It was twenty years ago in the Keys and I was a novice activist when I first heard the oldest lie in Florida to justify another development, "expanding our tax base is necessary to provide services for residents." The lie covered the Chamber of Commerce like a warm blanket: pull down the covers and no one could stand the cold. I remember that moment clearly. I wanted to raise my hand and ask the question, "Wait. How does the new tax base cover the costs of police, fire, water infrastructure, parks, sewerage, or traffic congestion, or for that matter, how does it enhance the value of surrounding property and our quality of life?" The answer. It doesn't. Unfortunately it took a Great Recession/Depression to prove the point.
For most of the last twenty years, objectors to the growth lie were in an abject minority: environmentalists, neighborhood activists, and a number of elected officials so small they would fit in a thimble. If the conditions aren't ripe for change, today, they never will be. "County's budget black hole may bring property tax hike", reads the headline in today's Miami Herald.
"Broward County's top administrator warned commissioners Tuesday that they must raise property tax rates this year or make devastating cuts to libraries, parks, law enforcement and other social services." It is the same story being told in every municipality and county in Florida, as the delayed reaction of the Great Recession unwinds from the Gulf of Mexico to the Atlantic Ocean. Meanwhile the rampant pollution of waters ringing the state of Florida has prompted the US EPA to ready public hearings on its decision to impose nutrient standards. It turns out, according to the Chamber of Commerce, Associated Industries, Big Ag and their political surrogates, we can not afford to clean up after ourselves.
The collective "wisdom" that scattered suburban sprawl and allowed polluting agriculture to use our rivers, bays and Everglades as sewers could not power a single 60 watt lightbulb, and yet it still dominates our legislatures and oppresses more than 18 million residents. This wisdom fills campaign war chests with repetitive wrong answers for Florida. The hardened bunkers that protect the political status quo also ensure that diversified consumer-oriented energy production and smaller development footprints will never see the light of day. The speculators who ran Florida's economy into the ground on the promise growth pays its way have played their last card: in fact, vulture investors and bankers using our tax dollars to shore up their capital ratios are the only segment of Florida's economy with reasons to smile. Under these conditions, it is a spectacle watching the opposition to Florida Hometown Democracy fill with righteous indignation.
How could Florida voters-- voting as they will in November -- do any worse than all the king's horses and all the king's men who say they can put Florida's Humpty Dumpty back together again?