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Dealing with the high cost of resident Gene Jaleski and his power line burial fight

STEVE REID
Editor & Publisher
sreid@lbknews.com

I want to congratulate the Town leaders for a major accomplishment.

In the face of public outrage and pressure and cries of injustice, this Commission is bringing the Town the opportunity to bury all of its power lines from bridge to bridge and everywhere in between.

Is the method they have pursued to pay for the undergrounding fair? Is it just? Will the vote pass?

The answers to the first two depend on whose perspective you want to take.

But we ought not lose sight that if residents can find the will and capacity to vote “Yes” in support of this undergrounding plan, the island will gain three things: an aesthetic boost that will otherwise probably never be accomplished. An opportunity to have an island wide street and neighborhood lighting plan and lastly, we will have the opportunity for island-wide fiber optic connectivity.

 

A more perfect Longboat Key

Because of the enmity and pettiness over the payment plan, we have lost sight of what we are getting and what is at stake.

I maintain that the sitting Commission worked diligently to come up with a method that shifted the cost as best it could to the greatest number of property owners. They have made a plan that is all-inclusive and has the greatest vision for our community. For that I am thankful.

If it passes, many will be upset, but the island — Longboat Key as a personified ideal of a community — will be elevated and invested in and rendered a more valuable and beautiful place than before.

 

The cost of bitterness…

That being said, the bitterness and fight against the plan has taken many forms. For one, resident Gene Jaleski has legally challenged the Town and the way the Town went about posting information about undergrounding, when the Town took that information down and the effect that may have had on the voting process.

In short, Jaleski did what we find as most valuable in Gene Jaleski. Although I often do not agree with the way Jaleski voices his opinions, I give him credit for the time, energy and involvement he makes in town affairs over the years and decades.

In this case he filed an election violation complaint (see story on page 1). Whether his complaint has merit or not is not what matters in this case. What matters is it represents his best attempt to fight what he sees as an unfair and impartial process. At the very least it is a catharsis of all of the anger and angst many residents feel facing the prospect of an assessment amounting to thousands of dollars for the undergrounding.

And Jaleski is not some outsider. He lives in the Village and is facing an ad valorum hit of more than $6,000 if the referendum(s) pass. He also is a technical fighter — he is doing what is all-too-common. He made a plea emotionally in Town Hall and when that failed, he looked for technical problems. Did the Town follow procedure to the letter? Did the Town notice its meetings correctly? etc., etc.

Jaleski has been successful in other fights using technical arguments. In this case, the Town is waving the specter of going after Jaleski for legal fees for his election complaints. They say he acted maliciously and with malicious intent. I beg to differ.

 

Who is manipulating?

It is far more malicious to use taxpayer’s dollars to pay attorneys and outside counsel to create the arguments to go after Jaleski in the first place — that is malicious and bullying.

The Town was vindicated by the state in the first complaint. It followed procedure correctly according to the Florida Election Commission. In other words, being right is its own reward. Now it is time to move on and talk to residents and prepare for the vote on undergrounding.

We should not be sucked into emotionally driven attempts to go after a resident and taxpayer. And by the way, the attempt would fail. The Town has the right to pursue the fees, but would likely not win. The Commission is merely using intimidation and manipulating the legal system — the very things they accuse Jaleski of doing.

We need to keep our eyes on the big picture and what is best for Longboat Key. This Commission was bold enough and forward thinking enough to proceed with giving us the chance to underground all of our utility lines. Not everyone was or is happy. Deal with it. The Commission did an admirable job giving everyone a voice in Town Hall on the issue. Let’s not get petty and personal.

If Jaleski costs the Town money defending itself, then that is the cost of doing business. He plays a watchdog in our community. He often proves valuable in that respect.

Let’s not forget the Longboat Commission cost residents over $1 million fighting over the Key Club approval and the Commission was proven wrong and lost in court. No resident was reimbursed for that waste of time and money.

So let’s not over-compensate and use taxpayer’s money trying to silence Jaleski. Instead, we all need to look forward to a day this island is undergrounded and not fall into the trap of taking on another battle that cannot be won.

This Commission can act so decisively and willfully on one hand and then drive right off the rails.

Please, stay on track.

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8 Responses for “Dealing with the high cost of resident Gene Jaleski and his power line burial fight”

  1. Peter O'Connor says:

    Bob,

    Well said, Bob. Beaches are indeed THE important feature of our Island Home. These have been
    neglected in recent years. This feature of a coastal island deserves Professional management and
    engineering.

  2. bob says:

    Certainly the under grounding projects will add an esthetic value to LBK in general. Regardless of who pays and how, the bigger question is the $48M that will be borrowed to finance this program. I am concerned that borrowing this much money for a no essential upgrade will hurt the towns ability to do highest priority issues. We all know that the #1 priority that keeps real estate values stable and keeps the associated tax base healthily comes from Great Beaches. While we will spend $48M on under grounding, the beaches have been suffering from a lack of continuous attention. The upcoming beach project is large but only half of what was done in 2005. SInce then we have lost much of the dune system, all of the sand and more and this process continues each day. I worry that borrowing $48M will have a further negative impact on taking care of the beaches. If it does, property values will go down in my opinion and the tax base that supplies all the benefits we enjoy on LBK will be compromised. It is time for a strategic vision on LBK. What do we have to have? What do we want? How does the present desire to under grounding fit into the plan and how does it impact the ability or will to do what we have to do?

  3. ghostrider says:

    I am truly impressed with the number of people here that will have the need for dark fiber. Just the other day my wife said to me:
    “Thank goddess for the coming of dark fiber. What did we do all these years without it?”
    “We endured.” I responded. “What’s a few thousand dollars, when you can have a small committee give you what you have always wanted, but, were hesitant to ask for.”
    “So true,” she added. “The few, helping the many, understand what their future needs will be. In twenty years the residents will be saying: “Thank you for having our best interests at heart and thank you for those yearly allocations of sand.”

    A few thousand dollars here, and, a few thousand there, and in no time, we can rid the island of the paw folk on fixed incomes.

  4. Lizzie Brown says:

    It seems to me that human nature will always find questions to ask – sometimes relevant and sometimes less so. However, when matters are decided by the few on behalf of the many in an obviously unfair and unreasonable manner then surely questions should be asked and answers given? Isn’t this the meaning of democracy?

  5. Cheryl Fraser says:

    Mr Jaleski is right! This is a commission of bullies.They should be ashamed of themselves for forcing this down the throats of the citizens of LBK! To take the information down the information all should have the right to read is a crappy thing to do to the citizens of LBK. Does the Commission have something to hide? They must! Stop keeping information from the public! The Commission should be honest and give the citizens all the information we need!!

  6. Another taxpayer without a vote says:

    I agree…. this whole dark fiber thing is total bunk and it will never be used to benefit the residents. I manage quite in a large municipal fiber infrastructure in Illinois (hence I’m not a FL resident and can’t vote in FL even though I pay property taxes). The only thing this will ever be used for is to maybe connect the town buildings or maybe the school district, but there are no county schools on Longboat. So at best it may save some town some money to connect it’s buildings rather than paying telco’s for connectivity. This power line thing is a total joke! Most of the people who vote for it will be dead before they finish paying for it. I’m only in my early 40’s so maybe I’ll be lucky enough to see it to the end.

  7. Taxpayer without a vote says:

    Your article mentions a benefit of having fiber optic. Please explain how fiber optics benefits the property owners. I honestly do not understand the benefit beyond fiber optics for phone and cable companies which I thought the companies paid for. Thanks for the explication.

  8. Sharon says:

    When someone legally challenges the Town, the Town is forced to spend money for it’s legal fees caused by the suit.
    When I read about all this ongoing strife, I’m amazed that such a lovely environment can support so much angst! The Colony, the peacocks, the power lines…oh, my!

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