How shrinking government can finally get the grass cut

   

While it’s not as important as fixing drainage and filling potholes, cutting the grass in public owned spaces has come up fairly frequently at council meetings. As a councilman, Kenneth Boudreaux used to enjoy filibustering on the subject. For example, on July 24, 2018 (at the 34:00 mark to 1:16:43) he created a PowerPoint presentation and spent about 42 minutes discussing the state of grass cutting in Lafayette. Then, like clockwork, on July 16 of 2019 (at the 1:01:52 mark to 2:11:00), he spent a solid seventy minutes of council time on yet another grass cutting discussion. It had zero impact on policy as nothing was done about it.

Enter the Geaux Mow initiative

Geaux MowOn April 6th, LCG announced a big government solution to keeping the grass cut. Here’s the announcement.

LCG calls for Lawn Care Professionals to Participate in New Program
Project Geaux Mow

Calling all Lawn Care Professionals!
Lafayette Consolidated Government (LCG) is launching Project Geaux Mow, a public/private partnership with local lawn care professionals to assist with lawn care within Lafayette Parish.

Housed within LCG Traffic, Roads and Bridges, Project Geaux Mow provides local lawn care professionals the opportunity to bid on LCG’s grass cutting projects using a web portal. Moving forward, LCG will be using technology to manage the maintenance of our grass cutting schedule.

“This project is part of our effort to support small business, beautify our city with better maintenance of public spaces, and ensure we are maximizing our efforts in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Mayor-President Josh Guillory on the new program.

LCG is currently in the process of enrolling vendors. The bidding portal is set to go live by the end of April. Interested vendors can receive more information on the program by emailing: [email protected]

Possibly relevant to this discussion, Mr. Warren Abadie is the primary point of contact. He’s a traffic engineer at LCG who also happens to be the person responsible for the Buchanan Garage. If you don’t recall, the Buchanan Garage was recently closed because of structural problems related to …….. a lack of maintenance. When we talked to him in September of 2018, he told us the garage hadn’t been assessed in years.

Define the problem before identifying a solution

While any initiative attempting to address the grass cutting problem is a HUGE step forward, the entire premise of their current “solution” is wrong. That premise stems from a failed philosophy that no problem is too big or too small for government to solve. However, these problems now exists because of government! In the wise words of Ronald Reagan, “government isn’t the solution to our problem, government IS our problem!”

Obviously, if the solution to government failure is more government, we must be doing something wrong. The problem is government is supposed to be cutting the grass but it isn’t. If you were being paid to cut someone’s grass, but then never showed up, you wouldn’t be given more responsibility. You’d be fired!

That’s what a top-down, command and control structure always accomplishes. It creates a single point of failure. If something doesn’t work, repeating it 50 or 100 times won’t change it. With grass cutting, that single point of failure has been the problem all along! What does it teach our children? Does it teach them to stand up and be the change we want to see in the world, or does it teach them to call the government and complain? Talk about inefficient.

Now let’s identify some goals

Instead of complaining, a better goal would be to identify something that’s already moving in the right direction. For a moment, lets think back to a time before we had self-powered machines capable of bruit-forcing solutions. If an entrepreneur wanted to provide lumber to a growing city, he’d have to identify or create a supply line that ended at his lumber yard on the outskirts of town. Simply put, that yard would need lumber. That lumber would come from a mill. That mill would need to be fed with raw timber. That timber would be brought to the mill by a river’s natural flow.

A hitchhiker is another great metaphor. We don’t need to buy a car, insurance, a tank of gas, etc. just to arrive where we want to go. We just need to find a vehicle already moving in that direction and figure out how to get a ride.

A real solution? The free market

It’s true that the newly retooled single point of failure looks to be an improvement over the previous one. In fact, if we know Josh Guillory, it will definitely move the needle in the right direction. However, it’s still brute force. What if the private sector – the free market – could provide a solution to this problem as part of its natural order?

Certainly, the government bidding out grass cutting to the private sector is a great start. However, that process will involve perhaps hundreds of bids and scores of different contractors. All of the decisions will bottleneck through a government bureaucracy, which really couldn’t care less about the outcomes of each little grass cutting job.

The better solution would be to hand the reins to local organizations who already have a vested interest in the outcome, like Home Owner Associations or Neighborhood Watch groups. Those hundreds of small neighborhood groups are already working to keep up their residents’ property values. Cutting the grass is just another small piece of what they’re already doing. They see the problem every single day. They go right by it on their way to work, or walking or biking the neighborhood for exercise.

Using the market doesn’t just fix problems, it creates opportunities

If the local government provides a grass-cutting stipend based on the budget it already has for the work, allowing the local organization to decide who gets the work relieves a strain on government. Using this model would also mean the vendor requirements could be less stringent than the government’s. After all, whatever vendor an association would choose wouldn’t necessarily need million dollar insurance policies and surety bonds. Additionally, allowing the market to work creates private-sector growth. This could even be the spark that embarks a teenager on an entrepreneurial journey.

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