delware environmental institute

News Journal: Questions linger on New Castle County land acquisition

New Castle County's Executive office is asking for $1.5 million in this year's budget, to be spent on farmland and/or open space acquisition. This follows last year's successful request for $3 million. Since the Open Space Council halted proceedings before a farmland preservation deal could be completed, last year's $3 million remains unspent.

If this year's request for $1.5 million is approved by County Council, there will be a total of $4.5 million set aside for farmland preservation. Farmland and open space acquisition are widely approved by New Castle County residents, so what's the problem?

Lack of public input is the problem. Once council approves the budget, the actual shopping and subsequent spending of this $4.5 million leaves the jurisdiction of the Council and are solely at the discretion of the Executive Office. Not only is there little or no opportunity henceforth for public input but there are no safeguards in place to see that value for the money spent is achieved, nor that the spending goals are appropriate, nor that special interests are not served more than the public's.

Editor's Note: This op-ed cites research by DENIN affiliate Kent Messer.