Friday, May 05, 2006

Quality-of-Life, Cable, & Krumm: Casting a Wide Net on the Matter of Money

From one of last month's editions of the Texas Observer:
Quality-of-life factors, such as parks and amenities, are second only to an educated work force as the top criteria companies use when evaluating locations .... In 2001, when Dallas-Fort Worth was one of three finalists for Boeing's new corporate headquarters, DFW and Texas offered more tax breaks and incentives than Chicago and Illinois did. But Boeing ended up going to Chicago, which includes 87,000 acres of open space, parks, and forests in Cook County in its quality-of-life portfolio. Instead of increasing funding of parks to make Texas more attractive, Texas leaders responded with cutbacks.
The moral for Nashvillians: businesses are not necessarily attracted to move to states that attempt to run government like business. Local and state government need to provide quality-of-life amenities beyond the profit motive or the bottom line.

Yet, those critical of services that surpass the bottom line keep emerging to try to shut government initiatives down. Like cable industry consultant, Michael Balhoff, who--in this week's meeting of the Metro Task Force on Telecommunications Innovation (initiated by Metro Council member David Briley)--dismissed the idea of a city-owned broadband network, saying that there is no evidence that city-managed internet networks aid in a city's economic growth. But the Task Force Chair reportedly responded accordingly, "Do cities conduct studies to determine whether their school systems bolster their economies?" Indeed, if Internet access aids in learning, then that should be the primary criterion for providing the service. Money isn't all that matters, a point which may seem sacrilege to the marketeers. As go schools or public broadband, so go libraries or sidewalks or public plazas or first responder services: they are services irreducible to dollar-sign-logic.

But the calls to run government like business have not ceased, even as the callers have controlled the almighty federal government since 2000 (if not 1996), and even as we see over and over again in cases like Halliburton, Tyco, Enron, and Exxon that money brings its own set of ills (graft, no-bid contracts, obscene executive compensation plans, and environmental damage resulting from self/no-regulation) to government. It's hard watching more and more tax dollars either go to or go uncollected from corporations of dubious repute while we find out in lowly Salemtown that we will not get the entire federal block grant of $600,000 originally approved to improve the conditions of our neighborhood. So far, we have less than $190,000 locked down (although I guess D.C.'s beltway insiders could always demand it back). So, running government like business actually siphons money away from quality-of-life at the local level. It should be called "running government for business," because businesses are simply not asked to make the same sacrifices that local communities and ordinary citizens are.

Even so, the fight to destroy government services and gauge quality public service exclusively in financial terms continues. Some candidates want to continue the status quo by making that fight seem noble. Witness: Bob Krumm, a local Republican running for the state senate, who perpetuates the myths by excusing corporate greed while advocating the oxymoronic "market-based reforms" for local and state government. Candidate Krumm, having refused to see that public service has many concerns free from market-based logic, may be among those condemned to repeat the mistakes of the recent past to the detriment of Nashville's actual quality-of-life. Krumm is not running in my district, but I would not vote for any candidate who promises to perpetuate and ply the tired and trite bromides of the private sector in local and state governance. That's bad medicine for what ails us.

No comments:

Post a Comment