Thursday, May 21, 2020

Keeping the Peace in St. Maries

Municipal governments traditionally have clear mandates outlining their responsibilities to residents:
  •          Provide clean, safe water
  •          Provide for sewage & garbage disposal
  •          Keep the city or town clean
  •          Maintain infrastructure such as roads, sidewalks, parks and streetlights
  •          Address zoning and building regulations
  •          Promote economic development
  •          Provide public transportation
  •          Provide emergency services coverage: fire, ambulance, rescue and police

The residents of St. Maries generally enjoy clean, inexpensive water and satisfactory sewer & garbage disposal services. Our streets and public areas are clean. Our parks are well maintained and enjoyable. Our streetlamps work and the town has very pleasant curb appeal. There is room for improvement with roads, sidewalks, zoning and building regulations, but these are perpetual issues in any town or city. 

Local economic development from City Hall would benefit greatly from a combination of real-world business experience and principles of limited government. So, too, would the bureaucratic burden of the City Code which could be lightened considerably by a ‘limited government approach’ by City Hall officials.

Emergency Services available to St. Maries are excellent. This includes the keeping of the peace by the Sheriff’s Office.

The obligation of the Mayor and City Council to provide safety to the city is well-satisfied under the current arrangement with the Office of the County Sheriff. There is no observable, measurable increase in crime or mischief in St. Maries since the dissolution of the city police department. The job of keeping the peace in St. Maries is getting done – and it is being done well.

If, for whatever reason, it is the position of City Hall that more coverage is necessary, then the prudent, and fiscally responsible, solution is to negotiate with the Sheriff’s Office for more deputies to be assigned within the city for more hours each day, and to pay the associated costs for that increase. The Sheriff’s Department has the experience, resources, and infrastructure already in place, and is, in fact, already doing the job.

Adding another layer of bureaucracy to City Hall and another major tax burden to the residents of St. Maries is not good governance. Adding the burden of an entire police department onto the shoulders of city residents, for the benefit of increasing parking ticket revenue, goes beyond mismanagement and waste. It rises to the level of abuse of power. What it would accomplish, besides an expansion of government, is creation of a police force that answers directly to the Mayor’s Office.  How would a local police department have conducted itself in the midst of our stay-at-home order? Would they enforce directives from Boise at City Hall’s direction, or would they behave Constitutionally, as has
the Sheriff ’s Office and Deputies?

Fix our sidewalks, without forcing the cost on business owners. Fill our potholes. Survey property lines and reduce the burdens being imposed on property owners seeking to improve their homes. Roll back the redundant, expensive, and intrusive building permit process recently adopted by City Hall. Cut the ridiculously over-priced fees imposed on businesses operating within the city. Cut extraneous and nanny-state ordinances from the City Code. Or, stop adding to it.

Lead with genuine economic development. Or, get out of the way of business leaders who know how to get it done and want St. Maries to thrive and grow in new directions as our local economy evolves.

When it comes to keeping the peace in St. Maries, City Hall should not be in the business of trying to fix what ain’t broke.