County commissioners distribute our money like feudal lords



During the September 14 Alachua County Commission meeting, we were subjected to a long list of peasants begging for scraps from our feudal lords. The commissioners sat through a presentation of requests and staff recommendations for grants awarded under the Community Agency Partnership Program (CAPP).

Surprisingly, the commissioners didn’t have each requesting organization send someone in person to prostrate themselves before the dais (that part was handled by the Grant Review Committee) so they could fully enjoy the benefits of buying favor with other people’s money.

Most people probably won’t care about the results—or the fact that the commissioners just agreed to spend $1.3 million taxpayer dollars—because it only comes out to about $11 per home in Alachua County. With only 29 organizations splitting the money, the average award was close to $45,000. These nonprofits are much more motivated to suck up to the commissioners than the taxpayers are to show up and complain about how their tax money is spent. 

Ignoring the potential for fraud, the program itself is bad because it puts the government in the middle of what used to be charity. Charity is supposed to be voluntary, but paying taxes is not. As Walter Williams frequently pointed out, “The act of reaching into one’s own pockets to help a fellow man in need is praiseworthy and laudable. Reaching into someone else’s pocket is despicable.”

In 2018 I wrote: “This is why political debates are getting more heated, with less civility and less common ground. The problem is that government has expanded beyond its original purpose and has turned into a system of legal plunder.”

That column summarized Frederic Bastiat’s The Law, which argued that the purpose of government is to protect life, liberty, and property. Any government action outside of that purpose undermines the law and the civil society because the law violates property rather than protecting it.

Bastiat called it legal plunder because “the law can be an instrument of equalization only as it takes from some persons and gives to other persons.” He wrote that the cause can either be human greed or false philanthropy; CAPP falls under the category of false philanthropy.

Bastiat’s test for whether the law is plunder was simple: “See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.”

Many people may disagree with this philosophical argument about the purpose of government, but there is a more practical issue here: Why is our county commission getting involved in charity when they clearly can’t manage the basic functions of government?

Our county government is incapable of protecting life, liberty, or property and presides over crumbling infrastructure. Last year, motor vehicle theft and all violent crimes except rape grew at a much higher rate in Alachua County than the rest of the state. The county’s public works director just reported that 84% of the county’s road network is in “dire need” of repair. 

Are the “non-profits” who are looking for this grant money in the habit of taking money from junkies who can’t manage their own resources? That’s basically what they’re doing.

At the national level, politicians put our kids and grandkids into further debt to buy favors from their supporters. Our local politicians are no different, but they can’t print money, so they’re neglecting our infrastructure and public safety while redistributing our tax dollars to nonprofits that promise to work toward the commission’s priorities (see image above). They pat themselves on the back and portray themselves as charitable, but it’s not their own money, so this redistribution of our money is, as Walter Williams wrote, despicable.

  • Excellent OpEd! (I couldn’t decide to laugh or cry)
    BUT the County Commission did recently listen to a presentation about the state of road disrepair. They almost agreed that they must do something! Mary Alford correctly stated they must perform the essential functions of local government: public safety, roads, etc. as a 1st priority then focus on homeless, climate, etc.
    So at least their essential function as a government body was discussed (for a change)

    • It is an excellent article, but You don’t know whether to laugh or cry? You’re bi-polar. I smell a rat. You’re not
      Fooling anyone Georgie boy.

  • Len’s critique of the hypocrites on the county commission is spot on. If these parasites feeding off the public carcass feel such emotional pain over the plight of the downtrodden, they should reach into their own pockets for charitable contributions, not the public till. What the commission is doing is not charity. It is extortion of the taxpayers to buy votes. Charity is rightfully the province of the family and churches. Inveterate communists such as the creeps on the commission would know little of religion, since their religion is government coercion.

    • Commissioner Mary Alford said that roads in good repair can save residents a lot of money on car repairs: “That’s a lot of economic value.” She said that good roads increase property values and increase the opportunity for economic development. She added, “I am really concerned about climate change. I’m really concerned about the environment. I’m really concerned about the really hard work we need to do in equity. But all of those things have to sit on a foundation of what we do to run our county. And that foundation is things like, you know, fire and sheriff’s departments and criminal justice and roads, you know. It’s those basic things that we have to take care of. And then we build on that to become the place we want to be.”

      • Alford alludes to green new deal….”climate change, environment, equity, etc”… You fool no one with your
        Cincinnati shuffle…”and then we build on that to become the place we want to be”? you must be a progressive Democrat or a commie…looks like lipstick on a pig doublespeak George.

  • If I’m not mistaken, much of the CAPP funds are handed down by the federal gov’t thru the state. But it’s still our taxes being used essentially to fund corrupt local machine politics. Local elected leaders use the funds to hire “volunteer” campaign workers indirectly, since the NGOs depend on political favoritism and their charity volunteers will campaign, hold signs, knock on doors during campaign season, for those candidates seeking re-election. Political paybacks publicly funded. Meanwhile none of the poverty conditions improve, but actually worsen, since solving a problem means no more NGOs will be needed. Gainesville is overflowing with non-profits headed by wealthy founders while the poor keep coming here from outside, attracted by the marketing NGOs use to keep demand up. AC should investigate how well the charity leaders live on “non-profit” salaries we donate to.

  • Thanks Len. This is yet another case of the NGOs edging their way into the public fisc over time. Only by shining a light on this stuff do we have any hope spending getting under control.

    This process started decades ago as a way for the Commission to systematically deal with the continuous ’emergency’ requests from NGOs who try to hit up the county’s treasury between county budget cycles. Nobody who relies on votes wants to say ‘no’ when there’s a reporter from The Sun sitting in the back of the room. But the process quickly became a pseudo United Way; with the same agencies lining up every year. And now even the United Way gets in line for $30k.

    The County has it set up so it slides right through, nobody has to take a hard vote up or down on either the elected commission or the review committee. Three of the four people on the committee individually thought 85%+ of the requests should have been funded at some level. Only one request(!) of 44 got a non-fundable score by all four reviewers. But a special taxpayer thanks goes to one committee member who voted to *not* fund half of the requests.

  • Another excellent editorial… Thank you, Len Cabrera.
    If only more citizens in Alachua County knew/understood what is and has been going on…
    Gainesville is a lost cause, I’m afraid, but I think there are a lot of people out in Alachua County who still love This Country and the values it has stood for for almost a quarter century…
    I will share this, and hope that a few more of those people people actually see it, and start tuning in.
    We are being censored, intimidated, cancelled and just beaten down at almost every turn…
    But we have to keep fighting… Speaking the Truth as loud/best as we can.

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