Dear Citizen of Charlotte County:
On August 16, 2011, the Board of County Commissioners unanimously adopted the Parkside Redevelopment Plan (PRP) – a $35,000,000 project over a period of up to 20 years aimed at “revitalizing” the Parkside district of Port Charlotte. This plan is described in a 47-page document published by the Commission titled “Citizen’s Master Plan (CMP.)”
In it, the Commissioners write:
“Key to this process was the Board’s wish to see a private/public partnership formed in which the public would share in the development and implementation of the [CMP].” (page 1)
Regarding financing, they write:
“The County shall establish Tax Increment Financing (TIF) as one of many sources of revenue for the district.” “TIF is a tool that uses future tax revenues generated in excess of the base tax existing at the time the TIF is formed to fund district improvements.” (page 31)
[More explicitly, what this means is that such improvements made through TIF will (presumably) raise property values, and so, in turn, will raise tax revenues. With these increased revenues, the Parkside district will repay the County, so then, it will cost the County nothing.]
The Commissioners also write:
“It is envisioned that as the redevelopment of the district area occurs, the Citizens’ Master Plan will serve as a framework for any future Revitalization Plans under the County’s Comprehensive Plan.” (emphasis added)
On July 18 of this year, this writer, joined by David Kesselring, sent an email to Commissioner Tricia Duffy, in whose district Parkside falls. Copies were also sent to the other commissioners. The email included an attached document, “Rebuttal to the Parkside Redevelopment Plan.” In the email, David and I proposed that the Commission post this document on its website as a counterpoint to the CMP. We repeated this proposal again on August 8 and on August 22. There was no response.
In the last emails, we also proposed that the Commission authorize a process through which a citizen could, through a petition, attain a standing that would entitle him or her to challenge the Commission to an email debate on the Parkside project, or on other policy issues. To this proposal, however, there was also no response.
As there were only two people making such proposals, the Commissioners’ unresponsiveness doesn’t come as a surprise. There’s now, however, a third proposal that combines elements of the prior two. It comes in the form of a online petition, in which, upon reaching a threshold number of signatures, authorizes an advocate for the petitioners to challenge the Commissioners to an email debate on three issues relating to the PRP.
That online petition can be accessed here.
Three further points:
1- Signing this petition would not mean that you oppose the Parkside project; it means that, in order to have a more effective public discussion of the PRP, you’d support an email debate addressing issues raised by it.
2- As stated in the petition, signing it would also mean that you have read the “Rebuttal…” Some, who may oppose the PRP in any case may feel that such a reading is unnecessary. But even in such a case, there are still two justifications for such reading:
First, even you’re already knowledgeable, reading the “Rebuttal…” specifies that knowledge. With such specific documentation, the petition becomes equivalent to an in-depth letter sent by at least 425 informed citizens.
Secondly, this petition is also about the selection of myself as the advocate for the petitioners. For those not relying on endorsements, my authorship of the “Rebuttal…” would be the primary qualification for such a responsibility – but it can’t be such a qualification unless it is read.
3- The “Rebuttal…,” including the summary and the excerpts cited from the CMP, is about 3900 words — a long document, but not as long as it may seem. About 2000 of those are excerpts from the CMP, which contain little if any argument, and so can be read easily. While 1900 words of rebuttal remain, they aren’t in a single rebuttal, but several smaller ones, each addressing a particular excerpt. The largest of these is 600 words, but that itself is subdivided. So it’s not as forbidding as the raw numbers might suggest.
Still, the petition does demand more of its signatories than most other petitions do. But, in doing so, it asserts a very important principle – that those who take positions on public issues have a responsibility to be knowledgeable about those issues. Through this petition, we assert that principle through example.
We ask that you read this petition. If you support its objectives, we ask that you sign.
Additional things you can do:
Contact the Commissioners directly by telephone or e-mail. (E-mails sent to email@example.com are forwarded to all the commissioners.) If you do so, please send a copy to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Circulate the paper flyer accessible here.
If you’ve read this far, then you’ve already done something — you’ve given this initiative consideration. Thank you.
For democracy through reason,
Punta Gorda Tea Party