Rick Wagner Column October 16, 2008

Increasing the number of Mesa County commissioners will only add red tape

Once you arrive less than 30 days from a general election, you encounter the month of living dangerously.
This is when most of the electorate begin to pay attention to foolish people and ideas passing for candidates and issues.

This election cycle, we have a wheelbarrow of both. For example, we have the House District 55 incumbent Bernie Buescher spending $38,377 between January and July, compared to challenger Laura Bradford’s expenditures of $7,832 — yet many people believe there is a real possibility Bradford might win.

This shocking notion is in the face of almost constant advertising and incessant trumpeting of Buesher’s Olympian position as Joint Budget Committee chairman.

What a shame this power was not used in defense of Western Slope citizens as the governor attempted to enormously and unconstitutionally raise taxes or casually unionize state employees, both to the detriment of the taxpayer.

The above amount, however, pales in comparison to the roughly $397,000 that has been spent on behalf of the Buescher juggernaut since January of 2006, according to state records.

This week, I also want to discuss the silly idea of increasing local government to make it more efficient.

I am referring to the proposed expansion of the Mesa County Board of Commissioners from three to five members, which I have discussed before. The notion that we better our level of governance by increasing top-level executives by 40 percent has always been surreal.

When we look at who is willing to support this idea with cash, we see two large contributions to the local campaign committee — $1,000 from the Mesa County Democratic Party and $1,200 from Western Colorado Congress.

The local Democrat party has plenty of candidates that could use a few bucks and Western Colorado Congress has laid off two-thirds of its local staff due to funding issues. This proposal must be particularly important to their agendas for them to be supporting it with scarce dollars.

If you’re the sort of person who goes along with ideas of these two particular groups, then this expansion of the commission is probably something you should like — more government, more red tape and more politicians pestering the electorate for spending money on projects that will get them attention.

Several local, present or past officeholders have been trundled out in support of the measure. Many of these same politicians spent their careers expressing a dislike for big government and its programs. Yet here they are.

Even the federal government decided it was time to stop growing its elected representation in 1911, when the number of congressional seats was set at 435. At that time, the population of the United States was about 93 million. If we follow the logic of our commission-expansion proponents, with the population increase of the United States, we should be in the neighborhood of 1,305 congressmen.

Think of all that would get accomplished with that many people in Washington representing you. Why, necessary projects would certainly rocket out of the national legislature and the money spent on administration, perks, junkets and pork projects certainly would remain the same as they are with 435 — right?

The first thing I would do were I to encounter a high-profile proponent of government expansion is to ask if they had any intention of seeking the office they hope to create. That might be a nice thing to know.

And, while I truly sympathize with the feelings of many in the rural areas of the county that the voting
numbers for their representatives are heavily skewed to the urban areas, a sensible compromise of redrawing the districts and requiring that voters only from each district elect their commissioner might solve many issues and not cost them a lot of money.

The present system is something like requiring your state representative to live in his or her district, but be voted upon by everyone in the state. Having district-only voting makes the most sense with the least waste.

Rick Wagner offers more thoughts on politics at his blog, The War on Wrong, available at the blogs entry at GJSentinel.com.


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