June 2004

Sometimes the way the federal government functions reminds me of my two-and-a-half year-old daughter when she hands me a mess or something she’s broken and says, “Here you go, Daddy.”

Case in point are the many new federal regulations handed down to local governments since 9/11. Robert Raab, commissioner of public works for Long Beach (this month’s Profile), must work to meet some of these regulations and find ways to pay them.

There’s no question that we live in a more dangerous world since 9/11. We now have to be more vigilant (or proactive) in identifying and securing tempting terrorist targets in our country – nuclear power plants, the power grid and water treatment plants, for example – all facilities we never could have imagined somebody would try (or could even access) to attack.

The problem here is that the feds have foisted these regulations on local governments without so much as providing a dime to pay for any of them. It tells a city like Long Beach that it has to come up with ways to further protect its water supply from potential contamination but doesn’t send grant money along with the demands. It’s simple passing of the buck – Congress and the executive branch want to be seen doing something about defending against terrorism but don’t want to be seen as tax raisers. So they say, “here you go” to states and municipalities and make them be accountable and pay for these additional regulations through budget cuts, layoffs, tax increases or higher water bills.

We all must make sacrifices – personal and financial – in a post-9/11 world and we’ll have to pay these whether they be at the federal or local level. But the federal government should step up and help make the hard financial decisions facing local government by sharing the costs associated with these sacrifices.

You can also view previous issues of Superintendent's Profile.