Citizen ‘watchdogs’ watching

A friend sometimes asks me if I believe my writing critical of government folly results in any systemic changes. Although he usually agrees with my views, he seems resigned to skepticism about individual influences. I answer that, regardless of the actual impact, I feel compelled to continue to speak out for individual freedom from excessive government. It’s hard-wired into my being.

On occasion I’m pleased and inspired by the alertness of other watchdogs. Jason Gonzales reports in the Wilmington StarNews that Brunswick County resident and “budget watchdog” Jim Moore recently got the attention of the county manager and commissioners about excessive spending by the Brunswick Community College. (link)

Mr. Moore discovered that BCC—in a mostly rural county—gets more funding than any other two-year college in the State of North Carolina (with 100 counties).

Essentially, BCC funding increases on auto-pilot in the county budgeting process. In addition to State funds, Brunswick commissioners spend “25 percent more per student than the local contributions for the next highest-funded community college,” according to Moore’s calculations—this year BCC County funding “jumped to $3.8 million,” from $3.5 million last year. Apparently, a previous county manager applied an inappropriate funding process and the commissioners went along with it.

One of our greatest problems with government is the lack of oversight and accountability of myriad increasingly unmanageable agencies and programs. Our elected officials can’t or won’t watchdog these activities and the staffs whose interests are in getting more money and expanding their authorities. Instead they rely on “managers” to tell them what they should do and how much they should spend. The mangers actually work in cahoots with the agencies. Everybody goes along to get along—problem is: taxpayers’ are stuck with the excessive costs.

Susanne Adams, president of BCC unknowingly summed up the problem: “It’s amazing to see how much we are able to provide.” Yes, Susanne, there is a Santa Claus.

Ms. Adams and the college trustee chairwoman predictably flip off Moore’s concerns. They aren’t worried about any change in funding. They expressed confidence that the county commissioners will continue to keep money rolling into their “community services” empire.

Likely all these members of the local political class have established some cozy relationships. But, at least, Commission Chairman Phil Norris publicly said that they want to consider Moore’s suggestion to be more objective in funding BCC. We’ll see; watchdogs may be watching.

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About R. E. Smith Jr.

Mr. Smith writes essays and commentary on politics, American history, environment, higher education and culture. He's been published in print media and at blog sites for about 25 years. Smith's formal education includes B.S. and M.S. degrees from the State University of New York and Syracuse University. He has earned a 21-credit hour Certificate in Professional Writing from the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Training/work experience: NYS Ranger School; U. S. Army, Corp of Engineers; soil scientist and forester with USDA; Assoc. Professor at SUNY; real estate agent; small business owner.
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