My View: Why I’m OK with being a bad politician

A full roll-back this year at the expense of adequate infrastructure and public safety is irresponsible.

  • By
  • | 6:00 a.m. May 9, 2024
  • Palm Coast Observer
  • Opinion
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It was said by an American writer and minister (James Freeman Clarke) from the 1800’s, “The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation.”

So, perhaps me being more concerned with ensuring our city has adequate infrastructure and public safety for both our current residents and our future generations, rather than blindly pledging to grant a full roll-back, makes me a bad politician. If so, I’m OK with it.

Safe and reliable roads, a functioning stormwater system, an adequate water supply, sufficient sheriff’s deputies and top-notch fire and rescue services for years to come mean more to me than a sound bite and a small, one-year reprieve on property taxes (most residents who are homesteaded won’t feel much reprieve at all in their monthly budget).

This may not be the most popular position, but this year, with this budget, and in this economy, I truly believe it’s the right position.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a true fiscal conservative who engages in strong scrutiny of our budget all year long. For every single contract I approve, I’m not afraid to challenge our city staff and hold our vendors and contractors accountable. For every new housing development, I look at the long-term financial strain and infrastructure needs it will bring with it.

So, if there’s a way to grant a full roll-back while simultaneously providing to our residents the services and quality of life they deserve, I’ll fully support it. I did so last year. But to be honest — and as a bad politician, I’m going to be honest — I simply don’t see how it’s possible this year.

Last year, I supported the full roll-back in order to initiate what I felt was the beginning of a culture change for both our city staff and council. A culture in which we become more efficient and resourceful, rather than simply tax and spend. The roll-back was done, $3 million in cuts were made, and we survived. However, it came at a cost in an economy where everything is more expensive, including the cost to run our city. From chemicals to treat our water and pool, to construction materials for our aging infrastructure, it all went up. Yet, we were able to cut back.

This year, we need to prioritize infrastructure and public safety, and both of those priorities have high price tags. Here are just a few examples, illustrating our current challenges:

1. We are at least $4.5 million short to fund our road maintenance program.

2. We are roughly $1.7 million short of funding the long overdue reconstruction of Fire Station 22.

3. We need to find an additional approximately $1.3 million to fund nine new sheriff’s deputies to keep our community safe.

The above are necessities — not luxuries — and they all come at a cost, largely out of our general fund, which is the fund into which property taxes go. So, while I can firmly commit to holding the line on taxes and not raising them, to say I can commit to reducing them, knowing the above needs are banging down our door, is irresponsible and not in the best interest of our residents.

This is something politicians like to do — tell their constituency they’ll be getting big property tax relief, when in reality, that’s not so for the majority of our residents.

To say I’ll reduce taxes and let the next City Council worry about addressing these needs would be ignoring the fact that I was elected to make tough decisions in the best interests of my constituents — representing them, not myself.

So yeah, I guess I’m a bad politician. But I’d rather be a bad politician with integrity than a good politician who skirts today’s challenges, leaving our future generations and representatives with my responsibilities to bear.


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