As presidents before him, President Obama’s flitting around the country raising monies for various political campaigns has hidden costs to the communities where he sets down. A most recent illustration is the little town of Atherton in the Bay Area where his holiness touched down to raise a few million at a fancy brunch in a local mansion. As the 18apr13 WSJ reports (see chart), this visit cost the town $8,122.91, and the townfolk are pissed. (Atherton’s well-heeled residents gave $6.4M to national campaigns last year.)
But this visit cost the town a tidy sum that was not budgeted (other towns and cities have paid much more for such visitations). When Atherton town officials asked for reimbursement for some security costs, the Secret Service sniffed that “the president's security detail isn't in the habit of cutting checks for police overtime.” Well dammit, develop the habit – it’s a good and prudent one.
Here’s what I propose to make up for the local costs of such messianic visits to jurisdictions already taxed to the hilt, especially those perusing the benefits of filing for Chapter 9 sooner than later. Establish a Federal Visitations Reimbursement Office with an in place escrow account. When an Atherton runs into expenses it can’t avoid, it has recourse to be held harmless. After the VIP leaves, the jurisdiction totes up its extraordinary costs and expenses, and submits a bill to the FVRO which through established procedures gets a check cut pronto.
Such an approach would also let the feds, high and low, understand the added costs of their traipsing around the country while putting extra burdens on their host communities. If they don’t want to go the FVRO approach, then the host community should just tell the VIP’s advance party what the local laws are (for landing helicopters, routing motorcades, holding rallies, etc), and that no additional resources will be expended beyond coordinating with the staff of the visiting dignitaries. Oh yes, and they would have to place a bond for any repairs or clean-up required pursuant to their visitation. If anyone in this country, it is such visitors from on high who should be reminded at every turn that down here there is no free lunch – it may be invisible to them, but we have to pay for it one way or another.