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Dear Neighbor,

This is my blog for news and information on my hometown Lower Macungie Township! In January 2014 I was sworn in for a 4 year term as township Commissioner. I am humbled and grateful for the support of Lower Macungie Residents. We prevailed in the 2013 election running a grassroots campaign that focused on quality of life and fiscal sustainability through smart growth. The election was another referendum on the unpopular development decisions and “dumb growth” policies of 2009-2013.

As a lifelong resident of Lower Macungie and a local business owner I am proud to serve as Lower Macungie Township Commissioner. This is my blog. It serves as a record of 2 years of advocating for A Better Way to Grow. Here you can find information on local concerns, letters and op-eds I’ve written outlining my thoughts on various issues that affect our community.

Please browse the site. Use the search bar to find my thoughts on the issues facing Lower Macungie and the surrounding community. I welcome questions and comments always. Dialogue is so important and what I hope to bring to the table as a Commissioner.

Ron Beitler
Lower Macungie Commissioner serving a 4 year term

Want to keep taxes low? Preserve Open Space.

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Large contiguous tract of farmland in Lower Macungie Township

(Submitted as LTE to LMT Patch and an abbreviated version to EPP)

Preserving open space with a smart growth plan reduces costs for infrastructure and services, therefore over the long term reducing the need for tax increases. Farmland and open space generate no traffic, create no crime, needs little fire protection and places no new students into our school system.

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Lower Mac to offer tax credits to volunteer firefighters

So much of what we can and can’t do at the township level is determined by rules set in place by Harrisburg. For that reason over the last 4 years we have taken an active role in advocating for helpful legislation in Harrisburg. We’ve done this on a number of occasions but I wanted to highlight one success story.

Last December Harrisburg enacted Act 172 which allows the township flexibility to give credits to volunteer firefighters. Lower Mac will be taking advantage of this starting next year by waiving 100% of municipal earned income taxes for volunteers. This also includes the ambulance core for those who qualify. Prior to last year this wasn’t an option.

Our advocacy for the enabling legislation began over a year ago when I asked our board to consider a resolution encouraging local state leaders to support the idea. So, we drafted approved and sent it away to our State Representative and Senator. Similar legislation was considered for years but never could get out the starting gate. So we felt it was important to let elected officials know just how important this was. After Lower Mac’s advocacy Ryan Mackenzie our State Rep. became a co-sponsor of a bill allowing the credit. And since then it has been signed by the Gov. and passed into law.

Starting next year LMFD firefighters who live in the township will benefit from this team effort.  It’s important we pursue these benefits as unfortunately volunteerism wains. in 1976, PA had a total of 300,000 volunteer firefighters.  Today, that number has dwindled to about 50,000. So, we must do everything we can to encourage the recruitment and retention of volunteers. For a volunteer making the median income the credit will put 300 dollars back into their pocket.

Bottom line:
Now this and other benefits alone of course aren’t the core reasons our volunteers do what they do. In the grand scheme I wish we could do even more. But little every bit helps. I’m convinced of that. And we’ll continue to do our part as much as we can. 
And in all areas where we see opportunities to advocate with the state for more flexible laws our Board will continue to do so. 

Things to remember when seeing for sale signs on cornfields….

I got a few concerned messages last week about a number of new very large “for sale” signs on major pieces of property in the township. Specifically a number of large cornfields.

There are couple things important to remember: 

1.) Official Map adopted.
First and most important, many of these properties including those on Lower Macungie Rd. and also at Brookside and Sauerkraut are designated on the now adopted township official map for preservation. Lower Macungie Official Map FAQ. Can’t stress enough how important this is. 

2.) We are communicating with landowners.
With every major property designated on the map, township staff has reached out to landowners in an effort to proactively begin conversations. In at least one case (Brookside and Sauerkraut) these conversations are productive and ongoing. A basic framework for preservation has been agreed upon. Below is a Morning Call article outlining the transferable development rights concept that could result in substantial preservation. Family of late developer Weiner helping Lower Macungie pursue farmland preservation, mixed-use village.

3.) Landowners have their property rights.
In all cases even with protections of the official map in place (the 1 year “pause button” on any development plans) landowners still have every right to market properties. In some cases this can actually “move the ball forward” since it helps determine market price. It’s not reason to think development is imminent.

4.) Township remains completely committed to preservation deals. 
What I have told everyone who reached out is that the township remains completely committed to preserving properties identified on the official map. I will say with confidence no stone will be left unturned as far as strategies to accomplish that. We’re taking the biggest swings we can take to get land preserved. All tools are in the toolbox. While some of these conversations are complicated and ongoing, in one case I am cautiously optimistic at this point.

5.) No more flexibility for greenfield developers. No waivers. No variances. 
When determining market value one thing landowners/developers must understand is that the township is no longer willing to grant regulatory flexibility to induce anymore growth. We’re well past the point where we see large tract subdivisions as desirable. A recent example would be the Farr Tract. In that case, we were asked to grant a development inducing text amendment that would have allowed 90+ units. The township denied that request. So now instead that property is moving forward with a plan for 17 estate lots. This was a huge win drastically reducing the impact of development.

In conclusion landowners have every right to develop properties, however large greenfield tracts must now be in strict compliance with the zoning ordinance. We will exercise our rights to deny plans that are not. This is a fundamental shift in philosophy over the last 4 years. With that being said, we are engaging landowners in preservation conversations. All tools to get the job done are in play. One thing is certain these things take time. I’m learned a lot of patience over the last 3 years.

The prior board did virtually nothing to prepare for warehouses they approved.

I wanted to share this since it demonstrates clearly the hole we were put in by prior boards. The chart below shows all the current truck restriction ordinances in Lower Macungie. As you can see all except one have been approved and instituted last 3 years since I came into office. Meaning, the prior board who was responsible for rezoning the Spring Creek Rd. area allowing for major proliferation of warehouses – did so virtually without laying any groundwork to prepare our road network. They literally left us high and totally dry forcing us to play a game of endless catch up once the new board was in place.

The current BOC adopted 18 truck ordinances over the last 3 years. The board who created the problems adopted one. Of course, as we know no matter how much signage we put up we’re learning that the enforcement burden is the next problem we were left with. 18 ordinances adopted and we are still treading water. The hole they dug us is very deep. I promise we will keep working at the problem.

Roadway restrictions.

Turning restrictions

Brake Retarder prohibitions
Parking restrictions

 

 

Lehigh County is not a “Sanctuary City”

Despite what you may have seen in a recent campaign mailer from the Glenn Eckart campaign. . . No, Lehigh County is not a “Sanctuary City”.

A sanctuary city is one that by virtue of different philosophical views of elected officials limits cooperation with federal efforts to enforce immigration laws. Or in the worse cases outright obstructs and stymies the work of immigrations and custom enforcement (ICE). Key being an unwillingness to cooperate based on philosophical differences. Sanctuary cities are a problem that needs to be addressed. Lehigh County however in no way, shape or form is a sanctuary city.

The County cooperates fully with ICE within the parameters of the law. (the US constitution) There is no activism taking place on the part of any county official to obstruct or otherwise hinder immigration enforcement. That includes the current Democratic Executive AND the Republican majority of the Board of Commissioners.

The problem arises when detaining individuals without a warrant, due process, or a judicial order. Here, the county has what they believe to be a legal (not philosophical) issue. Aside from (what should be) the obvious constitutional matter, a few years ago Lehigh County detained an (innocent) AMERICAN citizen at the request of ICE and subsequently was sued. That lawsuit cost county taxpayers $95,000 in a settlement agreement.

This problem is acknowledged by Sen. Pat Toomey. To that end he’s proposed a fix to put the feds, not localities, on the hook for detainees eliminating the potential for costly local lawsuits.  Toomey stated, “We need legislation to ensure local police are not subject to lawsuits for good-faith efforts to cooperate with federal law enforcement to remove dangerous criminals and terrorists from our streets,” That sort of lawsuit is exactly what happened in Lehigh County.

Again, in a sanctuary city elected officials object to US immigration policy and actively seek to undermine it. This is not the case in Lehigh County. What happened was the County detained an American citizen without due process and got sued for it. After that debacle they created a policy to avoid wasting more taxpayer dollars on lawsuits of the same type.

Lehigh County policy allows all 3 of these things to happen:
1.) Full good faith cooperation with federal immigration law.
2.) Constitutional due process observed
3.) Limiting the counties exposure to more lawsuits.

We don’t live in a society where an administration can make a phone call and have a suspect detained without due process. If the federal government wants to change the current practice then they need to change the law.

Certainly not helpful in this dialogue is a County Executive candidate muddling a complicated issue in an effort to score cheap political points. In Lehigh County, everyone supports the good faith effort cooperating to enforce immigration laws. Creating a wedge where none exists is opportunism.

I’m writing about this now because if your a registered Republican you may have gotten in the mail a campaign piece that attempts to paint Brad Osborne as “soft of illegal immigration”. This is very misleading and I hope above helps to clarify. There are real “sanctuaries cities” out there, but Lehigh County is not one.

In fact, almost every item on this mailer is purposely misleading or factually incorrect.

Garbage mailer.

Also no, Brad Osborne (or the entire board for that matter) did not undertake re-assessment for personal gain. That’s a silly thing to imply in the Eckhart hit job. What happened was in 2012 the County Board of Commissioners implemented the county’s first reassessment in more than two decades. It was at the time very long overdue.
Reassessments are done (and should be on a regular basis) to assign properties more accurate, updated values based on items like actual home sales. These values serve as the basis for real estate taxes. So it’s critical to get it right. If the process isn’t done on a regular basis values become unfair. Some people pay too much and some pay too little. When the County reassessed essentially taxes went down for 55% of homeowners. And unfortunately up for 45%. The fact of the matter is the entire effort is to find the real values. The system is not at all perfect. But it becomes much worse when reassessments aren’t performed for decades at a time.
Re-assessment should be a non-partisan no brainer. However, it’s important to point out the effort was led at the the time by ultra conservative Commissioner Scott Ott and supported by a conservative reform slate. There was bi-partisan support. The only wrangling that occurred was over when to do the exercise.
In conclusion the entire mailer is basically garbage and very disappointing. I wrote about why candidates feel the need to “go negative” yesterday here.

 

 

Don’t be Pavlovs Dog. Why negative campaigning works.

At the turn of the century Ivan Pavlov conducted his famous conditioning experiments. Pavlov would ring a bell prior to feeding dogs. Over time, the dogs were conditioned and came to associate the ringing of the bell with a stimulant. Soon, all Pavlov had to do was ring the bell and the dogs’ got hungry.

Today, sadly political party echo chambers and political strategists/consultants bank on conditioning voters the same way. Both political parties are guilty of attempting to condition voters to respond to meaningless and often negative campaign rhetoric. Most voters tell you they do not like negative ads. And for many, the result is they tune out. A reason why we have such awful voter turnout.

Even though many make the decision to tune out, human brains function in a way that we still process information non-consciously. It’s why negative barrages are designed in such a way to be mind numbingly simple and repetitive. We’ve all seen them. Candidate X BAD. (insert scary black and white photo!)  Candidate Y GOOD. (insert heart strings photo of candidate with the family dog!) The result is a totally dumbed down discourse.

Thinking about this recently because of an onslaught of negative campaign ads from both Republican County Executive candidates. Now, I consider both friends of mine who I like and respect. I’ll vote for the winner of the primary in the general election. But for now, I must say I’m totally disappointed. They tell me they “don’t want to go negative”, but feel like they “have to”. Again, it’s because it unfortunately works. And that’s what the consultants hammer in their heads.

Since executing this sort of strategy takes ad nauseam repetition it’s precisely why boatloads of money becomes so critical for campaigns. In other words, producing endless piles of slop is expensive. (We need campaign finance reform desperately, and may it could help address this.)

I KNOW we’re better than this. So please, do your part. Be an active and engaged participant in democracy. Don’t succumb to malaise and definitely don’t become Pavlov’s dog allowing yourself to simply respond to the conditioning.

I’m trying to do my part by writing at least 2 posts on (1) mailer from each of the (2) candidates. In them, I’ll outline where I think the candidates are being unfair, misleading or outright factually incorrect. I’ll start tomorrow with Glenn Eckharts mailer I got the other day. And then Tuesday with Brad Osborne’s. Both mailers were perfect examples of exactly what I’m talking about.

I do hope both of my friends pivot to the issues eventually. . . The voters deserve that. There aren’t two people more knowledgeable about County Gov’t then Glenn and Brad. Talking about ideas and issues in a positive way plays to both their strengths. Not the garbage they’ve been putting out so far. 

An actual campaign billboard in the United States. . . .

2017 Community day is tomorrow!

Over the last 7 years this event has grown! Each year more is added to do. My hope is this event eventually grows into a proper yearly township fair. It’s getting closer. For 2017 we introduce “Music on the lawn”. Entertainment under a tent with seats. I’ll be there. And I hop to see you!

Lower Mac adopts gerrymandering resolution

Last night we joined other Lehigh Valley communities including Lehigh County in adopting a resolution that supports a citizens commission for legislative redistricting. This is a potential solution to address severe gerrymandering issues in our state.

Gerrymandering is when partisan politicians manipulate voting maps to keep themselves in power. When they do this they shape election outcomes before any vote is even cast. Essentially, it’s when politicians choose voters instead of voters choosing their elected officials. The problem has been around for ages, but today with sophisticated data and mapping technologies it’s gotten much worse.

The resolution we passed encourages our state elected officials to enact a bill that would create an independent citizen redistricting commission. This is an essential step toward fair, transparent and accountable elections by removing partisanship from the process.

Learn more here at Fair Districts PA.

Cedar Crest and Lower Mac Rd. intersection – Best offense is a good defense.

Interesting discussion today at the Traffic Impact Fee Advisory Committee (TIFAC) meeting. The committee convened to update our traffic impact fee ordinance. Impact fees are a mechanism that Lower Mac utilizes to assess fees on new development in proportion to new impacts created.  Funds collected are used to improve roadways impacted by developments. Some conversation today centered around the Lower Mac and Cedar Crest Intersection pictured below. Cedar Crest is a PennDOT identified congested corridor. And for good reason. It’s one of the most problematic in the area. Unfortunate reality is that even with impact fees there is little the township can do to improve it. The intersection is constrained by space, topography and a bridge. To address the intersection with these issues would be massively expensive.

Cedar Crest and Lower Mac. A combination of factors make further improvements unlikely or in best case very expensive.

The way we address this and similar intersections around the township, or at least prevent them from becoming worse is to avoid additional development nearby. Here is where the old sports adage applies. The best offense is a good defense. In this case aggressive land preservation.

Lower Mac accomplished this on the Farr Tract (adjacent to this intersection) in part by working with a developer on an alternative plan with only 17 estate lot units as opposed to an initial concept of 90+ shoe horned homes. The township took a proactive role and did 3 things here:

  • First, we pushed back against the much more intensive and impactful plan by expressing our concerns. When the developer asked us to change the zoning to allow more units. We rejected the request.
  • Next, we tried to purchase the property in partnership with the Wildlands. Unfortunately, this didn’t come to fruition. But we put our skin in the game. We took a swing. 
  • And finally, when a much less impactful development scenario was presented as an alternative we supported it. And will continue to. 

Our proactive role helped result in a better project. The nearby “Dorney” tracts on Lower Mac Rd. (all the signs you see up recently) is another example. The properties have been placed on the townships official map. This telegraphs our interest in preservation and gives us the chance to make an offer if development scenarios are presented.

Related as we try to better manage development along Cedar Crest unfortunately, Emmaus Borough has recently made decisions contrary. Despite opposition in letter form from both Lower Mac and Upper Milford, last year Emmaus approved an overlay district on the Indian Creek golf course that resulted in it’s current development. The project being built (I voted against it) is severely access constrained. Shoe horned. And it makes the corridor issues more complicated. Over the last month things have gotten worse. We now have a question on the table of whether or not the property will only have one access on Indian Creek Rd. PennDOT has ( and correct to do so) concerns about how another proposed access point would impact Chestnut Street. Because of the Emmaus decision to enact this overlay, Upper Milford and Lower Macungie must now deal with additional problems. The Borough was entirely in the drivers seat to change the zoning. But they didn’t have to deal with any of the problems. We do, along with Upper Milford. What’s done is done. But I hope moving forward we avoid this sort of mistake.

In conclusion, the impact fee is a much needed tool. But we’re to the point we can no longer rely on building our way out of problems with new tuning lanes and signals. In many locations the best strategy is to avoid the need entirely. That means preservation and encouraging less intense development. The impact fee study as a warning not a roadmap. It outlines worse case scenarios. Through better land use planning we can avoid those scenarios. It’s better to spend our dollars on preservation than endless traffic upgrades which end of the day only represent band-aids. Upper Milford has been proactive as well recently instituting a funding mechanism solely for the preservation of open space. We are both doing our part. We all need to get on the same page.

Truck summit. All the right people in one room.

This past Friday we held a long overdue local freight summit of sorts to address ongoing Truck issues. This is the biggest problem we face as a community. Both a safety and quality of life issue. The problems have gotten worse over the last year. Not better.

The attendees were:
Myself. LMT Manager, Planner, Code Enforcement Officer and Engineer. State Rep. Ryan Mackenzie. Jon Nederostak from the State Police, The Alburtis Borough Manager and Police Chief, Various PennDOT officials, The LVPC and a representative of the major leasers of warehouse space in the township. (Liberty Properties)

I thought first I would update on a number of specific issues raised. Going from the immediate goals to longer term goals. First the short term. Signs & Enforcement. 

  •  Signs
    • Willow Ln. – Will be signed in the coming weeks. It is already restricted to trucks but signs will act as an additional deterrent. After installation it will be added to PSP enforcement rotations.
    • Mertztown Rd. – A formal request has been made to PennDOT from the township to add restriction signage. Though the PennDOT representatives present were non-committal, I’d be shocked if the request isn’t granted. The road is already restricted (since it isn’t on state truck routes map) but the absence of signs has meant trucks are using the road on a daily basis.
    • Spring Creek Rd. – A long awaited sign package requested by the Township and Borough a few months ago for Spring Creek Rd. has been approved. Signs are ordered and should be up in a few days. This includes directional signage to be placed before the turn onto Mertztown Rd. indicating “Congdon Hill Rd. straight ahead”. This is to keep trucks from mistakingly turning onto Mertztown Rd.  We will also get signage for Spring Creek Rd. indicating that trucks cannot proceed further past Congdon Hill. and into the Borough of Alburtis. There are no signs presently indicating this. The Borough reps were very pleased they are coming. Again, long overdue.
  • Enforcement.
    • Alburtis Borough gave out 51 tickets last month. This number has been increasing. I asked directly if that’s because there are more violations. The answer was yes. This is the best indicator that until now the problem has gotten worse not better.
    • The State Police DO ticket trucks in Lower Macungie Twp. They will begin giving the township regular reports on the numbers and types of tickets given.

      State police tickets a truck on Willow Ln. on Friday AM.

    • Further the State Police will be conducting a targeted truck enforcement blitz next month. This is designed to maximize enforcement visibility.
  • Longer term goals. 
    • The state currently does not allow the signage of local truck routes beyond those identified on existing truck route maps. For example, we are currently unable to put up local signage directing trucks to I-78 or the bypass from Spring Creek Rd. or other clusters of warehouses. Similar requests have been made over the last few months by Upper Macungie Twp. This is an item I was glad that State Rep. Mackenzie was present to hear first hand. In fact he brought up a good question (one that’s the been asked before) of whether proactive signs were being used. Meaning signs indicating ‘go this way’, as opposed to ‘don’t go this way’. I’m happy he was present to hear the answer we get from PennDOT and the corresponding frustration with that answer. I’m hoping this gets solved and I think Mackenzie can help.
    • The issue repeatedly is 3rd party carriers. Those facilities with fleet drivers normally are able to keep their deliveries on the appropriate routes. The issue is that some drivers are coming to the area for the first and probably last time. In other words it’s not a fixed route for them. These are (confirmed by Alburtis PD and PSP) the drivers unfamiliar with the area who are creating a lot of the issues. They tend to over-rely on GPS which is the catalyst of much of the havoc. PennDOT officials at the meeting unfortunately expressed skepticism that the GPS issues will be solved “anytime soon”. . . Very problematic. I will also say I’m disappointed that during some approval hearings we were led to believe that carriers would be majority fleet for some operations. That hasn’t been the case.
      • Related to above we’re working with the facilities to beef up signage in truck lounges and elsewhere on the property. This is needed, but not a magic bullet. The issue is, that so much of the delivery and pickup process is automated – some drivers come and go from the property without going inside.
    • Global issues. Hopefully avoiding being redundant I mentioned more than once at the meeting that the basket of strategies outlined above are important and will help us turn the tide so to speak. But, that I believe the problems will persist. We know this because Upper Macungie is ahead of us in terms of an aggressive signage program, enforcement and working with facilities. Yet they still face the same issues. Upper Mac is a crystal ball in a lot of ways. I only say this to drive home the point that the solution to these problems is something neither Lower Mac, Upper Mac or any other Valley community has tried before. It was said multiple times that these problems are completely unique to our region. Therefore there exists no blueprint on how to address them. And in a lot of ways, the state doesn’t enable us to think outside the box since no other area faces the same concentration of these types of warehouses as we do in the Lehigh Valley.This is why it’s essential to have the support of Pat Browne and Ryan Mackenzie. Which I believe we do. But that has to translate into action. It was very important to have Ryan present to hear the stakeholders talk through the frustrations. I believe strongly, that some of the long term answers are legislative. 
    • A few ideas that have been brought up. 
      •  I am personally convinced the answer lies in holding the facilities and operators accountable. Signs and enforcement while a necessary proactive step, is similar to a dog chasing tail approach. It’s a never-ending (and expensive) commitment that never totally solves the problem. So the thought is, since every driver communicates with the facility or business they are delivering to, therein lies the opportunity to apply pressure to the businesses to make sure they communicate to drivers appropriate routes. Problem is we (the township) have no hammer to be able to require this. We need the ability to create ordinances that hold businesses accountable. Fines should not be levied on the individual drivers (This is unfair, and because of the #’s of independent drivers ineffective) but rather the companies. Common sense dictates end of the day they are in the best position to proactively address issues before they become problems.
      • Camera or otherwise automated enforcement. The fundamental problem with signs is that to be totally effective there are areas of the township where we need constant enforcement. This is because of the 24/7 nature of the operators. So this becomes a resources problem. Time + money. Automated enforcement would help.
      • Impact fees. Related to all these potential solutions is an additional cost burden on the township. Some of the new facilities that do not employ many people generate very little local revenue we can use to mitigate problems. This is a big reason why we need the ability to assess an impact fee. This would be something that would have to be enabled by Harrisburg. Perhaps in the form of a Dock fee? Bottom line is that often these facilities create major liabilities but generate little new revenue for the host municipality. A warehouse with few employees means the township collects little LST revenue. Since our municipal property tax is so low that revenue stream is very small. (and only way to address that is to raise taxes on everyone which we won’t do) So, this leaves us high and dry in terms of implementing strategies to address issues.
      • Physical restrictions – This is a tough one, but again – all options need to be on the table. Chicanes and or other artificial barriers to physically stop trucks from going where they should not be.

On the Trump budget.

Drifting into the national realm for a second before heading back to the regularly scheduled program of state and local thoughts. I am really interested in feedback on this. 

First, I don’t love Donald Trump. He’s an opportunist and a con man on the grandest scale. A populist, not a conservative. A boorish man child. The way he conducts himself is a national embarrassment. I supported a 3rd party candidate in the election.

That being said, I’ve made an effort to evaluate his policies objectively. Sometimes I agree, sometimes I don’t. Even if most of the time I disagree with his tact and execution. 

So, with the budget and how it fits into my worldview. Some thoughts:

1.) To preface. Fundamentally, I believe the Federal Government has over time expanded far beyond it’s original intended scope. The result of which is a national debt that’s reached crippling levels. A burden unsustainable. A system broken. I believe as a core value that MANY Federal programs and areas should be divested to the states and/or local governments en masse. And that’s what this budget could do. (This principle in a nutshell is why I identify as a Conservative)

2.) LOTS of sky is falling alarmism right now. This is the nature of 2 party politics. The sky is not falling. Here is a local example of the alarmism.

3.) At cursory glance, I agree with about half or more of the Federal cuts the Trump budget proposes. This does not mean I don’t support the goals of some of these programs. In fact for many I do.  It’s important for conservatives to explain this.

3a.) For example, let’s take the proposed elimination of TIGER and CDBG grants. These are both programs that have accomplished measureable good. They were largely created in support goals that I support. And are both promoted by advocacy groups I associate with. (For ex. Smart Growth America). They are admirably intentioned programs.

But both are inherently wasteful. Largely in part because they are administered by the Federal Government as clumsy top down programs. The administration of both grants absolutely hemorrhages money. They are inefficient. Cronyism, waste and fraud are rampant. Both are products of a federal system where influential legislators are rewarded based on political maneuvering not merit or need. In a word. Pork.

The problem isn’t once the money (finally) gets into the right hands. It’s the process by which that happens. And the strings that come attached. That’s where the waste occurs and cronyism is reality. The solution is cut the middle man (the federal government) and therefore cut the waste, cronyism, special interests and federal strings entirely out of the picture.

4.) I believe that cutting the Federal Government completely out of the picture on many proposed programs would result in more money for issues I care about. I’ve said this in this space many times:
Send 1 dollar to your local government get .95 cents back.
Send 1 dollar to you county government get .75 cents back.
Send a dollar to your state government get half the value back.
Send a dollar to Washington DC and get back an I.O.U. 

All told the average American pays 15% of their income in federal taxes. It’s a totally inequitable system where 40% skirt paying anything at all. It’s not (for me at least) an unwillingness to pay taxes. I personally pay MORE than my fair share. It’s a desire to get a better measurable return on those dollars.

5.) As a ballpark reduce the federal tax burden by a minimum of 20%. This roughly the amount of non-military Federal discretionary spending today. And with that I’d gladly pay a portion of that money to state and local governments and in turn reap much higher return on investment. Even if the money returned to the local level was half the amount the returns would far exceed what we lose in the top down system now.

No, I’m not of the “get government out of everything” cloth. Many conservatives get painted with this brush unfairly. What I do believe in is divesting the role of the Federal Government from (almost) everything not outlined in the Constitution. 

6.) Give states and local governments the freedom and resources to create, fund and administer novel programs. Return to the idea of a laboratory of democracy. This is the way our country was designed to function. The way it functions best. (Marijuana policy as an example). Incrementalism creates resiliency. A state creates a program that works? Other states will emulate. A state creates a program that does not? The impacts are limited to that state.

A local example, Allentown’s Community Bike Works is a good program that apparently gets a chunk of funding from the federal Government. Valuable program. Serves the community well. I support it. I just believe that funding it at the local level with local dollars would make it stronger. I’d much rather pay a little more in local taxes for stronger programs in return for sending less of my income to the DC swamp.

7.) I believe the government can be an effective tool to get important things done, but I DO NOT believe in redistribution. States are the appropriate levels of government to choose (should voters desire) spending money on novel social programs and that local governments are the appropriate place to choose to invest in discretionary items.

The reason is further down you go, the more direct oversight residents have over how your tax dollars are spent. And the more direct role you play in Democracy. The higher up you go the further removed you are and inherently wasteful programs tend to be.

8.) I believe that when conservatives outline this argument in a thoughtful way we bring people into our tent. This is a problem I have with Trump and Trumpism. The mindset shouldn’t be “defeat the enemy”, it should be win them over with ideas. 

9.) I believe most Americans inhabit a space somewhere between a right wing mindset of “burn the government to the ground” and a leftist mindset that Washington DC should be the center of a centrally planned universe. This space between is essentially federalism. And we need to more clearly communicate that.