A blog dealing with Sarasota County and the City of Sarasota.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Clean Energy Tax Credits Set to Expire

Earlier this evening I heard a knock at the door and discovered an earnest young man, a canvasser for Clean Water Action. He wanted three things: my name on a petition (the main value of which is probably providing a way for the organization to get back in touch with me), 2) a donation (I declined, citing my need for campaign funds of my own combined with going half a year without a salary) and 3) for me to write a letter to Senator Mel Martinez about renewing the clean energy tax credits and opposing offshore oil drilling. 

I wasn't sure that was a great use of my time, but he knew how to close and I agreed to write a letter for him to pick up later. The text of that letter follows:

Dear Senator Martinez

I don’t need to tell you the recent spike in oil and gasoline prices has created tremendous public pressure to move forward on long deferred solutions to our dependence on fossil fuels, fuels that have made us unduly dependent on other regions of the world and which are apparently jeopardizing the planet’s climate.

Many have seized on additional oil exploration and development as either a solution or a stopgap measure, despite the fact that almost everyone acknowledges that drilling now has no short-term connection to gas prices. To me it seems a little like an addict looking for one more fix before checking into rehab. But the Drill-Baby-Drill chorus seems to have broad public appeal and one thing about our system of government is our right to make bad choices that defy logic and common sense.

The only thing standing between us and such bad choices is leadership and I am writing to hope you can provide some of that leadership.

In particular, I hope you will emphasize the need to invest in solar and other clean renewable technologies. That is especially crucial here in Florida and could be even more important for Sarasota, a county with a growing reputation for, and investment in, sustainability. I am very concerned that solar and wind tax credits are set to expire at the end of the year— and that would be a disaster for those small businesses investing in an alternative energy future.

Please do what you can to extend and possibly expand the clean energy tax credits and resist any energy strategies that could place Florida at greater risk.

Monday, September 8, 2008

County Budget ::yawn:: Hearing [Plain Speak Version]

For those of you who missed tonight's (September 8th) County Budget Hearing in Venice, here's a brief recap. Neither of my District One opponents made the scene, not even the one who seems to have a lot of pointed and critical questions about the budget.

First of all it is a very structured (stilted) form of meeting, with a prescribed script and parts read almost like a responsive reading. The language is some form of legal/technical and the sum total of the requirements renders the process relatively opaque. 

The Chair made it clear that this was not the meeting to contest the appraised value of property or discuss Grant-in-Aid awards. I think that clarification reduced the number of likely speakers.

While there appeared to be at least a couple of dozen citizens in the audience, only one spoke to question the cost of a water line extension on Shore Road. A county staff member attempted to explain the relative roles of parcels versus equivalent dwelling units (EDU's) in establishing the appropriate fees and the Chairman encouraged them to discuss the matter further outside in the hall. 

The big news is a bump up from a $184,000 increase (from the draft budget) to half a million for grants in aid. These funds are distributed the various Human Services agencies in the county, and there is a demonstrated increased need, even though most agencies submitted flat (no increase) budget requests. Four Commissioners supported the increase, with Commissioner Mercier voting against. He seemed to argue that adding funds now would result in much more painful cuts next year.

The county also added $1.6 million to cover anticipated increases in the cost of energy next year. 

Blog readers may be pleasantly surprised to learn that the adopted net total budget per capita is lower than FY 2005, 2006 and 2007. In addition, the number of employees per citizen continues to drop. 

A local appraiser hired by the county reported that when everything is considered it is cheaper, or at least better value, to have central water than a well and septic tank. 

The meeting ended with a long list of rate changes for various lighting districts [Shadow Lakes Lighting District saw a decrease in millage rates, all the others went up, some by more than 50%.] That was followed by some ritualized roll call voting.

Chairman Staub expressed her dissatisfaction with the state-required format and noted that the Governor was advocating a move towards "plain speak", which apparently is supposed to be a more straightforward way to convey government actions. It was clear she didn't believe the budget adoption came close to meeting that goal.

A final hearing will be held September 22 at 7:00 p.m. in the County Administration Building on Ringling.