Lansing Township officials have taken actions to become real estate developers — a risky proposition for local taxpayers. According to the Lansing State Journal, developers have passed at the opportunity to add retail space and parking near the Eastwood Towne Center north of Lansing. Local government officials, however, seem more than willing to risk taxpayer money on the chancy development scheme.

I have seen this story before and the ending is not a good one — government officials believing they can outguess market forces. Not far down the road, East Lansing officials have been designating well-maintained apartment buildings and other developments as blighted in an effort to rebuild the city according to their master plan. Where East Lansing has been successful in acquiring private property, it mostly remains undeveloped as the private sector is not cooperating with their central planning.

The action of Lansing Township officials is especially objectionable. They have gone beyond even the central planning function, which has become fashionable with some local governments in a bid to replace the traditional private sector as land developers. Even if the Eastwood expansion is an economic success (though highly doubtful), it is not the proper role of government to undertake development projects gambling with taxpayer money. It is much easier to risk someone else’s money than it is your own.

Lansing Township voters should demand to know why their elected officials have decided to play real estate developer rather than concentrating on basic government services such as road maintenance and public safety. These same officials should be held accountable for their irresponsible acts the next time voters go to the polls.