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Thursday, May 1, 2008

This One's Just For Me

WARNING: Deadly dull rant ahead!

There is a thing that has bothered me for years, and nobody who reads this blog will understand, nor should they. I still have a soft spot for municipal projects, and think that a maximum percentage of the money spent on such projects should put pipe in the ground, asphalt on the street or green-space protected. Any governmental entity has limited resources and owes it as a moral imperative to its citizens to extract the most value for monies spent. I have a bit of intimate history in this area, and something still chafes my rear after all these years. Bond Councils and the political corruption that keeps them in business.

Bond council firms, as far as I can tell, do one sort of business. When municipal or State bonds are written to finance projects a bond council must, by state law, be hired to do the paperwork. The bonding paper is the very definition of "boilerplate". The current legal bonding documents have been unchanged for decades, except for names and terms. In this age of cheap PDF technology the state or federal governments could easily and cheaply have these documents waiting on their hard drives for the names, terms and amount to be filled in. Anyone who has bought a quit claim deed or power of attorney form at a stationery shop should be familiar with the concept.

I remember the evening when the five past, dumpy lawyers in ill fitting black suits came into the little town hall, flopped about half a dozen small phone book sized copies of boilerplate on the council table, gave a guilty grin and went to the bar to kill time while the papers were signed. Ka Ching! Seventeen thousand dollars, enough to lay another block or two of sewer lines, bled out of the project and there wasn't a damn thing we could do about it.

Bond council firms hide in the background noise, popping out to pick the occasional pocket and disappear. The bond council firms make sure that they are serious contributors to the state legislators, usually committee chairs, who move bills through government and make sure nothing ever threatens their private cash well.

We have, as your state does, an Attorney General with an office full of lawyers quite capable of handling everything the bond council firms handle at a miniscule cost in comparison.

A good friend of mine, a lawyer as it was, once told me that the secret to a successful law practice was to sit by the stream of cash and dip your cup in every once in a while. The bigger the river, the less the cupfuls will be missed. The greedy will attempt to dam the river and be the cause of their own downfall. It's the cup-dippers that are hardest to cut out of the loop once they are no longer needed. Bond council firms once had a purpose, but their cost can no longer be justified.

I warned you that this entry wouldn't be anything but deadly dull, and nothing will ever be done about the problem, but I feel better having vented.