At every budget workshop along the barrier island, there is a call for looking beyond this year’s spreadsheet to explore how each town might prepare itself for a continuing drop in real estate value — the primary source of revenue for our coastal towns — and a rising cost in services provided by the larger governing bodies to the west.
How we move our towns forward with sustainable local economies is an exercise being discussed throughout America. Since these challenges are not unique to our area, The Coastal Star
is beginning a series exploring how similar issues have been raised and addressed in other locations. In this first installment, reporter Thomas R. Collins explores the challenges encountered when merging governing bodies.
Hopefully this series will help our residents — and elected officials — better understand the pitfalls and possibilities of changing the way we do business in our coastal towns.
The challenges are daunting: building unified public sentiment, working within Florida’s open-meeting laws and developing tireless, strong leadership to make changes of this magnitude a reality.
I’m not worried about the leadership. Our coastal area may be small in population, but it is huge in intellect and business acumen. Our local mayors have already taken the first step toward exploring what might be gained by studying potential benefits of consolidation of services. They are on the right track.
I am concerned about negative perceptions regarding Florida’s Sunshine Laws. Our elected officials must keep in mind that these laws allow for the public (and the media) to be openly informed about all changes proposed for our communities.
Can protocol be a challenge in a small town? Absolutely. But, open discussion is an essential part of maintaining public trust.
And trust is critical if we are to work together to build a sustainable quality of life in this very special place we call home.
Mary Kate Leming