Tuesday, September 06, 2011

I'm trying not to porkbarrel, but it's complicated

I haven't written much about my glamorous life as an international spy water district director, but I thought about it today as I spent my Saturday politely sparring with officials from other agencies.

I got elected on an environmental agenda but have spent as much or more time dealing with money and budget issues. That's appropriate - the public doesn't want the Water District dollars wasted.

So here's the real tricky part - I often try to help our taxpayers and ratepayers by fighting with other agencies over who's going to pay for what, but if we're just transferring costs amongst ourselves, are there any real savings?

I think the answer is partly yes - an efficient allocation of resources depends on the communities that receive the benefits being the ones that pay for them (adjusting for any transfers done to fix social problems). Agencies and communities that want our resources without pitching in comparably will demand more than they should, and our community will be willing to pay less than they should.

In today's example, we have a creek flooding issue that crosses two counties, and since more flooding happens on our side, it's somewhat appropriate that we've been paying more. At the same time we also have tidal flooding that will get worse from sea level rise that's partially integrated with our creek flooding (someone tell Roger about that) but is also more evenly spread between the two counties. I supported beginning plans to rebuild the levees to address the tidal flooding, but also said that if damages are more equal between counties then we have to revisit cost allocations. I want the problem addressed and the costs addressed appropriately.

So how does this fit a Stoat post on the failings of politicians? I guess we need to structure elected government so that the ability to win elections derives more from the competence values. If I fight for Water District cost reductions, including some real reductions, maybe that will be rewarded. We'll see.

I also want to see campaign finance reform for our little district, but that's another issue....