One member’s perspective on the Florida Retirement System (FRS):
I am a city commissioner in Anna Maria. At a previous budget work session, I stated that Anna Maria taxpayers should not be paying for my retirement and asked to opt out. Our finance director said I could not opt out by myself; either the whole commission or all city employees would have to opt out.
I chose to write a check each month reimbursing the city for my retirement. Here’s the interesting part: I make $400 per month, I reimburse the city $74.56 for FRS (the $74.56 does not come out of my paycheck but is paid by our taxpayers as a budgeted line item for benefits).
Do the math: my retirement benefit paid by the taxpayers (!) exceeds 18 percent. Let me repeat, 18 percent!
It is no wonder local, state and national governments are struggling with their budgets as the public sector has grown much faster than the private sector.
And I haven’t even discussed health, dental and vision care benefits.
The national debate will continue and likely escalate, as both sides have a vested interest: the public sector likes what they have and private sector taxpayers feel overburdened. To me, the debate is simple: Who is responsible for my welfare? Me ... or you?
DDA’s deal further erodes public trust in government
The action of the DDA in granting $250,000 to the owners of the SunTrust Center in Bradenton encourages the public’s cynicism in elected and appointed officials. Anytime the government starts deciding which private enterprises are deserving of taxpayer dollars, corruption soon follows. Those who are connected are the recipients and the public’s trust in government is further eroded.
The real culprit is a continuous flow of taxpayer dollars that politicians feel they need to spend. The idea usually starts as a good idea, but as the money continues to flow, elected officials continue to find new ways to spend taxpayer dollars. The politicians that defend this inevitably have been in office for a long period of time.
I have enjoyed dining at Ezra’s and have great admiration for Donna Eason. The real culprits are the politicians that allow money to be spent bailing out private businesses.
When money is spent this way, it inevitably goes to waste. Look at all the millions of dollars spent by the DDA over the past years and what is there to show. We have a lot of bars downtown. It would have been cheaper to have taken half the money spent on the various projects and just given out chits for free drinks to people who partied downtown. Many more people would have come downtown at a much lower cost to the taxpayers.
The DDA should have outside legal counsel examine the recent gift to the SunTrust Center owners to determine if laws or rules were broken. If no laws or rules were broken, maybe there should be more stringent rules adopted to prevent such bailouts from occurring in the future.
These are the actions that have given rise to the tea party. Maybe we need a local tea party to hold our city officials accountable in the next election.
City Council should veto DDA’s SunTrust-Ezra deal
I have been a business owner in the Bradenton area since 1992. Having to negotiate many a lease with landlords, never have I heard of the landlord going to a government agency and asking for taxpayer money to get a tenant to sign.
While at the DDA meeting, never once did the landlord say he was cutting rent. DDA giving the tenant $25,000 per year would allow the landlord to charge full rent.
Landlords usually do rent incentives to cover build-outs. The landlord in this case is the builder as well and the construction cost of $300,000 mentioned would be considerably less if done at cost. Plus, $300,000 seems a little steep to remodel an existing restaurant.
The city should give the landlord a tax break incentive instead of cash and make sure that they are giving the prospective tenant an incentive as well. Do something like what SMR and Lakewood Ranch offers to new business.
It seems communications between the city and the DDA is a problem. I would think that all communications that go to and from the mayor and the DDA would be copied to the entire council. However, it seems only a few knew of the dealings. When the mayor spoke at the DDA meeting supporting the deal, I’m sure everyone present thought he was speaking for the council as a whole.
The council should veto the Ezra deal and have the DDA rethink how to bring businesses to the area without costing the taxpayer $250,000. If the owners of the SunTrust Building want to relocate Ezra, then step up and make a deal that shows your willing to financially support bringing Ezra to downtown.
Postpone vote on DDA deal until questions answered
Mayor Wayne Poston called it a “fumble” in the Herald article titled, “Ezra deal too secretive.” Apparently, some council members were not informed in advance of the DDA’s decision to award a major “incentive” for the Ezra restaurant to move to a downtown location, and the excuse given for this oversight appears inexcusable.
Councilmember Marion Barnebey claims there was no documentation for the Ezra incentive included in the support documents that came with the agenda for the DDA meeting, while there was a 21-page support document relating to a lesser expenditure on another proposal? If this is so, my question is why not?
However, Sam Hershfield appears to contradict her in his letter of Feb. 14, where he says the DDA agenda, sent to all council members, clearly and openly “mentioned” the Ezra incentive. But was the supporting documentation she claims was missing actually included in the “mention”? Again, if not, why not?
Ezra is already a very successful, established restaurant in West Bradenton; nonetheless, there is no guarantee that it will enjoy the same success downtown. Investment in a restaurant is a risky business as one can see from the number of restaurants that have closed their doors in Bradenton in recent years.
A Feb. 13 Herald article states that one major investor has an interest in creating a hub of shops and bistros along the Riverwalk, according to project organizers. This sounds great, and I hope it comes to fruition. The question is will these bistros compete with Ezra and possibly cause them to lose some business?
As a strong advocate of downtown development and the Riverwalk, I would still suggest that the vote be postponed until all questions by residents and the council are answered.
Senator’s bill aims to give green light to lawbreakers
Driving is a privilege, not a right. If you abuse a privilege, you lose it (or get a fine in this case). This is in reference to the Feb. 14 Herald article about state Sen. Rene Garcia wanting to repeal the red light camera law.
Sen. Garcia basically says if you can get away with running red lights, speeding or illegal lane changes, that’s OK, because we live in the USA and we sure don’t want this to lead to becoming a police state. That’s a bit dramatic.
We can’t afford enough police officers as it is, much less add more to strictly monitor traffic offenders. If there is a camera and you follow the law, don’t worry about it! It’s there for the traffic offenders.
By the way, would someone please put a red light camera at U.S. 301 North at 60th Avenue East in Ellenton? A substantial number of red light runners would generate a very nice income.
Senator’s cockeyed view of freedom on red lights
In response to Monday’s article regarding Sen. Rene Garcia: The senator seems to have a very cockeyed view of freedom! He moans and whines about the loss of “freedoms” of the red light runners.
What about the rest of us, those of us who drive carefully and obey traffic laws? What about our freedom to be able to drive and to be free of the concern that at any signal intersection, some jerk may run the light and endanger our lives?
The senator needs to get a grip! He seems to protest too much.
More red-light cameras needed, not law’s repeal
In the Feb. 14 Bradenton-Lakewood Ranch Herald on page 1A, a headline read “Bill to be filed repealing red-light camera law.” Red-light cameras should be more widespread because cars kill more than 30,000 people a year; yes, that many, not to mention injuries, inconvenience, cost, and time missed from work due to an injury or being without a car.
The driver is identified if he or she is involved in an accident but escapes identification if he or she runs a light. We’ve already proven for many years that we cannot regulate how we operate a car by instituting laws that are created to prevent such things from happening.
Manufacturers keep producing larger vehicles (that use more gas, another issue). “Safer cars” (if there is such a thing, another issue) should be the outcry.
Our forefathers did not think we should be a police state but getting from point A to B should be a bit safer. Did our forefathers have cars when they formed our rights?
Floridians should keep careful eye on governor
Let me start by seeding your mind with two very important thoughts about Gov. Rick Scott.
First and foremost, the fact that he was not indicted for his involvement with HCA doesn’t mean he was innocent. Secondly, he spent $73 million of his own money to buy the job of governor. The good businessman he is, arguably he will want a personal return of at least 12 percent on his investment. The reader can do the math.
For openers, this is a quote from the Jan. 31 issue of the St. Petersburg Times: Scott: “The pension plan must go.”
This is the pension plan of the Florida state employees. The money would fulfill Scott’s promise to cut $1.4 billion in property taxes. With Scott’s real estate holdings, that would be a generous initial return on his invested monies.
He auctioned off (at a loss) the two state of Florida government jets, which had been paid for with our tax dollars. Another campaign promise. It will be interesting to see the tax write-offs on his 2011 personal income tax return for the use of his private jet for business purposes. State government business, that is.
This is only the beginning. He will recapture his investment used to buy the governor’s job during his term in office.
On a more positive note for certain special interest groups: Why does he refuse to focus on corruption in Florida that costs the taxpayers billions? Why does he oppose the drug database, which could drastically cut the illegal use and sale of prescription drugs? Could it be that he doesn’t want to offend his cronies?
Scott needs to be kept under careful scrutiny. Let’s pray that our state legislators will serve that purpose.
Parker Thomas Allis
Time to impeach Rick Scott before he destroys Florida
Gov. Rick Scott’s ideas and proposals will “gut” Florida. Start the impeachment now, before he ruins Florida, its education system, its drug fighting efforts, the pensions of public employees who agreed to work for low pay/good benefits, and on and on and on.
I say never trust a man who will spend $73 million for power. Something is wrong here. Get rid of him now.
Animal Services merits praise, not bad press
Recently Manatee County Animal Services has received some bad press and I am here to set the record straight. An island newspaper printed an unsubstantiated rant against our county facility and the publisher has refused to print any opposing opinions to a clearly biased editorial. Shame on the newspaper for the yellow journalism.
In my 10-plus years of involvement in animal welfare and association with Animal Services, I have been aware of statistics regarding euthanasia, which for any animal lover is disturbing; no one wants to see any dog or cat put to sleep for no reason.
However, that is the painful reality, a result of irresponsible pet owners. Several years ago, the county made a commitment to sponsor a spay and neuter program, which has been successful, and build a state-of-the-art adoption center in Palmetto. All of these efforts are building to a kinder community for our homeless pets.
Now we have embarked on an exciting journey to become a no-kill community with the involvement of county Commissioner Carol Whitmore. She has organized all the animal welfare organizations to fight for this common goal. She needs to be applauded for her efforts for homeless animals.
Under her leadership we have accomplished much, including a new adoption center in downtown Bradenton. This small center has netted huge results. Not only are dogs and cats being adopted in record numbers, but a huge new audience has emerged.
This all could not be accomplished without a dedicated faction. Bill Hutchinson, the director of Public Safety, as well as Chief Wesikopf and his caring staff at Animal Services deserve praise for these and other innovative developments that will help in our mutual aspirations to finally become a no-kill community. It is one thing to sign a petition; find fault and criticize, it is quite another to do something to actually remedy the problem.
Laurie Crawford, chairman, Manatee County Animal Services Advisory Board Bradenton
Thanks to congressman for sending tax forms
The Internal Revenue Service has ceased to mail forms. Subsequently, I drove to the IRS office in Sarasota near Cattleman Road and Bee Ridge Road.
I hate that drive. The drive took a long time. I call the drive from Bradenton to Sarasota the “Brakelight Parkway.” There are always large cars driven by gawkers in the fast lane that travel 10 miles per hour below the speed limit. Did I say I hate to drive to Sarasota? I do.
When I got to the IRS office -- yep, you guessed it -- they did not have the form 1040 or the instructions! Angry? Yes.
When I returned home I called my congressman’s office. The very nice young man in Vern Buchanan’s office listened to my red-eye rage. He promised to send me the instructions for my 1040. It arrived recently.
Again, thank you, Congressman Buchanan.
Obama lacks business sense to create private sector jobs
President Obama recently met with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to voice his purported new approach toward creation of jobs through private sector initiatives. Apparently, he is still clueless as to how jobs are created in the private sector. He asked for ideas to spur hiring and economic recovery, then proceeded to heed his own counsel.
He first has announced his plans for infrastructure improvements, which he calls investment, by expending $53 billion dollars for high-speed rail construction, which no one will use. He is further making a budget proposal to restock strained state unemployment insurance trust funds by raising the amount of wages on which companies must pay unemployment taxes to $15,000, more than double the $7,000 in place since 1983.
His continued assault on the business community reveals his disdain for private business owners and his love for government control.
Instead of heeding counsel of those with more knowledge and experience, he continues to offer his own counsel, founded on his only experience as a community organizer. It is time to tell him, in the words of William Shakespeare, “I pray thee cease thy counsel, which falls into mine ears as profitless as water in a sieve.”
He is looting from tax-paying producers to pay for the burdens imposed by his policies and exorbitant spending frenzy. It is time for the new Congress to derail the mad dash into oblivion.
D. Merrill Adams