We need true leadership

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By Jack Simpson

Leadership. Vision. Judgment. These are the three essential ingredients of effective governance.

In lieu of responding to all of the musings, individually, relative to increasing the sales tax, property tax increases, new courthouse, county government building security, etc., etc., that have recently appeared in The Lancaster News, let’s stop for a moment to examine our County Council’s record.

Effective public leaders:

n Have the foresight and responsibility to secure the government’s assets. This includes both human and physical assets.

n Do not raise taxes every year for the past five years, the largest of which is yet to hit the already over-burdened taxpayers of Lancaster County. It will come in the 2009 tax year.

n Do not approve residential developments that strain our county’s resources under the mantra “growth pays for itself.” We know better. With growth come needs. With needs come revenue requirements. With revenue requirements come tax increases. Not a complicated formula.

n Do not approve developers’ contracts they do not fully understand as recently noted with the Sun City exchange over what the county has or has not committed to in the various agreements with Sun City/Del Webb.

n Have the foresight and vision to anticipate county needs in order to be proactive and not reactive to calamity or systemic economic change as a result of inflation, fuel costs, loss of industrial activity and jobs, together with the resultant unemployment.

n Recognize that change is inevitable and develop alternative strategies and tactics to deal with change without resorting to more of the same debilitating solutions, such as higher taxation and regulation. These solutions require very little thought or creativity.

n Do not bombard The Lancaster News with arcane, rambling letters trying to educate the residents of the county about the merits of spending more than $33 million on a new courthouse. NEWS FLASH: THIS IS OUR MONEY, NOT YOURS!

n Do not attempt to obfuscate the fact that a new courthouse could cost the taxpayers of Lancaster County more than $100 million when a 6 percent cost is factored into this project using a 25-year financing term. The final cost will depend on debt structure and the amount financed.

n Do not attempt to justify a “significant return on investment” when we know that the contemplated courthouse expenditure would be a “sunk” cost to the taxpayer. This is simply disingenuous.

n Do not attempt to hide the fact that the architectural firm will not charge “to expedite...” Perhaps an additional $3 million so that the so-called referendum time line can be met.

n Do not use the cram-down method of taxation and construct a referendum that does not allow the voters to vote yea or nay to either approve or not. It will not matter how you vote, we are going to raise your taxes regardless. Pick your poison.

n Do not characterize the proposed one penny sales tax increase as modest. In reality, this would be a 14.3 percent increase that would result in Lancaster County having a higher sales tax than Charleston, Lexington, Spartanburg, Chester and York counties, to name a few.

n Do not hide behind court orders to cover their leadership deficiencies. Has our world changed? Sure, it changed forever on Sept. 11, 2001.

One last question to ponder: Do these traits embody the values of Lancaster County leadership? You decide.

Jack Simpson is a Lancaster County