A letter to the editor was published in the Patch on Monday regarding the incorporation question. The letter laid out several arguments against incorporation that I would like to respond to.
The first argument that the writer makes is that a new city would require additional taxes. Anyone that has been following this debate knows that, YES, the new city will, in fact, bring about new taxation however minimal it might be. No one on the pro-city side of this discussion has tried to hide this fact. As most people realize nothing is free in this world and getting the benefits of a new city are not free either.
The letter goes on to make the assertion that if we incorporate that taxes will inevitably go up because that is what happens with government. Unfortunately in many cases this is definitely the case. We have seen spending at the federal level nearly double in the last 10 years and it has especially accelerated in the last two years. As a fiscal conservative I find this very troubling and have similar concerns regarding what seems to be an almost natural inclination of government to grow. However, there are local examples of governments that actually have kept government spending flat over the last few years in spite of growing population.
The closest example is right over the river in Johns Creek. In FY2007 (their first full year of operation) their budget was approximately $45M. In FY2010 their spending was also approximately $45M in spite of their population growing approximately 7,000 over this three year time period. So, on a per capita basis their spending actually DECREASED. I think it is probably a safe assumption to make that Johns Creek has a population that would be considered fiscally conservative based on their voting patterns. The reality is that the elected politicians of that city responded to the recent fiscal crisis and the wishes of their residents by keeping spending flat. This is an example of what a city whose population is fiscally conservative can do. It CAN keep spending in check.
We can't let the irresponsibility of the last decade in Washington D.C. make us so cynical that we don't believe that a local government whose population would be most certainly fiscally conservative could keep spending in check. It can be done, and we have local examples that shown us it can be done. Lets have more faith in ourselves because ultimately that is what our local government would be - US.
The reality is that Gwinnett County, based on voting patterns and based on the past spending records of the major political parties, is becoming less and less fiscally conservative. The current government in Lawrenceville may not yet reflect this reality but the voting trends of the last 20 years show that a change in power is just a matter of time (I wrote a blog recently on this topic.... Political Planets aligned....). What this means is that by staying unincorporated Peachtree Corners is actually exposing itself to the very problem, increased government spending, that the writer is so concerned about.
The second major complaint the writer has about a potential city of Peachtree Corners is that it won't have a police force. Now when I first read this I have to admit I was a bit perplexed. In the first part of his letter the writer complains that once a government is in place all it will do is grow and grow and grow.
Then in the second part of the letter he complains that the new city would not have a service that no doubt would be very expensive. These two arguments seem to be at odds with each other. Does he want limited government or does he want a more expansive government. You can't have it both ways.
But I don't think the writer's comments about police should be dismissed without first exploring them a bit. The writer asserts that we would have to continually reimburse Gwinnett County without getting any improvement in service. I'm not sure what the point really is. Whether we are paying for the county to provide police services as residents of unincorporated Gwinnett or Peachtree Corners, we are going to pay the same amount. Where is the controversy?
Another assertion made about police service is that if we incorporated the citizens "would still have to go all the way over to Lawrenceville and ask for it (police protection) - which would be no different than it would be without the added cost of the city." In reality the situation would be that as a city we would have paid advocates (our mayor, city council and city manager) who would be working with the county to get the best service possible instead of the citizens having to "go all the way over to Lawrenceville and ask for it." Logic dictates that those who have the legitimacy and heft of the largest city in the county behind them that they are going to get a lot more attention than just your average citizen calling and asking for more police service. We would be paying the same amount for police and probably getting better service.
A third assertion about the police that I thought was interesting was that "eventually the citizens of the new city would begin to expect better and better police protection without the feeling that it must originate from a headquarters located all the way over in Lawrenceville." Now I would love to see some type of research data that shows that has happened in other cities that have incorporated but kept police service at a county level. Until then I can't really give this any credence.
In summary I was never really sure what this writer wanted - more government or less government. He complained about too much government and too many taxes and then went on to complain we were not getting our own police force. Which is it? More or less? Even though many people who respond to my blogs complain about more taxes and more government they are at least consistent in their disdain for both. While I may disagree with these individuals about many things, I have a certain level of respect for their arguments because of that consistency.
Just 63 days to go. Do your own research, get the facts and then make an informed decision on November 8th.