ON PUBLIC FUNDS AND THE PALM COAST ECONOMY
+ Economic development should be left to private sector
The June 9 edition of the Palm Coast Observer contained a letter cosigned by Lea Stokes and Craig Wall, in which they attempted to refute “factual errors” that were contained in two recent editorial letters (principally, Bruce Hardy’s May 26 letter) about the recent Economic Summit meetings.
People will certainly come to their own conclusions, but, in my opinion, their letter was unsuccessful in refuting any of Mr. Hardy’s statements, all of which were spot on.
I first became aware of this issue in March of this year. On March 5, the Daytona Beach News-Tribune contained two articles that were virtually identical. Both articles were on the same page and both discussed the need for offering incentiv e packages to attract new businesses.
When I read the articles, I was concerned that they contained no dissenting points of view. Several of the quotes attributed to government officials in the first article were virtually identical to statements attributed to business representatives in the second. The articles used such terms as “performance-based incentives,” described incentives as “a necessary evil in today’s marketplace,” said incentives are often “the icing on the cake” and explained the need for a “dedicated funding source.”
These quotes led me to believe that the government and business leaders are speaking from talking points that were developed to sell to the public the idea that the incentives are necessary. I do not believe that everyone in city and county government or in the general population would agree.
Has anyone studied why we should not provide these incentives? It also leads me to believe that, to paraphrase Mr. Hardy, opportunities provided to the author of these articles may have been made available primarily to convince the public that funding for these “necessary evils” should come out of the pockets of the taxpayers of Palm Coast, Bunnell and Flagler County — probably a sales tax increase.
Concerning the image of Palm Coast, while it may be true that it was not intended to be primarily a retirement destination, I believe that most of the people who moved here did so because it wasn’t a bustling commercial, industrial and office community. The residents chose to move away from that type of environment.
Communities don’t have to provide employment opportunities for all of their residents. Many communities are “bedroom communities” from which people commute to work in another community.
Flagler County’s unemployment rate is not high because there are not enough jobs in Flagler County; it is high because there are not enough jobs available outside Flagler County.
It is virtually impossible for Flagler County to compete with Jacksonville and Orlando for large businesses that want to relocate. These cities already have considerable unused office space and industrial sites and can easily outbid Flagler for these businesses.
The mayor of Palm Coast has stated that, instead of competing with Jacksonville for new businesses, he would like to see attention devoted to helping existing businesses grow. Furthermore, the vice mayor of Palm Coast has said that if a company opens a plant in Flagler County with most of its workers living in Palm Coast, the city would not receive tax revenue from the industry but would get many of the residents who, according to the studies he cited, would use more city services per tax dollar than they contribute.
When states, cities and counties attempt to lure businesses away from each other, a game of musical chairs ensues, in which Florida steals from Georgia, Georgia steals from Alabama, Alabama steals from Florida, etc. The net result is that no new jobs are created.
In addition, if a business transfers from another location, it will most likely relocate its top people, and the remaining lower-paying jobs would be the ones that are made available to local residents. The net effect is that businesses are essentially given money for nothing, while, in the aggregate, they create no new jobs.
Even if you are one of the “winners” in this game, all you will have gained are businesses that are always on the lookout for a better deal somewhere else.
I do not blame the Flagler County Chamber of Commerce & Affiliates for attempting to obtain funds for its member organizations. In part, that is its job.
What concerns me is that local government seems determined to find ways to spend money we don’t have for things that we may not need and that may not provide a benefit to the area.
If I put together a group to identify needs and funding sources for a given purpose, the group’s recommendations would be that money is needed and should be provided for that purpose.
If, instead, I put together a group to determine the necessity for and prioritization of a particular purpose or project against other projects, I believe that the recommendations would be very different. If the private sector truly believes that spending these funds will create jobs, it should provide the funds itself. If the jobs materialize, I would have no problem reimbursing the private sector the entire amount expended with a bonus of 25% to 50%.
In this way, all of the risk would be on the shoulders of the private sector, not the taxpayers. Businesses should jump at a guaranteed 25% to 50% return, given that they are certain that the investment will create additional jobs.
+ Conklin courageous; Flagler schools are excellent
You ran an editorial in May by School Board member Colleen Conklin: “How the state is betraying our children.” I applaud the courage and insight she has shown in taking this position.
I particularly agree with the sentence, “Talk is cheap, and I’m sick of watching every politician stand up and say they care about kids or education and then create a budget that says the exact opposite.”
I read one day about how we must have longer or more days of school and stress math and the sciences if we are to compete in the global market, and the next day I read about shorter school days and curtailed programs due to budget cuts.
I’m also getting fed up with the bum rap being put on the public school system. I have three grandchildren in Flagler County Public Schools, and they are getting an excellent education — far better than I got.
I have had the pleasure of meeting many of their teachers, and they are all fine people who deserve support, not condemnation.
The hot topic for conservatives is privatization of everything, which will be a disaster if they get their way. Ask yourself why the public schools outscore the private voucher schools on the recent FCATs — don’t just listening to the politicians’ propaganda.
It’s not about education for them; it’s about money and their obsession with low taxes. Remember a wise Supreme Court Justice said many years ago that taxes are the price we pay for a civilized (and I would add an educated) society.
Charles M. Lodovico