Island Ploy Part of Bigger Plan
Cities were founded on the belief that local government understands best, the needs of local citizens. The state then determined that cities could legislate themselves. We are currently in a time where the state had giveth and now, with precedent, the state can taketh away.
Representative Robinson has stated that the sole reason for the second bill, a study on consolidating the three island cities, is due to declining populations on the island. He even went so far as to state that this is a proactive approach instead of a reactive one, as this will get ahead of the time when there are no longer enough residents to maintain 3 cities. What he said is entirely different than what I heard. Being that this study was not initiated by the city leaders and local bills are historically not controversial, it brings me to ponder whether the proactive approach that our state representatives are taking was generated years ago with the intended outcome being the elimination of cities.
You see, when state legislation caused the cities to lose their ability to regulate vacation rentals that were taking over the residential districts, this brought an onslaught of developers from all over the country gobbling up every beach house in site. The market value and rental prices soared, and the local hard-working citizens were pushed out of their homes and forced to move inland. The holdouts remain but are subject to declining quality of life due to noise, trash, nutrient loads in bays, congestion, and less ability to know their neighbors.
As mayor, it is my job to support our residents and businesses and to make decisions to maintain and improve the quality of their lives. Because of these efforts, full-time residents are returning. I have witnessed the drastic increase in property tax that the county receives by no longer being constrained by homestead caps ($17m in the past 10 years). Add to that, the Tourist Development Bed Tax that was sold to the voters even though it lacked foresight.
The voters thought this tax would be a good thing, that it would bring money to our cities from visitors instead of just property owners. What they didn’t understand is what a cash cow it became. The City of Holmes Beach alone has contributed well over $30 million in bed tax to the coffers since its inception, with little in return. It isn’t because we haven’t asked. It is because the county commission chose to use it elsewhere.
I don’t think it is a coincidence that this is all happening at the same time entire boards of county commissions are being replaced by potential “yes men” for developers. Campaigns are being driven by strategists, all heavily funded by big developer PAC money. I believe our state representatives have been taking a proactive approach for many years now, and it is setting up Florida’s coastal cities to fail.
Judy Holmes Titsworth
Mayor of Holmes Beach