Excessive taxation is never good for anyone, except for the government itself.
Lee County amassed reserves of tens of millions of dollars — well beyond what is considered appropriate for a legislative body. This has led to a complete breakdown in fiscal responsibility.
Carrying reasonable reserves is good, but the excessive reserves built up in prior years have enabled county government to delay taking stock of what it does and what it should be doing differently.
County government does have important tasks and that work has to be paid for. But government should do only a few things and do them well in order not to become a financial drag on our local economy.
Hoarding such a large amount of cash was also not good for the simple reason it took equity out of the economy, where it could have been put to work in the community.
More importantly, the excessive reserves have enabled our county government to cling to the status quo and protect itself for too long. As a result, we have failed to adjust to the new reality in which we are living.
Trying to return to the patterns of the past or perpetuate government in the size and form that served the past will not serve us well in the "new normal" we face as a community.
We have squandered this huge store of cash hoarded under previous policies.
Now is the time for direct action with consequential results.
We must demand better cooperation between the county and our cities, so as to reduce waste and overlap with our utilities. This saves everyone money and resources. Our county cannot excel as long as our cities and communities struggle. After all, we are one county, not separate fiefdoms.
We can no longer promote suburban sprawl. We must focus on supporting our existing urban centers, while promoting redevelopment and infill. It is in the best interest for the region's economic and environmental health.
We must help our existing urban centers become self-sustaining: bringing jobs to the cities and communities where people live, not creating new economic centers in the unincorporated areas. Forcing people into longer commutes is not the answer.
All of this could and should have been done in the good times as well as the bad. It is doubly tragic that we have used our overly large stores of cash to perpetuate an overly large bureaucracy rather than invest wisely for a different future.
There needs to be a reality check. If it's a financial "storm" we are weathering, then its been five-years long. We must recognize the economy has been "re-set" and altered. The sooner we grasp this reality, the sooner we can make the necessary adjustments with staff and spending.
The only wise way to extricate ourselves from this is to look forward with conservative principles, not backwards for a place or time to which to return.