I am heading to Boston this week and I decide to drive up to DC, pick up my eldest and we make the winter trek to Boston together. It’s going to snow so we got the makings of an adventure, needless to say. Thinking about the snow we may face got my mind going in the direction of things that make you scratch your head in confusion.
The first thing is the phrase “I know we are a small county.” I hear that at the beginning of discussions an awful lot when talking to folks about issues. It seems as if somehow or someway that catch phrase has sort of been ingrained into folks as the reason things are the way they are. While it may be true, we are a smaller county in population, it does not mean our tax dollars are worth less than the larger counties. As it goes, I don’t understand why being a small populated county has anything to do with issues that affect John Q. Public. I keep asking what being a “small county” means when I hear it as the answer to why certain things are the way they are, so far there has not been any answers, but the question has provoked thought.
Because of my grandfather, I am an election fanatic. Whether it be local or national, I love to guess the strategies behind each campaign. I watched in disbelief as a local candidate at a political forum described on several occasions how bad the situation had been in a particular town for years and how they witnessed problems, etc. This candidate was promising change and giving us what was the road map to success and in effect promising change. Now, from the outside that kind of talk makes you feel all warm and fuzzy, however, in this instance the candidate had been in office for over 15 years and in fact was in the seat during the terrible times described and was touting change? Guess what … wait for it. The candidate garnered enough votes to win another term.
We pay significantly more for gasoline in Highlands County than a lot of our neighboring counties. One of those taxes is what is referred as the ninth cent tax. It is my understanding that since 1990 this tax has been in place for capital expenditures on the roads in our county. I would not even be close if I guessed how many gallons of gasoline has been purchased since 1990. Folks have been taxed on that gallon in our county an awful lot. Let’s ask the folks in Silver Fox and Orange Blossom Estates how that tax has been working out for them. I bet there is excitement each time those residents fill up the vehicle with gasoline. Seems to me we ought to have more input on how our money is spent. Some would argue we do with elections ... see previous paragraph.
Our roads have become unsafe and frankly people are losing their lives because of it. It’s not construction; a lot of it is speed. So, we asked the sheriff’s department to, maybe, you know, look at getting some traffic folks out there. We got a reply from the PIO, something about there is not enough money to protect our citizens on the roads we pay a ninth cent tax to maintain. My words; he may have been more eloquent. Got to wonder where our money goes yet again. However, just last month we saw the sheriff’s department give the county back 1.2 million of our dollars with a lot of fanfare. John Q did however get two or more used patrol cars with dummies sitting in the driver’s seat watching over our roads. Now, for a small county that’s a lot of cash. Maybe we are not so small after all.
I really think we need to find a way to spend our money for the betterment of We the People. Why we don’t is just beyond me and why as a group we don’t ask more from elected officials for our county eludes me as well.
I asked to go on a route with an agency that delivers food to elderly folks who are in need. I was excited and looked forward to doing so. After finishing the route, I was more perplexed than ever.
Three of the stops we did seemed to be for those who genuinely needed help based on the environment and the situations I observed. As the route progressed, we moved into a very affluent neighborhood and delivered to homes that were valued well over the $250K mark. I realize that the elderly alone need help, no matter what the scenario, so I went with an open mind. One of the three we delivered there may be in need, however the other two did not need our delivery and in fact one of them was not there to receive the delivery, nor picked up the phone. I was, however, shown a little of the business the recipient ran from the back yard. It’s a government funded program, so when asked I was told if the qualifications are met, they get delivered. The sad news is there were hundreds on the waiting list. I wonder how many of those folks desperately need the service. Hunger is never to be taken lightly and what little help is funded in the country should be going to those who are in fact hungry.
So, I head to Boston with these things on my mind and worry about the snow. The good news is, I will only be in the snow for a little while. The other news, I will be back in Florida where there will still be a lot of snowing going on.
Tim Smolarick is publisher of the Highlands News-Sun and Highlands Sun. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org