disease, and today we reap the harvest of that emotional but irrational system. Just think of Venezuela and look up its current condition … Hugo Chavez redistributed the wealth, and now the country is in shambles.

Summary: I recognize that the current use of government to do more than protect (against assault by fellow other men) property rights has been a decades long slide down a slope of socialism that is destroying our country. It is not leadership to follow the same mantra of failure … we will run out of other people’s money.

Pass yet another ordinance: There has been a request made to the BoCC to pass an ordinance banning plastic bags in grocery stores. That kind of thinking has the following problems:

· There is no problem to be solved. The proposal is yet another idea of how to improve matters if only we are allowed another law to force our vision.

· Limiting consumer choice is NEVER a good course to follow.

· Why pass a law? If citizens want only paper bags, they already can express that choice.

· The function of government is to protect life and property, not to fulfill someone’s wishes to coerce others to their way.

· The arguments about such a rule benefitting the economy of the county likely are specious. Where is the full analysis so that we can see if there is a compelling reason to transgress yet again against the public to control their choices?

Summary: I am not in favor of such an ordinance.

Pass yet another ordinance: Jim Hill wants an ordinance to control fireworks in the county. While I appreciate his sentiments, the following thoughts come to mind:

· Such laws are not enforceable, and any laws which are not enforceable cheapen those laws about which we are serious. (Which of the myriads of laws will be enforced today?)

· There is no analysis of the cost of this proposed ordinance. More police? More justice system burden? Damage to commerce?

· How much of a problem is this issue? A few anecdotal accounts are not enough reason for yet another law.

Summary: I am not in favor of such an ordinance.

Methadone clinic: It seems that some citizens are against a methadone clinic and are wanting to use government intervention to stop them from coming here. There are many issues here, but I think we need to be careful not to react adversely just because it is a drug program. As with Prohibition, our drug laws have caused (and continue to cause) serious problems. The decades we have spent on the war on drugs has brought us no victories, so we should consider thinking about the problem differently than we have.

It is good to give addicts a way to become constructive members of society; is the methadone clinic a part of a solution? If so, should we set some rules for mutual co-existence?

Do you care what a person takes, if that “medicine” permits them to live a productive life?

This is yet another government program to fix government created problems.

Summary: If it is private money, I am in favor of methadone clinics. I am uncertain what to do if it is government money. In any event, it makes sense to permit a trial period to see if the clinic helps or hinders our society. Trial periods should be long enough to give an opportunity for results to be observable. Two years?

.1% metal health tax: To address mental health issues, a previous BoCC imposed a .1% sales tax (one penny in $10) in the county. That tax sunsets 31 March 2018, and a call to continue this tax can be heard to come from several places. While I am partial to the workings of the behavioral health courts, I am left a bit uncomfortable with other associated programs. Here are some issues:

· This tax has been in place for four years already. What do we have to show for it?

· This year I saw several proposals for the use of that money that already has been collected. The proposals totaled more than $6,000,000, which is much more than the $2,250,000 currently in hand. And, therein lies a key problem: There never is enough money to satisfy the thirst of agencies for taxpayer money. It is more sensible and prudent to plan to stretch the current money into the future beyond the sunset date. This means not spending all the money now and refraining from taking on yet another “worthwhile” project. This currently is my intent, as one member of the BoCC.

· This “gap” analysis, a project which gives rise to the demand for more government funding is not a useful concept. The idea of a gap analysis is to review current programs and to assess whether some people need more help than they are getting (because they fall into a gap). It should be no surprise that the agencies providing these “services” found gaps.

· Government appetite for citizen money just continues to grow. Nearly all politicians promise to rein in government spending; here is one of many opportunities to do so.

Summary: I will not support this tax without some overwhelming request by the public to impose it. Washington citizens have voted several times to require a two thirds vote of the legislature to pass a tax, so I would look for that here also.

Syringe exchange program (SEP): It really has not functioned as an exchange program. People can get syringes and drug kits just by asking; the county (meaning you, the taxpayer) pays. The program has direct costs of approximately $100k year and gave out over 800k syringes in 2016. I see the following key points:

· Why should the taxpayers fund this? The claim is made that it is to protect the public from diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C being spread by the re-use of needles. Is this true today of a program that was started in the late 1990s? Are the littered needles a greater danger?

· The public is angry about this program because many of these needles end up as litter and thus are a hazard to the public. Those who get SEP service could avoid this anger by not littering, but there seems to be no notion that people accepting government help have an obligation … in this case not to litter with hazardous materials.

· Syringes can be bought cheaply (certainly when compared to the price of the drugs); why not let the user pay for them?

Summary: I am appalled that the government feels it has the prerogative to give out free anything. (Government can give only that which it takes from someone else.) Certainly, the syringe program gives mixed signals. And with the problem of syringe litter, there is cause for alarm by the public at a very practical level. I have called for the end of SEP, at least for a period of one year, to see whether we improve or make matters worse. Will there be a compromise position?

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