Petitioners hope city will not hurt businesses

If we think about individual human rights and responsibilities, and believe in them, then what is the ideal when it comes to people seeking things they want? We would argue that the ideal is: if you want it, you pay for it. And that is the way things work in countless transactions every day in our society. If we buy shoes, we do not expect our neighbor to pay.

But it also happens on occasion that some people want other people to pay for the things they want, or at least to help them pay. And the only way to make someone pay for what you want is to force them, through government.

Hence the many and sometimes bitter debates about the proper role of government in our society. While citizens may find broad consensus on some government spending, other things spark controversy. One has been brewing in Fairmont for months. It centers around the proposed community center, its cost to build, its cost to maintain and what it would offer.

A large group of local businesses — 79 to be exact — this week petitioned the City Council to ask that whatever goes in the community center not compete with existing business. The signers included a broad swath of interests, from retail, to manufacturing, to service providers. What these folks see is the inherent unfairness of the city offering a service that somebody else already provides, such as a banquet hall or a fitness center. Because government can wield force, it can use tax dollars to unfairly undermine existing businesses.

One has to wonder if all of this is really what local residents wanted when a majority voted for a half-cent sales tax two years ago. Given the public outcry, it does not appear so. The signers of the petition are not necessarily opposed to a community center; they just do not want it to represent something unjust. Kudos to them for taking a stand. We hope city officials are listening.