Friday, October 18, 2002

George Mindling Column 10-18-2002

Too Young to Live in Port Charlotte


One of our new neighbors has been melancholy, almost morose, ever since moving to Port Charlotte from up north. Recently retired, she and her husband eagerly moved to the land of fun and sun, hoping to lead a new, energetic life. However, she has the blues.

"We're too young to live here," she confided in us. "We had no idea everything here was so old-fashioned and so backwards. Local politics is a typical small town farce, a lot of the local population lives just above the poverty level... and everyone wants to live here for free!"

We tried to console her, telling her getting through the first year is the hard part. Then it becomes hard to leave our odd little version of paradise.

“Competing with retirees who work for free is out of the question, I'm and not driving 75 miles round trip to Fort Myers to work 35 hours a week at $9 an hour!" she continued. “They keep it under 40 hours so they don't have to pay benefits!"  When I asked why she wanted to go back to work, she simply stared and said, "Obviously, your, 401 (k) is not funded by the stock market!"

The economic development of Charlotte County is the key to our future. We need to plan now for the water and sewer, roads and traffic control to support urban growth. We already know that newcomers want to build away from the old, established areas that reflect the older-style homes and retirement area atmosphere, regardless of financial consequences dictated by the county.

It appears fewer of the homes are being built by retirees and more by younger child raising families. The retirees coming into our area now are as different from the retirees who first moved here as they are from their parents.

Some of the revenue for seeding the economic development is in jeopardy. Ten percent of the state sales tax surcharge, locally called the "extension," is devoted to economic development. It is a ballot item for Nov. 5. Charlotte County has a new look this election. Economic growth is no longer the taboo subject it was only four years ago. The 1-percent sales tax extension is up for renewal.

Some opponents want to scare every voter into thinking this is a new tax. It isn't. We already pay it. So do 51 of the other 67 counties in Florida. There are several large counties that don't collect the surcharge, such as Brevard, Broward and Orange counties. They use the huge amounts collected by their respective bed taxes to collect non-advalorem revenues.

There are those who want to forgo all responsibilities of citizenship once they move to our area. No more taxes, no more new streets or schools, no more police or firefighters or stations. No more anything.

My neighbor is right, these people want to live here for free. If the opponents kill the sales tax extension, then my neighbor is right again: We are too young to live here.

George Mindling © 2002

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