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O’C on O’C

PETER O’CONNOR
Staff Columnist
oconnor@lbknews.com

I came across a June 15, 2007 edition of this Newspaper.  I’d been researching questions for more recent candidates, and found this treatment of me by our Editor back then.  It is in the form of questions and answers to what he thought were my questions of that day.  My answers, then, follow.  You might see some similarity with today’s issues, or maybe not.  I hope my answers are consistent with my positions of today.  Here it is.

Reid : Do you think the dark sand used in the last renourishment was the right approach, or was it a mistake?  Is the dark sand working? 

A. O’C  “Is it working?  My understanding is darker sand is coarser, larger grain and holds better so in a sense I guess it is working.  If you look at some of the dunes in front of Bayport  and the way the whiter sugar sand blows around, that is the problem with the lighter, whiter variety.  Now is there a coarse light and white sand out there somewhere?  Maybe there is but I don’t think Bruce St, Denis’ request to spend $500,000 looking for it is a reasonable expenditure.  Bruce has it in the budget.  I don’t think it is a priority.”  We did actually fund two annual sand searches.

Reid:  Why shouldn’t property owners who live on the coast, and don’t have seawalls be allowed to stop erosion and build a  seawall if it connects to adjacent properties?

A.  O’C  “Because it’s a Town Ordinance.  That’s the short answer. But the reason the Town did not vote on the ordinance, which would have allowed this is because the changes to the ordinance became site specific.  It would have amounted to the equivalent of spot zoning.  There is an abutting property owner who argued against that ordinance because it is site specific.  The ordinance has served the Town foe 20 years.”

Reid  There have been complaints that the Town is inundated with “For Sale” signs on properties due to the slow real estate market.  Do you agree with those who say the Town should ban real estate signs?

A.  O’C  “No, we already control it.  Most of the homeowner associations and condo associations already do not allow “For Sale” signs.  For instance, Bay Isles has no ‘For Sale’ signs.  We already regulate the signs more than anywhere else I’ve ever been.”

Reid: Should taxpayers be forced to pay extra to fix the “Hot spot” at the Islander Club where there is increased erosion due to its jutting out into the Gulf, or should the condominiums who benefit pay the cost?”

A.  O’C  “That’s interesting philosophically.  I suppose if you were a hard-nosed Town Manager you would have a piece of paper with the amount of tax revenue those condominium owners contribute to the Town.”

Reid:  But it could be argued that the Town is continuing to subsidize a vulnerable anomaly that over time will cost far more to continue than to rebuild on property that is already owned by the association.  Is that valid?  

A.  O’C “ The alternative would be to buy out the project – condemn it, and use eminent domain.  Not that I suggest that.  But it is established policy to share those kind of financial burdens among the taxing unit – in this case the Town of Longboat Key.  Let’s look at Villa DiLancia, they say we need a 130-foot beach.  Their former president says when the site plan was approved (by) the Town for this project. It showed 130 feet.  Therefore everyone bought property and made an investment believing that 130 feet (would) be maintained.  He said it’s the Town’s responsibility to maintain that.”   This one argument may be what we will hear again as we consider future beach renourishment.

Reid:  Is that so, or can the Town take the stand that it will not, because of budgetary constraints, continue to do any renourishment?  Because it has done so in the past, must it continue to do so in the future?

A.  O’C  “No.  Absolutely not.  The Town can do whatever it decides is the best policy.  It could happen that some day beach renourishment isn’t funded.  It happened in many places in the state.  I’m not recommending that but it has happened.” And here we are seven years later at just that point!

Reid:  There is a definite fear that the state legislature is going to enact mandatory tax reductions.  Do you see any part of the budget that you would cut, if such reductions are put into place?

A.  O’C  “Tax control is popular with legislators.  Take proposition 13 in California, or proposition 2.5 in Massachusetts.  In many situations an override of the tax restriction is allowed, if a majority of voters approve a local increase.  But in Boston, they managed the city without ever having an override.  They have wiggled around it some, with increases in fees other ways, but it has worked.  The Town is facing a decrease in assessed valuations, which means either a budget has to be cut or the tax rate will go up.  The short answer to your question is never a popular one – most of the budget is personnel.”

Reid:  In light of the confusion following the pulling of the Police Pension Ordinance from the agenda, who ultimately has to take responsibility for determining what Town commissioners are voting on, and what the result of that vote is?  Should it be the Town Attorney, the Mayor or the Town Manager?

A.  O’C  “The Mayor has no more power than anyone else.  And in the strictest sense, the Town Manager only speaks when spoken to.  All the work is done before the meeting; the clarity should be in the write up of each item.  It’s really a matter of who controls the agenda, controls everything.  And the Town Manager controls the agenda.”

This is, in my view, still the correct answer on this subject.  The current personalities might make a difference.

As you can see we, in 2007, were fascinated with white sand, with seawalls, with for-sale signs and signs in general, with The Islander, with Beach renourishment, with taxes, and finally with Who is in Charge.  The list might be a bit different now.

The Longboat Key Club Expansion application issue has come and gone in these intervening years.

In that front-page piece way back then in 2007 my friend Steve Reid said that I had “emerged as one of the feistier and more outspoken members of the Commisssion.”  That was nice.  I learned a lot in those remaining years on the Commission. Ultimately the people chose another!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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