Taxes

On occasion, rare though it may be, we hear a call for higher taxes. That call usually comes from one of two sources.

One source is the “mockingbird” of taxpayers. The mockingbird of taxpayers, as its avian counterpart, pretends to speak for someone else. That is, the tax increase supporter calls for higher taxes on another species of taxpayer.

The middle income person calls for higher taxes on the rich or poor. The non-traveler wishes the tourist to pay greater assessments. The current resident without plans to move or build calls for higher development impact fees.

Seldom, if ever, do we hear the mockingbird taxpayer‘s call apply to their own flock.

The second source of the call for higher taxes is from the government employee. By government employee, I mean the elected species as well as the non-elected variety.

One might excuse this second genus from condemnation for its call, but I do not. The elected and non-elected species both have the obligation to deliver necessary government services by the most economic method possible. Accordingly, a call for higher governmental levies by this group would be appropriate only in the most extraordinary situation.

I do not wish to discourage those who call for higher taxes from reaching the maximum height of their level of self-satisfaction. To that end, I offer this option: donate to the government the additional amount of money you feel compulsion to pay.

The result should be that the government agency will have additional revenue, the donors will feel better about themselves and the donors will be entitled to an income tax deduction. What could be better?

Well of course the donors would be forced to wrestle with accepting the benefit of the charitable contribution deduction that would lower their income tax. Not every plan is perfect.

For those that call for higher taxes, there is an answer.  Send a check.  Pay more.  There is plenty of government out there for you to fund. Be happy.  Leave the rest of us alone.

Creating jobs and economic opportunity

Government does not create jobs. That is, government does not create jobs except government jobs. While some government jobs are necessary, it is employment in private enterprise that drives our economy.

According to the Small Business Administration, a United States federal government agency, small business creates 64% of net new private sector employment. Small business comprises more than 49% of all employment.

Small businesses withstand a great amount of price pressure. Small business can least afford the bureaucratic entanglements and unnecessary, costly regulations. Small business owners should have a level playing field with other businesses and should not be required to meet obligations greater than those that apply to large businesses. Ease of entering a market to serve a community should be the focus of local government.

One area that government can facilitate job growth through small business is to clearly outline the regulations that exist when a new business applies to pay its Business Tax or when a business pays for a relocation for its Business Tax receipt.

Small business owners are not zoning experts. An entrepreneur should be able to quickly find reliable information about the types of commercial transactions that can occur at a location. It is incumbent upon a business owner to know before they buy a property what businesses would be prohibited in a location.

The cost for a change of use for a property is substantial. The impact upon a community from a change of use may cause much more angst than a business person expects or wishes. Information regarding land use must be readily and easily available to businesses and prospective property buyers.

Government needs to help small business create jobs and economic opportunity by providing entrepreneurs with easily available, accurate information regarding existing regulations and by not adding regulations that can be avoided.

Providing affordable transportation

Transportation is a hugely important matter for Orange County and all of Central Florida. Transportation impacts our economy, our work environment and job creation, quality of life and public safety issues.

While there is much discussion in the media about autonomous vehicles (driverless cars), it will be quite some time before that technology has substantial presence in our daily lives.

The Orange County Commission must continue to deal with more prosaic transportation topics such as road improvements, public transit, pedestrian safety, and buses.

While in the Florida Legislature in 2004, I sponsored the Wekiva Parkway and Protection Act. The objective of the legislation was to complete the much needed beltway around Central Florida.

The legislation passed both chambers of the Florida Legislature and was signed into law by then Governor Jeb Bush in 2004.  Recently, construction has progressed and the next phase of the Wekiva Parkway to Kelly Park Road has opened. The Parkway will be completed in Orange County by 2018.

Transportation projects such as the Wekiva Parkway provide impetus for businesses to select locations such as Northwest Orange County. The goal is and has been for the road to provide opportunities for residents to work where they live. Decreasing commuting time increases quality of life and the time residents have for family.

In District 2, public transportation is crucial to many families. Some District 2 residents do not own a car and do not want to own one. Public transit for District 2 relies on the Lynx bus system that serves Orange, Osceola and Seminole Counties.

When you look at statistics for the Lynx bus system you will see that many of the system’s busiest routes are in or serve District 2. We need to continue to improve our system with additional capacity through the Neighborhood Lynx program and through additional ridership capacity.

Protecting our water resources

The population of Florida continues to grow. That growth places additional pressure on Florida’s water resources. We must continue to expand our water sources.

The most economical source of water is conservation. Water that is not wasted or used for one purpose is available as a source for another use.

According to the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, a typical homeowner uses 50% of their water for landscape irrigation. Frequently, that irrigation level results in overwatering. The home builder installs a landscape that is provided by the lowest bidder and includes an irrigation timer. The timer starts the irrigation system and operates the system based upon a calendar not upon the plants’ need for water.

Orange County Utilities Department has done a thorough study and found that soil moisture sensors are a very successful way to protect the homeowner’s landscape and to conserve our water resource. Soil moisture sensors start the irrigation system when the soil is dry and the plants and sod need water.

If it rains, the soil moisture sensor will not turn on the sprinkler system. When it is dry, the soil moisture sensor assures that the grass is watered.

What about rain sensors? Will rain sensors provide the same conservation? Rain sensors do not have good reliability. Though well intended, it has been my experience and the experience of others that rain sensors have very short operating lives.

What about Florida friendly landscapes and xeriscapes? It is very challenging to change the rules of homeowners’ associations (HOAs) that govern how residents maintain their property. Soil moisture sensors will have the landscape watered at a level that will meet HOA’s requirements.

The current issue is how to encourage home builders and owner builders to include these sensors in their construction plan. The best method will be to provide a credit on the required water impact fee that the owner pays when the house is built. Another method will be to provide a water utility credit for installation of sensors on existing residences.

Reducing excessive government regulation-

Heritage and Community

The Zellwood Reunion Day celebrates the history of that Northwest Orange County community and the residents and families who bring that history alive today. Reunion Day has become a new tradition with the gathering of long time neighbors and visits of former residents from near and far.

Zellwood is named for Lt. Col. T. Elwood Zell. Lt. Col. Zell began to enjoy winters in Zellwood in the 1870s. Obviously it was not a great leap from Ellwood Zell to Zellwood for the name of the community.

Zellwood’s long history includes figures of national note. Jones Avenue and Laughlin Road are purportedly named for the steel magnates and founders of Jones and Laughlin Steel, a substantial steel company founded in 1851.

James Laughlin, Jr. wintered in Zellwood. A 1907 New York Times article reported that after a dispute with the town council over proposed improvements, James Laughlin, Jr. bought the entire town. It was reported Mr. Laughlin agreed to move the town away from his winter residence.

Edith Fairfax Davenport, a relative of James McNeil Whistler, was an accomplished artist who resided in Zellwood. Whistler is the artist famous for the painting of his mother. Whistler gave Ms. Davenport permission to copy the famous painting and the copy is maintained in the Zellwood Historical Society’s museum.

Like many Northwest Orange County communities, Zellwood has a vibrant and important history that is observed annually on Reunion Day. Another important part of Reunion Day is the celebration of the families who have lived in Zellwood for a long time.

Those families who live and have lived in Zellwood are a special part of the history of the neighborhood. Those residents are the living history of the village, with memories, photographs and records that give roots to the community.

On Reunion Day the Zellwood Historical Society has much documentation of family history as well as the records of Lt. Col. Elwood Zell, James Laughlin, Jr. and Edith Fairfax Davenport on display.

One of the items I very much appreciate at a recent reunion was the family history of Charles Grinnell, Sr. Mr. Grinnell came to Zellwood as a as an U.S. Army Captain.  Mr. Grinnell became a farmer on the north of Lake Apopka. The Grinnell Family has compiled a book of it's history approximately three inches thick of photos, narratives and mementos.

These family histories are important to the families and the public. It is a blessing when they are preserved.