By Paul Gable
If a picture is worth a thousand words, the editorial cartoon published by local cartoonist Ed Wilson on Facebook yesterday (pictured above) is worth an entire book.
The strokes of Wilson’s pen starkly captured the central problem with county government today. Serious issues (cans) have been kicked down the road for too long without being addressed.
The county’s public safety departments have suffered systemic problems from being ignored for too long.
Long hours, low pay and reduced benefits have led to low morale and high turnover resulting in understaffed public safety departments while the county population continues to grow creating ever larger demands for services.
There are many situations in which new personnel are paid almost as much, in some cases more, than officers with five plus years of experience. Even so, high turnover in the first few years of employment keeps the departments short of trained, experienced personnel.
According to many sources, the officers who provide our everyday safety needs are warned not to speak out publicly about issues within the departments or face reprisals.
The entire approach to public safety can be compared to sticking multiple fingers in a dike to, hopefully, hold off a deluge while continuing to turn a blind eye to attempting to plan a fix that would bring the departments to a more secure footing.
And public safety problems are not the only ones that have been ignored.
The heavy rains over the weekend caused considerable flooding in relatively new developments along Hwy 905 – again.
This seems to be a perfect example of allowing developers to rezone plots of land for residential housing, build and sell the houses quickly and get out with their profits before inherent problems in the area become known.
Even if rezoning requests were well researched and developed by county staff and council members, the pace of growth we are now again experiencing lets development seriously outpace the county’s ability to provide needed infrastructure and services to the new residents.
In 2015, council chairman Mark Lazarus said in a budget workshop, “We need to push forward for impact fees because of capital needs we’re going to have in the future…Our new growth is not being charged enough.”
Here we are in 2018 and nothing has been done about impact fees, planning and regulating new growth or providing the goods and services new growth requires. In other words, council continues to rezone at the developers’ request while ignoring the larger issues of public safety, roads, stormwater and so on.
According to discussion among council members, there are currently 57,000 zoned residential parcels in the county awaiting issuance of building permits while exactly zero has been done to plan how infrastructure and other service needs will be met.
The county has reached a critical point where council can no longer kick in-depth discussion of the larger issues related to public safety, roads and infrastructure down the road to tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow.
It’s time for new leadership in the county because the current leadership hasn’t even begun to acknowledge that problems exist much less try to find ways to fix them.