by A. Vindex
On Monday, October 8, 2018, the Plano City Council passed the Master Park Plan. This is a massive bureaucratic central plan that is updated every five years. The plan is a whopping 260 pages. In contrast, the Constitution is 19 pages. One makes a more perfect union and the other plans for future parks. The Declaration of Independence is two pages, not including the signatures. It declares the colonies free states, while the other plans for future bike trails and pickleball courts. If you want to see the plan go to the city's website http://www.plano.gov/DocumentCenter/View/32546/DRAFT-Park-Master-Plan?bidId= If you would like to see what happened at the city council meeting go to http://planotx.swagit.com/play/10092018-520
This master plan is the third Plano bureaucrats have made, and the council has passed in the past few years. This latest bloated plan, that would make any progressive giddy, has me pondering two questions. What is a local government necessary role? Is it governments responsibility to entertain us?
To answer these questions let us take a hypothetical. Suppose a small group of people were to start a new town. They have their houses, well water, and septic already. With those basic needs taken care of, what is one of the first thing this new town would need? Most intelligent people would say a Constitution. The next thing residents would need is a police department, so it could keep its residents and their property safe. This role of government comes from John Locke who said, "The great and chief end, therefore, of men's uniting into commonwealths, and putting themselves under government, is the preservation of their property." This role is also in the words of our US Constitution, "Establish Justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, .... and secure the Blessings of Liberty" The next thing the townspeople would need is a fire department. This hypothetical town would also need a Mayor and Council. It would also want judges and prosecutors to try criminals and settle civil disputes. The people would also need a department to create and maintain roads and collect trash. Those are the basics items every local government would have to provide its residents.
Did you notice what was not on the list? Parks, recreation centers, a golf course, pools, trails, and even libraries were not on the list of needs for our hypothetical town. That is because those items are not necessary for a town to function.
To that point, the Plano library system was first created in 1965, 92 years after Plano incorporated in 1873. The first park was built in 1925 privately by The Plano Lions Club and the Haggard family. They name it Haggard Memorial Park. So, for 52 years Plano did not have any parks, but it continued to survive and thrive. The Parks and Rec. department was not even established until 1968. Yet, Plano continued to grow more than 35 times its population from incorporation. Today, however, Plano has over 60 parks, 9 trails, 7 rec. centers, 1 golf course, and 3 pool centers. Even though we can clearly see from our own history that Parks and Rec. are not the basic functions of government and not therefore necessary.
Yet some people say over 60 parks, 9 trails, 7 rec. centers, 1 golf course, and 3 pool centers are not enough; hence, the "need" for a plan. But, we also need money; parks, pools, rec. centers, and golf courses cost a lot of money to build, run and maintain. The Parks and Rec. department has a budget of $29.63 million. Each recreation center cost millions to operate and maintain. For example, the Tom Muehienbeck Center will cost us 1.91 million in 2019, and the Liberty Recreation Center will cost $1.06 million. That money will come from taxpayers. Some of you might be saying, "Wait, the rec. centers are not free; if a resident wants to use them they have to pay a fee." In that aspect, you are correct, for there are fees to use the centers. However, these fees only cover 4.17% of the cost to operate and maintain the centers. If these were private clubs, they would have gone out of business long ago. The responsible and fair thing would be for the center's fees to at least cover their operating costs. This would alleviate some of the burdens these centers are putting on taxpayers. Some, who don't use the rec. centers at all.
This brings me to my last question, Is it governments responsibility to entertain us? We can find evidence of government entertaining its citizens as far back as 140 B.C.E. during the Roman Empire. Roman politicians passed laws to keep the votes of citizens. Lawmakers introducing a grain dole: giving out cheap food and entertainment, "bread and circuses", became an effective way to rise and keep power. Basically, keep your voters fat and entertained, and they will vote you back into office. The bread and circuses were also used to distract residents from the problems the government was facing.
Fast forward to today and local governments support all kinds of forms of entertainment and build buildings to house the entertainment instead of letting the private sector do it. Think of these as the modern-day coliseum. Over the years politicians have approved government run rec. centers, pools, and parks for every part of Plano, so residents don't have to travel far to access these "coliseums". City Council officials have also approved government owned event centers, theaters, and pavilions. Politicians have given taxpayer money to help fund a multitude of festivals or "circuses". Some examples are The Plano Balloon Festival, The Plano International Festival, and the Art and Music Festival. All so residents can be entertained and politicians can say, "Look at what we did; vote for us. "
Now, Plano residents have become conditioned to expect the government to fund their entertainment. Instead of going to private businesses, people are going to the government demanding it. Residents go to the City Council demanding more museums, more parks, more trails, and even pickle-ball courts. Where will the money come for this entertainment? The taxpayer of course. Those who want these things are overjoyed when politicians kowtow to their demands; while those who don't want or use these things are forced to pay for them in rising tax bills. Those folks would like to know why they should pay for entertainment they don't want or participate in? These people want to know when entertainment became a necessity? Of course, it never did.
Let us go back to my hypothetical town. Entertainment was not on the list of departments that a starting town would need. As I have outlined, for most of Plano's history, residents did not require the government to entertain them. Why? Because they knew what the government was for. This role is outlined in the US Constitution and Declaration of Independence. They knew governments' role was to protect its resident's life, liberty, and property and not to distract the people with bread and circus.