Tanner Andrews mug

Tanner Andrews

There are two types of invention recognized in the patent office. There are useful things, and decoration. A clever person can invent a new bulb for lamps, or some new ornament for a lamp, and have patents issued.

The guys who invented our charter government probably could have gotten a patent. The application would have been for a new cash-disposal technology. They would call it useful.

The County Council is an expensive part of Volusia charter government. They fit in just under the county manager, being fed whatever information the manager deems important to achieve his goals. In theory, the council is supposed to be the policymaking body.

But that brings us back to the useful/decoration dichotomy. If the County Council were really useful, we would have better policies and lower taxes. There is, after all, not much demand for cash-disposal technology.

The county manager clearly recognizes the County Council as not incredibly functional. Not long before the Fourth of July holiday, the manager’s staff announced a new policy: no inflatable amusements in the parks. The excuse was the usual fear of being sued.

After all the years of inflatable amusements, I can scarce credit their newfound fear of liability. It looks more like the usual reach of government bureaucrats: They expand their own power mostly because they can.

The problem with bureaucratic power grabs is that the County Council is supposed to be the policymaking body. The other petty tyrants are supposed to follow policy set by the elected officials. The petty tyrants operate by pulling the strings behind the scenes.

The strings must have gotten tangled this time. The new policy appears to have caught the County Council flat-footed. Not that it takes a lot, but usually it is less obvious.

We could look at the budget process for another tangled example. The county manager packages a several-hundred-page budget listing what he wants to spend. I am not sure if they still print the books; I just get PDFs from the website. The amazing thing is how little changes between the county manager’s proposal and the final tax rate.

We have reached the point where no one even pretends that the County Council is useful. Watch the policy flow, attend a meeting or two, and you know what the county manager is thinking — the County Council is purely decorative, and they do a poor job at that!

— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of this column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.