By Bradley Harrington
“When one gets in bed with government, one should expect the diseases it spreads.” — Ron Paul, “The Ron Paul Revolution: Writings and Speeches of Congressman Ron Paul,” 2008 —
As Cheyenne’s administrative circles continue exploding as a result of City Engineer Jim Voeller’s recent claim that the city deliberately “misled” FEMA on flood-control figures for our pending “West Edge” project (“Cheyenne city engineer: ‘We lied on our grant application,’” WTE, March 26), the real lessons to be learned here are heading for the horizon in the midst of all the flying rubble.
Yes, it IS extremely important that we get to the bottom of Voeller’s allegations — for, if true, as he stated in a presentation to the Governing Body the following evening, “you might as well pile the $5.5 million in the street and burn it” (“Council supports Commons project over engineer’s objections,” WTE, March 28).
Nor is there any doubt that those answers potentially contain profound and ever-lasting impacts on both city operations and the public’s perception of them.
I contend, however, that it is of equal relevance — if not more so — that we analyze the nature of the explosion itself, and of what ultimately permitted it to happen: It’s time we question our funding schemes.
Take FEMA itself, for instance. The City has applied to FEMA for millions of “free federal dollars” to fix our flood-control issues downtown, fraudulently or otherwise … Yet, no one has ever satisfactorily explained why the taxpayers of Florida, Illinois or New Mexico should be held responsible for our flood-plain problems.
What are the ideas surrounding, and the consequences deriving from, such a funding model?
■ Some individuals, completely independent of and disconnected from us, are considered as financially accountable for Cheyenne’s weather — and we here, likewise, are being held responsible for issues of “flood plains” in Shreveport, Los Angeles and Seattle. Whatever happened to the idea of a community being responsible for itself? And of not being able to extort money from people hundreds or thousands of miles away, simply because they might “need” it?
(Don’t confuse this with voluntary charity in instances of natural disasters, which Americans have always been willing to step up to the plate and provide whenever truly necessary. FEMA’s very existence is instead based on the notion, and is nothing less than, the federal government’s TELLING you that you have no choice but to fund such operations whether you have an interest in it or not, whether you consider their activities to actually be useful or not.)
■ Consequently, the connection between donor and beneficiary is severed, with dim-witted bureaucrats acting as the arbiters of your tax dollars instead. Are you, Dear Reader, willing to trust them to handle those monies properly? The Red Cross and United Way sure didn’t in the wake of 9/11, and those are private organizations. Should we just blithely assume that FEMA oversight mechanisms have been properly put into place and are functioning correctly? Both history and reality indicate otherwise.
■ As another repercussion of such pie-in-the-sky assumptions, consider the impact on the public mind of these flawed reasonings: The short-circuit of the link between donor and beneficiary can’t help but breed into people’s thoughts the idea that this is little more than “free” money to be used at will for whatever anyone decides to use it for.
And if you don’t think that’s true, then get a load of this:
“I am in full-blooded support of the West Edge project, insofar as it ends up in a park that we can all use … It’s really immaterial to me whether that comes about from private funds, or whether it comes about from these FEMA funds … I hope we all get on the same page by whatever reasonable means necessary and that we get this park built.” (City resident Sara Burlingame, “City Council Meeting Video,” March 27.)
So, Ms. Burlingame: Since it’s illegal to use FEMA funds to build your pet park (“[City Treasurer Lois] Huff pointed out in a Dec. 9, 2016 memo that neither FEMA money nor matching sixth-penny funds could be used to design the park elements of Civic Center Commons”), and since it’s “immaterial” to you whether or not such actions take place, would it be fair to conclude that you consider it “reasonable” to violate the stipulations of this grant? This is known as “the ends justifying the means.” Where have we heard that before?
This, I submit, is the kind of concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment mentality that has got us $19 trillion in debt, with another $105 trillion of unfunded liabilities. We sacrifice our financial independence for … Parks? And flood control?
Well, I’d beg to differ with you, Ms. Burlingame: For, when THOSE two debt bombs decide to go off, as they eventually will, parks, flood control and city shenanigans are going to be the last things on our minds.
Bradley Harrington is a computer technician and a writer who lives in Cheyenne. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NOTE: This column was originally published in the Wyoming Tribune Eagle on April 2, 2017. Here is this column’s original downloadable PDF file.