Four commissioners seem to think that they can “…take a sunrise. sprinkle it in dew, cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two” will happen simply because they are all-knowing. Everyone else is simply too stupid not to recognize their self-perceived magnificence.
Last year, Commissioner Carnahan and ex-Sheriff Dawsy chaired a Fire Rescue Committee that lasted months. After wasting untold manpower hours and revenue, Carnahan proceeded to sabotage the intent of the committee’s collective objectives of determining the level of service and permanent funding needed for Fire Rescue by going solo and, making his own determinations with the help of Randy Oliver. He failed at his first attempt to take back Fire Rescue because he missed getting the votes.
Then on March 9th, Carnahan made the motion to take back Fire Rescue once again, even though he previously stated that he would never bring it up again. A man of his word for sure. He now claims to have never received detailed breakdown of the Fire Rescue Budget in all the three years he has been a commissioner. Not true. His agenda was to take back Fire Rescue from day one and he has made it his mission to do so, regardless of the facts. He appointed himself the resident go-to expert that will ensure a smooth transition even though his apparent lack of vision, understanding and aptitude can possibly negate that. No mention was made by Mr. Fiscal Conservative about the cost involved to accomplish this. More wasted revenue.
Commissioner Smith, the newly self-appointed budget guru, claimed that what Chief Goodworth provided was not a budget that conforms to the statute and that there was lack of transparency. What he failed to consider was that this public meeting was supposed to be a workshop to decide, again, permanent funding for Fire Rescue and NOT a budget meeting. It was set up like that for months. When it comes to transparency, Public Works Director, Jeff Rogers and Larry Brock claimed that a 300’ section on East Bennett Street has been maintained by the County. So they added this section to the commissioners resurfacing list even though it was a paving project. They noted the cost at $18,000. However, a $17,000 amount for recent limerock and preparation was conspicuously omitted and not approved by commissioners. When questioned, Randy Oliver acknowledged that it was a “non-conforming work order,” whatever that means. When a public records request was made for all maintenance work orders and invoices for East Bennett Street, nothing was produced that substantiated their “maintenance” claim. When it comes to transparency, people that live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.
Commissioner Kinnard claimed that Fire Rescue is co-mingling funds. He must have spoken to Randy Oliver because this is happening at the county level only. My understanding is that the county comingles the MSTU and MSBU funding and, it might also include CCSO’s budget. Who knows. Governmental functions take shortcuts and only do what’s required. Commissioner Kinnard did not verify this with CCSO. Otherwise, he would have never made such a ridiculous accusation. At CCSO, the Fire Rescue budget is separated. Not one penny is commingled. They’ve gone so far as to spend time tracking how much they spend on making copies since, CCSO and Fire Rescue share the same copy machine(s) at the Inverness location. This commissioner has a propensity for saying the ‘darnest’ things.
On the one hand, commissioners are not interested in becoming better informed when it comes to Fire Rescue and, on the other hand, they blame Fire Rescue for their lack of understanding. These folks were never interested in county government until they decided to run for office and it shows. However, they have a responsibility to catch up on their own instead of insulting and blaming others for their own lack of interest and involvement. This is a waste of time, misuse of resources and, it impedes productivity, effectiveness and efficiency. If there is dysfunctional unproductivity at the top, it will always trickle downward. Any decent manager in corporate America knows how to direct information flow and how to constructively eliminate working impediments but, our commissioners prefer to play the blame-game instead.
The BOCC ran Fire Rescue to the ground, and now they took it back because Commissioner Carnahan thinks they can do a better job. What could possibly go wrong? His duplicitous highfalutin attitude is not reassuring at all, albeit, I hope it works for the sake of our community. However, what should concern taxpayers is the deplorable way he accomplished this takeback. Not surprising because government is a bureaucracy that rarely does anything right nor for the right reasons, and apparently, he is no exception. Look at the board’s track record: No consistent dependable accountability nor oversight, evidenced by the misuse of credit card, theft, cover ups, uncollected rents … probably just the tip of the iceberg. And they dare to accuse others of lacking transparency? Priceless.
We are electing egomaniacs. This board’s track record is abominable and no sugar coating by these Willy Wonkas will change that. Vote them out folks before things get worse.
Jimmie Smith, in his most recent column talks about the functions of the Veteran’s Service Officer (VSO). He concentrated his narrative to building up this important function and why it should be better compensated. However, what seems to be missing in Jimmie’s editorial opinion is that the needs of other important departments, those that are also providing important community services for the vast majority of our citizens, also need to be factored in and considered in this discussion.
The biggest problem that I see locally is that too many people, commissioners included, are sticking their noses where they shouldn’t, and making decisions that they shouldn’t be making. In every organization, government included, there is a department called Human Resources. One responsibility of this important department is to set a salary compensation structure that is based on standardized competitive compensation practices for each function. In corporate America, the person in charge of this is typically a generalist, with strong interpersonal skills because they are constantly involved with their internal workforce and external trend-setting organizations that monitor workforce needs, salary, trends, mobility, issues, etc. What they recommend is fact-driven.
Perhaps the Veteran’s Service Officer is underpaid when compared to other counties. This simple fact, which I do not doubt, should serve to underscore and highlight that this is also true of other functions. Is Jimmie prepared to make it right across the board? I don’t think so.
Nevertheless, here are some other facts to consider: The VSO currently makes more than the starting salaries of a firefighter and a deputy sheriff and, these workers risk their lives every day; one county worker received a 15.75% salary increase in 2016, which amounts to a whopping 49% overall salary increase since 2011 for one person; another worker, the director of the animal shelter makes $61,904 which is almost double what the average firefighter and deputy sheriff makes without having nearly as much oversight, responsibility, accountability, or training. These gross imbalances are happening because the wrong people are making wrong decisions without proper input and, commissioner Smith, by ignoring the obvious is making matters worse. His actions perpetuate these types of salary and compensation inequalities, instead of solving them.
I believe that everyone should be compensated fairly and if you have an exceptional worker that has exceptional job skills they should be properly compensated if no one else can do the same job for less. With few exceptions, most corporations hire generalists and not specialists for a reason – it’s a waste of money. Instead, cross-training employees keep salaries from sky rocketing, affords advancement opportunities, keeps workers motivated, etc. We cannot afford to continue to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to train our workforce to leave for higher paying jobs nor, should we be overpaying anyone either. This is insanity, it’s wasted revenue and it is not cost effective. There should be a competitive pay structure in place that drives this narrative, and not Jimmie Smith.
If Jimmie Smith wants to correct salary inefficiencies in our county, then he has an obligation and a duty to do the same for all county workers, and not just for one.
Citrus County is not flapping in the wind, like ghost town usually are – antiquated, barren, desolate and forgotten. We still have some growth and development and, there will be more. Since, this is a given, the smartest and the most economical way of preparing for the inevitable, is to plan ahead; something that is foreign to some of our Commissioners. Fiscal conservatism does not mean that you have to be a penny miser, anti-progress and anti-expansion. Growth can be moderated and controlled. We are not going to be a Tampa or Orlando but, we should not become the Yabba Dabba Doo city of Bedrock either.
I am pro impact fees because they help pay for growth. Growth negatively impacts our infrastructures and because of this, infrastructures need to be maintained and expanded and especially, properly funded. Untold millions get wasted when this doesn’t happen, mostly because some of our Commissioners have no vision and are bottlenecks. The outcome of this inefficiency and shortsightedness is that citizens end up paying a higher price down the road. Citrus County is a low tax community which attracts people to move here, and many are building low priced mobile, modular and pre-fabricated homes. They generate less revenue but, this will still impact our infrastructures. Some of the more important reason why people move here are because it is safe and because we have excellent schools. Most folks do not think about fire departments when relocating even though, it is equally important to consider - and if they did, they may reconsider moving to Citrus.
I recently volunteered and participated in a Fire Rescue community-wide Committee Forum because I wanted to understand more about this important core function of government. This committee was created to identify the perception, needs and expectations of our community in relation to fire services. Every aspect of Fire Rescue from A-Z was discussed and explained. Questions were asked and explanations were given. Everyone in attendance walked away supporting Fire Rescue 100%. At the conclusion, attendees were asked to provide their input, suggestions and opinions.
Fire Rescue is still behind the eight ball. It is understaffed, our community needs more strategically situated fire stations, improve response times and firefighters need to be competitively paid. Hernando, for example, does not have a fire station. They would have to travel to Hernando from other areas. This is serious because fires double in intensity every 30 seconds and flashover conditions occur every 10 minutes more, or, less, depending on the intensity and conditions. We are spending money training our firefighters to seek higher paying jobs elsewhere. This is not very smart. These are facts and nothing that any Commissioner says will alter this. There are no excuses that justify playing Russian Roulette with people’s lives and their property.
Are citizens safe? The answer is complicated because Fire Rescue is doing an excellent job with the resources that it has. We’ve been very lucky because multiple emergencies, fires, motor vehicle accidents, bad weather have not happened all at once. If it did then the answer would be - that some are not safe at all. Lives could be lost and properties destroyed – in fact this has already happened. And yes, there are volunteers but, fighting fires is a young man’s job and, chances are that those that fall within the right age group probably have families to support and don’t have the time to volunteer for free. Fire Services pays for training but even this has to be commensurate to the duties they will be performing. The state has also increased educational requirements which takes longer and this deters getting age-appropriate volunteers. Firefighting is a stressful and dangerous career. To ignore the risks will be to invite disaster when it comes to liability which gets transferred to taxpayers. Volunteer firefighters have a greater number of related injuries and casualties than paid firefighters do. Besides, all volunteer fire departments are efficient only when the population is not more than 20,000-25,000.
Some homeowners are paying astronomical amounts for homeowner’s insurance. Thousands of dollars a year. Why? This is happening because some areas don’t have fire hydrants nor fire stations, and their homes will most likely burn to the ground. And yet these folks pay taxes just like the rest of us. This is called taxation without representation.
The National Fire Protection Association has proven and tested recommendations that all fire departments should follow. There are also OSHA and state guidelines and rules that should be strictly adhered to. Locally, we fall short when it comes to staffing. It’s important to mention that the lives of firefighters are as important as our own lives. Citizens and our local government have a responsibility and a duty to also keep them safe.
Already there are some Commissioners digging their heels when it comes to appropriately funding Fire Rescue. It makes you wonder why we elect them in the first place. Do they really care about protecting our lives and our property or, more about getting re-elected?
I encourage everyone to please watch the video below:“Why Seconds Count”
Our Commissioners seem a bit confused when it comes to the right of the public to speak at BOCC meetings. And then, there’s an element of arrogance that needs to be taken down a few notches.
Unfortunately, governments at all levels have a habit of ignoring objective law, or equal rights under the law. Then tend to violate individual rights while granting special rights and privileges to their favored special interest groups. An important role of government is to protect rights equally and not to diminish them. The BOCC recently revised a public speaking ordinance that suppresses, by limiting the opinions of those they do not consider to be privileged or equal. This effectively grants monopoly power to their favored associations.
The general public has an “inalienable right to be present and to be heard” at most public government meetings, except in certain limited circumstances. Florida law does not give anyone the right to speak at public meetings about unrelated board agenda issues. Equally important is that the law does not specifically restrict the subjects that people may wish to address either. One reason is that citizens also have the right to speak about issues that will be voted on at a later date. Fortunately, most county commissions willingly allow their constituents to speak about unrelated issues.
Commissioner Ron Kitchen, at the March 28th BOCC meeting stated: “Years ago you were not allowed to speak at county commission meetings. What [you] had to say wasn’t important because…this is where the commission do their business not you.” “We’ve changed all that.”
Our BOCC did not change “all that,” as Commissioner Kitchen incorrectly stated. The section that changed “all that” is found in Article 1, 24(b) of the Florida Constitution. It is a constitutionally protected right. Furthermore, the only legitimate business that Commissioners have happens to be the people’s business.
Florida statute 286.0114, Subsection (4) grants very limited powers to local governments when it comes to regulating public input. Locally, public speaking time, procedures, and forms are in place according to the statute. What’s confusing to me however, is that the statute clearly treats an individual, a group, faction and an organization equally without granting special privileges to anyone of them. Our BOCC apparently disagrees.
The BOCC approved giving state registered associations five minutes to address the board only on “matters related for which the purpose of the organization was formed.” An individual, a group and a faction were given three minutes. So why would the BOCC grant state registered associations extra public input time, an extra privilege, if the law does not?
Based on my interpretation, limiting what an association can speak about is also contrary to the intent of the statute because organizations also have a constitutionally protected right to comment on all issues that will be voted on at each public meeting, even if it’s unrelated to the purpose of their organization. Section 286.0114, Subsection (4) does not give any board or commission the constitutional authority to change the statute.
This decision can also impede an opportunity for the individual, group and faction to change the status quo by limiting their speaking time to three minutes. They will have less time to speak against an issue, for example, than state registered associations that may want an action to pass. This could be construed as depriving the majority of the population of their constitutionally protects rights by diminishing their standing in the community. The individual, a faction and a group are being penalized because they are not state registered associations.
To allow only state registered associations extra speaking time could be discriminatory, because the law is not being applied fairly and equitably to all. The outcome here, intentionally or not, is to only allow a legal entity, one that has legal standing through association, and/or political clout extra time to address the board. An unfair advantage. What’s interesting here is that there are more individuals, groups and political factions that are larger in numbers than individual associations.
The BOCC has the power to make exceptions and grant a speaker extra input time if the subject or situation warrants it – and this is done often. So, why write an ordinance that limits specific segments of the population when they have the power to change the rules as they go along? They need to remember that in order to provide fundamental fairness, everyone should be treated equally, both when creating procedures and in the substance of the law.
If Jimmie T. Smith wants to attract new businesses that will undoubtedly put extra demands on our infrastructures, then the smart thing to do is to invest in our community first by making it more attractive for businesses to want to come to Citrus County. No businesses will want to come here if our infrastructures are collapsing. Reinstating impact fees is an economical way to insure the impact of growth and development is paid for as it happens. It’s fair and it’s equitable because someone has to pay for new growth. Many of us have already paid our share and, we don’t want to pay again for someone else – and that’s exactly what Jimmie’s shortsightedness proposes.
Government should not wait until it becomes a necessity to address issues. Look at the state of road maintenance for example. We are at a point where it will take approximately $380-$400 million dollars to fix – and no meaningful solution in sight. If we listen to Jimmie, the impact of all new construction will be transferred to the taxpayers – essentially hurting the same middle class that he claims to be supporting.
Jimmie wants you to believe that impact fees deters businesses and kills jobs. Government has the power to lower impact fees, to give a business an incentive if and when, a big jobs-generating company decided to come to Citrus. Soon Jimmie will associate reinstating impact fees with teen pregnancies, or with global warming, or better still, with a lack of drone parks and teen concerts.
According to Jimmie, someone borrowing $100,000 to purchase a home at a 3% interest rate will also borrow the impact fee amount, which could be anywhere from $1,600-$4,600 depending on the price of the home. He believes this added cost will shatter the American dream of owning a home. The monthly mortgage payment attributable to this would increase the borrower’s monthly mortgage payment, including principal and interest, anywhere from $7.00-$19.00 a month; interest only $4-$11.50 per month. Banks typically analyze the long term financial stability of the borrower to determined how much a borrower can pay. Seven dollars or even nineteen dollars extra a month will most likely not be a deal breaker. The American dream of owning a home would still be attainable.
He also stated: “As someone who has tried to fight governmental spending, I can attest that it never stops growing.” The truth of the matter is that Jimmie voted consistently for the highest state budgets in Florida’s history. Based on his voting record, he is a supporter of growing government instead, especially when it benefits special interest.
“We need to oppose increased government now for when we are not the ones making the fiscal policy in the future, because unneeded spending can return at any time.” No Jimmie, your job is to address today’s issues – today! To plan for tomorrow instead of waiting until calamity strikes. You job is not to kick the can down the road that could double or triple the cost to taxpayers at a later date.
The most irresponsible comments that Jimmie made in his recent article were: “The impact fees that get paid, may not even benefit you. So say a homeowner in Sugarmill Woods, who has a house built, will likely not see any gains from impact fees. Also, a senior citizen who chooses to move here and living on a limited budget in areas like the Inverness Highlands are not going to see a positive impact, just more cost.”
Most people have never needed the services of Fire Rescue, or CCSO, or travelled all the roads in the county, visited the courthouse, or a library, park or, attended local schools and yet we pay a gas tax, school tax and ad valorem taxes that get apportioned to cover these costs. These are services that taxpayers pay for even if not used.
I’m amazed at the irresponsibility of this comment, especially after being a state representative. The 2006 Florida’s Impact Fee Enabling Act legislation (FIFEA), Fla. Stat., §163.31801, requires that the “needs” and “benefits” of the impact fee, referred to as the “dual rational nexus test, which I wrote about before, must exist between the regulatory fee or exaction and, the activity that is being regulated.”
We already have areas in Citrus County where a house could burn to the ground because we do not have strategically positioned fire stations, equipment and firefighting personnel to respond on a timely basis. We already have schools that are overcrowded, where children are being removed from their comfort zones and sent to other neighborhood schools. We already have a school complex that desperately needs an emergency exit route for safety reason. These are real important issues that can be solved by reinstating impact fees.
Growth and development has expanded in several high impact fee counties such as Flagler and the Palm coast. We are not at this point yet, but our county government needs to be responsible and reinstate impact fees before everything falls apart.
Impact fees spur growth and increases home values adjacent to new developments. This means more revenue and less taxes. Better maintained roads increase the marketability of neighborhoods and counties. This will attract new businesses and jobs.
If you have been following the national news, then you know that the political waters are becoming turbulent. Many, not all, so called ‘conservatives’ will not accept nor believe any criticism against President Trump; and many, not all, ‘liberals’ only see the negative. Many, including myself, believe that facts are facts and at some point, they must be taken seriously.
Take for instance the fact that President Trump’s most notable influential personal advisor is his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, from the famed and powerful Kushner family. Now mind you, he should not be advising any President because he has absolutely no experience in this area. What the Kushners are known for are their powerful political and financial connections in Israel and in the U.S. and, for being radical Zionists. Jared’s father was once even incarcerated for corruption. Importantly, the Kushner family are financial partners with George Soros. Yes, the same billionaire George Soros of anti-freedom fame. The same George Soros that ‘conservatives’ have been crucifying and convulsing over since ex-President Obama took office. The Jewish Business News has reported that “It turns out that George Soros is the money behind a new real estate venture called Cadre…founded by…Jared Kushner and his brother Joshua Kushner.” Apparently, George Soros has given Cadre a $259 million line of credit because “Soros has had a long and productive relationship with the Kushner family.” Based on this fact alone, this relationship is not going to end anytime soon.
Now, don’t you think that it is hypocritical for President Trump to call George Soros the “enemy of the people?” Do you really think that President Trump will go against his powerfully connected son-in-law and, his favorite daughter Ivanka? Or, are you naïve enough to believe that this financial relationship means nothing?
Most politically informed folks know about the globalist pro war Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the power that it has over the White House. Both Democrats and Republican presidents position these powerful individuals and corporate members in their administrations, and Trump is no different. So far, Trump has about 23 CFR members and counting. By comparison, Clinton had 39, G.W. Bush had 27 and Obama had 21; and Hillary would have done the same. There is no difference who we send to the White House because the power of the CFR will always be present. Globalism and hemispheric integration will be further along under President Trump. Remember, Newt Gringrich, a CFR member since 1990, and the Toffler communist third wave connection; and Heidi and Ted Cruz’s connection to the CFR’s hemispheric integration plan co-written by Heidi Cruz while working at the CFR? Objectives don’t disappear overnight. What the CFR master puppeteers want eventually is more surrender of our national sovereignty and a world government. I’m not blind to the fact that President Trump will do some good things. He will keep his fans and supporters happy by carrying out some of his campaign promises. He will need them to further his/their other objectives. What I am worried about is what he will take away and, which will happen eventually.
I think it’s important to try to understand the underlying significance of what appears on the surface, by word or deed and associations. Otherwise, we will fail to see what is truly happening and taking place. Undoubtedly, there are agendas and active forces and objectives that together, separately or incrementally, are responsible for the direction that we are being led, and where it will stop no one really knows – not even ‘conservatives.’
Therefore, Americans must dig deep for answers and not take everything at face value regardless of the players.
It’s ridiculous but still somewhat predictable, that with each new county commission board they take three steps backwards before they move forward in the wrong direction. I find it completely unprofessional and ineffective that no one seems to have the foresight to research important agenda items before they are voted on at BOCC meetings. None of our elected officials ever bothered to attend any BOCC meetings until they decided to run for country commissioner. And of course, once elected, well, they know best – except, sometimes they know diddly-squat. I find it amazing that some of these commissioners have no clue about the history and the work that previous commissioners and other constitutional officer previously engaged in, studied or discussed, that are the same or similar, as those being reviewed and re-considered today.
Take for instance, the need for an emergency evacuation route at the Lecanto school complex. On Tuesday, February 14th, the school board asked our commissioners to release existing impact fee revenue for a much needed emergency evacuation route at the Lecanto school complex. The only decision that the BOCC needed to focus on was whether, or not, the school impact fees are being appropriated correctly – a school project on school property. Nothing else.
I was amazed when commissioners derailed the issue by requesting a new traffic analysis at the complex. The county needs to remember that they have contributed in creating more traffic in this area with the Citrus County Park. The traffic situation in this area is not just a School Board problem. The Chronicle recently reported that Commissioner Kinnard stated that the BOCC needed “to ensure that it serves more than just one isolated purpose.” Is Kinnard looking for better access to the recently approved Drone field at the Citrus County Park located on W. Education Path? And then County Administrator Randy Oliver suggested the County could “assist the school district in obtaining County property for a new entrance/exit” route and Commissioner Carnahan suggested contacting whomever for another traffic study. Amazing!
Clearly, the BOCC and the School Board were not on the same page. This is embarrassing. The School Board was not asking for impact fee funding to construct another entrance/exit to the school complex. The School Board asked the BOCC to release $670,000 of their existing school impact fees to cover the cost of an emergency evacuation route at the Lecanto school complex. The School Board does not need BOCC approval to construct an emergency exit route because they have home rule and, the BOCC cannot legally withhold school impact fees when the project is impact fee fundable. Besides, it’s my understanding, that you cannot have a multi-purpose road on school property that could be used for other endeavors unrelated to school functions. School funding and capital improvement funding are very specific on how they can be appropriated.
There have been several joint studies conducted between the School Board and the BOCC to determine if another entrance/exit is viable. A 2006 “Traffic and Site Circulation Analysis” was done at the complex to better improve access to the facility. Most of the solutions were implemented and a few discarded because they could negatively impact, rather than improve, access to some of the schools located within the complex. There was also research conducted to determine the construction cost for another entrance/exit at the complex years ago – and the cost was $7 million++ because the BOCC approved gas lines that would have to be re-routed since they block access into the complex.
It’s been a while since the BOCC has switched over to becoming heavy handed with other state constitutional offices. They want to control everything and everyone. There seems to be a pattern emerging that will not foster good working relationships between county officials and state constitutional officers and, it’s all about control. My take on this is that it is best to leave decision making policies up to the experts – those that know what is needed and how it should be implemented within their respective areas of expertise. I don’t believe, and neither should anyone else, that the BOCC is all knowing and, that they will always make the right decisions. They would be more efficient if they recognized their own shortcomings.
It would be a positive improvement if our commissioners also recognized that they have a preponderance of branching out beyond what is necessary at times, as evidenced by the emergency evacuation route vs. another entrance/exit road. This creates unnecessary confusion and delays. It is also besmirching important working relationships, while creating a potentially dangerous situation for students and faculty. The BOCC should focus more on working with the School Board to resolve this issue instead of creating impediments.
What does conservatism mean to you? It appears that there are different ways of classifying ‘conservative’ principles which are not conflated in a single definition. Conservatism means different things to different people. The general or the generic conservative, which is what I call them, will bite the bullet or take one in the chin for the team. After all being a ‘conservative’ encompasses the entire Republican political machine. You think? There are different types of Republicans and there are different types of Democrats. In an era gone by, Republicans were conservatives and Democrats were liberals. Simple. No more, since within each political structure these labels are further defined to mean different things to different party loyalists. There are liberal Republicans and there are conservative Democrats. The political ideology of each party used to be delineated in its platform but, we know that is no longer the case. Besides, calling yourself a ‘conservative’ may not necessarily be a wise thing these days because there are unscrupulous politicians that will focus their sales pitch to the faction within the party that will support it.
There are many Republicans that are not conservatives in its generally applied definition but folks don’t know the difference, or they really don’t care. We are electing the most unsuited politicians to office because they are registered Republicans automatically inheriting the conservative label. Many establishment Republicans overlook everything else because voting for a Democrat is simply unbearable even though at times it can be the best choice. Remember there are ‘conservative’ Democrats.
I consider myself to be a Constitutional and Libertarian Conservative. I try to confine myself within the definition of these two factions even though my position on a few issues are different. I believe that if our government can give billions to foreign countries, spending hundreds of thousands to study the habits of prostitutes in Egypt, for example, then it has a moral obligation to help fund the needs of our veterans, children and the elderly when they need help. Obviously, I don’t always toe the line, but I know exactly where and why.
Are you a Fiscal Conservative, a Paleo-Conservative, a Neo-Conservative, a Cultural Conservative, a Libertarian Conservative, a Social Conservative, a Constitutional Conservative, a Populist Conservative, a Liberal Conservative, a Blue Collar Conservative, or a White Collar Conservative? Are you a General Conservative, one who may be lukewarm or passionate depending on the issue? Are you a Trans-Fiscal Conservative, (whatever that means) or, are you now totally confused?
Be careful before you decide because there are conservatives that are secular, that support social issues, cutting Medicare and Medicaid, eliminating or restructuring Social Security, support Obamacare, immigration, gay marriage, more wars and defense spending, that don’t care about the national debt, state rights, the U.S. Constitution, etc., etc.
Confusion is a good thing because it encourages curious and intelligent people to seek answers. I’ve questioned local so called conservatives and I have asked them to break down their definition of the word conservative for no reason other than curiosity. Some explanations were confusing or, people’s position on issues contradicted their own conservative definitions. And then there are those that have no clue.
Has conservatism fragmented itself to the point of no return? What we now have is a power struggle between populism, progressivism, and socialism, where conservatism and libertarianism are on the outside looking in. Is conservatism becoming a big flapping tent with no ideological boundaries or direction? You decide.
Our esteemed Florida Governor, Rick Scott, has issued a very ominous warning to two southern seaports to stop trading with Cuba or else they will receive no state funding. The Florida Department of Transportation’s budget has earmarked more than $37 million for Port Everglades projects over the next five years, which includes $23 million for a dredging the port has sought for three decades — and $920,000 for the Port of Palm Beach. And Scott plans on putting a stop to this funding. Governor Scott’s reasoning is - “We cannot condone Raul Castro’s oppressive behavior...because we should not do business with them until there is freedom and democracy… What I don’t believe is in our ports doing business with a ruthless dictator…” This dictate was issued a day after the arrival of the first legal cargo from Cuba in more than 50 years. The cargo contained artisanal charcoal which arrived at the Fort Lauderdale’s Port Everglades.
Our high and mighty Governor never had, nor does he have, any problems cutting million dollar deals with communist China’s wealthy investors. Talk about human rights violations and the ruthless killing of over 65 million innocent Chinese people! Apparently, the righteous golden light doesn’t shine on the dead because it will not increase investment portfolios.
“Green card via red carpet” is an EB-5 investment visa program that wealthy Chinese investors are taking advantage of to enter the U.S. Thirty million dollars poured into Florida’s charter schools from these wealthy Chinese a few years ago, with more promised millions to follow. It’s no secret that some legislators have a financial interest in charter schools, and it’s logical to assume that these Chinese investors are being guided to invest in them to enrich the pockets of Scott and his cronies. The main problem with electing business tycoons to government is that they will come up with ways to increase their own bottom line. They are able to hide/shield these conflicts of interest from the public eye because of legislation that they themselves created for this purpose. Governor Scott has also increased free trade with China and other southern countries.
On the following day of my arrival to Cuba, Fidel Castro’s death was announced. I will state unequivocally that everywhere you looked, the Cuban people were in mourning and of course I was shocked. I expected them to be glad that he was dead like the Cubans living in Miami. What many Americans do not remember is that Castro was in power for over 5 decades and that this is the only President many Cubans have lived under – the only lifestyle they came to accept. Battista was corrupt and he was overthrown because Fidel Castro promised he would take care of his people. He evicted the mafia, the wealthy, and nationalized everything, including businesses, buildings and homes. Many left Cuban fearing for their lives. Castro gave Cubans free healthcare, education and government jobs – and he became a dictator. Undoubtedly, power corrupts. The one mental image that I don’t think I’ll ever forget was noticing the look of despair, fear and uncertainty that was visible and palpable, when those that I spoke to discussed their future post Castro.
They are a resilient people and many believe that trade with the U.S. would now be a possibility, that their lives would now change for the better – and I hope it does.
Now enter Governor Scott throwing cauldrons of scalding water on their hopes and dreams. Tourism and trade would improve their financial stability by providing better paying jobs and opportunities. That will never happen until our government leaders get what they want out of a Cuba-U.S. relationship – and it is not freedom and democracy for the Cuban people.
You see there are untold business and financial opportunities in Cuba. Many foreign counties are already taking advantage of this virgin and untapped market – except the U.S. However, many U.S. companies do sell their products in Cuba through European businesses. In Cuba, all businesses, including major corporations have to split their profits with the government which is negotiated but, which are typically in the 50-50 range. Now, can anyone imagine a U.S. company agreeing to that? Especially, one owned by Scott, Trump, etc.? It’s important to mention that Canada has over 60 corporations doing business in Cuba and so does Mexico because they never broke relations with Cuba.
The U.S. will never do business with Cuba because they can’t call the shots. They want another regime change. It’s all about control, money and greed. Cuban trade with the U.S. will be off limits until Raul Castro capitulates to big U.S. businesses when it comes to ownership and splitting profits. It’s ok to trade with Communist China on their terms and buy oil from oppressive and barbaric middle eastern regimes and world dictators because there is plenty of money to be made – where horrific ongoing human rights violations are overlooked and tolerated but, it is not ok to trade with Cuba. Granted, during the 1959 Cuban revolution, many Cubans were killed on both sides. And some are probably still killed today. However, one thing is certain, the death toll is not in the millions as it is in China, Japan, etc., nor is there mass killings and genocide taking place.
It’s alright to do business with an oppressive government providing there are huge profits to be made. Apparently, “freedom and democracy” is a subjective term.
Twenty-nine states and all Florida counties, have adopted impact fees to pick up where ad valorem tax revenue does not meet the needs that new developments place on infrastructures. Low-tax states, such as Florida, needed other ways to fund growth. The 2006 Florida’s Impact Fee Enabling Act legislation (FIFEA), Fla. Stat., §163.31801, requires that the “needs” and “benefits” of the impact fee, referred to as the “dual rational nexus test, must exist between the regulatory fee or exaction and, the activity that is being regulated.” This rational double nexus test must be determined before impact fees can be implemented. There are no burdensome requirements in the Statue because much is determined by case law.
A common misconception is that all new construction pay impact fees for all allowed categories. However, a new senior housing complex, for example, that does not allow in perpetuity children to live there, cannot be charged school impact fees because there will be no impact to area schools (Volusia County vs. Aberdeen at Ormond Beach 1999).
Commissioner Jimmie T. Smith ignores the strong and abundant evidence that impact fees spur growth and increases home values adjacent to new developments. New and better maintained roads increase the marketability of neighborhoods. Growth and development has expanded in several high impact fee counties such as Flagler and the Palm coast. Bad roads, bad schools, bad services, high crime are the real deterrents for growth and development and not impact fees as Smith would like you to believe.
The real issues here are whether our community wants to grow our tax base to reduce taxation while maintaining and/or improving services, increase employment opportunities to retain our youth, increase the marketability of our communities or, not.
I found no case law or regulation that supports that the individual needs of a business person, like a doctor as Comm. Smith mentioned, should be an important factor for eliminating impact fees. Eliminating or reducing impact fees is an arbitrary decision made by some local governments when growth and development has been completely stagnant but, rarely when there is potential for growth. An unintended consequence that Comm. Smith seems to be in complete denial of, is that new construction does have a direct impact on existing infrastructures by increasing demand for fire services, law enforcement, more classrooms, etc. My guess is that this commission intents on making up for loss revenue by slashing budgets helter-skelter leading to other unintended consequences.
Utilities companies charge hook-up fees when extending a water line to private property. This is a legitimate expense that is automatically factored in when building a home or business. It would be wrong and illegal for the community to be taxed for someone else’s direct benefit. Buyers receive a direct benefit when they pay impact fees for new construction. Additionally, this fee reduces the cost associated with the increase demand for services.
It’s no secret that our corrupt legislature favors special interest entities and, bad habits are hard to break. Is cronyism alive and well in Citrus County? I believe it is. There is room at the negotiation table for Builders and special interest but, they should not be calling the shots as Smith’s protectionist position is demonstrating. The cost of growth should not be transferred to taxpayers, period. Now, that’s what you can call a real perpetual hidden tax.
Smith needs to focus more on reducing building regulations and simplifying processes instead. FYI, Smith never focused on this issue until he heard his opponent, Timothy Langer, mentioning that our local anti-business image is what prevents growth and development, economic and financial recovery and stability. Tim’s message got metamorphosed somehow, go figure.
Author - Edna Mattos
Edna is from New York City and moved to Citrus County in 2003. She has worked for Fortune 500 companies and was the Founder of the Citrus County Tea Party