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Longboat Key Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2010 12 years ago

Our view: Customer service? What's that?


How much are your customers (taxpayers) worth — a savings of about $5,000?


Longboat Key voters won’t have access to early voting for the March Town Commission elections. Town commissioners apparently didn’t want to confuse voters or spend the $12,000 for two weeks of poll workers.

Never mind that more than 50% of the votes in last week’s preliminary election were cast early, before election day.

Never mind, that, even though the town budgeted $30,000 for the general election, its total cost with two weeks of early voting would have cost about $25,000 total.

So much for customer service.

In spite of the early-voting turnout, commissioners apparently didn’t like that Sarasota County’s supervisor of elections was insisting on two weeks of early voting before the general election instead of one, which is what the Manatee County supervisor of elections planned to do. Commissioners thought that extra week in Sarasota would be confusing, plus there was the extra $3,300 for poll workers.

Surely money wasn’t really the issue.

Some people attending Monday night’s Town Commission meeting think the commissioners’ vote not to have early voting was a commission conspiracy to take away advantage from their election opponents and to discourage voter turnout.

It’s a good theory. As it goes, the incumbents — Mayor Lee Rothenberg and Commissioners Peter O’Connor and Hal Lenobel — will lose valuable campaigning and face time sitting in Longboat Key Club hearings while their opponents can be standing on street corners waving banners or walking the neighborhoods raising their visibility.

It’s not as if Rothenberg or Lenobel would use that time to campaign anyway. Indeed, Lenobel says he’s not going to spend a nickel or invest a minute in campaigning. As he puts it, voters either want him or they don’t.

Still, you have to think the more visibility challengers Phil Younger (versus Lenobel), Lynn Larson (versus Rothenberg) and David Brenner (versus O’Connor) have, the better their chances at victory over the incumbents.

Likewise, the more obstacles placed in front of voters, the less likely they will vote. And that’s an advantage for incumbents. Think about it: Given the option of voting when it’s convenient for you or standing in line on election day, which would you prefer?

Regardless of who has what advantage, our bet is commissioners will wish they could vote on that issue again. They probably feel damned if they did and damned if they didn’t. But in the end, they forgot: It’s not what is best for the town. It’s what is best for their constituents — the people, who also happen to vote.

+ Price of compromise
Bob White, leader of the Islandside Property Owners Coalition, should be pleased.

If the Longboat Key Club and Resort’s revised plan is approved, two proposed condominium buildings next to the Islandside spa would block only half as much of White’s view.

Imagine the price everyone — taxpayers, Key Club Associates, IPOC members and future buyers of those condos — paid for that revision.

Bring on the vote. Approve the project. Longboat and Sarasota’s economy needs not a phony one but a real stimulus.

+ Crist: Big spender
Cynics that we are, we can’t help but look at Gov. Charlie Crist’s tax-cutting proposals last week as another example of Florida’s Head Populist scrambling to buy votes (see box below).

It would be much nicer, of course, to hail the governor for offering a real conservative legislative agenda and budget that will stimulate Florida’s creaking economy.

But, nah, we’ve watched Charlie Crist for 20-plus years. This is all about votes.

At a pre-legislative meeting with the Florida’s press corps last week in Tallahassee, Crist said he is proposing to cut Florida’s corporate income tax 18% — from 5.5% to 4.5%.


Oh, then there’s the fine print. The cut would apply only to the first $1 million in pre-tax income, a savings of $10,000.

Crist says this tax-rate cut would provide a $57.4 million boost to Florida’s economy. Put that in context.

Compare that amount to Florida’s gross state product — $603 billion. That tax cut is 0.009% of our economy and 0.08% of Crist’s proposed state budget. Not exactly an economy-changing stimulus.

Big Woop.

Crist also proposed a 10-day $52 million back-to-school sales-tax holiday. Big Woop again.

And he proposed postponing the implementation of a 1,094% increase in the state’s unemployment compensation insurance tax, which is killing Florida businesses. Because the state’s unemployment compensation insurance fund has been depleted in the recession, the rate must increase automatically to refill the fund. That means the minimum rate per employee will go from $8.40 to $100.30.

In toto, we should be pleased and grateful Crist is proposing tax cuts, albeit teensy ones. A small cut is better than none. But the economic ripples from Crist’s tax cuts are like throwing pebbles into the Gulf.

Worse, there’s the other side to Crist’s final budget: the spending. He has proposed a $69 billion budget, up 4% from a year ago. And among the many, many spending initiatives in the budget are $500 million in new education spending (more votes) and $9.7 billion for what he calls infrastructure and economic development investment spending (see box above).

Crist apparently has been drinking the Barack Obama Kool-Aid. That more government spending will propel Florida to prosperity.

Once again, this reminds of our favorite economic philosopher, Frenchman Frederic Bastiat. He wrote:
“In noting what the state is going to do with the millions of francs it voted (to spend), do not neglect to note also what the taxpayers would have done — and can no longer do — with these same millions.

“You see, then, that a public enterprise is a coin with two sides. On one, the figure of a busy worker, with this device: What is seen; on the other, an unemployed worker, with this device: What is not seen.”

Government never stimulates or creates wealth. It only deprives one to give to another.

+ No other explanation
President Obama must have failed American history. Had he not, he would know from history what tax increases always do to the U.S. economy. There is no other explanation for his wanting to raise taxes than this: He believes in his heart and soul that government should make everyone equal.

Americans do not agree.

In addition to $100 million in proposed tax cuts, Gov. Charlie Crist has proposed $9.7 billion in economic development and stimulus spending. Here are some of his proposals:

• $5.8 billion for 132 new lane miles of roads to provide congestion relief, for maintenance of 2,000 lane miles and for the replacement of 10 bridges.

• $93.4 million — triple last year’s funds — for producing, maintaining and restoring affordable housing.
• $10.5 million for defense infrastructure grants to be spent on infrastructure needs of communities surrounding Florida’s military bases.

• $10 million to facilitate planning, preparation and financing of infrastructure projects to help rural communities fund capital investments and diversify their economies.

• $3 million to help local communities create their own Economic Gardening programs.

• $3.8 million to existing small-business development organizations to provide technical assistance that will help them expand and create jobs.

Just a few months ago, the Republican Party’s experts considered it pretty much impossible — that former Florida House Speaker Marco Rubio could beat Gov. Charlie Crist for the GOP nomination to the U.S.

Senate. And they gave little credence to Republican Party executive committees in Florida’s 67 counties favoring Rubio in straw votes.

So much for experts.

The Rasmussen Reports polling firm said this week Rubio has a 12-point lead over Crist — 49% to 37% — in a telephone survey of likely GOP primary voters. Three percent prefer another candidate, and 11% are undecided.

Rasmussen reports that Crist’s support fell from 53% in August to 49% in October. By December, the two men were tied at 43% apiece.

Rubio leads Crist by 17 points among men and by seven among women, according to Rasmussen. He also carries 52% of the conservative GOP vote, while moderates prefer Crist.

Crist and Rubio both hold a double-digit lead over their likely Democratic opponent, Congressman Kendrick Meek of Miami.

Rasmussen says 62% of GOP primary voters have a favorable view of Crist, while 37% regard the governor unfavorably. Rubio is viewed favorably by 67% of primary voters and unfavorably by only 14%, the poll shows.

The poll also shows that 56% of Republican primary voters approve of the job Crist is doing as governor. Forty-three percent disapprove of his job performance.

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