I think it was Ben Franklin who said you cannot borrow your way to prosperity. He said a lot of other things, too, so it is hard to keep track. At least it sounds like something he would have been reputed to say.
Obviously, that principle has not made its way to our local governments. Most of them are facing infrastructure deficits. That is, the roads, railways, bridges, schools and parks are inadequate to serve the demand even before “Bulldozer Flats” is built out.
The infrastructure deficit leads to traffic delays. We would see packed classrooms but for the temporary blessing of COVID. Be thankful for vaccine resisters, or the situation would be worse.
Local governments often seek to grow their way out of the deficit. That is, they encourage development today in the hope that in the future the development might help with the deficit. In the meantime, taxpayers pay interest on bonds and sit in traffic.
This plan works well for the developers. For the price of a few thousands in campaign contributions, they receive millions in public construction benefits. And, when roads are jammed, it is of no moment to them, because their offices are far away from here.
By now, developers feel fairly entitled. They fund politicians and well-connected developer attorneys. The cities all act as though there were some entitlement to rezoning, where in fact it is an act of grace and generosity.
Developers buy the rights that come with the land. Afterward, they pretend that rezoning to allow the latest Bulldozer Flats PUD should be automatic. In fact, allowing a new, sardine-can development of postage-stamp-sized lots is an act of grace by the city.
Sure, the developer can sue if he thinks that Bulldozer Flats ought to have been approved. There is a great gap between suing and winning, however, and the developer’s suit ought not get beyond the initial motion to dismiss. Commissioners act as though they do not know this.
The developer will not be around to deal with the runoff, or to sit in traffic. He writes a few checks to politicians. Taxpayers get to clean up the mess.
Developers are rarely seen on Tuesdays. That is why, when Bulldozer Flats comes up for a Monday vote, we know what grateful city commissioners are thinking — maybe the nice developer will help pay for the sign at the entrance, too.
— Andrews is a DeLand-area attorney and a longtime government critic. For purposes of the column, he finds it convenient that there is so much government to criticize.