Twenty years ago, when My Favorite Newspaper transferred me to the Port Richey bureau and I began looking for a home to buy, longtime Pasco County residents had only one piece of advice for me: "Be sure the house has county water and sewer service."
Privatization may be the bee's knees in some circles, but customers of Aloha and Aqua Utilities would probably gleefully give up all that wonderful free-market independence for some clear water and reliable sewage treatment from the county.
Turns out that good ol' government does a lot of stuff better than private enterprise: law enforcement, roads and bridges, libraries, parks, firefighting (I respect volunteer fire departments, including the one my late father joined, but I still like having a county-owned fire plug in my front yard and county-paid firefighters coming when I need them), schools (with a few exceptions), keeping up with deeds, titles and other records, overseeing elections, dispensing justice, delivering letters … and water and sewer service.
I'm one of those endangered species who believes in government, even "Big Gummint up in Warshington," especially the one that sends me my Social Security check every month and pays my really awful hospital bills when my temperature soars to 104 degrees and no one can figure out why, the same government that built the interstate highways I'll drive over when I go up to Montana, Idaho and Utah in a few weeks and keeps watch over the national parks I'll tour. Yup, that one.
I also love my close-to-home government, the homeowners association, which makes and enforces all those nitpicky rules that make my neighborhood nice and pretty, and I'm being serious here. I love HOA rules. Really. And I don't mind paying my annual assessment to enforce them.
I know there are people who hate government, including some who have lived pretty nice lives taking government paychecks and subsidies and contracts, and not a few who are spending 112 percent of their energy trying to get the biggest government job in the United States even as I write this.
There are some who hate government so much they want to starve it down to something they can drown in the bathtub. Happy to say, there are places for these people; I suggest Somalia, which hardly has a government. Of course, you need to be as rich as, say, Grover Norquist, to live there, because the first thing you must do when you arrive is hire round-the-clock body guards and buy a bulletproof car, and only the very rich can afford all that.
That said, it may surprise some that I think it's time for government to stop paying part of the costs for special events in downtown New Port Richey. At present, city taxpayers pay for police and setup and cleanup crews for these events to the tune of $183,931 a year, according to a study by City Manager John Schneiger.
As Mammy said to Scarlett in Gone with the Wind, "It ain't fittin' … it jes' ain't fittin'."
Government should not pay for everything — just those things we all need and use but can't possibly pay for by ourselves (see above) and for things that shouldn't turn a profit, like jails, prisons and schools, because they're part of the social contract that makes a civilization civilized.
I'm a firm believer that we should pay for our own extras, like eating out and going to the theater, and, yes, for outdoor events to which we are all invited. It's great that worthwhile organizations make money at some of these events, but it would be much more fair to require event-goers and event planners to cover the costs than to expect New Port Richey taxpayers to foot the bills. That's how it works everywhere else I can find.
As for bringing people downtown, the downtown business owners I've talked to say that most of these events almost shut them down because of parking headaches, sometimes unruly crowds and noise.
At least some restaurant owners dread them, because their regulars stay away, and the only thing most of the visitors want is to use their potties (the biker show may be an exception, because it's mostly grownups who eat and drink at local establishments).
In any case, I think that those who enjoy and profit from the event should pay for the event. That's what's fittin'.