On higher tax bills, gill nets and governorship, your thoughts?

November 5, 2013 

Today, we have three questions to ask on issues that will impact our pocketbooks and our future. And we ask for your feedback, too.

Little taxing outrage?

Did this come in under the public radar? Or did the recently adopted property tax rates for the cities of Bradenton and Palmetto and Manatee County just bring a shrug from property owners?

With an improving economy and rising property values, that would be understandable. But there were few objections over new fiscal budgets for 2013-2014.

The Manatee County commission approved the same millage rate as last year. Taxable property values rose by 3.8 percent on average, moreso in some unincorporated neighborhoods than others, yet many tax bills will increase. (We must add here that county government -- commendably -- has been downsizing for years what with the recession and public demand for cost cutting.)

The city of Bradenton increased the millage rate by 8.5 percent, to little taxpayer input. True, city spending has fallen, but now the owners of a property valued at $100,000 will pay an additional $46 on this year's tax bill.

In Palmetto, home and business owners will be taxed an extra $50 on a $100,000 piece of property thanks to the 9.6 percent millage boost.

In addition, Manatee County hiked the emergency medical services fee by more than 20 percent for both basic life support emergency (now at $500) and non-emergency transportation ($400). Municipal utility fees are also rising.

All of this generated little public comment. Apparently, overall people are not all that concerned or upset. Our question: Is that true?

Change gill net rules?

Should the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission amend 1997 restrictions on gill nets adopted after state voters approved a 1995 constitutional amendment banning the nets? According to a ruling by a Leon County judge, the contractional between the amendment and subsequent regulations are "legal absurdities."

Judge Jackie Fulford, who remarkably went out on fishing boats to learn first-hand the ramifications of state rules, wrote this in her 11-page ruling:

"The court is not saying that preserving our marine life is absurd. Instead, the absurdity is created in the law and how it is being applied. ... An absolute mess has been created."

State regulations drove Cortez commercial fishing operations out of business as the mullet catch plunged. Old gill nets allowed smaller fish to swim free while capturing the larger ones that command sales.

If the mesh of currently legal nets kill baby fish -- in conflict with the constitutional amendment -- shouldn't the wildlife commission review those regulations? Shouldn't science be the deciding factor in an environmental protection case?

Gov. Crist, again?

On Monday, to nobody's surprise, former Florida governor Charlie Crist finally announced he's running for the office again in 2014 -- as a Democrat. Fully abandoning his old Republican leanings, Crist hopes to unseat Gov. Rick Scott, whose polling numbers remain abysmal.

But will those terrible ratings matter? Scott is expected to spend some $25 million on attacking Crist, and who knows how much of the governor's personal fortune will be pumped into the campaign? Scott spent some $73 million of his own money last election.

So Crist hugged President Obama in appreciation of the administration's stimulus funding to Florida, which save thousands of jobs. That cost Crist in his U.S. Senate campaign against Marco Rubio -- alongside being tagged as a flip-flopper on a variety of issues. Crist still maintains good poll numbers -- better than Scott's.

Who's the best candidate here?

Please send your thoughts to cwille@bradenton.com or comment on this editorial at ww.bradenton.com/opinion.

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