Featured “The Big Lie” a veteran police officers view of local politics in Florida

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Tea Party - The Big Lie

March 20, 2012

By Dana Coston local police officer

Originally published in  THE FLORIDA PATRIOT

I have always been a bit of a misfit. Growing up in Florida, the son of parents raised in the deep south, you’d think I’d have always been right at home. Problem is, Florida is such a hodgepodge of people from all over, it’s more like a northern state that floated south in many respects. The southern sensibilities my parents instilled didn’t always “click” with those around me. My parents were both lifelong Democrats…er, I should say “Dixiecrats” as their breed of Democrat was far more conservative and relatable than the Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid style of Democrat that parades around on TV today.  Having one parent who grew up in the Great Depression and another in WWII probably has something to do with that. I however identified myself early on (even before I could vote) as a Republican and later (though my voter registration card still shows “R”) a Conservative. And I with this moniker that despite its apparent inconsistencies with the beliefs you might think my parents held, found us agreeing on matters political, more often than not. Despite 4 years spent at Emory University in Atlanta, GA,  one of the bastions of southern liberalism, pseudo-intellectual pontification (from both professors and fellow students alike), and bowing at the altar of Jimmy Carter, I found that my core beliefs about the role of government unchanged. As nifty and attractive as the theories of Communism and Socialism are and no matter how prettily professors, PhD candidates, guest speakers, student groups, or even trusted friends packaged them, I always came back to one inescapable conclusion- They were wrong.

As government power waxes, individual liberty wanes. This is an inescapable and immutable truth. So, if we fast forward, I find myself in the profession of law enforcement. I could not have a more rewarding career or work with more incredible people. And this profession is one of many dichotomies- We are charged with protecting peoples’ Constitutional rights, but we are empowered to deprive people of life, liberty, and property. People expect us to be warriors ready to stand between them and those who would do them harm, but want us to be learned, sensitive, and friendly. Finally, as a profession, overwhelmingly law enforcement skews “right-of center” in terms of social and political viewpoints, but are often motivated to belong to political organizations and support candidates who they wouldn’t normally support out of self-preservation. I don’t think you will ever see a union with more registered Republicans and core Conservatives in it than a police union.

So, it took a lot of backstory to get us here, but I am a life-long Conservative Republican who works in a field with a lot of other Conservative Republicans. So, you might imagine my excitement when this new “Tea Party” movement sprang up.  Its mantra:  Return to Constitutional principles of smaller government, lower taxes, and personal responsibility. It was music to my ears! I was excited to see this movement take off and even get involved locally in politics. And at the local level is where I saw the Tea Party principles get twisted, corrupted, and taken totally out of context. “Smaller, more efficient government” became “crippled and almost unable to function.” I saw a small group of motivated, organized, agenda-driven people take what should be a good thing and pervert it. They claimed it was to right the spending wrongs of the past 10 years. They wrapped themselves in the Conservative banner and channeled people’s LEGITIMATE anger towards the FEDERAL government and turned it to their own ends locally. They lied. Those Tea Partiers who got onto Cape Coral City Council lied over and over again- They said they were pro-business. Lie. They said they wanted to grow and diversify the tax base. Lie. They said they wanted to help the families of Cape Coral. Lie. They said they weren’t against city employees. Lie. They said they wanted a university to relocate here or open a campus. Lie. They said they wanted to restart the UEP but “at the right time.” LIE! And it all comes down to the UEP. To ACTUALLY do any of the things that the previous regime claimed they wanted to do, the Utilities Expansion project is the lynchpin. How do you claim to be “pro business” when you have so little sale-able land with available utilities? They would sing songs of “light manufacturing” but seemed to forget that such businesses can’t run on well and septic. How do you grow and diversify the tax base if you can’t support anything other than strip malls and pharmacies with your current infrastructure? They wanted to “help the families of Cape Coral?” Really? So that milliage rate decrease that created the budget crisis…the one that saved homeowners about $16 a year…THAT was your plan to “help families?” Thanks for the large one-toping pizza Council.  I’m still out-of-pocket to tip the driver.

You want to help? Build an infrastructure that will support business growth. Businesses want: 1) Customers…well, Cape Coral has about 162k potentials with 700k in the metro area, so check! 2) A workforce. We have 10% unemployment, so…check! 3) Good climate…check! 4) Cheap land…CHECK! 5) Infrastructure…Ummm. The fact is, if the previous council was so concerned about helping families, infrastructure would have been a top priority. Working to find a solution, rather than trying to scapegoat the 1500+ city employees should have been what they did. It wasn’t. Not anti-employee? I’m almost laughing too hard to type. I am not going to go into that here, but suffice it to say I have never seen a CEO and board of directors do so much to intentionally undermine their staff and workers. What about the mythical university? You know, the one that the Mayor likes to talk about? Same rules apply for it as other businesses. No water, no sewer, no internet…no university. And he knows it. So when he starts talking about wanting high-tech to move here, ask yourself WHY in the world a tech company would relocate here when the median education level of the residents is too low for them and they can’t get high-speed internet to 60+% of the city? They won’t. Finally, they “want to restart the UEP, but now is not the right time.” They cry about how assessments will kill lot and home sales. People will just hand over their lots! Well, with the majority of sales right now going to investors who have a long view, I doubt that. Furthermore, bidding and building NOW while prices are low, locks in the savings. If we wait, we will be in the 2005 situation of having to pay mini-bar prices for things like concrete, copper, and rebar. Use the market downturn to our advantage. There is never a “perfect time” to take on additional burden, but now is the best possible time to do it. The biggest lie of all? We are overtaxed at the city level.

I will use myself as an example because I am a worst-case scenario. I bought my house at the height of the housing bubble. So, here is my tax bill broken down- $1939.41 is the total for Ad Valorem Taxes PLUS special assessments. Of that, $1126.36 is “Special Assessments” and ALL of that has to do with water, irrigation, storm water, and wastewater…ALL of it. that means, my entire share of city and county taxes is $813.05 Of that, $256.01 goes to the city general fund. You know, the governmental body that actually provides me with the services to live from day to day- police, fire, parks, streets, etc.. That comes out to $21.33/month to live in this city. 13% of my tax bill goes to the entity that provides me with the most services. I am NOT overtaxed at the city level. You want to be mad at your taxes? Direct your ire to Washington, D.C. because there you have some legitimate complaints. If that doesn’t hit “close enough to home” for you, direct it across the river to the Lee County government.  Citizens of Cape Coral are the county’s cash cows.  But for all the taxes we pay to Lee County, what level of service are we receiving? I believe in low taxes, small government and personal responsibility. I also believe that you decide what level of government service you want and you set your budget and tax rate accordingly. Henry David Thoreau wrote in his essay “Civil Disobedience,” “I demand not at once no government, but at once, a better government.” I believe we have that better government now. This Council needs our support in their efforts to modernize this city and help it realize its potential.

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