We’ve often observed, with a mixture of bafflement and alarm, the fondness that certain local government officials have for preposterous proposals which they seriously expect to enact on the taxpayer’s dime. That’s especially true when the preposterous proposals come from a paid consultant, as though paying good money can make a bad idea seem plausible.
Lately – after a city council meeting in Burlington this week and two recent town council meetings in Elon – we’ve found ourselves wondering whether we’ve underestimated just how pervasive this susceptibility to silly ideas has become within local government.
The more we look, the more it seems that there’s no project crazy enough for the public sector to dismiss out of hand – and no government employee who’s immune to this feverish pursuit of utter inanity.
Rather than resembling the conscientious work city staff member, the processes which churn out these hare-brained notions appear increasingly erratic and random.
But always, always, the taxpayers are expected to pay.
We’ve already written (above) about one consultant’s ridiculous recommendations regarding an imaginary “pedestrian friendly” reconfiguration of downtown Burlington, one that would require business patrons to traipse from distant parking lots, which we don’t believe they’ll do.
But silly ideas don’t have to be as grandiose as that.
Take, Elon, for instance, where town council members actually sat through two recent meetings – with somber, straight faces – as they entertained design ideas for a new town flag.
Their selection ultimately required a second meeting because the graphic artist’s first batch of submissions was so bad that the council had to send him back to the drawing board.
This situation raises a couple of obvious questions: first, who knew there was even an old town flag? And why did it need to be replaced?
Another even more basic query that we’ve since heard from a reader, “Why does Elon need a town flag in the first place?”
It seems to us that the town council might have more easily gotten just as good a design – the council rejected all of the original drawings from its hired consultant – if they just gone to a local school.
We suspect the students in art classes at Elon Elementary School, right there in town, could have cobbled together at least as beautiful a rendering – and at far less cost.
But we guess it wouldn’t have been as professional as spending thousands of dollars (we’re not sure of the final tab) for hiring a consultant to design one.
Ah, government. Just always looking for ways to spend tax dollars.