Something good has come out of the Sumter County Commission’s ridiculous decision to raise taxes by 25 percent – new faces in the political arena.
Because of that disastrous vote last month that clearly showed the commission is beholden to The Villages Developer – the tax increase is needed to pay for roads and infrastructure in his mega-retirement community that he should be funding – three residents of Florida’s Friendliest Hometown have announced their intentions to run for two of three county commission seats on the ballot in 2020.
The first Villager to put his name in the hat was Charles Kasner, who didn’t even wait for the commission’s final vote on the tax hike on Sept. 24. Kasner attended the packed-house commission meeting at the Savannah Center on Sept. 10, expressed his disdain with the proposed increase and then watched Commissioner Steve Printz make a motion for preliminary approval of the tax hike.
A few days later, the former Canadian who gained U.S. citizenship following 9/11 filed paperwork to run against Printz. He described himself as “appalled” at the way the commission ignored the pleas of their many constituents who spoke out against the take hike.
“I can’t believe what I am seeing. Someone has to run and do something,” the Village of Dunedin resident said. “County government should be working for the residents. They are working for the ‘boss.’”
Just days later, Village of Sanibel resident Oren L. Miller became the second challenger to announce intentions to run against Printz. He ran as a Democrat for Florida House District 33 this past fall and lost to Brett Hage. But this time around Miller is running as a Republican, which means the seat currently held by Printz will be at least a three-way battle in the primary.
Miller, known for his high-profile role with Lost Pets of The Villages alongside his wife, Angie Fox, also is heading up an effort to repeal One Sumter, which changed the way commissioners are elected in Sumter County. Prior to that Villages-Developer-backed measure that took affect in 2004, each commissioner was elected by residents representing their own districts instead of the current method where they can vote for all five commissioners.
The third Villager to announce intentions to run for a commission seat is Gary Search, who moved to the community in 2008. The Village of Amelia resident is no stranger to politics, having served for 13 years as a township commissioner in Pennsylvania.
Search said the “final straw” for him came with the commission’s vote on Sept. 24 to officially hit residents with the 25 percent tax increase and essentially put costs associated with the growth of The Villages on their backs.
“You are either part of the solution or you are part of the problem,” he said.
Search is running for the seat currently held by Al Butler, who hasn’t yet filed to run for another term. But with a salary of more than $63,000 annually for what is essentially a part-time job, we can’t imagine the Village of Bridgeport at Lake Sumter resident walking away.
In the past, we’ve made no bones about our feelings over the current puppet commission’s decision to hit residents with such a huge tax increase. We’ve also made it quite clear that we believe the real culprit here is The Villages Developer and the next generation of Morse Millennials who have been born to this dynasty.
Anybody in their right mind knows the Developer should be paying for these infrastructure needs through higher impact fees. That plan would spare residents the burden of coughing up more of their hard-earned cash and would hardly cut into the massive profits the Developer and the Morse Millennials stand to make from the thousands upon thousands of new homes and commercial development being built in the massive Village of Southern Oaks.
As we’ve said before, it’s all about greed – plain and simple. The Morse Millennials are the first generation that hasn’t had to work for it. They clearly have no respect for the years of careful planning their grandfather, H. Gary Morse, put into his community, including his well-documented promise to stop building at State Road 44 – which, we might add, would have avoided this mess in the first place.
We’re also pretty sure the Morse Millennials don’t know squat about their great-grandfather, Villages Founder Harold Schwartz. He made it his top priority to listen to residents and clearly would be incensed at their disregard for those who call The Villages home. And we can’t even imagine what he would say about things like food trucks instead of country clubs around $400,000-plus homes and a Putt & Play that’s isolated from the majority of Villages homes but yet doesn’t offer automobile parking.
At the Sept. 10 commission meeting, Villager Bill Berry received a resounding round of applause when he said: “I guess you and the Developer have gotten together and you guys have really put the whammy on us.” And even more cheers were heard throughout the Savannah Center when resident Sherry Duvall said: “You are sticking it to us and hopefully we will return the favor at election time.”
Clearly, Kasner, Miller and Search took that message to heart and we applaud them for making the decision to run for county commission seats. We suspect Printz and Butler are going to have their hands full trying to explain why they thought it was OK to hit residents with such a huge tax burden. And we’re guessing it’s only a matter of time before someone else steps up to attempt to send Commission Chairman Dog Burgess packing as well.
That said, we are huge fans of democracy and we think it’s absolutely fantastic that these three Villagers have expressed their disdain with the nonsense they’ve seen and the commission’s obvious ties to The Villages Developer. And we’re hoping others will follow their lead and also enter the three races involving the Villagers commissioners.
After what Sumter County residents have been through with this so-called group of leaders and the dents their wallets and pocketbooks are about to take, the very least they deserve is to have options available when they cast their votes next year. Hopefully, there will be many choices available and they can elect commissioners who actually will represent their interests instead of worrying so much about padding the pockets of the Developer and the Morse Millennials who clearly are doing their best to break promises and ruin a great thing.