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Get Outta Here New Tax! Just SCAT!

scat-brevard-commission-roh

Sara Ann Conkling is a passionate person concerning public transportation, specifically expanding the Space Coast Area Transit System (SCAT.)

This past Tuesday, Conkling appeared before the Brevard County Commission to ask that they vote to move forward with a proposal to increase the gas tax by 1 cent which would go to expanding SCAT.

Commissioner Andy Anderson reminded the Commission and made sure the assembled people in the audience knew that no matter what the Commission did that day – discuss the issue or whatever – the Commission was not going to vote on a tax increase as legal requirements such as legal notices, resolutions and a referendum could not be met that day. No matter what, there was not going to be a new sales tax within Brevard as a result of that meeting.

Conkling’s idea is this:

The penny-a-gallon tax would generate about $2.5 million a year for SCAT. Conkling said that would allow for the transit service to:

• Offer weekday service every half-hour on most of its routes.

• Offer more Sunday service on eight routes.

• Add a new route in the Port St. John/south Titusville area, which Conkling calls a ”transit desert” because of its lack of bus service.

• Significantly increase paratransit services for people who are elderly or disabled, and cannot use SCAT’s fixed-route service.

As for the numbers:

Conkling said the plan would cost $3.42 million a year, with about $2.5 million coming from the gas tax, $500,000 from new grants and $250,000 from increased fare revenue.

Conkling told the commissioners that she waited to bring the proposal forward until after the election as she felt an additional tax referendum on the ballot would be rejected as voters were already voting on the Indian River Lagoon tax this past election.

She may very well be right. There are always going to be people with knee-jerk reactions to any tax increase. At the same time, there is something disingenuous about bringing a tax proposal and implying that the voters will reject supporting a worthwhile idea.

Conkling also invoked Jesus Christ, saying:
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Netterstrom Writes To Florida Today. Results Are Probably Not What He Expected.

(image courtesy of Florida Today)

(image courtesy of Florida Today)

Former Cocoa Beach Mayor Dave Netterstrom is running for the office of the Clerk of the Courts for Brevard County.

On Sunday, Netterstrom took to writing the Florida Today newspaper:

Clerk’s budget ‘is a critical issue’

Upon research and preparation for the upcoming candidate forum sponsored by the league of Women Voters, The League of Cities, FLORIDA TODAY and Eastern Florida State College, it has become clear that the clerk of court budget is a critical issue. My deepest sympathy

goes out to the employees who will soon be affected by the pending layoffs and furloughs, especially since they have been working without a pay raise for seven years. Additionally, customer service will also be negatively affected.

It’s really a shame since all of this could have been 100 percent avoided with sharper focus, pro-active management and less political side projects from the clerk’s office.

As a candidate in this November’s election, my unique combination of corporate, entrepreneurial, mayoral and government experience contrasts well against the alternatives’ qualifications. Focusing less on politics and more on service will make the Brevard clerk’s organization “Best in State.”

Dave Netterstrom, Cocoa Beach

As of this writing, there are three comments directly aimed at Netterstrom and his letter. The first is from current Clerk of the Court and candidate Scott Ellis:
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Muck U.

Unless you have been living under a rock or outside of this area, you know that muck in the Indian River Lagoon is a real issue with lasting impacts.

But how much do you know about muck, its causes and solutions?

Stepping up to the plate is Dr. John Trefry.

Dr. John Trefry is a chemical oceanographer and professor at Florida Institute of Technology. He was a co-discoverer of deep-sea hydrothermal vents in the Atlantic Ocean in 1985 and has sampled super-heated (400°C, 750°F) vent fluid from many locations including the East Pacific Rise and the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Dr. Trefry also has been carrying out biogeochemical studies in the Arctic for the past 18 years with the challenge of identifying impacts from global climate change versus regional human activities. Dr. Trefry was the medalist of the Florida Academy of Sciences in 2002, served for eight years on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Outer Continental Shelf Scientific Committee, and has been a long-term associate editor of the journal Marine Chemistry. He has presently stepped up his long-term research efforts to address the plight of the Indian River Lagoon.

On May 11, 2016 Dr.Trefry gave a lecture he called “Running Amuck: Our Six-Decade Legacy to the Indian River Lagoon.”

We have a different name for it: “Muck U.”

The video is 34 minutes long and gives an overview of muck (“black mayonnaise”), its composition, some solutions and what you can do.

It’s well worth your time.




Brevard County Responds To Samuelson Op-Ed.

A few weeks ago, we covered an op-ed piece written by Florida Today Editorial Advisory Board member Ayn Samuelson. The piece covered a lack of a plan, alternatives and other issues concerning the Indian River Lagoon.

Brevard County Director of Natural Resources Management Virginia Barker has responded to the op-ed.

image courtesy florida Today

image courtesy florida Today

Yes, there IS a plan for the Indian River Lagoon

In a recent FLORIDA TODAY, guest column entitled “Is the Indian River DOA?” it was stated that “no coordinated, legitimate plan for recovery has been crafted yet.”

This statement is unfounded and insulting to the many dedicated and talented community members who, after more than 150 public meetings, developed the Indian River Lagoon Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.

The plan was adopted by the Indian River Lagoon National Estuary Program, the Governor of Florida, and the United States Environmental Protection Agency. It outlines 68 actions agreed to by more than 100 agencies and local governments with management responsibility for the Lagoon. The plan was updated in 2008 with additional public engagement and intergovernmental coordination.

In 2009, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection completed another important document for the lagoon: The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Report – Nutrient and Dissolved Oxygen TMDLs for the Indian River Lagoon and Banana River Lagoon.

Action plans for complying with recommended nutrient load limits were adopted in 2013 after numerous public meetings.

The guest column also alleged that dredging will “stir up solids and toxins into the waterways, impacting both wildlife and humans.” Current and prior muck dredging in the lagoon has required technology and safety measures to successfully prevent such impacts.
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Play By Their Rules.

Silence-Lego-Figs-Brevard-County---ROH Yesterday we posted about the Brevard County Resolution put forth by Commissioner Fisher that effectively eliminated the rights of people to seek redress from the government. It also effectively told people to sit down and shut up.

The resolution was supported by Commissioners Anderson and Barfield.

At the end of our post, we said that we would put forth ideas to fight this nonsense which is what this post is about.

First, tell your friends. There is a tendency to only get involved when there are issues that affect someone or with they agree or disagree, but this issue cuts across all ideological, political, racial, and economic lines. Whether you agree with Fisher on funding issues or with Infantini, it doesn’t matter.

This resolution took a shot not just at Infantini, but every citizen in Brevard County. Fisher, Barfield, and Anderson have said your voice will only heard on certain issues and be silenced on others.

That cannot be allowed to stand.

If these three men can silence people on one issue, they can silence people on all issues.

That is why this is important.

So, what to do about it?
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“I Ain’t Never Heard, Seen Nor Smelled An Issue That Was So Dangerous It Couldn’t Be Talked About.”

(image inspired by posters for the musical 1776)

(image inspired by the musical 1776)

In the musical / movie “1776,” the delegates to the Continental Congress take a vote to whether to discuss the issue of independence – just talk about it. As portrayed in the production, the vote is deadlocked with only Stephen Hopkins who represented Rhode Island yet to vote. At the critical point in this vote and with his vote to decide the issue, Hopkins is missing as he is visiting the “necessary.” When he comes back into the chamber, he says:

I ain’t never heard, seen nor smelled an issue that was so dangerous it couldn’t be talked about.

Apparently, some members of the Brevard County Commission have never heard that sentiment.

This past Tuesday, Commissioner Fisher introduced a resolution which read, in part:

1. Until otherwise directed by majority vote of the County Commission, the County Manager is hereby directed not to place any item on the County Commission agenda that addresses the funding, defunding or dissolution of CRAs or other tax increment funded entity, or the discontinuation of economic development incentives including cash grants and ad valorem tax exemptions, whether the agenda item is sponsored or requested by a member of the County Commission, a private citizen or any other person.

According to the Florida Today:

County commissioners decided Tuesday to hold off on making any budget changes aimed at finding more money to pay for road repairs — at least until after they hold another workshop on the issue.

But, just before the meeting was about to end, Commissioner Robin Fisher handed out a resolution to other commissioners that wasn’t on the agenda, and asked the other commissioners to vote on it.

Fisher’s proposal directs the county manager not to place any items proposed by commissioners or members of the public on the commission agenda in the future, if the items are related to funding, defunding or dissolution of community redevelopment agencies and similar entities, until at least three of the five commissioners vote to do so. Fisher’s resolution also covers items related to discontinuation of economic development incentive programs for expanding businesses.

Community redevelopment agencies target a portion of new property tax revenue from construction within the CRA’s district to projects in the district, rather than the money going into the county’s general fund.

Commissioners approved Fisher’s proposal by a 3-2 vote.

Commissioner Trudie Infantini felt the action was directed at her, since she had put two items on Tuesday’s commission agenda related to dissolving or defunding community redevelopment agencies and to dissolution of the Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency, and another item on cash incentive grants to new and expanding businesses. Earlier in the meeting, she had agreed to defer discussion of her items until the March 31 workshop.

“I think it’s illegal to stifle my ability to put items on the agenda,” Infantini said.

Fisher said he was tired of continued discussion about finding things to cut, when he believes the county has a revenue problem, and that its current budget already is tight. He said he also is tired of some commissioners trying to reconsider decisions that the commission already had made.

“Once the play has been called, you run the play and make it successful,” said Fisher, a former college and pro football player. “I don’t want to argue about it anymore.”

Commissioners Barfield and Anderson voted with Fisher to pass the resolution with Commissioners Infantini and Smith voting against the resolution.

There is a lot of back story to this resolution and it starts with Fisher. According to Infantini, the resolution was distributed minuted before the meeting began. This meant that the resolution was not on the agenda and the public never saw it coming. Furthermore, the resolution was raised by Fisher after public comments so no one could express displeasure with the resolution.
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Brevard County: “We’re Professionals …..”

Professionals-ROH On December 10, 2015 the Brevard County Commission held a workshop on the proposed gas tax increase / infrastructure increase.

There are several good things to note and some bad things to note. First, Commissioner Barfield did a much better job as the chair than Commissioner Fisher had done in the previous meeting. There were still instances of inappropriate conduct by people on the dais as well as members in the audience, but for the most part Barfield did a decent job keeping the tone respectful and cordial. At the same time the decorum from Commissioners, staff and audience was better, but people still need to work on that.

We left the meeting no closer to being in supporting or opposing the gas tax than we were before we went into the meeting. There are a lot of facts and figures to work through and informed voters should try to understand those numbers rather than just a gut reaction. In addition, we got the impression that short of a money tree growing in the courtyard of the government center, the gas tax is a done deal.

We do want to point out a video that was produced by a group of citizens using County data and information. The video was presented by Pat Paisley (sp?) and shows what a group of concerned and involved citizens can do. The video is a little under 12 minutes long and is worth watching.

In response to the video, the County staff had prepared a mind numbing 2 hour presentation that tried to address the Paisley video. We are going to have to look at the fact and figures presented by the county, but we got the distinct impression that this was a case of “overwhelm with manure.” If you have to take 10 plus minutes for every minute of a video, something’s wrong.

While the deluge of information was slightly overwhelming, we kept noticing a constant theme or themes from the people on the dais.
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Trust And The School Tax.

Brevard-Public-Schools-Chalkboard-ROHOne of the more contentious and discussed items for the upcoming election is the vote by Brevard County voters on increasing the sales tax by 1/2 a percent. The additional money would go to schools and be applied to various projects.

Here is the text of the referendum:

SCHOOL BOARD REFERENDUM

One-Half Cent Sales Surtax for Critical School Facilities Renewal, School Security and Technology Upgrades.

Would you support the School Board levying a one-half cent surtax on sales in Brevard County beginning 1/1/15, for a period of six years, to be used exclusively for critical school facility renewal projects, school security and technology upgrades? A needs based prioritized list of projects has been published and expenditures will be monitored by an independent citizen oversight committee.

In a faery tale world where everything was perfect and people could be trusted, this would be a no brainer. Who doesn’t want the schools to be the best they can be? Who doesn’t want kids to be taught in schools that are well maintained? Who doesn’t want to believe that the money raised from this tax increase will be used to prevent and solve issues?

In that perfect world, everyone would stand, shout and agree “it’s for the kids.”

But this is not a perfect world and there are many questions to be raised about this sales tax increase.

THE HISTORY:
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