Editorial: What will government center cost?
Talk surrounding a proposal to create a central government complex to house city, county and school district offices in South Lake Tahoe has focused on important issues like convenience, aesthetic and community cohesiveness. While all of these goals are fundamental if the project is to be pursued, the most important goal has yet to be addressed – where is the benefit to the taxpayer?
A real city hall within close proximity to the Highway 50 corridor in South Lake Tahoe has been on the agenda for decades, but circumstances have kept it on the back burner, a reality illustrated by the city’s move to offices at – of all places – the Lake Tahoe Airport. A city needs a city hall.
But a joint complex is a different animal. It would likely be more convenient for those who have business with these organizations; it would look better than the current, scattered buildings (especially the inconveniently located city offices), and if it included a community recreation facility it would create the “city center” South Lake Tahoe has needed for so long. With all this in mind, the potential prohibitive factor is cost. Would these likely benefits outweigh the many millions of dollars in taxpayer money needed for construction and operation? We’ll find out.
Public employees and elected representatives are inclined to meet such an idea favorably – they get better offices – but government (and schools) operates at the pleasure of the citizens. Without an accounting of the public’s opinion – reaching beyond those attending public meetings – who knows if the project is in our best interest?
In the end, a government complex, even if it makes available recreational and other civic opportunities, operates only in the interest of the taxpayer. If the citizens determine it is not a worthwhile venture, or incongruent with their goals for South Lake Tahoe’s future, then it stands to reason that the government center should not be built.
Economy of scale is not a simple numbers game when it comes to government. Purported efficiencies have a way of disappearing and turning into debt. Good ideas, unchecked, don’t always translate into reality. Those who favor a government center have our ears, but until they prove the benefit – financially as well as socially – they can’t have our wallets.
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