Monday, February 15, 2010

More Money? For This?

To the editor of the Annapolis Kapital,
Last Thursday I received an e-mail message asking subscribers to "Rate area's snow removal." The editors assume the rating would be negative or even hostile to the county's efforts in this regard and followed up the request by asking: "Would you be willing to provide more tax money to buy more equipment for snow removal in the future?"

After pondering this logically tortured little missive (is "tax money" redundant? is it possible to buy anything in the past?) I decided to resist responding to the survey as I knew it would be used to justify raising taxes to buy more snow removal equipment in the future.

This morning, though, facing the prospect of schools opening and knowing that past tax money was used to plow over sidewalks and crosswalks across the street from Severna Park Middle School as well as the brand new sidewalk that leads up to the school itself, I decided to do what I could within the limits of middle-aged human endurance, to clear a path. I spent three hours moving tons of snow and ice thinking about the survey and the prospects of paying more tax money.

I decided that if future tax money is to be spent the way past tax money had been spent, the answer is no. If there was a slim chance that more tax money would buy better management and delivery of snow removal services, I might consider supporting a tax increase. The county could save gobs of money by replacing public works managers with boxes of rocks and achieve the same level of service. The money saved could be used to buy more equipment to plow over more crosswalks across from more public schools so that more taxpayers can break their backs moving the snow with shovels.

I seriously doubt that more money would lead to better county government services of any kind. If I was the county executive, I would propose that snow removal services be contracted out to private concerns with an interest in customer satisfaction. The contracts would stipulate that snow would be removed in such a manner as to ensure safe passage by vehicular and pedestrian traffic especially around schools. Customer satisfaction and contract law being what they are, this should be a no-brainer.

What's that? Union jobs? Public employee unions would object? But the private firms would hire experienced drivers and other workers. Ah, but then they would no longer be public employees, paying dues to, I mean, represented by the public employee union.

So no. No more good money after bad, I thought as I shoveled the snow I paid taxes to have deposited in mountains blocking crosswalks and curb-cuts. Thank you.

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