Once upon a time in a land called Acetnam lived a little red hen.
The little red hen really loved Acetnam.
One day in 1983, the little red hen discovered people from beyond the Tnomatla Pass liked Acetnam as well because it was a safer place to raise their little chicks and chicken coops were affordable.
So with this grain of information, she went to the Acetnam Village Board meeting.
“Who will help us prepare for growth by assessing fees needed to build parks, fire stations, and such for the enjoyment of the new Acetnam residents and those already living here?” the little red hen asked.
“Not I,” said the cat, who quickly added it would drive the price of housing up.
“Not I,” said the goose, who said there must be another way to raise money for such projects.
“Not I,” said the rat, who blamed the state for Acetnam’s problems and fretted about what people would think if they raised fees.
“But who will take care of the amenities we need for a growing Acetnam?” the little red hen muttered to herself as she left the village board chambers.
Pretty soon a lot of folks were flocking to Acetnam. The ground that once grew corn for silage was being leveled and foundations planted. Rows and rows of chicken coops went up.
But there was not enough money being collected to build facilities such as a new police station and library.
The new Acetnam residents started complaining. They said they moved to Acetnam for the quality of life. They had paid growth fees. Their chicken coops were assessed at a higher tax rate. They assumed the village board was collecting enough fees to take care of growth.
The little red hen heard the grumblings. She went back to the village board.
“Now that we have more people here and growth has slowed down, who will examine our growth fees and make sure we have enough money to build amenities?” the little red hen asked.
“Not I,” said the cat, who noted higher growth fees would hurt home sales while failing to point out not collecting adequate fees would hurt the village and its existing and future residents.
“Not I,” said the goose, who worried about the upcoming election and didn’t want to sound pro-tax or anti-growth even though the fees were for people buying new homes in Acetnam, which meant newcomers would be paying their way.
“Not I,” said the rat, who said if staff just worked a little more efficiently and squeezed just a few more pennies they could build a $22 million library.
The little red hen left the village board meeting shaking her head.
As she made her way back to her humble chicken coop she noticed many of the new places were super-sized versions of her coop.
She dropped by a new neighbor’s house — an old woman who lived in a McShoe with seven bedrooms and 22 children. She told the old woman that Acetnam needed more recreation facilities, a library, and things a growing city should have such as a performing arts center and a community center.
The old woman — who commuted to Esoj Nas to work while her husband drove to Elavynnus so they could afford to raise their children in Acetnam in a McShoe — said she was too busy to get involved with village politics. Besides, she noted the builder passed along the cost of growth fees when they bought their McShoe.
Years went by. Developers squawked and even sued when the village board did try to raise fees. The village staff said they would re-examine things when growth slowed down. It slowed down but staff was cut as well. They talked about studying and putting in place fees to pay for new interchanges that could cost upwards of $120 million. Staff proposed raising government fees to address the board’s 20-year wish list for public amenities. Seven years and 3,000 chicken coop foreclosures later, nothing had changed. But one thing had. The recession was ending and growth was starting to pick up steam.
The frustrated little red hen went back to the village board.
“Who will consider imposing new fees so Acetnam doesn’t fall even farther behind so that new homes will pay for at least interchanges that are needed to support them?” the little red hen asked.
“Not I,” said the cat, who felt new home buyers were being made to pay too much for a house but didn’t want to try and raise taxes or — heaven forbid — lower expectations.
“Not I,” said the goose, who thought the fees were too much but who just a week earlier complained that the village didn’t have the money they needed to build public projects.
“Not I,” said the rat, who then lectured staff about taking too long to process projects even though the village board itself had been taking its sweet time putting fees in place to pay for all of the things they believed Acetnam needed.
Then another chicken stepped up to the podium.
“The sky is falling down, the sky is falling down,” Chicken Little clucked. “You tax us too much. We need a new library. You don’t build enough amenities. Housing is too expensive. We need a new city hall. I want it all, I want it now and I don’t want to pay for it.”
The cat, goose, and rat all nodded in agreement.
The moral of this fable: Sometimes leaders are too chicken to do the right thing because they don’t want to get hen-pecked.
This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA. He can be contacted at email@example.com or 209.249.3519.