Apparently flush from having solved the many economic and national security problems facing the country, the federal government has set its sights on resolving a major national issue that has festered far too long — requiring local governments to replace the lettering on street signs so they appear in all capital letters only. The reasoning behind this vital project appears to be a conclusion by Washington that the country’s population is either too old or too illiterate to decipher street signs printed in upper and lower case letters. Or perhaps its genesis lies in an important national security directive that terrorists will find it more difficult to locate targets if the nation’s street signs are thus altered.
Of course, as usual this new mandate is unfunded, leaving cash-strapped local governments to pay for the new signs, which cost in the range of $30 to $100 a piece. While that many not seem like a lot of money, it will cost millions for larger cities to comply with the new regulations. Even smaller towns will have to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to replace a few thousand street signs.
Facing budget shortfalls and an unprecedented pension crisis, Atlanta and other cities across the country will be faced with the prospects of raising taxes or relying on layoffs of employees or some combination along with spending cuts.
The problem is here does not end with another unfunded mandate. It is the fact that there is not authority granted in Article I, Section 8 – or anywhere else — of the Constitution to intercede in the affairs of local governments in this manner. The Tenth Amendment is there for a reason; but then again, because the Amendment was not written in all upper case letters, perhaps its meaning is lost on the federal bureaucrats who have issued this directive.
Maybe we should start printing copies of the Constitution and The Federalist Papers in all capital letters to help bureaucrats understand the role of the federal government and the Law of the Land . . . or maybe a coloring book would be more appropriate.
There was an honest error in yesterday’s post about street signs. The mandate being sent down from Washington is not to make the signs in all capital letters, but to a combination of capital and lower case.
The underlying point that this mandate is going to cost local governments hundreds of thousands of dollars and the constitutionality of these sorts of hoops remains the same. However, a mistake was made and a correction is warranted.