EDITOR’S NOTE: Contributing columnist, Steve Nicklas, expresses his views and insights on various topics in Marketplace column.
Fernandina Beach is removed from the bustle of big towns, but offers a unique vantage point.
You see, the tiny town has a front-row seat to the political zaniness in Washington, D.C. And you don’t even have to travel or pay admission.
The same political dysfunction is occurring here — a microcosm of the nation’s capital. Unchecked spending. Baffling decisions. Stifling regulations. A distaste for businesses. And a deaf ear to the public.
Right here among us, in front of us. You don’t even have to read or hear about it.
And the similarities are striking, revolting.
Unchecked spending: Fernandina Beach city officials have raised the property tax rate each of the last three years — and still ran into deficit spending. Clearly, this is a case of spending too much. To boot, city officials are pushing forward with borrowing millions for unnecessary projects. Not unlike their federal peers, who continue to borrow and spend while failing to tackle a $14 trillion deficit.
Baffling decisions: Federal officials championed health care reform (as the U.S. economy cratered), while Fernandina Beach had its own version of missteps in “Forward Fernandina.” While unemployment runs over 11 percent in Nassau County, and businesses close their doors by the day, city officials are focused on pet projects that will bring little in terms or tourism, quality of life, or tax revenues.
Stifling regulations: At least three prominent businesses have recently endured the wrath of regulations within Fernandina Beach. Each invested in a costly expansion of their businesses — while city officials “fought them the whole way.” With ever-developing Dodd-Frank legislation and hundreds of new laws impacting businesses, you see the painful similarity on the federal level.
A distaste of businesses: As Obama administration officials demonize American businesses, Fernandina Beach officials maybe don’t have as much contempt — but a general disregard instead. They continue to hamper and harass businesses with a barrage of impact fees, fines, delays — causing some businesses to almost close before they ever open. And don’t get caught by watchful building officials, who reportedly follow delivery trucks to see what they’re doing and where they’re going.
Deaf ear to the public: While citizens across the U.S. express their displeasure with public policy — evidenced by the approval ratings for politicians — Fernandina Beach officials continue to ignore unrest. Two city commissioners lost by substantial margins in November elections, but remaining officials have ignored is statement of displeasure. And if you get the urge to express yourself, beware. You only get three minutes to talk during a city commission meeting.
The bottom line is that these are instances of public officials doing what they want — and not what the public wants or what is good for a community or a nation. This is not the first time this has occurred within government agencies, and won’t be the last.
But we do deserve better — politically speaking.