January 27, 2020 11:00 AM
This week’s Courier Herald column:
Much of what is done and not done in government has a common
root or theme. It’s difficult to educate
the public and keep a couple hundred citizen legislators on message on every
technical matter considered for law or policy.
Slogans are easier to remember than white papers.
One of the major themes used every year is that of “local
control”. Application of the phrase is
not new, as it’s been used in many of the education reform and accountability
battles for years.
The concept is simple as a test of government. Decisions should be made as close to the
people as possible, with the smallest and/or as little government as possible
guiding decisions and limiting the freedoms of individuals.
The mantra has been adopted and internalized by so many on the
right side of the aisle that one could be forgiven for searching a concordance to
see which chapter of the Bible lays out this commandment. The Constitution has a fairly significant
directive for those who need to see it in black and white.
powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited
by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution.
It specifically limits the powers of the Federal Government to those
provided within the document. The
remaining are reserved to the states, or, to the people.
assign responsibility to local school boards.
Mayors and County Commissioners are not mentioned. The U.S. Constitution relegates powers to the
states, or to the people.
not to say there isn’t a role for any other government structures below that of
the state level. Georgia’s Constitution
makes clear there are roles of counties, cities, school boards, and other
entities. These powers are express
grants of the state.
too often lost from those who rest their case on the “local control” argument
isn’t that a county commission or city council are closer to the citizens they
represent than the state. They are.
question that needs to be asked when “local control” in invoked is whether or
not the government should be usurping the decision making ability of
individuals at all.
states…OR, to the people”
the more recent waves in asserting the local control argument is in that of “local
design standards”. It’s an issue that
deserves its own column, on both the merits and the consequences, intended and
unintended. We’ll use it here briefly to
highlight the limits of the local control argument.
state of Georgia adopts and maintains a statewide building code, to ensure that
structures are sound and construction methods result in buildings are that are
safe when inhabited. Local governments
generally have some leeway in interpreting the code as they are the ones that
manage the construction inspection process.
counties and cities have begun to implement “local design standards” that add
to the cost of a home’s construction beyond code requirements. Some examples include prohibiting slab
foundations, mandating four-sided brick exterior facades, and other similar
say the measures are needed to protect property values. Opponents say they add unnecessary costs to
new homes in a market that already can’t supply sufficient entry level housing.
of limited government need to remember the phrase, “Or to the people”.
county commission nor city council will be making mortgage payments on these
homes for the next thirty years. It is the people that are buying the
houses. It is the government that is
limiting their choices and driving up their prices.
of local design standards is just one example where government, even at a local
level, is reaching beyond the minimum amount needed into a person’s ability to
make decisions for themselves.
It’s a fairly
bright line illustrating that sometimes the government closest to the people is
actively making decisions that should be reserved and left to the people.