|The President’s Hoot|
Richard H. Baker, Ph.D.
What is important in our city, town and county elections? If you follow the editorial pages and letters to the editor, you might think it is Gloria Estefan concerts, wine near churches, and city officials getting a piece of plywood even if not requested.
Unfortunately, sometimes the real issues do not get discussed in an election. The real issues in these elections are NOT ANY OF THE ABOVE, but who can provide us with the leadership to deal with the tremendous growth in population, sometimes in the form of land annexation, that we face in our cities, towns and county.
Growth is usually defined as “development from a lower or simpler to a higher or more complex form… an increase, as in size, number, value, or strength.” Some feel that this is a healthy social phenomenon and is a sign of progress. Growth of business is usually profitable for individuals. People who grow industries, develop real estate, and increase the insatiable demand for things we may not need often get rich. However, overproduction can cause economic depression and at least temporarily the loss of livelihood. Growth is also defined as “an abnormal mass of tissue growing in or on a living organism-a cancer.” Most people like growth in business and the economy, but not in government taxes, congestion on roads and dense houses in their neighborhoods.
Since 1936, Florida has lost 22 percent of its forest and 51 percent of its marshes and has experienced a 60 percent increase in agriculture. But even this pales compared with the 632 percent increase in urban area, which will increase even more over the next few years at the expense of agriculture.
A proven fact is that residential growth does not pay for itself. In one Florida County, where measurements have been taken, for every $1.00 in residential tax revenue generated, the cost of services is $1.56 in residential developments. These services require increased taxes for more schools, road and bridge construction, water and sewer connections, police, fire, and mosquito protection, and county and city government buildings to manage our growth. This does not include more books in the library, cultural complexes or expanded recreational facilities and parks. Our population growth is hurting each of us financially. If we want to continue to enjoy our little piece of paradise, if we want to have low taxes, and if we want to educate our children and grandchildren, we cannot continue the present destructive residential growth in our cities and county.
What we need is growth of a different sort – growth of ideas, information, and leadership in our cities and county. That is why it is important in these city elections that we elect leaders who can grow ideas to stabilize our out of control growth. Fortunately, we have such leaders running for our city offices and some of them have a track record. Now is the time for those living in cities and towns to step back and review carefully the candidates running and then vote for and support the candidates who will make the important decisions to keep our lands attractive and environmentally healthy. This election is not about Gloria, wine, or plywood on a door but our future quality of life.