Telegram for PTC City Hall: Taxpayers watching

Terry Garlock's picture

William F. Buckley Jr., champion of individualism versus collectivism, antagonist of government run amok and constant critic of the nanny-state course America has been steering for far too long, died last week.

I loved to read his witty prose as he elevated sarcasm to a humorous art form and enjoyed friendly battles by pen, cleverly skewering his target with big words and compound sentences forming thoughts that were elegant in their simplicity, once readers like me interpreted with the aid of a dictionary.

No danger of me being compared to Bill Buckley, but I am strangely reminded of two things by his passing. First is that I fear most those eager to save me. Second is why I am troubled by the recent hike in Emergency Medical Service fees recently approved by the Peachtree City Council. Whether the new fee structure itself is appropriate or not I cannot say because I have no expertise on the subject.

But it takes no expertise to smell a rat when city employees, elected officials and their immediate families are exempted from the elevated EMS fees that will be charged to less deserving people otherwise known as taxpayers.

You have to be willfully blind to assume these services have no cost simply because they are provided free of charge by the city to a special class of people who work at City Hall. For a given level of services someone has to pay the bill, and when it is free to some, those who don’t pay shift their cost to those who write the checks.

How do elected officials forget that they work for us, that there is a trust implied in each vote, and that they should not, cannot, set themselves or city employees apart as a special class of people?

How does a body elected by the citizens create regulations, taxes, fines and fees applicable to those citizens and at the same time exempt not only themselves and city employees, but their loved ones as well, then explain it with a straight face?

The U.S. Congress has a long history of doing just that if you ignore the straight face part, but I would think Peachtree City representatives would want to meet a higher standard than the do-nothing gas-bags in Washington.

I’ll speculate that this is not the only special privilege at City Hall, and that it may be a long-standing practice inherited by current council members. No matter, there is no excuse in that.

If Peachtree City were a private enterprise, such company freebies would be perfectly fine, and the owners of the business would realize they were paying for those goodies out of their own pocket. The problem is, of course, that Peachtree City is not a business; it belongs to the citizens. If you were studying the nature of equity, you might quickly conclude if anyone deserves freebies, it is the citizen taxpayers.

How could the City Council not know that?

Maybe this was an idea proposed by city employees. No matter here either, because the City Council should set dubious ideas aside to maintain a high standard of ethics, both in appearance and in fact.

My favorite dubious idea from the past was the passionate effort of city employees to regulate golf cart brakes, wheel size, lift height and other characteristics to make we citizen-fools safer than we were making ourselves.

Close examination of the details showed the proposed regs would have severely limited the EZ-Go brand from choice in Peachtree City as just one unintended consequence of nanny-state’s tender care.

Small wonder that a golf cart safety consultant, a former official of Club Car who advised on the regs, was brought in to argue in support of the idea just when it died the death it richly deserved.

More recently, city employees proposed the requirement that a fire sprinkler system be required on new homes over 3,000 square feet, or greater than two stories high, or greater than 25 feet from grade to a window of a room used for sleeping purposes, or ... I could go on but it is depressing, and of course this requirement would add many thousands of dollars in builder cost. That idea, which should be considered by the builder or buyer instead of City Hall, is set aside and I hope headed for the dustbin.

If Bill Buckley were looking over my shoulder he might offer this: “When a government employee proposes a nanny-state idea, have them write in chalk on a squeaky blackboard 100 times — JUST BECAUSE SOMETHING IS A GOOD IDEA, THAT DOES NOT MEAN GOVERNMENT SHOULD DO IT, OR REQUIRE IT!

“And if they have consumed government time and resources researching the idea, have them write it 1,000 times, on their own time after work hours.”

Unfortunately, the ideas I mentioned, and probably many others deserving the nanny-state label, not only consumed valuable staff time but the time of City Council members to read, consider and debate.

It might surprise you to know I have friends at City Hall; at least I did before I wrote this column. I know them to be good people with good intentions, but that doesn’t earn anyone a pass when it comes to resisting the natural urge of every government body to tax more, regulate more, provide more services ... always more.

Like Buckley, I have always believed we should do things for ourselves, and limit government to do only those things we cannot do for ourselves, like build highways, bridges and sewers and arm a military force. How did this common-sense notion, treated at length by our founding fathers in the Federalist Papers, get purged from American mainstream thought?

I suggest it is the very mindset of granny creating rules to protect the helpless little children-citizens from themselves that gives rise to arrogance and condescension in public servants, like Peachtree City Hall exempting themselves and those they care most about from the EMS fees they impose on everyone else.

Wherever the idea came from, why didn’t the City Council kill it? How is this anything but a clear case of self-dealing?

Maybe the city’s Ethics Ordinance should be required monthly reading to reinforce why special treatment for elected officials or city employees should be avoided, and, where present, should be ferreted out and eliminated.

If those special privileges do not violate the Peachtree City Ethics Ordinance, they should, and any elected official should know instinctively that it is dumber than a bag of hammers to try to gain and keep the public’s confidence while feeding on meals they have reserved for themselves at the public trough.

Anyone needing this explained to them has no business anywhere near public service.

[Terry Garlock ( is a financial services planner in Peachtree City and an occasional columnist for The Citizen.]

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Mike King's picture
Submitted by Mike King on Tue, 03/04/2008 - 5:40pm.

As you stated, perhaps this is on of those "this is how we've always done it" situations, but I am in total agreement that those we elect to public office are to be held at a much higher standard. What most public officials do not realize is that the perception of impropriety is always worse than it seems.

What we have begun to remedy is a void of leadership that has been the norm on our Council for quite a while. I have yet to research the vote by Council in the EMS hike, but I certainly hope it was not unanimous. If it was, then somehow they believe these benefits to them are part of a compensation they feel deserved.

If they feel it is deserved, then I would argue that they have begun to abandon the principle of service that they echoed while seeking office. Most reading this will agree that it is a small price to pay for the amount of work involved in being on our Council, but I would contend that it is a trend that is continuous and most difficult to reverse.

Just my two cents worth.

Submitted by johenry on Sat, 03/08/2008 - 7:32pm.

Of course Mayor Logsdon will give himself special treatment.

I hope you decide to run again Mike.

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