|Posted on July 30, 2007 at 3:20 PM|
Seminole County, USA, July 2007--The paradigm is that social change can only be done by elected Libertarians...and environment hating Libs can't get elected to anything locally important. Change your paradigm.
Bookseller Mike Barr is one of the growing number of Libertarians being elected to county Soil & Water boards in the US, turning what critics deride as the once sleepy enclaves of 'old-boy' privilege or sinister corporate deals to get legal preferences into voluntarily funded centers for effective eco-activism.The Boards are autonomous entities on the level of county commissions.
Unsurprisingly, after he led a Libertarian majority on the board, one of the first in the USA, he found himself targeted by a vilification campaign including highly technical lawsuits that even the government assessors thought were extreme, for actually donating to the board on advice of counsel.
But that's just inside baseball and goes with the territory, say friends of Barr, whose efforts have inspired Libertarians to seek out elected offices nationwide and whose board has been praised by other boards, conservative tax cutters, local voters, and the Sierra Club.
BOARDS PLAY KEY ROLE
Libertarians see government officials as ideally having facilitative or advisory roles, which proved a good match for the boards. The boards advise, typically countywide, on ecological policies and are well positioned to inspire local activism whle publicizing certain services. Barr and his allies, using a less-government model, cut funding, then raised voluntary resources by calling for contributions resulting in an estimated $5 million in volunteer co-ordination help. Questionable projects were targeted, and a series of community workshops introduced not only voluntary and contractual approaches to eco-friendly growth but often provided basic information the public was lacking ( http://www.universityuus.org/d/SS2006-06-11-DevelopmentVsEnvironmentInSeminoleCounty.mp3 ;). The board was soon praised as a hallmark by members of the state association for other boards.
TAXPAYERS GET UNEXPECTED CHECK
Barr's board in Seminole is not the only one changing the paradigm. In counties such as Lee with less growth issues, board members led by Libertarian Jack Tanner, an accountant, examined costs and soon wondered why the board was providing an expensive testing service that could be obtained more cheaply from private businesses. They removed the service, and took the tax savings to provide a refund check to citizens, creating national headlines as newspapers wondered at 'Government sending people' their own money. ( http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=jack+tanner+soil+and+water+board as admirers generated a minor internet sensation."So this is what Libertarians mean by improved checks," said one poster. The Lee board also maintains an e-group to get user ideas and keep the public posted.
"The model is that services should be provided on a voluntary and non-monopoly basis and a lot of input from the users, and you soon see opportunities for improvement and participation that get the job done and help the ecology, not with some forced government program but what users see as common sense discussion," said Brian Bustamante, a former government tax and finance auditor who monitors such projects for LIO. "That's clearly what we see here.Libertarians and others should imitate these efforts.This is exactly what we feel Libertarians should be doing in accord with local conditions."
On other occasions Libertarians have led campaign to abolish the boards, as was done in 1980 in Pinellas County Florida, where most water issues were being handled through public or private parks.
ACTIVISTS JOIN EFFORT FROM ACROSS POLITICAL LINES
Meanwhile, Barr advises those seeking election or appointment to boards dealing with the environment, and works to facilitate Greening discussion and action across political lines with road clean-ups, information sessions and an activist group that at last count had over 150 members. RESOURCE: http://environment.meetup.com/236/members/