- Category: Editor
- Published: Tuesday, 20 May 2014 11:34
- Hits: 1458
Kudos to Yellowstone County Commissioners.
The role of public office holder is to carefully steward the public's money.
The purpose of taxes is to provide for the necessities of government and to provide for those things that the private sector cannot. And, those things have primarily to do with providing protection, enforcing laws and dispensing justice (military, law enforcement, and courts.) At no time is taxpayer money to be placed at risk.
There was a time when these tenets were much more clearly understood by citizens, but in this modern era of entitlements, wealth redistribution, patronage, and top-down administration, such concepts are quaint, at best. Nevertheless, Yellowstone County Commissioners and other public office holders in Yellowstone County are to be commended for understanding their responsibilities and adhering to them in a day when there is so much clamor for them to do otherwise.
It is not the purpose of County Commissioners to be event promoters – to entertain the public. One can readily make the case that it is not the purpose of county commissioners to administer any kind of enterprise, including a facility like Metra Park. In both cases, the taxpayers' money is being placed at high risk.
The reality is, of course, that they are administrators of a publically-owned venture, but there is no need to expand that role as some would have them do. There has been a clamoring for the county commissioners to co-promote events at Metra Park – an endeavor which by its very nature is an exercise in risk. This is a role far beyond the intention of the creation of a board of county commissioners or county government.
There are event promoters of all kinds from every corner of the country – many are local promoters. They demonstrate every day that the private sector is fully capable of pursuing this kind of endeavor and it is a process which places the risks and rewards where they belong. There is absolutely no reason to place taxpayers' money at risk – unless it's because some members of the private sector are trying to minimize their own risk, at taxpayer expense. Such has become an unfortunate common use of government.
Be assured that there is risk. If a concert is a sure thing, there is no invitation to co-promote.
And, while there is money to be made, it would take only one colossal failure – due to nothing more than a poorly- timed winter blizzard – for Metra Park to lose more on one concert than they may have earned on two or three successful concerts. All losses, of course, would have to be covered by taxpayers.
Property taxpayers already subsidize Metra Park each year in excess of one million dollars, through a standing mill levy, and that doesn't include the expenditures the county commissioners, with some regularity, spend from other county funds.
People should have a choice about whether they want to place their hard earned money at risk in a business venture. That's what the market place and entrepreneurship is all about.
As with every expansion in the role of government, to step into the role of promoting concerts is but an invitation for future expansion. As sure as the sun rising, it will bring demands to co-promote other events. One can already hear the lament: "Why should the county co-promote events with out-of-state promoters who don't even pay local taxes?" "They should co-promote with local business people." "Why not co-promote the trade shows, the rodeos, the sport events?" Once crossed, what is a fair point at which to draw the line?
That concerts, sport events, trade shows, rodeos, etc. are an economic boon to many businesses people in Billings is an absolute certainty, but there are many others for whom it is not – at least not any more so than any other kind of business activity. The fact is every successful business venture has a positive ripple effect that buoys the whole community.
We should all be grateful for the frugal manner in which Yellowstone County government has been conducted. There is probably no county government in the entire country that is in any better financial condition. Yellowstone County has the highest bond rating possible, and because of past frugality, the country was readily able to finance the costly, unexpected repairs that Metra Park needed following the tornado, without further burdening taxpayers.
The fact is, equally as important to a community's economy, as private investment, is a fiscally-sound, transparent and prudent government, and that only comes from government sticking to its limited role, which gives private enterprise the full opportunity of rising and falling upon its own merits.