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by Lawrence K. Samuels, guest contributor [September 2, 2009]




[]  Too often the political elite fantasize about creating new layers of government while promising no extra costs to taxpayers -- the typical political lie.

In this particular fantasy, a small, but powerful group is trying to turn a low-density, 44-square mile rural area of Carmel Valley, CA, into a bustling city of 12,000 residents. The less enthused residents of Carmel Valley call this incorporation attempt "a hostile takeover."

This heaven-on-earth scheme mimics Garrison Keillor's fictitious Lake Wobegon, where community spirit and altruism reigns supreme. According to one leading incorporation proponent, the city would be operated by volunteers. The city attorney and manager would get pats on the back instead of $200,000+ annual salaries and retirement benefits. City staff will cheerfully work long hours for little or no pay. There will be no city hall, police stations, or public work buildings. No unions trying to get public workers higher wages and benefits. No redevelopment agency that would use eminent domain powers to subsidize and encourage development. No infighting. No disharmony.

A true utopia. That is the world the proponents of Carmel Valley envision. Fairy tales are fun to believe in.

But the main reason these agenda-pushers cite for cityhood is to obtain local control. Never mind that 50 - 60% of most California city budgets are controlled by federal and state mandates. Never mind that once a city is created, it must comply with low-income housing mandates, storm-drain problems, and the likelihood of replacing septic systems with expensive public sewer systems.

But it is the budgetary problems of cities that make incorporation most unpalatable. Most California cities are bankrupt, due to high government salaries, obscenely generous CalPERS retirement benefits, and lifetime medical benefits. The nearby city of Seaside, population 30,000, has over 40 city employees receiving well over $100,000 a year. Many of these employees can retire at age 50, and receive for life up to 90% of their last paycheck with inflation adjustments.

Cities are bad news.

It took Carmel Valley proponents nine years to get their measure on the Nov. 3, 2009 ballot. Initially, the anti-incorporation group -- Save Carmel Valley -- opposed running anti-incorporation candidates for city council. But other anti-corporation organizations around the state said it was vital to run our own slate -- to provide a platform to oppose cityhood at public events.

I agreed. I became the first candidate to apply, and hand in my petition signatures. This surprised the opposition, which includes mostly former politicians, lawyers, teachers, and government workers. They failed to realize that newspapers would give more publicity to the first few declared candidates.

The Carmel Pine Cone and Monterey County Weekly both identified me as a libertarian, and quoted me as the candidate who "hated politicians." My quoted motto created a stir: "Don't vote for a city, and don't vote for me." This anti-political sentiment rang true with many Carmel Valley residents. They kept telling me that a city government would be intrusive and expensive, and they simply "wanted to be left alone."

This "live and let live" attitude, found in many rural areas, is the essence of our libertarian ideals. I plan to enjoy my politician-bashing campaign.

After all, how many candidates get to run for a political office and a city government that does not even exist?



Lawrence K. Samuels runs the website:

He is an editor and contributing author to Facets of Liberty: A Libertarian Primer.

His email: lawsam1951 at




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