Pony up for the radios: Those who will benefit most from 800-MHz system should pay for it
by The Anniston Star Editorial Board
Apr 10, 2013 | 4321 views |  0 comments | 12 12 recommendations | email to a friend | print
An 800 MHz radio that is currently used by most public safety agencies in Calhoun and Talladega counties.  (Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
An 800 MHz radio that is currently used by most public safety agencies in Calhoun and Talladega counties. (Photo: Trent Penny/The Anniston Star)
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It’s a swing and a miss for the delegation of Talladega and Calhoun county officials who were promoting a plan to protect public schools and fund the region’s emergency communications network.

The plan would have put a police officer in every public school in both counties and kept a first-class radio communications system in good working order. Because neither item is free, officials proposed a 3.5-mill property tax increase in Calhoun and Talladega counties.

The idea received broad support among local governments, school boards and law-enforcers. Unfortunately for proponents, the proposal hit a roadblock in Montgomery last week, where it had to get through the state Legislature and the governor’s office before it would go before voters. Sen. Del Marsh, R-Anniston, put his foot down. “Individuals and agencies across the state have found a way to tighten their belts,” Marsh told The Star. “If this is important to them, they need to find a way to do it within their budget.”

In other words, let them eat walkie-talkies.

There are several points to ponder here.

We are reminded once more of the immense centralization of power in the Alabama Statehouse. The Legislature could be described as the world’s largest city council. No matter how trivial or how provincial, almost all legislation must meet with the approval of a majority of 105 representatives and 35 senators. Remember that this property tax would not commence until a majority of voters in Calhoun and Talladega agreed to apply it to themselves.

The bunch in charge in Montgomery loves to pledge their loyalty to the wishes of the people. The failure of this measure exposes that as a hollow claim.

The second point is a matter of ideology. For too long Alabama has been comfortable letting somebody else pick up the tab, particularly in the form of handouts from the federal government.

At its most basic are these questions: Who pays? Who should foot the bill for better protecting public schools in Calhoun and Talladega counties? Who should pay to keep a public-safety radio system that links 3,100 users and more than 100 organizations?

The answer is that the paying should be done by the residents who will derive the most benefit. That’s the answer a true conservative would give.
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