Dire situations call for drastic measures, in the eyes of county commissioner candidate Randy Dubbs Dowler.
Hence his campaign platform: Cut Spending! Cut Taxes! Cut to the Chase!
“Our biggest problem here is the playbook,” he said. “In a financial crisis, you tighten your belt regarding spending. If you increase taxes and hope for business development — that doesn’t work anymore. You’re just rolling from one fiscal crisis to another. You demotivate business by raising taxes.”
Dowler is thinking larger than Curry County.
After China was granted Most Favored Nation Trading Partner, the California native saw his surfing business go from being 90 percent conducted in the United States to 90 percent being done overseas.
He watched cities in Southern California tax businesses and drive them — and residents — to neighboring towns.
“Here, our biggest loss was timber funds; it put a crimp on real estate and business growth,” he said. “Our core problem we have is, if you want ants, you have to put out the sugar.”
The county, he said, must be run like a business to attract business.
“A better mousetrap doesn’t sell itself; you have to market things,” Dowler said. “We need to cater to all business, diversify our economy, identify start-ups that will exist in the future, be an incubator for the entrepreneurial.”
Dowler also believes the county could benefit by creating a “Curry County School of Government” to teach interns governmental skills while using their volunteer hours to get work done.
The budgetary problems facing Curry County are easy to solve, Dowler stated.
“That’s a simple one,” he said with a laugh. “Disincorporate the cities. Take the $3.2 million the cities have and move it into the county. You’d still have the various taxing districts; just take away the duplicates. We have the state police, the sheriff’s department, police departments; we should only have one.
“We can’t afford more government,” he said. “Someone’s going to be denied basic services — we’re going to reach the point of diminishing returns. You can raise the tax rate, but you’re not going to collect more money. People just leave.”
He believes citizens would support such a measure, but the political will at the county level would have to be there — and it isn’t now.
“The powers that be — they don’t want to play musical chairs,” he said. “But you do the math. City services would become more efficient if you disincorporated the bureaucracies that run the cities.”
He admits his ideas are far from typical.
“They have to be,” he said. “When the U.S. Congress passed the Most Favored Nation Trading status to China, that completely changed the economics of this country. I knew it was coming; it changed in one year. I laid off every employee I had, hoping I could weather the storm. It never came back. All those jobs went to China.”
China, he noted, doesn’t have “these little bureaucracies. It’s just one Community party that does the whole thing. There’s no middle management to support, and because of that, we can’t compete. It comes down to diminishing returns: Voters aren’t going to vote for more taxes because (locally), they’re competing with the federal and state governments.”
His platform touts no new taxes, balancing the budget with existing revenue, melding the county into one city and county of Curry, placing a moratorium on taxes, debt and fees for seven years and reorganizing local libraries as institutions of information marketing centers.
“We’re on the edge of crisis,” he said. “We need to get everyone together, rowing the boat in the same direction.”
Dowler does not favor the Home Rule Charter proposed on the May 20 ballot. His biggest concern is the sections that allow one commissioner or one public official to declare an emergency — and in his mind, could lead to taxation without a vote.
“Couple that with (other sections) and that means they can raise taxes,” he said. “It grants ‘all powers.’ We don’t even grant ‘all powers’ to the federal government; why would we do that with a county? There needs to be checks and balances.”