All five members of the Sumter County Commission should spend the rest of their days in office hanging their heads in shame.
They’ve proven that they don’t represent the taxpayers who elected them to serve. And in the process, they’ve made one thing quite clear – they’re nothing more than puppets for The Villages Developer and obviously take their marching orders from him.
As many of you know, the puppet commission – Chairman Don Burgess, Al Butler, Garry Breeden, Steve Printz and Doug Gilpin – recently held meetings on Sept. 10 and Sept. 24 at the Savannah Center so Villagers and area residents could express their views about a proposed 25 percent tax hike. The puppets claimed it was necessary to pay for a variety of things – mostly infrastructure and road improvements for the new Villages of Southern Oaks south of State Road 44.
For the record, we believe the commission had made up its mind to approve the first tax increase in 15 years long before the first Villagers had arrived at the Savannah Center on Sept. 10 to express their frustrations. And everybody who attended the second meeting this past Tuesday knew it was a done deal, but we applaud them for coming out to express their views anyway.
Now, before we go too much further, let’s remember that the puppet commission amazingly isn’t the worst culprit here. That distinction lies with The Villages Developer, who clearly has no qualms about putting the costs of expanding his mega-retirement community on the backs of taxpayers, many of whom will never visit Southern Oaks – or even know where it’s located.
Of course, this constant money-grab by the Developer is largely coming at the hands of the fourth generation Morse Millennials – the first group who hasn’t had to work for it. Apparently, their goal is to do whatever it takes to amass huge wads of your cash so they can continue to enjoy their extravagant lifestyles – while giving you things in return like food trucks instead of air-conditioned restaurants, driverless taxis and golf cart-only parking at the isolated Fenney Putt & Play.
Which brings us back to the commission. Let’s remember that three of these so-called representatives live in The Villages and a fourth one works for a company that pours just about every concrete slab and the majority of pools in the community. So, it really shouldn’t come as a surprise that these puppets showed their true colors by joining the Developer in sticking it to every taxpayer in Sumter County.
But this arrogant group apparently forgot one thing – there’s a whole bunch of smart people who live in The Villages and other parts of the county and they have long memories. Many of those residents made excellent points during the two recent meetings that obviously fell on the deaf ears of the puppets but definitely resonated with their fellow voters.
At this past Tuesday’s meeting, Shannon Kelley blasted the commission for upping profits for the Developer by passing on the costs of regional roads to property owners.
“Are you trying to squeeze the average person out of the county and make a Palm Beach-style enclave?” she asked.
Longtime Villager Marsha Shearer agreed.
“You represent the loudest voice and the biggest pocketbook in the county,” she said.
At the Sept. 10 meeting, following shouts of “shame on you,” Bill Berry quickly laid into the puppets.
“I guess you and the Developer have gotten together and you guys have really put the whammy on us,” he said.
Villager Sherry Duvall agreed.
“You are sticking it to us and hopefully we will return the favor at election time,” she said to a long round of applause.
Daniel Myslakowski pointed out that late Villages Developer H. Gary Morse had promised to stop building at SR 44, largely, we’re guessing, because he was smart enough to anticipate this kind of nightmare and actually gave a damn about the folks who spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to live in his community.
“The kids took over and now it’s damn the torpedoes full steam ahead,” Myslakowski said of the Morse Millennials.
Unfortunately, Myslakowski is correct about the future of The Villages. It’s not the same community Morse worked so hard to develop and build, nor the one his father, Harold Schwartz, founded. Now, it’s apparently being looked at as a cash cow and unfortunately, your wallets and pocketbooks are the target.
As for the commission, several residents made it clear that change could be coming in the 2020 election. Villagers Charles Kasner and Oren Miller already have announced their intentions to run against Printz. And others suggested that Burgess and Butler might be on the way out as well.
Of course, the Morse Millennials could have just done the right thing and easily fixed this entire mess. All they had to do was agree to pay higher impact fees – homes alone in Southern Oaks should bring in more than $9 billion and that’s not even taking into consideration commercial real estate – so we hardly think charging them more would have caused them to take their Teslas and go home.
Instead of looking like the greedy bunch they are, they’d have been heroes, held in high regard throughout the county. And most importantly, they would have been doing the right thing.
But that’s not the MO for this group. They apparently don’t understand why The Villages once deserved the moniker of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown. So now, thanks to them and their rubber-stamp puppets, you apparently live in Florida’s Tax Happy Town, where many of you were sold a false bill of goods when you spent your hard-earned money to move here and your opinions and good ideas simply aren’t welcome.