Forced Charity – Ada Jenkins Edition

– For the Christians among us, we should consider that when God gave Moses the commandment “Thou shalt not steal,” he probably didn’t mean thou shalt not steal unless you can get a majority vote [on the Huntersville town board]. – Dr. Walter Williams

The town board held a pre-meeting discussion on various budget items Monday night, including whether to increase funding for the Ada Jenkins Center in Davidson. The request for additional funding was placed before the board at the behest of Commissioner Brian Hines. The town manager’s budget initially recommended $10K be given to Ada Jenkins (consistent with the amount over the past two years), but Commissioner Hines asked that the full request of $20K by Ada Jenkins be funded. Commissioner Boone later made a recommendation that only $15K be given to Ada Jenkins and this was supported by Commissioners Boone, Bales, Hines, and Walsh – with Commissioners Gibbons and Phillips opposed. Ada Jenkins has provided no specific purpose for which any funding from Huntersville will be used – only that they need the money so they can “continue to provide quality, cost-efficient services to Huntersville residents in need.” Ada Jenkins has paid staff so what guarantee do Huntersville residents have that their tax dollars will even go to “services” and not salaries?

So, why focus on $15,000 out of an operating budget of over $39 million when the money is only going to a nonprofit? Because, (as I’ve said before) every penny spent by the town board is money that could have been put to a more productive use if left in the hands of private citizens. Further, money taken by force and used by government on non-essential functions like charitable giving means less money is available for essential town functions like police, sanitation, fire, or roads and sidewalks.

The comments from the four board members supporting this increase were arguably some of the most disconcerting comments I’ve heard from the dais in a few years, particularly the comments of Commissioner Hines. Between his statements made in support of increased funding for Ada Jenkins and his vote to start a public arts committee, Hines has given up any pretense of being a conservative, much less a fiscally conservative advocate for stewarding taxpayer dollars as advertised on his campaign literature. I understand that not everyone reading this considers themselves a conservative, or even a fiscal conservative, but if you do consider yourself a conservative then be sure to keep this discussion in mind during the next campaign when you hear Commissioner Bales, Boone, or Hines describe themselves as anything even close to conservative (you won’t have to worry about Commissioner Walsh ever describing himself as conservative).

You can listen to the roughly 13-minute discussion beginning at the 20:10 mark here.

After Commissioner Hines introduces the request, Commissioner Bales begins by justifying her support for the increased funding because it’s her understanding that Ada Jenkins provides services that the town could provide so this funding would comply with the new charitable giving policy adopted by the town board in 2016. The only specific example she cites is workforce development. Commissioner Hines then rattles off a list of the services they provide such as community health services, a dental clinic, educational services, and human services (whatever that may be). Later in the discussion both Commissioners Bales and Walsh again repeat this justification about Ada Jenkins providing services that the town would have to provide otherwise, and Commissioner Walsh even makes a misguided attempt to compare funding of Ada Jenkins to funding the non-profit entity that provides fire/EMS services to the town.

Here’s a question for Commissioners Bales, Hines, and Walsh – which specific services provided by Ada Jenkins do you support the town providing directly? [Commissioner Gibbons posed a similar question to the supporting board members, what services does Ada Jenkins provide that the county does not?] Should the town start a dental clinic? Should the town begin paying rent and utility bills for residents? Should the town start a free medical clinic? Or, should the town start a workforce development and job placement program?

Commissioner Hines continued his plea by stating the need for Ada Jenkins is greater than ever and cites their mission of helping individuals build lasting solutions for health, education, and financial stability. I don’t recall Commissioner Hines running for office on a platform of using taxpayer dollars to build lasting solutions for health, education, and financial stability. And if he thinks the need for Ada Jenkins is greater than ever, how much of his own money has he contributed to them in the past year or any year? I’ve asked this question of all four board members in favor of taking money from taxpayers and giving it away to the charity of the board’s choosing and only Commissioner Walsh has responded thus far. Of course, Commissioner Walsh didn’t answer the question of whether he’s given Ada Jenkins any of his own money so I think we can all safely assume what the answer to that question is.

Commissioner Hines goes on to state that the town’s contribution (whatever it ends up being) is only a small part of Ada Jenkin’s $1.5 million budget so “it’s more of a symbolic thing” letting them know we’re supporting you, a thank you… “I think it would be a goodwill gesture to them…” It appears that Ada Jenkins is doing just fine fundraising on its own without taking money from Huntersville. But, more importantly, why does Commissioner Hines think it appropriate to use other people’s money for mere “symbolic” or “goodwill” gestures? It’s noble of people to give to charity with their own money, but it’s immoral when politicians forcibly take money from one person to benefit another under the color of law.

Commissioner Boone interjected his comments (at approx. 26:30 mark) and for one shining moment it sounded as if reason might prevail when he started off by stating the board is pretty quick to just throw $20K or $10K around and it’s not our money to be throwing it like that. Kudos, Commissioner Boone! But, alas, just as quickly he reverted back to sitting on the fence and suggested only giving Ada Jenkins an additional $5K instead of $10K.

I guess every other priority of the town must be fully funded if we have extra money to dole out to select charities of the board’s choosing. If that’s the case, I would suggest we’re being overtaxed. These same four individuals in favor of giving your money to charity also happen to be the same four board members (along with the mayor) who unashamedly take advantage of a subsidized membership at HFFA using $312 of your tax dollars every year (Commissioners Gibbons and Phillips have rejected this subsidy).

For the “it’s just $15K, it’s just a few pennies per resident, it’s no big deal” defenders of this expenditure, let me remind you that taking one penny from someone by force is just as immoral as taking $15K from someone. No one is stopping anyone in Huntersville from giving any of their own money to Ada Jenkins or any other charitable endeavor. If Commissioner Hines tried to take 33 cents (or whatever the actual figure comes to) from every Huntersville resident by force for the benefit of Ada Jenkins he would be guilty of a crime. But, because he can use the power of his elected office to take the money through taxes it’s considered legal.

If you sought elected office because you needed an increased sense of self-worth by giving away other people’s money, please just resign now.

Eric