Some recent stories illustrate some of the consequences of the pay for services model of government.
In Tonka Bay, the city has decided to charge fees to defray the costs of opening City Hall for public meetings that are not city-run. The council declined to waive the fee for a Republican Party caucus, and then decided it was consistent to also charge the League of Women Voters to stage its non-partisan candidate forum. The League objected.
In Medina, residents who thought taking over a county road would give them more control over traffic decided it was not such a good idea when they saw how taxes and assessments would climb in order to cover maintenance, repair and plowing. The traffic became more tolerable when more people were paying for the road.
A Minnetonka elementary school has envisioned adding a $550,000 "eco-lab" to enourage math and science learning.
The eco-lab committee has spent a year envisioning this hands-on science lab where teachers and students can study the environmental impact of the daily choices they make and methods for a more sustainable lifestyle.
What's needed to turn the blueprints into a reality is $550,000.
The committee is taking on the challenge of raising the money through grants and private donations.
It's a beautiful idea, and the community may very well have the capacity to fund it. But it raises the question — what about all the kids in the state's schools, where by fourth grade about half are not proficient in math when measured against national standards? And kids in less prosperous districts do even worse.
Do we know the lab will make a difference? In Minnetonka, perhaps parents can afford to give it a shot. But in other districts, it's a no-fly frill.
Bringing government costs down to a local level and to particular users does increase transparency and forces citizens to judge the value of government services. But are we liking the choices?