Gambling With the Future

playing-cards-1068888__340A few days ago, I wrote a blog post about the county administrator’s contract renewal.  While I acknowledged that the county administrator had done a good job in some respects, those successes have been overshadowed by inexcusable failures.  The taxpayers are still paying the price for those failures today.

The Florida Senate Committee on Community Affairs recently passed the Florida Keys Stewardship Act.  If all goes well, that could mean funding for various needs in the Keys – water quality projects, conservation land purchases, etc.  This is fantastic news!  Even so…I can’t help but worry.

Monroe County has received $30 million from the state for the Cudjoe Regional project so far.  The taxpayers’ contribution should have been reduced, right?  Wrong!  Since receiving that $30 million, the county has…

  1. reduced assessments on Cudjoe Regional by $10 million
  2. increased spending by $43 million, while only serving another 500 properties.

That is an overall increased financial need of $53 million – meaning that the $30 million from the state did taxpayers no good whatsoever.  In fact, the overall burden on county-wide taxpayers increased by $23 million!

I’ve gone on and on about the wastewater funding disparity suffered by Key Largo taxpayers.  I won’t repeat that here except to say Monroe County created the problem and has done nothing yet to rectify it.  In fact, they are still lying about it to this day – even though their own documents contradict them.  The continuing dishonesty is a clear indication that the county has no intention of giving this problem the serious attention it deserves.  The strategy seems to be “lie about it until it goes away“.

None of this bodes well for the future of Monroe County.  It doesn’t matter how much money the Keys get from the state, it does no good if it is only going to be recklessly squandered.

Like Dr. Phil always says:

The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior.

The county, in its current configuration, has demonstrated repeatedly that it cannot be trusted with our hard-earned tax dollars.  To be completely fair, the county administrator is not the root problem.  He is merely a symptom.

The Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) gave him a performance
rating of 4.5 out of 5.0 because he is doing exactly what they want him to do.  They are not the least bit concerned that Cudjoe Regional is $43 million over budget.  Neither are they concerned about the unfair financial burden they have imposed on Key Largo.  The BOCC is so pleased with these results that they gave their chief executive an A-.

I emailed my comments to the BOCC.  I’m under no illusion that this will persuade them to hire a county administrator who can see the big picture, provide trust-worthy leadership and keep spending under control.  That is simply not the kind of chief executive they want.  They want someone who mirrors their own values – wasteful, unfair, untruthful – and that’s what they’ve got.  Unfortunately, that’s what the taxpayers have got, too.

Nope, my little blog post won’t influence the BOCC, but maybe it can influence somebody even more important- the voters.  Three BOCC seats are up for election in November 2016.  They also happen to be the three most problematic commissioners:

  1. Heather Carruthers, District 3 – voted for all increased spending on Cudjoe Regional including the initial $10 million give-away, largely silent on the disparity issue except to offer the occasional excuse and/or justification.  No challenger so far.  Voters are stuck unless a decent challenger steps up.
  2. Danny Kolhage, District 1 – blindly voted for all increased spending on Cudjoe Regional since he was elected in November of 2012, completely silent on the disparity issue.  No challenger so far.  Voters are stuck unless a decent challenger steps up.
  3. Sylvia Murphy, District 5 – unresponsive to complaints from Cudjoe Regional citizens (and pretty much all other citizens), lied about the unfair funding suffered by her own district.  Fortunately, she has drawn a challenger.  This is the voters’s best chance to make a change.

Monroe County has many challenges ahead – including and especially responding to climate change.  Those challenges cannot be met successfully without a fair, responsible and honest county government.  Big changes will have to be made if the Keys are to have a secure, sustainable future.

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