The Sage Grouse

Local Control

“All Politics Are Local.” Who said that?  Studs Terkel? Charles Rangel? It could have been Stan Hathaway.

Rural residents of Crook County sometimes resent County Government.

RT Cox

Businessmen in towns sometimes chafe under policies of State Government.

Lately everyone in Wyoming seems to resent the Federal Government.

Energy companies, with some good justification, feel oppressed by all of these governments.

LET’S PRETEND, again; The federal government money for highways is happily accepted by construction companies; federal money for schools is happily accepted by school districts; federal money for airports, clean water projects, rural development, crop subsidies, drought relief, moving polluting corrals out of the creek bottoms — all of this money is happily accepted. Cynthia brings home the bacon, while deploring federal deficits.

The images on our currency should have two faces.

But this column is not mainly about federal money. It’s about government.

Everyone ascribes to the shibboleth that local control is better. School boards should control curriculum and teacher standards. County commissioners should control rural sprawl and wind farms. State government should take over management of federal land and boot the BLM out of the state. The concept of championing “local” control inevitably means “less” control, even if they all keep taking federal money.

If school boards were to have total control, some districts would outlaw teaching of biology and evolution. If county commissioners were to have total control of land use planning, opportunities for corruption and special treatment could lead to bad land use decisions. If the federal government is excluded from managing public lands, local interests could overgraze public land, allow mud-bogging everywhere, relax environmental protection, exterminate wildlife, and tear the daylights out of everything. I’m not saying all of those things would happen here, but they could.

The way the state government in Wyoming handicaps energy development on state land and the way that the Department of Revenue ambushes energy companies with invented punitive tax policies, can make me see red often. The legislature needs to provide level playing rules across the state, so that state agencies and individual counties do not make up new rules and exceptions.

The Gillette City Council recently denied an application by the holder of a retail liquor license to move it to the Wal-Mart here. The Billings Wal-Marts offer me great deals on wines. After the City Council denial, based on a bunch of “petitions” that the liquor dealers pushed their patrons to sign, beer and wine prices in Gillette took huge jumps.

The way the BLM drags its feet on approving coal leases to allow existing mines to keep running, and drags its feet on approving oil and gas plans, drives my clients crazy. But there is a role for the federal government; it should create a level playing field across state boundaries.

Reflect upon the Civil War and Reconstruction. White people denied the freed slaves the rights of citizenship. It took the U.S. Congress to create opportunities for freed slaves and their progeny to go to federal court to override local rules which barred them from enjoying basic human freedoms.

This took a while. When I lived in the Mississippi delta town of Indianola in the late 1950s, all people of color lived on one side of the tracks. They were allowed into the downtown to shop at Piggly Wiggly and Woolworth’s only on Saturday. My friends and I would go downtown on Saturday just to watch all of these different people shop in the stores that five days a week were all white. We went out to the plantations on Sunday after church, and watched the white planters pay the field hands $20 per week for picking cotton. The schools were segregated. The churches were segregated. That’s local control out of control.

Countering race discrimination should not still be a complex issue, although I wince when I hear the “N” word around this town way too often.

But figuring out how to prevent “local control” campaign rhetoric from corrupting rational policy analyses regarding land and water issues; that’s a matter of subtleties. Advocates at the extremes see no subtleties; liberals and enviros default to federal regulation because local ag and energy constituencies have had less influence in the world of Nancy Pelosi and Nick Rahall and their favored bureaucracies.

Superimpose the wolves. Wolves move fast and do not cooperate with managers. Crystallizing the conflict between “local control” and federal regulation couldn’t be sharper. Local control apparently raises the specter to wolf advocates and federal authorities of granting license to shoot them at will. The alternative, federal control, seems to be allowing wolves to breed rapidly and threaten pets, elk and livestock across a broad landscape. Let’s hope the new compromise results in keeping a viable wolf population in Yellowstone Park while protecting wildlife and livestock elsewhere.

Time for a poll:

[polldaddy poll=5558048]

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  1. I just want to point out that all the money that the federal government has ultimately came from us to begin with. The real question is how much more responsible would local governments be with our money if it was coming directly out of the pockets of the constituents instead of from the feds who collect it from citizens all over the country. Lets be honest with ourselves, if there is a local road that the local citizens who are most affected by the condition are not willing to pave, could it be maybe its not a worth while project? A great example of this is all the work done with federal money on west Lincoln way in Cheyenne, yea it looks great, yea I like it, but that section was an ugly mess for years and years and nobody cared enough to pay to fix it. Along comes President BO and he along with his liberal colleagues borrow a whole bunch of money in my name and spend it all making west Cheyenne beautiful, if it wasn’t worth the local governments resources before, why is it now? If I am not willing to fix the deck on the front of my house, is it beneficial for me to have a home equity loan taken out in my name (without me having any say in the matter) and the money used to build a brand-new deck, along with a patio in the back yard, and pave my driveway? May I be so bold as to suggest that oftentimes it is not, maybe I would rather stay debt free, or use that money on something better.

    Please do not misunderstand the point I am making, this is not about whether or not the streets in Cheyenne should be made pretty, and I am not suggesting not accepting any highway funds (clearly Wyoming citizens do not require a four lane road connecting Cheyenne and Evenston, I-80 is definitely a VERY expensive road that benefits people outside of Wyoming as much or more then it does us, it would seem appropriate for the feds to kick in a portion at least). My point is that any investment should be paid for by the people who are going to benefit the most (ie a local road/school/police car whatever, by a local government), the entity that is closest to the citizens will be able to make the best and most economical decision.



  2. The survey is not set up properly and will only allow 3 items to be checked. Some of us would trade ALL federal dollars for more freedom.

  3. Your survey has a bias. You do not allow the health care question to be checked. This is shameful biase or a really poor instrument. Not fair or representative either way.