We were glad to see that the Little Falls City Council decided to deny a request from Council candidate Robin Hensel to pass a resolution endorsing a shift of federal spending priorities from defense to other programs.
The issue of how much the federal government should spend on defense is ongoing and important. The Congress needs to address it. Lobbyists need to take sides. Tough decisions need to be made. The resolution will have national consequences. Every citizen has a right to weigh in on the topic with their congressperson and senators.
From time to time, city councils and county boards across the nation jump into these national debates. This is often because the city councilors or commissioners are wanna-be members of Congress. However, taxpayers are best served when local units of government stick to the issues right in front of them.
Certainly, the Little Falls City Council has greater priorities. It is not inevitable that taxes have to rise sharply because of a decline in state aid. During a recession, tax hikes should be particularly discouraged.
And yet, because of the actions of past city councils, the current Little Falls City Council finds itself in position of having to reduce a high debt load. About half of every tax dollar collected by the city is being used to service debt.
Last year, the city increased its levy 6.88 percent. Then, on the same night when it rejected the defense spending resolution, the Council set a 2013 preliminary levy with a 7.89 percent increase. Ouch.
The Council needs to fund its police and fire departments. It needs to figure out how to keep its streets paved and plowed. It needs to maintain its parks. Balanced against the ability of taxpayers to pay, its efforts need to be focused on the city limits, not on making a symbolic gesture that the Washington, D.C., decision-makers will ignore anyhow.
Some of the city’s other activities, like Pine Grove Zoo, the country club, the airport and Linden Hill are holding their own, but nevertheless need the Council’s attention to make sure they do not become a drain on tax dollars.
All of this takes time. Not everyone who runs for election to a local city council or county, school or township board can afford to work at the job full-time, nor should we expect them to. However, what effort they do put in should be focused on issues they can control.