Friday, March 4, 2011

Roasting the little guys

Lots of politicians have campaigned with the motto, "Government should be run like a business."

No politician we can think of has waged a successful campaign advocating that government bodies go a step further and go into business for themselves.

But that's just what the Idaho Land Board did last year when it spent $2.7 million to purchase a commercial storage business on the premise that revenues would boost revenues for Idaho schools.

The governor, secretary of state, attorney general, controller, superintendent of public instruction—all Republicans—are the voting members of the land board, which manages state lands for the benefit of public schools.

Now, the Idaho Senate—with the help of a handful of Democrats including District 25 Senator Michelle Stennett—also signaled its support for government getting into private business with the passage of a bill that will allow school districts to sell advertising on school buses.

Locally, Ketchum's Urban Renewal Agency, whose board is composed primarily of members of the city council, has endorsed putting a restaurant in the visitors center on Sun Valley Road. The proposal has angered restaurant owners even though the URA has promised to confine its choice of operator to existing restaurants.

Why the small potatoes? Why don't elected officials buy and subsidize oil, gas, banking, computing or cellular phone companies and make some real money? Perhaps because these giants have lots of lobbyists and lawyers on retainer.

It's easier to roast the little guys on the spit of the public interest.

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