Local politicians are gearing up for campaign season. I’m focused primarily on the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC). Changes on the BOCC have the greatest potential for positive improvement. This BOCC has been a disaster. They’ve overseen the financially out-of-control Cudjoe Regional project – $49 million over budget (to date) and dogged by well-deserved controversy. The Keys have had little success securing much-needed state sewer funding ever since that stink bomb of a project hit.
This BOCC has also overseen a huge $125 million wastewater funding disparity that undermines the economy of the second largest revenue-generating area in the Keys. Yes, you read that right! Not only are they squandering money like there’s no tomorrow and torpedoing state funding in the process – they are damaging their own ability to raise revenue with grossly unfair funding policies.
It gets worse. Not only is spending out-of-control on the wastewater projects but on other capital projects as well. The BOCC is getting ready to overspend their $25 million capital budget by $38 million, and plan to borrow more money to do it. The details of these budget overruns have not been shared with the public. I have submitted a public records request. I hope the county freely shares this information, but I expect an argument.
Three seats are up for re-election and they also happen to be the worst of the worst. Murphy. Kolhage. Carruthers.
Murphy’s got a challenger so there’s a chance the taxpayers might be rid of her. Murphy unwisely lied to the press about a matter of huge importance to her constituents. Will this be enough to get her booted? It should be when combined with her ineffective performance, but you never know. Murphy has spent years cultivating an image as a “straight shooter”. She’s not.
Looks like we’re stuck with Kolhage and Carruthers at least for now. Qualifying week is sometime in June. Perhaps some excellent challengers will show up by then. Let’s hope.
For a candidate in his position, Kolhage is campaigning smart. He’s done a horrible job as commissioner and is wisely keeping his head down. That’s exactly what he needs to do since he’s helped run the county government into the dirt. If he doesn’t want to draw a challenger, he needs to keep quiet. He should avoid drawing too much attention to himself and his shady business associates. Kolhage may be able to coast on his undeserved reputation as financially responsible. If he continues to fly under the radar, he might just slither through without drawing an opponent.
Carruthers isn’t nearly as smart. She’s also been a terrible commissioner, but she keeps sticking her head out in the media. It seems she’s trying like mad to distract the public from her abysmal performance with trivial issues. She’s also got a Facebook page where she announces her campaign doings.
According to Carruthers, her Facebook page is supposed to be about fostering transparency and open communication. In that spirit, I posted a few questions that I’d really like her to answer. Carruthers has an opportunity to set the record straight on her actions (or lack thereof). Frankly, I don’t see how she can without making her track record look even worse.
There’s no justifying the irresponsible spending. There’s no justifying the grossly unfair funding policies. There’s no justifying the lies used to support her Emergency Services Surtax proposal. The public record is clear and the results speak for themselves. So far Carruthers, like all the commissioners, has refused to acknowledge or address the fall-out from her poor decision-making.
Apparently Carruthers has somehow been appointed to run around giving the state of the county presentation. The iPhone Bandit used to give this report, but then he dropped out when people started asking tough questions. Kevin Madok, Strategic Planning Director, did it for a while. The problem with the state of the county report is that, once again, it is full of demonstrably false statements. It’s easy for the public to start asking very uncomfortable questions. No county official in their right mind would want to be in the line of fire. I’m guessing that Carruthers is gambling that nobody will ask the hard questions.
If I were Carruthers, I’d follow Kolhage’s lead and keep my head down. Her track record is even worse than Kolhage’s and Murphy’s. At least Kolhage and Murphy didn’t participate in the iPhone scandal or misuse their purchasing cards.
By the way, here’s a link to this year’s budget calendar. Last year, the first budget meeting was April 8. This year, it won’t be until May 24. The public will have to be on their toes because it looks like the county is attempting to ram the budget through this year. I’ll be looking for payments toward the swap agreement in particular. And what’s going on with capital projects.