State v. Local Control

New Florida Gov. Rick Scott vetoed $615 million in line items in a $69 BILLION state budget this month. Less than 1%. He also signed House Bill 7207 into law.

Them as whose oxen were gored are up in arms.

State Rep. Ron Saunders (D-Monroe County) has bemoaned the fact that the state Department of Community Affairs “which played a major role in making sure Monroe County governments adhere to Area of Critical State Concern mandates” is among the bovines “gutted.” See, House Bill 7207, the redesignatedCommunity Planning Act” essentially dismantles the D.C.A. by moving that agency’s duties to a new Division of Community Development.

Meanwhile, Gov. Scott came to the Keys for his first time as governor but I didn’t see him despite the fact that he stayed at a Marathon motel and spoke at the Marathon High School graduation.

Florida is bigger than many third world nations in land area, population, residential income, and tax revenue. Come to think of it, Florida is bigger than many European nations in all of the above.

To put that in perspective, the Florida $3 billion budget deficit is bigger than Vermont’s entire state budget.

Gov. Scott had made the Community Planning Act one of his priorities because oversight of development in the Keys should be handled locally rather than through Tallahassee.

“I believe in local government… It’s closer to the people,” he told the Keynoter. “I just don’t believe we ought to be running these things at the state level. I think that we ought to have local control of things. Each community needs to decide what they want to do in their community.”

Looking back to Vermont, local control is more than a buzzword.

Local control is on the lips of Town Selectmen, of voters at Town Meetings, of the 290 school superintendents serving Vermont’s 251 Towns.

New North Puffin Selectman Tom Tom Ripley summed it up, “We figure the one-size-fits-all solutions we get from the County or the State or the Feds or the One-World-Government fall well short of just letting our cities and towns muddle through our local issues.” Tom is North Puffin’s best known garbage man in a state where garbage collection is private enterprise and pretty much everyone with a pickup truck can be a trash hauler.

Indeed, Vermont has essentially no County government at all, relying on local boards to oversee our governmental needs from animal control to zoning.

On paper, local control looks as if it would be more expensive than the consolidated services available from the state or the Feds. After all 290 school superintendents just have to cost more for the 92,431 enrolled students than, say, a couple of dozen, right?


Of course, right. We know that banks gobbled up their neighbors and airlines swallowed their competitors to save us money. Of course, Judge Harold H. Greene broke up AT&T to, um, save us money, too.

There are other costs to government. A Facebook group “Abused Land Owners of Monroe County Florida Want Justice” reminds us that all is not right in Paradise. A familiar headline reads, “FBI investigates Florida political corruption in Capitol.” And Time Magazine reported that exclusive Palm Beach County, once the Kennedys’ winter playground, “has begun to rival Miami as the Sunshine State’s capital of corruption and political mischief.”

I guess the final answer is really a question: “Do you want the corrupt politician you can see at the Cracked Conch or the one hidden away in Tallahassee controlling how you use your property?”

3 thoughts on “State v. Local Control

  1. What a lovely choice.

    I do think, on principle, having as much local control as possible is best because people who have to live in the middle of things will be more likely to care about the outcome than outsiders. It also makes sense to me to have…the only word I can think of is guidelines (blast my aging brain-this week I’m contending with word salad along with my inability to find the words I want), but stronger, that locales should measure up to in the way of taking care of the environment, education outcomes, and things of that nature so that the states, and America as a whole, is providing the same opportunities for a healthy place to live and a decent education. But each community has its own unique challenges, and it should be up to the people who live and work in those communities to come up with the best means of meeting those standards.

    Of course, none of this changes the price of eggs, does it?

  2. Arleen, you have summed up nicely the argument most Vermonters make: Better the cad you can beat up daily at the local bar than the scoundrel you see but once a year. If you’re lucky.

    At least the local bounder has the opportunity not to listen to you many many times.

    Getting these rapscallions to adhere to community standards or community ethics, even if said code has the force of law, is another story.

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