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Friday, October 8, 2004

Smokey Briggs

Sage Views

By Smokey Briggs

City government and low
taxes - it can be done!

If you work for the city or the county you may not like this idea - at first. But at least sleep on it before you come hunting me.

The reason you will not like it is because if our local governments were to take this advice you would be out of a job - at least a government job.

Which is okay by me because as far as I’m concerned all government jobs are evil although some are probably necessary evils.

Which goes along with my theory that government of any degree is a necessary evil, but still evil.

Of course taxes are the root of this evil.

Taxes are evil because they take money away from productive enterprises that are showing a profit (be they families or businesses) and put it into a machine that breeds inefficiency and sloth - government.

I am pretty sure that if you look up “inefficient” in the dictionary you will find the first definition is the single word, “bureaucracy.”

It is a fact of life. Free enterprise outfits run efficiently. Government operations are at the other end of the spectrum.


Who cares at this point? Two thousand-plus years of history cannot be wrong.

Government is sloppy and wasteful by nature and it just gets more wasteful as time goes on and taxes keep increasing.

Taxes go up. Never down.

Well, almost never.

Crestwood, Illinois found an answer to the sloppy, wasteful tax glutton that was its city government.

The town drove the wooden stake of common sense into the blood sucking glutton's heart.

The stake was privatization and Crestwood privatized most of the government’s functions.

When current Mayor Chester Stranczek was first elected in 1969 he started scrapping departments and farming out the work. His first victim was the Public Works Department that fixed water main leaks and the like.

Instead of a permanent line item for payroll and equipment the city contracts with private firms - private firms that have no choice but to run efficiently or die.

Under 30+ years of Stranczek’s leadership the city has trimmed down until it now has fewer than 20 full-time employees and a budget of $2 million.

According to City Director Frank Gassmere, as quoted by Devvy Kidd in a recent article published at , comparable cities with about 12,000 people have budgets around $10 million and employees numbering past 150.

The Monahans city budget runs about $4 million for a town of about 6,500. Pecos consumes about $5 million for a town of 7,000.

I like Crestwood’s numbers.

To good to be true?


The reality? It works. The city has regularly returned 25 - 75 percent of property taxes to the taxpayers since 1993.

Stranczek’s goal is to eliminate property taxes altogether.

But the services are terrible right? Crime must be rampant. The water tastes like dirt. Nope. Actually the town is so well off that residents 55 and older get their shrubs trimmed for free, free lawn care, free shuttle bus service and free snow plowing. All residents get free garbage pickup.

Crime is almost non-existent.

Businesses love moving to Crestwood because permits cost a dollar and taxes are near zilch.

Folks, this is not fantasy. This is not the semi-crazed newspaper guy frothing at the mouth.

It is fact.

Research it yourself.

And we need to take notice.

This year we need to send a delegation to Crestwood and see how these folks do it. And then we need to come home and start chopping our city and county governments apart.

I know it will chap some looking to a bunch of Yankees for a better way of doing business but at this point I do not care.

If small towns in Texas are going to survive we need to find a new way of doing business. Crestwood has it.

If we are interested in survival we need to take a look.

Citizen upset with TxDOT

To The Editor:

I always looked forward to seeing the Texas rock map as I entered Pecos because I knew I was home.

My daughter was part of the junior high group of students in Cindy Duke’s history class that created a family recipe cookbook several years ago.

She felt proud of the cookbook her class had made and wanted to be a part of the group that made the rock map, too.

People traveling along the highway would see it and perhaps these students could have someday showed their own children how they contributed to Pecos.

We need to encourage our children to get involved in such projects so maybe we can instill in them the importance of giving to their community. They are our future. DEBRA TERRY

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