Jim Crawford Asks: Do We Need Local Government Units

Do We Need Local Governmental Units?

The story about the woman asking Benjamin Franklin what the Constitutional Convention had given us and his reply that we had been given a Republic if we could keep it is well known. Ben and the lady are fortunate that they are gone and have not witnessed the “progression” of our country from a republic toward a Marxist, centralized, dictatorial federal government. Our republic was designed to have representative government with specifically enumerated and limited powers. Individual rights were paramount and the bulk of governing was left to the individual states and their subdivisions. In today’s world, the roles have become completely reversed. The federal government is all powerful and now dominates every area of our lives. Most of the governing is done by unelected bureaucrats rather than our elected representatives. The local government units are mere middle men and enforcers of federal dictates.

Examples from monitoring the Valencia County Commission and the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board meetings illustrate how local government units have become subservient to the federal government. These are but a small microcosm of the whole problem. These examples are just ice cubes floating in the water warning us that the good ship USA Titanic is about to crash into a huge ice berg and be lost at sea.

The core population of Valencia County exceeded 50,000 in the last census. Consequently, the county is now designated as an urbanized area by the federal government and required to create a Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO). Not only is the county obligated to set up an MPO but the number and professions of people to staff the organization are even dictated. The projected annual costs to set up and maintain the planning organization exceeds $300,000! Because of its proximity to the Albuquerque metro area the county had the choice to join the Albuquerque MPO operated by the Mid Region Council of Governments which they did. The county thus did not cede autonomy directly to the federal government but to the Albuquerque MPO which has already ceded autonomy to the federal government. Either way the county is subject to the whims of centralized government planning and control and is no longer master of its own destiny.

Flood plain mapping and flood insurance requirements are other examples of direct intervention by the federal government with little consideration of local conditions.

A huge amount of county business deals with requesting, spending, and accounting for grant money. Much of it comes in the form of state grants which in turn come from federal grants along with all the requirements, restrictions, and controls that go along with getting the grants. Hardly a meeting goes by without consideration of requesting or accepting some kind of grant. Many if not most of the county services are dependent wholly or partially on grants. County administration, therefore, acts as a middle man in financing and enforcing requirements from the central planners on high.

The state is also subjected to ever increasing regulation and control by the federal government mainly by faceless, unaccountable bureaucrats in the multitude of federal agencies. A good example is domination of states by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA produces regulations and the states are required to make sure state regulations are the same as the federal regulations and then the states have to do the enforcement work. The states are being told what to do and then to act as a federal police force to see that the regulations are followed.

Just as the counties spend much of their time requesting and monitoring grants, the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Board (EIB) spends the bulk of its time dealing with proposals by the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) to make New Mexico regulations mirror the latest whim by EPA. Sometimes the EPA rules are revised almost immediately after or before the state action is completed triggering another round of hearings to once again bring the state in line with federal dictates. At the last EIB meeting, two future hearings were scheduled for that purpose. Over the last year and a half, there have been more than a dozen such hearings.

The autocratic bureaucracy is filing suit against state and local entities and telling them how to run health care, maintain voter registration lists, which federal laws they must enforce and which they may not enforce, how schools are run and what is taught, who can be married, what and how much energy to use, and what can be spoken. The list can go on and on. If the examples discussed above were expanded to all of the federal agencies that have direct impact on a state or local entity the list would be mind boggling.

State and local jurisdictions are rapidly losing autonomy. They are being inundated by national programs and the state and local jurisdictions are required to enforce the dictates of the central planners to keep the stream of grant money flowing. This is nothing more than a new form of centralized despotism that is endangering our liberty and rights as a self governing society.

Why then do we need all these levels of state and local administration? If their only role is to do the bidding of the central planners and act as a national police force and a conduit for passing funds back and forth, perhaps they should be abolished. Or on the other hand, perhaps we should reduce and limit the federal government to its few and constitutionally defined duties, restore the republic, and return sovereignty and liberty to people instead of the central government.

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