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Sarasota Thursday, May. 9, 2013 4 years ago

Our View: Fruity idea for Fruitville


Sarasota City Commissioner Shannon Snyder often reminds us of that saying about kids: They say the darnedest things.

Commissioner Snyder says the darnedest things.

Like recommending the narrowing of Fruitville Road to two lanes from Lemon Avenue west to U.S. 41.
It might sound nice and “pedestriany” and Duany-esque and new urban. And the intent — to spur activity that would help connect the Rosemary District to downtown — sounds plausible.

But it would be a colossal disaster, especially from October through May.

Can you imagine?

Here’s one thing that comes to mind: All those Saturdays and Sundays when beachgoers come to a halt, lined up at U.S. 41 and Fruitville. From there they inch their way onto the John Ringling Causeway and slowly over the bridge to St. Armands Circle and Lido Beach. And then, at the end of the day the process repeats in reverse — from St. Armands Circle all the way to the Gulfstream-U.S. 41 and U.S. 41-Fruitville intersections.

It’s bad enough the Sarasota Police Department can’t juggle its traffic officers’ schedule to direct traffic at these peak backup times. Imagine, then, if Fruitville Road added to the congestion by being squeezed down to two lanes.

Here’s the reality: Narrowing Fruitville Road from Lemon to U.S. 41 won’t do squat to incentivize anyone to develop that wide swath of the city from Fruitville north to 10th Street and from U.S. 41 east to Orange Avenue.

What’s more, Commissioner Snyder and others need to think hard about the inconvenient fact that Fruitville Road often is the main artery for thousands of people (residents and tourists) to go from the mainland to the beach and barrier islands and from the barrier islands to Interstate 75.

Walkability proponents say a narrower Fruitville would be just a minor inconvenience — you would drive slowly. But there are costs involved with long lines of traffic barely moving, i.e. lost time, gasoline consumption and emissions, not to mention the effect on tourists who may not return because of a bad traffic experience.

For what benefit?

If city commissioners are serious about seeing the Fruitville to 10th Street corridor come to life with redevelopment, it’s going to take much more than two lanes and brick crosswalks on Fruitville.

We say this often: Capital flows where it is welcome. Giving tax breaks and subsidies to entice development is a bad drug and is never justified. But there are steps the City Commission can enact with zoning, densities, parking requirements, concurrency and the overall regulatory approval schemes that can create a welcoming climate for investment capital.

That’s one way. Even then, however, there is this cold-steel reality that keeps dramatic, positive changes from occurring in the Rosemary District. It’s harsh to say, but true: The Salvation Army complex at 10th and Lemon will forever stand in the way of a renaissance so many people have envisioned.

+ Internet tax: Total twaddle
It’s no surprise the Democrat-dominated U.S. Senate voted Monday 69-27 (with four not voting) to pass the Internet sales-tax bill. Those 69 senators voting yes apparently really believe the bill is aptly named the “Marketplace Fairness Act.”

The truth is the name is complete twaddle, and so is the tax — at least the way it is sanctioned in the Senate bill. Mark these words: If this measure makes its way through the U.S. House, consumers and taxpayers will rue the day.

Nearly all of the discussion surrounding this issue frames the Internet sales tax as an effort to level the playing field between Internet-only retailers and brick-and-mortar retailers. The latter, of course, have been bellyaching for years that it’s unfair that they are forced to collect sales taxes from consumers at the point of sale while out-of-state Internet-only retailers are exempt.

Clearly you can see this disparity encourages retail shoppers to buy on the Internet, where they often can escape the sales tax. In Florida, legislative studies have estimated the state treasury is cheated out of $450 million a year. That’s money not collected and remitted to Florida by out-of-state Internet-only retailers.
Technically, the Internet-tax proponents are right. By law, the state is indeed entitled to that lost sales-tax revenue. Here’s why:

In Florida, it’s a “sales-and-use” tax. When consumers buy retail goods in other states and bring them back for use in Florida, they are legally obligated to pay the state sales tax.

But few people ever pay — except, say, when they register new vehicles or boats purchased out of state. Those purchases require registration with the state, and it can track you down.

Likewise, it’s virtually impossible for the state to enforce or collect the sales taxes on out-of-state purchases. Can you imagine all of the tax snoops that would be required to chase down everyone’s Internet or out-of-state retail purchases?

Because of consumers’ unwillingness to pay those out-of-state sales taxes directly, the Internet-only retailers have become the bad guys. They are logical targets for lawmakers who are constantly seeking more money to feed the insatiable government money pit. As the rationale goes, if you can’t get consumers to own up and pay, then collect the money at the source of the out-of-state Internet sale and remit it to the appropriate state. After all, the argument goes, it’s not fair that the Internet retailers don’t carry the same burden as the brick-and-mortar stores. It’s all about fairness.

It’s not about fairness. It’s actually much greater than that. It’s about power. And it’s an attack on the Constitution.

If this legislation is adopted, not only will you be paying more taxes that will fuel the size, scope and spending of an already-gargantuan government, but this bill will unravel crucial principles our Founders adopted to promote and protect freedom and to avoid the tyranny of a too-powerful central government. These principles — established in Articles I, IV and VI in the Constitution — assured the sovereignty of the states and promoted economic competition among the states as a way to restrain them from their own runaway taxation.

The “Marketplace Fairness Act” would empower federal and state governments far beyond what taxpayers ever expected.

As the Heritage Foundation explains, the “Marketplace Fairness Act” would allow states to impose taxes in a way that favors their local businesses over out-of-state firms. If you think that through, that’s another way of giving states power to enact taxation without representation over out-of-state retailers.

Equally bad, expanding sales-tax collections to out-of-state retailers would create the incredibly slippery slope of cross-border taxation, a concept the Founders prohibited for good reason. It’s not beyond reason to imagine how lawmakers would extrapolate the fairness logic they use for the Internet tax: What applies to local retailers should apply to Internet retailers.

So imagine this horror: If Tallahassee were given authority to lay claim to taxing Floridians’ Internet purchases from, what’s to stop Tallahassee from going a step further and laying claim to any retail purchase you make in other states?

In other words, what’s to stop Tallahassee from requiring all out-of-state retailers to demand your domicile identification at the point of purchase to charge the proper sales tax?

The authors of the Constitution clearly saw the danger of this, and explicitly prohibited cross-state taxing. This is the Commerce Clause. In Article I, Sections 9 and 10, the Founders said no tax shall be laid on articles exported from any state; no state shall enter into agreements with other states without Congress’ consent.

The Founders understood it was crucial to liberty to keep the federal government from becoming what England was (and what we have now) — a centralized, tyrannical, taxing monstrosity — and that it was equally important to keep state governments from becoming tyrannical as well.

They saw that economic and tax competition among the states served as powerful incentives to keep states’ tax rates low, operate efficient state and local governments and take steps to win the allegiance of their citizens and businesses.

You don’t hear the money- and tax-hungry senators and representatives talking about this side of the Internet tax. It’s not about “marketplace fairness.” This tax is an assault on state sovereignty and your freedom. Write your congressman and urge him to vote “no” on the Internet tax.

If you live in the city of Sarasota and have not voted yet, don’t forget. Tuesday is the final day to vote in the City Commission runoff election.
Two of the three candidates who garner the most votes will be declared the winners of the two vacant at-large seats.

• Incumbent Mayor Suzanne Atwell
• Richard Dorfman

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