Saturday, May 26, 2018
News Roundup

The Hernando tea partier we wish we could ignore

I’d hoped the time had come when we could ignore people like Hamilton Hanson.

Exposing the nuttiness of his ideas is so easy that it's really not much fun. Besides, what's the point?

He's one of those small government extremists who like to show up at County Commission meetings in clownish, red "We the People" T-shirts — a classic tea partier carrying on after his political moment has come and gone.

Or maybe not.

In Washington, lawmakers who think a lot like Hanson — including U.S. Rep. Richard Nugent, R-Spring Hill — are threatening to shut down the federal government. And at the final county budget hearing on Tuesday, three commissioners fell all over themselves trying to shrink an already shriveled budget.

The fringe, it seems, is still front and center.

So let's look at Hanson's suggestions for saving money, which he helpfully condensed into a document presented to County Administrator Len Sossamon last week.

It contained the results of a survey of "citizens," who I'm guessing (Hanson declined the chance to tell me for sure) consist of a few fellow members of the Glenn Beck fan club and who I know are stunningly ill-informed.

For example, they classify fire protection as "one more non-essential service when it comes to protecting our rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."

Obviously, there's no government service more essential to protecting lives, and I'd say it's pretty difficult to pursue happiness if you have to stand by helplessly and watch your house burn to the ground.

Maybe volunteers could handle the job, Hanson and his crew suggest, but regardless of how the service is provided the main objective is to remove it "from the general tax rolls and put it into its own activity, paid for solely by the citizens who contract for such services."

If they'd done some homework, they might have found that this is basically how the county fire department already is funded — through fees paid by property owners and without a single penny coming from the general fund.

Maybe Hanson is suggesting that only people who pay for this service should receive it, in which case we'd have firefighters checking to see whether blazes were afflicting paying customers before rolling out the trucks.

Hanson's survey also concluded that user fees could help pay for park maintenance, though it's unclear if he knows that many park users already pay, and that they barely make a dent in maintenance costs.

And he suggests that the 90,000 holders of library cards in the county could be asked to pay $35 for this privilege, which is precisely when that number would start to shrink drastically. It also seems odd that Hanson, so fond of the lessons of our nation's founding, could forget that free access to learning has been a guiding — and hugely beneficial — principle of this country since even before it was a country.

Further savings are available, Hanson wrote, by eliminating mosquito control and animal services and by paying a business development coordinator the way you do other "top-notch sales persons" — on commission only.

That sounds like a great way to attract hacks desperate for employment and provide them with the incentive to give away vast sums in county tax breaks to any business willing to relocate here. But you have to admit these salespeople would earn every penny if they could attract investment to a county plagued by swarms of biting insects and stray dogs.

Not surprisingly, all of Hanson's suggestions are based on an underlying assumption that is completely backward: County government keeps growing while, as Hanson wrote, the "LOCAL economy shrinks 40 percent."

Actually, as measured by the total amount paid to public and private workers, the county's economy has climbed very slightly, by 1.3 percent, since the peak of the boom in 2006, according to the state Department of Economic Opportunity.

Yes, the public payroll has also increased slightly, but that's mostly because the Sheriff's Office took over the job of running the county jail. Strip that away and the payroll of all city and county employees in Hernando has dropped by about 7 percent during this period.

The number of county employees controlled directly by the commission, meanwhile, has been cut nearly in half, and the general fund has shrunk much faster, by 24 percent. And it will shrink another $466,000 next year.

So where does Hanson get the idea that county government is a "growth industry?"

Who knows? But it's nonsense. And it needs to be ignored.

Comments
Rays journal: Rays shut out by Orioles in opener

Rays journal: Rays shut out by Orioles in opener

By Joey JohnstonTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — Rays LHP Ryan Yarbrough deserved better Friday. But the offense didn't offer much, allowing the Orioles to escape with a 2-0 victory before an announced crowd of 11,354 at Tropicana Field."It ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Rays trade closer Alex Colome, outfielder Denard Span to Mariners

Rays trade closer Alex Colome, outfielder Denard Span to Mariners

ST. PETERSBURG – In January, sure.In July, absolutely.But, now?And, once again, for someone who they hope helps in the future.The Rays made a shocking trade at a surprising time of year Friday, dealing All-Star closer Alex Colome and Tampa...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Steve Yzerman’s summer plans: Make the Lightning better

Steve Yzerman’s summer plans: Make the Lightning better

TAMPA — Captain Steven Stamkos said the Lightning's window for contending for a Stanley Cup championship is not closing."I think it's wide open," he said Thursday, one day after the Lightning lost Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final to the C...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still can’t stop bad judgment

Editorial: Welcome Bayshore changes still can’t stop bad judgment

It’s human nature in following any tragedy to imagine: How could this have been prevented? On that score, the city of Tampa responded appropriately to the deaths this week of a mother and her toddler whom police say were hit by a teenage driver racin...
Updated: 4 hours ago
In federal trial, jury finds Hernando deputies’ actions justified

In federal trial, jury finds Hernando deputies’ actions justified

TAMPA — Michael Bratt told a story.He said that Hernando County sheriff’s deputies attacked him in his home early one morning eight years ago, beat him severely on his front lawn, and continued the assault as they took him to a hospital.But another s...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Police: Driver in fatal Bayshore faces new charge in child’s death

Police: Driver in fatal Bayshore faces new charge in child’s death

The 18-year-old who was arrested this week after police said he was racing when he fatally struck a young mother pushing her stroller across Bayshore Boulevard was back in jail on Friday night.Cameron Herrin, 18, was arrested on a second count of veh...
Updated: 4 hours ago
The Bucs’ influence inside the Vegas Golden Knights’ runaway success

The Bucs’ influence inside the Vegas Golden Knights’ runaway success

The Stanley Cup final begins Monday in the unlikeliest of places: a city new to major pro sports and suddenly the center of the hockey world, Las Vegas, whose Golden Knights could become the first first-year expansion team to win a championship.And t...
Updated: 5 hours ago
Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Did the NFL really need a national anthem policy?

Before we even get going, let me be clear about something.This is not a column making an argument about whether or not NFL players should be able to kneel in protest during the national anthem.That topic has been debated repeatedly, loudly and passio...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

Rays trade Alex Colome and Denard Span to Mariners for prospects

The Rays made a major trade Friday afternoon, sending All-Star closer Alex Colome and OF Denard Span to the Mariners.The return is two minor-leaguers, RHP Andrew Moore and RHP Tommy Romero. The Rays also sent cash to the Mariners.Span, a Tampa produc...
Updated: 6 hours ago
For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

For starters: Sergio Romo on mound tonight as Rays open series against Orioles

By JOEY JOHNSTONTimes CorrespondentST. PETERSBURG — For openers, the Rays will use RHP Sergio Romo, the 35-year-old career reliever, as tonight's starter against the Baltimore Orioles at Tropicana Field.Romo is making his third career "sta...
Updated: 7 hours ago