Every public official, at some point, needs to learn one very important lesson. DO NOT FEED THE MONEY CREATURE. The money creature is really cute when it’s little. It’s so tempting to just give it a little something. But if you feed the money creature, it gets bigger and stronger and hungrier and it keeps coming back. Then it’s not so cute anymore. It gets really angry when you try to stop feeding it. Spineless types get intimidated by that. Eventually, they want to stop feeding the money creature but they are afraid to. So the money creature gets even bigger and even stronger; and then IT HAS BABIES. And those babies are hungry, too.
This is exactly what happened with Cudjoe Regional. It started off with a $10 million demand for lower assessments. The BOCC rolled over 5-0. Then it escalated to a $20 million demand for a grinder-to-gravity conversion. The BOCC rolled over 4-1. Then there was another $15 million demand: 3-2. Finally a $7.1 million demand: 5-0. That’s about $53 million total. So far. I have a feeling we’re not done yet.
Who’s fault is this? Is it the money creature? No, I don’t think so. Citizens are going to ask for what they want. They’re typically not going to put much thought into how it might affect the big picture. That’s not their role. Their role is to look out for their own interests. Right or wrong, the citizens of Cudjoe Regional have been marvelously effective at doing that.
Is it the BOCC’s fault? Yes. The BOCC has a responsibility to all Monroe County taxpayers and they failed in that responsibility. Repeatedly and spectacularly. That $53 million, which benefits only a few, is a burden that all county taxpayers must carry. Imagine if the money creature had been met with the following statement when it made its first demand:
We would like to help you. We understand that this sewer system is a financial burden. However, you must understand that it is a financial burden on all taxpayers county-wide. That is why we set the assessment where we did. We are attempting to address the unfairness of that financial burden. Even at the higher assessment, you are still getting a great deal as compared to many other taxpayers. We have an obligation to them as well. We are sorry, but we must deny your request.
Unfortunately, that is not what the BOCC said. If they had, I bet the money-creature would have understood. You see, I think that a little education can transform a money-creature into an informed citizen. The folks in Cudjoe Regional never meant any harm to Key Largo or anyone else. They just didn’t know. They couldn’t see the big picture, and the BOCC never bothered to show it to them.
Worth noting, when the BOCC caved to the first demand in July 2012 they had known about the funding disparity and its impact on Key Largo for a full year. When they made that first decision, they knew they were making things worse, and they had no clue as to how they were going to fix it. They just didn’t care. Three years later Key Largo has not seen a single dime from the county to address the issue.