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ECHO, culture programs serve us all

Dear Volusia County Council:

When your actions suggested that ECHO funding for preservation and cultural assets is not relevant, and raided the program for infrastructure projects related to growth impact, you mistakenly touched a very important nerve. The mass public reaction at your next meeting should make that fact very clear.

We are not Orange County or Seminole County, where rampant growth has consumed nearly every facet of their past with concrete and highways.

There may be facets of our economy that think that unchecked development is the way to the future, but the majority of us like and want to keep Volusia County the uniquely different place that it has always been.

History preservation and cultural programs are very relevant to Volusia County and its residents. For this reason, ECHO was instituted and then reinstated by a majority of us in the past election.

We are faced daily with choices to preserve and keep various aspects of our communities by both financial and development pressures. So that we would not over time eradicate important links to our past, landmarks, and the art and culture that enrich our lives, ECHO was created as the last chance to save these things that are a part of our communities.

You can’t let abdication of true vision and fiscal responsibility blind you from the clear task that ECHO serves in Volusia County.

As a citizen who has actively been about our county and enjoyed many of the parts of it that have been saved by ECHO funding, I see its relevance. As one who has represented a nonprofit historic-preservation organization, I can tell you how vital a resource ECHO has been in keeping one of these groups in our communities alive and functioning.

From the very citizen advisory board I serve on, I have experienced how the grant review and approval process of ECHO funding works. It works and functions in the manner it was created to serve. Don’t mess with it.

The statements and presence of Volusia County citizens taking the time to be at your meeting should openly show you that you touched a very important nerve. Don’t make the mistakes others have made and degrade the quality and sense of place we have.

“I believe that the more you know about the past, the better you are prepared for the future.” Do you know whom that quote is from? Theodore Roosevelt stood up against the conglomerates of industry in his day and helped to preserve what we now have in our national parks.

It’s time for you to embrace the awareness and understanding that ECHO provides all of us. Do the right thing. Support ECHO. Leave ECHO alone. Let your citizens know they are heard.


Larry French


— French has an extensive background and knowledge of Florida. He has been a living history re-enactor for more than 45 years. He is the author of the book Grand Hotels of West Volusia County by Arcadia Publishing, and has written the history-based fiction adventure novel Time Will Tell. He is a lifetime member of the West Volusia Historical Society, serving as executive director, and a former board member of the Enterprise Preservation Society. He also serves on the Volusia County Historic Preservation Board.


  1. End the County tax dollar giveaways…..

    Our County Council needs to stop making our charitable giving decisions for us. ALL of the County tax dollar giveaways need to be ended. Every group begging for our money has a cause and a story, however, none of those causes or stories justifies the forcible taking of someone else’s money in order to give it away to a so-called nonprofit. Let the free market work, if a nonprofit is not valued by the community it should be allowed to no longer exist. We need our County Government doing a better job at taking care of its core responsibilities and that does not include giving our money away to nonprofits. We have over crowded and crumbling roads, infrastructure improvement needs, comp plan mandates to be met, inadequate public transportation options, littered right of ways and waterways, and other environmental issues that need to be addressed. And I must add, we can not keep adding more burdens on our young people who are just starting out here. A young person starting out here, in many cases, will be paying as much as 5 to 10 times more for property taxes compared to what some of us older established folks are paying. There are some who are pushing for more giveaways and higher property tax burdens who literally pay NO property taxes at all because of their special property tax exemptions. Young hard working people here are already facing an affordable housing crisis, taking more from them for giveaways will only harm them worse. And property taxes are just part of the problem, if a young person wishes to build or buy a new home in Volusia County they will also be hit with a government mandated impact fee of over $9,200. And let us not forget young renters pay property taxes through their monthly rental payments and their landlords do not receive property tax deductions like many of us established homeowners who have the benefit of Save Our Homes (limits the annual increase in the assessed value of homesteaded properties to 3% or the change in the National Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less.), homestead exemption, and the other property tax breaks offered.

    The best way to help our hard working young people thrive here is to pay them a livable wage, provide quality core governmental services, and keep their tax burdens low, and as they start to thrive allow them to make their own charitable giving decisions. Our future depends on them and they depend on us to do what is right.

    All of us should all be allowed to give as we can and as we wish to the charities of our choosing and we should not have our money forced from our pockets and given to the charities of another’s choosing for any reason. I call on the members of the Volusia County Council to end all of the County tax dollar giveaways.

    There is nothing noble or kind about going before your government representatives and asking them to take more from your neighbors for what you want especially when you do not know the struggles your neighbor may be facing and it is certainly wrong for someone who pays so little, and in some cases nothing, in property taxes to try and force those who are paying at a much greater rate to pay even more. Give as you can and let others do the same.


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