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  • Writer's pictureThe Hammonton Gazette

Local government & taxpayers can’t afford more mistakes

courtesy photo

I don’t like the solar array in front of the high school.

You don’t like it either, I’m willing to bet.

It was a mistake and should be removed.

But it won’t be.

Instead, the plan is to spend more good money after bad, and mask it with some landscaping.

The plan reminds me of a quote attributed to the accomplished architect Frank Lloyd Wright:

“The physician can bury his mistakes, but the architect can only advise his client to plant vines,” Wright once wrote in The New York Times.

I’m sure a version of that advice will be suggested to the board of education, probably for a fee.

Members of the board of education and town council as well as all appointed officials who help make the decisions that impact the entire school district and town often don’t seem to fully understand that when they make mistakes—particularly large, visible ones like the solar array at the school or not-as-visible ones like the television studio on the third floor of town hall—those mistakes erode confidence in everything else they are attempting to do.

If the board of education puts a big, ugly solar array on their front lawn, then people are going to talk about that error, not about the board’s plans for education. If the town council indulges in spending on things like a television studio, then that’s what people are going to talk about, not their overall plans to move the town forward.

Unfortunately, it is a fact of life that people tend to focus on what is not being done right instead of what is going well.

The taxpayers of this community cannot afford to have their local government make decisions that turn out to be costly mistakes.

It’s up to the members of the board of education and council to decide if they want to accept that mistakes have been made, correct those mistakes and not simply obscure them—as will surely be the case with the solar array—and then move forward in their governance of the town with the best interests of the entirety of the public in mind.

Because you had better believe that less government mistakes would be made if they had the public in mind at all times, and not just singular interests and pet projects. What does a solar array have to do with educating children? What does a town-government-controlled television station have to do with delivering municipal services?

Not much, in my opinion.

You know why I feel that way? We got along for more than 150 years without a solar array at the schools, or a television station at the town. Do we really need a “community foundation” that would work for town projects the way the Hammonton Education Foundation does at the school district, or would that just undercut funding for the successful education foundation? Who’s going to oversee that fundraising effort and where the funds are disbursed? Do we really need all this new housing in town? Is it all state-mandated, or are we just being told that so we don’t ask questions? Where is the town’s comprehensive plan for economic development? Don’t we want to fill the empty commercial buildings with viable businesses?

I believe local government at the school and the town is making a mistake by focusing its efforts on frivolity, special interests and nonsense. These mistakes cost taxpayers money and are a distraction from doing what government should be doing: educating our students on the school side, and providing needed municipal services on the town side.

Enough with the glitz and the glamour in local government, which keeps leading to costly mistakes.

Just give us the basics, elected and appointed officials, and strive for excellence as you’re doing it.

I guarantee you’ll have less mistakes to cover up if you do.

Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.


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