In January, a loyal member of the Barker’s View tribe and an astute observer of the political landscape in Volusia County sent me a photograph of a placard posted at One Daytona announcing the implementation of an “Enhanced Amenity Fee.”
The fee represents a one-percent before sales tax levy on all goods and services purchased at the “symbiotic” entertainment and shopping complex developed by the Forbes listed France family’s International Speedway Corporation – and subsidized by you and me.
Like many of you, this tax by any other name struck me as usurious – given that taxpayers in Volusia County, and the City of Daytona Beach, collectively bankrolled the project to the tune of $40 million in public funds.
The fee isn’t limited to One Daytona – you will experience similar money grabs at the Port Orange Pavilion – and the tax-supported Tanger Outlets. As I understand it, the fees could remain in place for the next 100 years.
Apparently, it’s the ‘new normal.’ Get used to being screwed to the wall.
In an essay entitled, “Does it ever end?” – I posed the question, “When does a “public/private partnership” turn into a victimization – a parasitic exsanguination of the very people who were previously tapped to fund a private project with hard-earned tax dollars?”
While I have a sideways opinion on just about everything, I’m the first to admit that I don’t have all the answers.
Not by a long shot.
In fact, I’m a guy with a solid 8th grade education (while I graduated from Seabreeze High School, my formative years are a blur of malted hops and barleycorn) – not to mention the fact that I am, at my core, an East Tennessee hillbilly – born in the shadow of the Appalachian Mountains – which means I am too stupid to take money, and too prideful to shut up when getting along and going along would serve me better.
If you haven’t already, I encourage you to read Seth Robbins’ outstanding exposé, “Fee Frenzy – Customers pay the price as private fees pop up at 3 Volusia shopping complexes,” frontpage news today in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.
In my view, Seth is one of the finest young reporters in the business – bright, instinctive and bulldog tenacious in the spirit of Old School investigative journalists. He’s the real deal.
In this enlightening piece, Robbins has gotten to the kernel of an incredibly intricate issue, and crafted an important story into an informative vehicle even I can understand.
I only ask that you read the article critically, then form your own educated conclusions as to the true motivations of the players involved – especially the quibbling “I know no-thing!” Sergeant Shultz-like explanation of our factually challenged County Manager Jim Dinneen.
Look, I don’t take issue with the extremely skillful attorneys who work hard in the best interest of their clients. I understand the need of publicly traded companies to use available legislation to craft these weird hybrids, euphemistically known as “P-3’s,” and facilitate other quasi-public financing schemes – measures which can salve the concerns of stockholders by ensuring high returns with low risk.
I get it. That’s the job a good lawyer is paid well to accomplish.
However, I still believe that just because something is legal, doesn’t necessarily make it right.
In fact, under Rick Scott’s administration, most of the environmental and pro-development “regulations” and incentives coming out of Tallahassee would curl your hair. . .
My problem remains with the issue of local government’s continued meddling in what should be a free, open and fair marketplace – time-after-time providing millions in public funds to underwrite the private endeavors of those uber-wealthy members of the Donor Class seeking a return on investment for massive campaign contributions to the avaricious politicians who ultimately approve these lucrative subsidies.
I was proud to contribute my thoughts to the News-Journal as they expose this increasingly prevalent scheme – often without the knowledge of shoppers who patronize these venues.
I still believe that commercial, for-profit developments that are underwritten by massive infusions of public funds, tax breaks and infrastructure subsidies create a lopsided playing field in a very tight market – providing an unfair advantage that most small businesses and entrepreneurs who form the backbone of an economy do not have equal access to.
In my view, that’s wrong.
As the Canadian comic and politician Greg Malone put it, P3’s should be called “P-12’s” – “Public-Private Partnerships to Plunder the Public Purse to Pursue Policies of Peril to People and the Planet for all Posterity.”
Please find Seth Robbins’ excellent piece here:
My full interview can be found here:
Here’s wishing all members of the loyal and intrepid Barker’s View tribe a very joyous Easter and Passover.
May God bless your home and family with peace and happiness, today and always.