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Our View: Town center? It can be more

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  • | 5:00 a.m. January 16, 2013
  • Longboat Key
  • Opinion
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Of course Longboat Key resident Joe Wolfer would be thrilled if the town of Longboat Key paid a market-rate price for his three-acre property next to Publix and the Longboat Key Public Tennis Center. That would alleviate a perplexing challenge, maybe even a headache for Wolfer.

But rare is the occasion good for taxpayers when a town, city, county or state government uses taxpayer money to become a bigger landowner than it already is.

The subject is the fallow and vacant properties next to Longboat Key’s gleaming, new Publix Super Market. One is Howard Rooks’ vacant restaurant building, former home of Mattison’s Steakhouse and previous owners’ unsuccessful restaurant ventures. Another is Wolfer’s oak-tree-studded three acres that at various times have been envisioned as an upscale adult congregate living site and an enclave of upscale townhouses.

The fact nothing is there but oaks and Rooks’ restaurant property has sat vacant since 2008 are emblematic of a lot of factors — the 2009 recession and overall economic climate; the value of Longboat Key real estate; Longboat Key’s seasonal demographics; and the town’s quirky zoning codes. All of these have worked against those two parcels of property. Indeed, it’s somewhat of a conundrum that such a beautiful, tree-covered property and unique restaurant building have been almost forever troublesome for their owners. It seems odd there could be such a thing as troubled real estate on Longboat Key.

But Wolfer may have an appealing idea — integrating his property as a walking park within a town center that pulls together the Publix and the public tennis center.

It sounds attractive; it could be nice. You can see it.

But when you think of how best to use the town’s limited tax dollars, more convincing is needed that acquiring those three acres for $1.2 million would take priority over some other town need.

What’s more, are there alternatives? Surely there are creative individuals out there who can envision something grander and better (and realistic) that could come from private-sector investment. The private sector is always preferred.

A boutique hotel / resort tennis academy with a ready-made adjoining restaurant (Rooks’ restaurant)? A boutique hotel / resort gourmet cooking school and restaurant? A boutique hotel / resort spa and restaurant? Wouldn’t it be nice to have something new on Longboat Key (besides Publix).

But again: the condundrum. In spite of Longboat Key’s beauty, attracting commercial investment is challenging. Attracting it to that location even more so. You can’t help but think of the obstacles with which to contend and thereby repel investors:

• If you build it, will they come? It takes a lot of money to market a destination. And it would take some creative marketing to persuade high-end consumers to book a week or two, say, at a gourmet cooking school with a view of a Publix and public tennis courts.

• Price of the land. Land prices are always high on Longboat. That increases the cost and risk.

• Town codes. If you research town history, you might conclude it makes more sense to buy Treasuries — even those paying 0.25% interest.

These obstacles all can be overcome. Where there is a will, there is a way. Longboat needs those with the “will.”

Rather than continue to eye the Wolfer-Rooks properties for the town, we would urge Longboat Key Town Manager David Bullock to engage Wolfer and Rooks in discussions: What can the town do to make it more attractive for private investment to have the want and will to develop their respective five acres?

Surely Bullock and town taxpayers would rather have private-sector assets that contribute to the growing value of the town than public-owned assets that require taxpayers to carry them ad infinitum.

+ Debt ceiling: You lose again
The president lectured House Republicans again Monday, scolding them not to cause a federal government shutdown and the stopping of government checks by not voting to raise the nation’s borrowing limit.

As Peggy Noonan has pointed out, that is what he is all about — strife and drama.

Let the circus begin!

It’ll be exasperating once again to endure more fiscal cliff-like melodrama for the next two weeks. And for what? We already know the outcome.

Indeed, there is no reason in the world, none whatsoever, to think that the Obama-Republican House-debt ceiling talks will result in anything other than a higher debt limit; increased borrowing and a greater burden on your grandchildren.

It has always been thus. And it will never change.

In his book, “The Debt Bomb: A Bold Plan to Stop Washington from Bankrupting America,” Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., explains why Congress will never cut spending:

“Careerism, not ideological commitments, is the cause of our impasse today. Both sides are preoccupied with the acquisition and maintenance of power more than reducing our debt and averting an economic catastrophe.

“If Washington politicians valued fiscal responsibility more than getting re-elected, we would see fiscally responsible behavior. Our crushing debt burden … is proof that Washington politicians value re-election above all else.”

Coburn goes on: “The whole point of the Constitution was not to protect any particular branch of government per se, but the rights and liberties of individual Americans.

“If government grew beyond the scope of the Constitution, freedom would be limited by the burden of debt and regulation, which is exactly what we see today.”

Unfortunately, our petulant president and the majority of those who occupy the seats of the U.S. House and Senate — Republicans included! — fail to heed the advice of two of the smartest Americans ever:

Thomas Jefferson: “A wise and frugal government which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government.”

James Madison: “There are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpation.”

To the wisdom of Jefferson and Madison, you can add this: By virtue of Obama and Congress continuing their spending, and with the Federal Reserve Bank acting as their accomplice by printing ever increasing amounts of dollars, they are all vicious looters destroying your wealth.

Economic analyst William Buckler explains this thievery well in a recent edition of his Privateer letter:
When the federal government borrows, it pays its creditor with a U.S. note that says it promises to pay. How is that promise to pay honored? By the government issuing more new promises to pay in the future.

And what is the collateral that assures the holder of the U.S. note will be repaid? “The full faith and credit” of the nation. Which means the laws Washington has written, giving the federal government a first-claim on the wealth of U.S. citizens.

“What is the end result?” Buckler asked. “A monetary system which destroys wealth in order to function.”

+ Gun control
As usual, Washington wants to address an isolated tragecy with more laws that will reduce your freedom. Go to, and read the commentary of “Topshot,” a Marine Corps Vietnam Veteran on the issue of gun control. Here’s an excerpt:

“Guns in the hands of law abiding citizens is a constitutional right guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States of America in the Second Amendment, and it is the duty of every citizen to see that ALL of the Constitution is enforced by the government entrusted by the people to do just that. If those elected officials refuse to honor the basis for our country’s laws and freedoms, then they are undeserving of the trust the electorate has put in them and need to be removed from office.” Bravo.


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