Paul Jacob

Public officials cannot simply throw dissenters into a gulag and govern by decree. But the city governors in Boulder City, Nevada, have found the next best thing.

Sue the people.

Regularly and repeatedly.

As a method of effectuating an oligarchy, what could be more American?

Boulder City is a small town of just under 17,000 residents located 20 miles southeast of Las Vegas near the Arizona border. Built by the federal government in 1931 to house workers constructing the Hoover Dam (originally called the Boulder Dam), Money magazine recently named the city one of the “25 Best Places to Retire,” noting among several factors its Best Dam Barbecue cook-off each May as well as what it lacks: gambling, tourists, and a state income tax.

Not mentioned at all, however, was the whopping $125 million of public debt the city has amassed. In addition to each citizen’s $45,384 share of our $14 trillion national debt, pile on another $7,000 per Boulder City resident for local government red ink.

How did this little city rack up so much debt? Much, if not most of it, comes from the city council’s decision — without bothering to waste their time asking for public approval — to build the Boulder Creek Golf Club, which opened in 2003.

One can easily understand the life-or-death need for a place to go golfing, of course. Yet, this was the city’s second public course. The first, built in 1971, was approved by voters. Mysteriously, once the second course was operational, the first (as well as the second) began to lose money, with revenues falling from over $600,000 annually to only $40,000.

As city leaders busily juggled accounts to compensate for the city’s disastrous further foray into the sports entertainment business, citizens got busy putting a little old-fashioned democracy into action. Relying on their constitutional right to the initiative process, petitions were filed to place four measures on the ballot that would reform city governance and tackle the problem of mounting indebtedness:

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.