More than 200 citizens showed up Saturday at Hidden Lakes Golf Club to hear the nine candidates in the first debate of the election season, sponsored by the Public Watch Committee and NSBNEWS.net. Those people who made the effort to hear the debate were rewarded with interesting questions and discussions and became more knowledgeable about the issues facing New Smyrna Beach. Those who missed the debate can see them in their entirety right here on NSBNEWS.net.
If you listened intently both to the candidates and the questions from the media and the audience, you could learn a lot of interesting and important facts about New Smyrna Beach. Here are some of the highlights that caught my attention:
# First, to put things in perspective, New Smyrna is a great place to live and raise a family. There are, however, a number of problems which must be faced and solved to make this an even better place to live.
# New Smyrna is facing a financial crisis along with the rest of the state. Unless city spending is brought under control, we could be facing bankruptcy in a few years.
# We suffer from too many employees at all levels city, county, state and national.
# Many public employees are being paid way more than comparable jobs in the private sector that is being taxed to pay for them.
# New Smyrna has become a business unfriendly environment. The taxes here are high and the regulations on business make it difficult to either start or enlarge a business. Not only are regulations costly and arduous but they often change during the project. This drives the cost up and drives businessmen out of their minds. In fact, businessmen have been heard to say that they will never try to do business in New Smyrna Beach again.
This is one thing that has to be addressed effectively. One suggestion heard floating around is that maybe somebody in the chamber or in the government should take up the job of guiding businesses starting up or expanding through the mine-field of government regulations fees and other things that make it difficult or next to impossible to do business here. Here were some examples cited:
# It was commented that the new McDonalds restaurant almost didn’t happen because of city bureaucracy.
# Everybody knows that a Lowes store was driven out of town.
It should be noted that numerous studies of CRA-type functions show that they have had very little success in economic revitalization of the areas they have attempted to help. The main reason is that while they have been very successful in improving the appearance of these areas they have usually been ineffective in changing the basic reasons that have caused the areas to go downhill economically.
Downtown New Smyrna has become an economic backwater because other areas have become much more attractive for people to do business and CRA so far has not been able to change that painful fact.
People associated with the hospital wonder why the hospital is taxed to support the CRA.
The west side of town has been neglected by government. My suggestion is that that neglect should be extended to taxing and regulations so that anybody starting a business on the west side of New Smyrna would be freed of the government bureaucracy and excessive taxes and fees that prevent business from developing in the rest of New Smyrna. Maybe they should issue “Bureaucrat be Gone” permits to anyone starting a business in that area.
People should be aware that the Sunshine Law tends strongly to make our city government and every other government or governing body in Florida almost totally dependent on the manager they hire. The inability to talk privately one on one with ones fellow council members or board members leave our elected officials at an overwhelming disadvantage as far as being an effective governing body. This could be remedied to a great extent by allowing two officials to talk to each other. This is done in some states that have sunshine laws.
People should be reminded that centralized economic planning does not work very well. The Soviet Union and The Eastern Block countries demonstrated this during the Cold War. Therefore, don’t expect too much from our city planners as they are attempting to do a job that really can’t be done well, if at all.
Note also that land-use planning leads to steep rises in the price of housing. Some analysts have estimated that land use planning has driven up the cost of an average home in Central Florida by about 50-80 thousand dollars, while in places like Palo Alto California the price of an average home has been driven up by $400,000 to $500,000. The actual cost of building in California isn’t that much different than other places. It is the cost of the regulations that make houses so much more expensive there.
Here are some other factors worth noting from this debate:
# The issue of the Angler's Yacht Club lease of city property was pretty much put to bed with the announcement that the Anglers Club and the City have arranged to sit down and negotiate an acceptable agreement.
# Home Town Democracy is a really bad idea that desperately needs to be junked for many of the same reasons the Founding Fathers gave us a Republic rather than a pure Democracy.
# There are city offices resting on some very valuable land.
Please keep in mind that in the background of this whole debate atmosphere is the fact that voters are incensed over the fact that while they are suffering pay cuts and job losses their taxes ate being raised so government workers won’t face pay cuts or job losses.
All in all, the political debate was a great success. It drew a big crowd to see and hear more candidates than anyone can recall seeing. The whole city was the winner.