Commentary: A Budget Cut That Doesn’t Need to Hurt

By Mike Phillips

Wow. Did that governor of ours ever give us something to think about. We thought our request for a million bucks to help us advance our riverfront stabilization project was a no-brainer.

He thought not.

My first thought, of course, was, “How can he do that to us? Doesn’t he know how important tourism is to our economy and Florida’s? And what’s a measly million-dollar contribution to our modest historic district flood management project at a mere $14-18 million overall?” Visitors won’t spend money if their feet are wet. Doesn’t he get that?”

Having done some serious corporate budget-cutting of my own back in the day, I thought that surely I could get into his head and find the flaw in his thinking that needs correcting.

But as I looked at the truly radical budget-cutting and bureaucracy-shaking ideas he’s starting to advance in his campaign for the presidency. I thought again. I realized I’m a mere budget-cutting amateur watching not just a pro, but a prophet.

You see, I’ve concluded that the governor just did Fernandina Beach a favor.

Here’s the deal: This town mostly hates bond issues. It sees them as foisting our financial burdens off on our grandchildren. And somehow, it fails to recognize that seawall stabilization is a gift TO our grandchildren. Our generation pays some, our kids pay some and our grandkids polish it off. And all generations avoid downtown flooding without a lot of financial pain.

That’s not prophetic thinking. It’s common sense in the world of municipal management. The governor probably shook his head and sighed as he axed the request. “When will they learn?” he might have been thinking.

Well, when will we? Instead of begging for small change to help us with our most important civic improvement project – one that will benefit generations – why don’t we step up and float a bond issue, get the job done and move on to the next challenge in our lives?

Why not?

Editor’s note: The Observer welcomes thoughtful commentaries when submitted. The opinions expressed in any commentary are solely those of the writer.

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Trusted Member
1 year ago

I think this makes a lot of sense. We can’t expect higher Government to fund local issues like this. There probably are thousands of locations that need to harden their communities from sea rise. Can the governor or feds fund them all? Good commentary. Thanks.

Robert Weintraub
Trusted Member
Robert Weintraub(@rukbat23gmail-com)
1 year ago

Agree!. This idea has been floated for several years, It’s time has come.

Rick Abernathy
Rick Abernathy(@rick-abernathy)
1 year ago

Agreed Mike. We can do this and support ourselves by cutting our own budget which is way overdue to be cut.

Noble Member
1 year ago

I volunteered for the Community Redevelopment Area Advisory Board because I thought my experience and expertise in the area of economic development would be useful to the city in finally moving the riverfront development plan forward. After just a few months on the CRAAB, it became clear to me that the fundamental problem that stymied the plan’s implementation was flooding. A sea wall had been planned but only partially built not because of lack of funds but because of lack of site control. The city does not own all of the waterfront and the lowest point–the crux of the flooding issue–is in private hands. The city has made multiple attempts to acquire this land over the years–none of them successful. Despite the fact that the city has the right to use eminent domain to acquire this property, city commissions have refused to use it for the last 18 years. I don’t know why DeSantis vetoed the grant but I never expected the city to be able to get one. There is no point in giving the city a grant to build a seawall when it does not own the land necessary to do it. For the same reason, there is no point in issuing bonds either. Until the city commission decides to use eminent domain and acquire the property, the rest of the plan cannot be implemented. Opening Alachua to Front Street is going to be problematic, too. Front Street needs to be widened and rebuilt in order to handle the increased traffic but the city lacks the necessary right of way to do that and that comes down to using eminent domain too. When I realized that the city commission was the impediment, I resigned from the CRAAB because I concluded I was wasting my time. By the way, the city doesn’t need to acquire the entire parcel in question. It only needs to acquire enough to build the wall and an easement to maintain it.