Government of money, by money, for money

Our highly efficient new Government Reform Commission, filled with such disinterested high-minded citizens as local GOP fundraiser Tom Julia, local Republican Party henchperson and larger-than-life Internet presence Barbara Munsey, and major GOP campaign contributor Scott Hamberger, has just published the list of issues it intends to reform in the name of making the county more businesslike and business-friendly.

Having received the same orders from the little transmitters implanted in their brains by the local Loudoun County Republican Committee and its developer-industry masters, the Reform Commission, just like the other “reform” efforts examining zoning ordinances and site-development rules, has uncannily discovered exactly the same problems in urgent need of reforming. Among the list of the ideas the Reform Commission says it will “study” are proposals giving blanket approval to developers of big box stores in retail areas and gas stations, motels, and cell phone towers in rural areas, and eliminating the requirement that developers conduct even a cursory archeological survey before bulldozing away sites of potentially irreplaceable value.

Also on the list are a couple of real stinkers wrapped in boilerplate rhetoric about “efficiency.” All are innocently framed as mere “questions” (“Should the affordable housing program be continued?”) but many contain ridiculous loaded language of the kind beloved of customer service representatives and advertisers which leave little doubt what the “answer” will be. One that would be a wonderful gift to developers trying to keep the public from using public information to find out what they are up to is this gem:

Is Loudoun missing logical and reasonable opportunities to collect user fee revenue such as for access to the Geographic Information System?

At the risk of being illogical and unreasonable, the last time I checked the GIS data was collected and paid for by the taxpayers, and they might logically and reasonably have a claim to accessing this public information about property assessments, subdivisions, zoning, and other data without having to pay for it each time.

More ominous is this bit of bureaucratic mumbo-jumbo:

Can a new or supplemental system of metrics be established to better assess the cost-effectiveness of individual governmental programs or the operation of Loudoun County government as a whole? Specifically, should Loudoun establish a formulaic construct linked to economic performance, revenue collected, assessed values and/or other such measures that guides and limits spending in future county budgets?

I’m not sure, but translated into English it would appear to be saying that government ought to provide government programs solely in proportion to the revenues they bring in or to the assessed property values of those it benefits. That’s a fine formula for excluding from consideration any value that cannot be reduced to cold cash — such as education, historic and environmental preservation, quality of life, and also that little matter of democracy and equality.

But as this Board of Supervisors has already demonstrated repeatedly in three short months, it’s money that talks.

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