Thursday, February 24, 2005

Mis-Representing Community

A couple of items from yesterday's Capital caught my eye, and raise serious questions about the representation of citizens both in County government and in some civic organizations purportedly advocating on behalf of their communities.

The first concerns utility fee increases mentioned here in an earlier column (1/26/05). Despite the fact these fees haven't been raised in years, the inevitable whinery from some that the $100/year increase for water, sewer, and trash collection would break their bank, caused several local politicos, none of whom had trouble saddling county residents with a $26 million golf course bailout, to get cold feet on the matter. Councilman Middlebrooks (R-Pasadena) cut to the heart of the issue when he offered, "people would be upset if they started receiving statements next fall that reflected the higher charges, particularly in light of the council's decision two weeks ago to issue $26 million in bonds so the county could take over Compass Pointe Golf Course in Pasadena." Perhaps, dear Councilman, you might have considered that before letting our utilities go insolvent in favor of this golf course debacle. One wonders what other future necessities the golf course bonds will be used to put the kibbosh on. Bill Burlison (D-Crofton) and Pam Beidle (D-Linthicum) also voiced concerns over the rate hike (and also voted for the golf course funds).

Department of Public Works Director, Ron Bowen, said it best, "The rates we are proposing … represent the true cost (of providing services)." The cost of services increases with time, as the price of goods and cost of living rises. Where does the expectation that these fees will remained fixed for all time originate? It's not a realistic position, and it shouldn't be catered to by people who are charged with running the County's basic functions, like its utilities, in a responsible manner. Thankfully, Chairman Dillon (R-Pasadena) seems to have a sense of the importance of the rate increases and realizes that they have to passed, one way or another.

The second half of this diatribe will have to wait for tomorrow. In the meantime, be careful out in the snow.

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