Thursday, August 1, 2013

Detroit’s Death by Democracy – What are the Lessons for Charlotte?

Over the first 30 years of my life; I grew up in Southern California. During my early career, I worked all across the region for the Los Angeles Times Newspaper. At one point in time; I moved east to the suburbs in San Bernardino County.

I lived and experienced first-hand as a citizen, and as a member of the business community – the politics, policies and outcomes of local government being dominated and controlled by progressive democrats. Having had a front row seat and living in the middle of it all – let me tell you something with absolute certainty… Ongoing and long-term Democrat control of local policy and spending is virtually guaranteed to be a death-spiral.

Detroit is now beyond any doubt a ‘poster-child’ for why we should not allow decades of control by progressive liberals. It is also an example of the terrible outcomes we get when we do not have a thriving two-party representative process in a region or a city.

Detroit – Death by Democracy
This bedraggled city’s decay poses worrisome questions about the viability of democracy in jurisdictions where big government and its unionized employees collaborate in pillaging taxpayers. Self-government has failed in what once was America’s fourth-largest city and now is smaller than Charlotte, N.C.

Let’s take a look at a couple more of our cities to the west.

Los Angeles
The fact is that there is more margin and opportunity for tax revenue in a place like Los Angeles. We have to remember that the number of highly profitable business and industries in LA County are numerous. You have Hollywood and all of the various facets of the Entertainment Industry – movie studios, music industry, etc.

Oh… there is certainly an irony and hypocrisy in the fact that so many anti-capitalist Hollywood Liberal-Progressives make millions of dollars from capitalism. But; that’s a subject for another article.

According to Hoovers 2010
  • Los Angeles is the largest major manufacturing center in the United States.
  • Steel fabrication is the second largest industry in manufacturing, followed closely by fashion apparel.
  • Los Angeles is the nation's largest port in terms of value of goods handled and tonnage.
  • The banking and finance industry in Los Angeles is one of the largest in the United States. More than 100 foreign and countless domestic banks operate branches in Los Angeles, along with many financial law firms and investment banks.
Entertainment, in the form of film, television, and music production, is the best known industry in Los Angeles, focusing worldwide attention on the city and making Los Angeles a major tourist destination. Tourism employs more than 468,000 people in the entire metropolitan area.

This massive volume of ‘Capitalist’ free-market business activity generates an enormous level of prosperity and certainly provides a large and wide local tax base. This massive diversity in industry and capital has allowed the City and County of Los Angeles to weather the recent economic storms fairly well. Los Angeles officially re-entered the black on their balance sheet just this year.

The City of San Bernardino
In my early 20’s I moved out to Rancho Cucamonga, which is at the western end of San Bernardino County. I had family who lived in the area, and my mother had retired to the City of San Bernardino. For several years I watched as our local elected officials basically try to emulate what they saw happening immediately to their west in LA; but they ignored some very important realities. San Bernardino is simply not the same power house of economic activity as is Los Angeles. Something that apparently the elected officials failed to consider in their calculations.

What lessons do we find for Charlotte?

How about Charlotte?
As a citizen of Charlotte NC; I have to tell you that I followed and watched the budget battles and the CIP with Charlotte City council in 2012 closely. As for the recent Mecklenburg Board of Commissioners decision to raise taxes across the county – during a time when we are still struggling with high unemployment; when we need jobs and industry back up to par in our area – it concerns me greatly.

We need a careful and realistic assessment of just how big an economic engine we currently have here in Charlotte Metro. What are we doing to get more industries and jobs here? In the meantime; what are we doing to prioritize spending. We must remember that every additional dollar we spend is coming from the limited pockets of the revenue generators – the citizens of Mecklenburg County!

To the citizens, voters, leaders in office and certainly those who are running now and in the future; I strongly suggest you take some time to study the histories of San Bernardino and Detroit. These cities had their local boards and commissions ‘Democratically Elected’. Yet - they have certainly suffered ‘Death by Democracy’.

There is a lesson for us in this – be careful who we vote for. When a candidate asks for your vote – be sure they can express to you in understandable terms just how they can bring more businesses and jobs to the region. If they spend more time promising you ‘stuff, handouts or programs’ but are not telling you how they’re going to raise the money to pay for these - by any means other than raising your taxes – you better beware! If they increase spending – raise taxes – but do not offer policies to increase economic activity – you can be certain we are on the same path as Detroit and San Bernardino.

Democracy is not the end-all. Democracy can bring both bad and good outcomes.

Do we want ‘Life more abundant by Democracy’ – or – ‘Death by Democracy’?

It all rises or falls on leadership; and the leadership are those you elect.

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