August 1, 2008

Delegation Has A Right To Be Upset Over Crist’s Sugar Deal

By Highlands Today, Sebring, Fla.

Aug. 1--Timing is everything, and when it comes to convincing voters to support increasing their property taxes even for good causes is a difficult sell in the best of times. We're not even close to good economic times around here.

Proponents of a proposed property tax increase to allow the county to purchase and preserve environmentally sensitive lands made the right decision when they, and the Natural Resource Advisory Committee, decided to not have county commissioners put it on the November ballot.

Although the proposed tax was tiny, and held great potential benefits for the county and our environmentally sensitive areas, it would have been a waste of time to put it on the ballot.

We're encouraged that NRAC and proponents of the ballot initiative plan to revisit this issue. It's a legitimate idea to protect the land so precious to all of us. We must find a way to make sure our area's best attributes are protected. Whether an increased property tax is the way to achieve that depends on what voters think. And they certainly deserve to make that choice -- but not right now.

This difficult economy forces a lot of good causes to hold off, at least temporarily, until conditions improve. Our economy will turn around, and we hope it's sooner rather than later. Until then, some of these ideas have to wait.

Florida's congressional delegation is upset at Gov. Charlie Crist's mega-deal to buy-out U.S. Sugar in Clewiston for $1.75 billion to improve water quality in the Everglades.

According to news reports, they don't necessarily want to stop the deal, but they're upset they knew nothing about it and could not provide input. We understand their anger, but wonder if they would have been any help in the process. Congress isn't exactly known these days for solving big problems. But they make some legitimate points.

Crist needs to quit hammering out deals on his own without more public input. His deal with Indian tribes concerning casino gambling has drawn a lot of criticism and legal questions. This sugar deal, which has many good points, also will devastate communities such as Clewiston. Shutting down the city's only industry has incredible effects.

The deal isn't done, according to Michael Sole, secretary of Florida's Department of Environmental Protection. Maybe not, but the damage has been done to all the citizens who own homes in the affected areas.

It's sometimes hard to feel sorry for our delegation, but this time they have a point.


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