Editorial: It’s another election year


She’s not up for re-election until 2016, but three-term St Johns County Commissioner, Cyndi Stevenson is certainly peddling the County Administrator’s Kool Aid.

Every year Doug Timms office prepares a budget, and then Michael Wanchick blesses it and presents it to the Board of County Commissioners who must approve it — or not. They usually do. The voters and taxpayers usually do not.

It seems to get worse every year, but it can be particularly gruesome during an election year; what I like to call “silly season”. Rest assured that every candidate for District 2 and District 4 will have an opinion about how the budget should be reduced … that is, except the incumbents.

It seems like after they are elected, they decide it is easier, or safer, to just approve whatever Wanchick’s office pumps out; after all, next year’s budget is already in the can, and any changes, more than very cosmetic ones, aren’t likely to pass without strong staff opposition.

Cyndi Stevenson, who this publication’s editorial board has endorsed during each of her three campaigns, is usually just as critical of the budget, until she gets comfortable with the numbers, regardless of how far along the staff is with preparing it. We expected that from her because she is a certified public accountant in real life and probably best qualified of all the commissioners to audit the process.

That said, I’m scratching my head, because all my hair is gone, and I’m trying to piece together in my mind why she is coming out with an early recommendation in a Jacksonville newspaper in support of creating a one-cent increase in the sales tax; giving the county more money to spend — or, as has been the case in recent years, to borrow against.

Our editorial philosophy is and has always been conservative. Cyndi is an elected member of the Republican Executive Committee and so am I, which is why I am puzzled that her solution to spending more money than she has cash to cover is to raise taxes instead of cut spending. Oh, that’s right, we’ll lose the “quality of life” here in St Johns County that we have become so accustomed to. I’m calling “bullshit” on that excuse.

“Because the county began to cut spending and put away reserves to help us weather the economic decline, many residents and businesses are unaware of the county’s funding challenges,” Stevenson wrote in a Guest Column published on the editorial page of the Florida Times Union last week. Interesting comment in light of commission Chairman Jay Morris, who IS running for re-election this year, and who never misses an opportunity to tell anyone who will listen that our reserves are bulging, our credit rating has gone up two points in one year, and the county is as sound as a pound. He even repeated his position at the Republican meeting Thursday night. Is he that unaware of those “funding challenges”, Cyndi?

“The county has been cutting spending and doing more with less for more than six years,” Stevenson wrote. If that is true, why have property taxes remained at disturbing levels?

“While we continue to find ways to serve citizens better and more cost-effectively, it is clear at this point that we cannot cut our way out of this deficit without impacting service levels.” I guess you can’t spook people without a boogeyman — the sheriff’s office and fire department always threaten to cut patrolmen and firemen on the trucks, but you are going for service levels. Nice choice. A deficit exists when you spend more money than you have to spend. I’m not a certified public accountant, but I don’t need one to explain that to me.

Wasn’t it Ronald Reagan who pointed out that the funding challenges you are seeing are not because we have too few taxes, but because we have too much spending? Here’s a suggestion. When you get the six-figure bill for the losses in operating the county-owned golf course, cut THAT, and pay the overdue maintenance that has simply been “deferred”.

Stevenson closed by saying, “This subject is too important to fall victim to another round of election year politics. To me, the choice is clear: St. Johns County is the best place in Florida to live, work and play. It is worth a penny in sales taxes to keep it that way.”

And let me close by saying our editorial board has made it clear to me that we will not endorse or recommend any candidate who supports adding new taxes, increasing existing taxes, or any other cockamamie scheme that doesn’t have at its core a reduction in government spending.