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Sarasota Thursday, May. 27, 2010 7 years ago

Our View


Get ready for the annual ritual: Local governmental organizations telling us they don’t have enough money and either will have to cut services, raise taxes or both.

The kickoff to this yearly war dance came last week when Sarasota County Property Appraiser Bill Furst released his newly revised property assessments. For the city of Sarasota, Furst estimates total property values will drop 10.78% to $7.3 billion, down from $8.08 billion in the current year.

This means the city’s property-tax collections for the next fiscal year are likely to decline to around $20.23 million, or down $2.1 million from the current year.

That decline, by the way, would be only 4% of a total $54.2 million general fund budget.

Surely, city officials can find $2.1 million in expense savings in the city’s budget without having to affect essential services in a noticeable way.

But that’s not the impression you get from city Finance Director Tim Lyons. He is estimating the city will have to cut more, about $5.3 million from the next budget. Lyons told City Editor Robin Roy last week:
“We’re getting to the point where it’s hard to cut any more.”

Yes, it’s always hard to cut budgets. But there are always ways to do it. Just ask any Sarasota business owner.

But even if there are areas that can be cut, you can predict city commissioners will discuss seriously raising the city’s property-tax rate.

Commissioners have held the property-tax rate at 2.7771 mills through the recession.

What do you think: Are you willing to pay more in taxes to balance the city’s next budget? Or do you think the projected $5.3 million shortfall should be covered with some of the $10 million the city has in reserve?

+ LOL: City-owned utility
They can’t be serious.
Please tell us Sarasota city commissioners are not considering establishing a new city-owned, taxpayer-owned and government-operated electric utility for Sarasota? This appears to be an option as the city negotiates its expiring franchise agreement with Florida Power & Light Co.

Where in history has a government ever proven more adept and efficient than the private sector at any business?

Unplug that idea. It’s a loser.

Memorial Day-Semper Fi
While many Americans will remember on Memorial Day Monday those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for us and our freedom, we call your attention to the commentary below by scholar Victor Davis Hanson.

Hanson notes how our nation’s most prized fighting force, the U.S. Marine Corps, is being re-examined yet again for its maverick ways.

What’s more, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is questioning the Corps’ future. Defense News reported recently: “Gates said he is unsure just where American Marines would be asked to storm a beach in the future — especially as potential foes continue fielding more and more advanced weapons.”

Our history has proven: The best defense is a good offense. That’s the Marines.

U.S. Marines under assault again
The 10-part HBO series on the Pacific campaign of World War II just ended. That story of island-hopping was mostly about how the old breed of U.S. Marines fought die-hard Japanese infantrymen face to face in places such as Guadalcanal, Tarawa, Saipan, Peleliu, Iwo Jima, Guam and Okinawa.

We still argue about whether it was smart to storm those entrenched Japanese positions or whether all those islands were strategically necessary. But no one can question the Marine Corps’ record of defeating the most savage infantrymen of the age, thereby shattering the myth of Japanese military invincibility.

Since World War II, the Marines have turned up almost anywhere that America found itself in a jam against supposedly unconquerable enemies — in such bloody places as Inchon and the Chosin Reservoir in Korea, at Hue and Khe Sanh during the Vietnam War, at the two bloody sieges of Fallujah in Iraq, and now in Afghanistan.

Over the last two centuries, two truths have emerged about the Marine Corps. One, they defeat the toughest of America’s adversaries under the worst of conditions. And two, periodically their way of doing things — and their eccentric culture of self-regard — so bothers our military planners that some higher-ups try either to curb their independence or to end the Corps altogether.

After the Pacific fighting, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson wanted to disband the Marines Corps. What good were amphibious landings in the nuclear age? Johnson asked. His boss, President Harry Truman, agreed and didn’t like the cocky Marines, either.

Then came Korea — and suddenly the Pentagon wanted more Marines. The fighting against hard-core North Korean and Communist Chinese veterans was as nasty as anything seen in three millennia of organized warfare.

The antiquated idea of landing on beaches proved once again a smart way of outflanking the enemy.

The Marines survived Korea, Louis Johnson and Harry Truman — and continued to carve out their own logistics, air-support and tactical doctrines. Marine self-sufficiency was due to a lingering distrust of the other services dating back to the lack of air and naval support in World War II and to Marine paranoia that the other services liked their combative spirit but not their independence.

We are once again seeing one of those periodic reexaminations of the Corps. This time, the old stereotype of the lone-ranger, gung-ho Marines supposedly doesn’t fit too well with fighting a sophisticated urban counterinsurgency under an integrated, international command.

After all, America is fighting wars in which we rarely hear about the number of enemy dead, but often hear a great deal about the need to rebuild cities and infrastructure. In Afghanistan, there have been rumors about a new medal for “courageous restraint,” which would honor soldiers who hesitated pulling the trigger against the enemy out of concern about harming civilians.

The Marines are now starting to redeploy to Afghanistan from Iraq and are building a huge base in Delaram. They plan to win over southern Afghanistan’s remote, wild Nimruz Province, which heretofore has been mostly a no-go Taliban stronghold. While NATO forces concentrate on Afghanistan’s major cities, the Marines think they can win over local populations their way, take on and defeat the Taliban and bring all of Nimruz back from the brink — with their trademark warning “no better friend, no worse enemy.”

So, once again, the Marines are convinced that their ingenuity and audacity can succeed where others have failed. And, once again, not everyone agrees.

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, retired three-star Army Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry reportedly made a comment about there being 41 nations serving in Afghanistan — and a 42nd composed of the Marine Corps. One unnamed Obama-administration official was quoted by the Washington Post as saying, “We have better operational coherence with virtually all of our NATO allies than we have with the U.S. Marine Corps.”

Some officials call the new Marine enclave in Nimruz Province “Marinestan” — as if, out of a Kipling or Conrad novel, the Marines have gone rogue to set up their own independent province of operations.

Yet once again, it would be wise not to tamper with the independence of the Marine Corps, given that its methods of training, deployment, fighting, counterinsurgency and conventional warfare usually pay off in the end.

The technological and political face of war is always changing. But its essence — organized violence to achieve political ends — has not changed since antiquity. Conflict will remain the same as long as human nature does.

The Marines have always understood that. And from the Marines’ initial mission against the Barbary pirates to the battles in Fallujah, Americans have wanted a maverick Marine Corps — a sort of insurance policy that will keep them safe, just in case.

Victor Davis Hanson is a classicist and historian at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and editor, most recently, of “Makers of Ancient Strategy: From the Persian Wars to the Fall of Rome.”


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