04-23-2012, 07:56 PM #1
WCTA Position On Hwy 331 Bridge Referendum
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Press Release: April 23, 2012
Walton County Taxpayers Association Conducts Survey:
North and South Walton County Members Say
NO to Hwy 331 Sales Tax and Toll
Walton County Taxpayers Association (WCTA) wanted to know what current public opinion was on the proposed Hwy 331 funding options: raising a ½ cent sales tax or implementing a toll. So, WCTA asked its members. The survey was sent to its membership in March and 795 members in the non-partisan group responded: 31% from North Walton and 69% from South Walton. The unambiguous response was: NO on the sales tax and NO on a bridge toll.
The survey revealed that North and South Walton County members are united on the issues.
The sales tax question posed in the survey was:
“Should WCTA support the proposed ½ cent sales tax increase for Walton County’s share of the cost of the Hwy 331 four- lane Bridge and Roadway from Interstate 10 to Hwy 98? The referendum to approve the tax is May 8th.”
Of those WCTA members participating in the survey, 75%, voted overwhelmingly against the tax: 87% of North Walton respondents and 71% of South Walton respondents voted against the tax.
The question concerning a southbound toll was:
“In the event that the referendum fails, and the Walton County Commissioners consider placing a toll on the southbound lane of a new Hwy 331 bridge, should the WCTA support the imposition of that toll?”
Once again67% of the participating members of WCTA voted NO: The North Walton voters were 77% against, while South Walton members voted 67% against.
This county will have a chance to listen to the public on May 8th. The Walton County Taxpayer Association is listening now. WCTA will not support the increased sales tax or the toll for the Hwy 331 bridge project. WCTA strongly encourages the County Commissioners to listen to the voice of the voters. In the fiscal situation that faces our county, WCTA asks the most basic of all questions--- how much new debt should the county take on? The WCTA says NONE!
WCTA is a non-partisan organization with members from both North and South Walton County, representing the entire county. WCTA believes that it is vitally important to stay involved in how our county spends our money, especially as our county and tax base grow. WCTA’s focus is on limiting the role of government and how much money is necessary to provide basic public services to all taxpayers in Walton County. And, WCTA believes that a unified group of individuals can make a difference.
“THE EYES AND EARS FOR WALTON COUNTY TAXPAYERS”
Walton County Taxpayers Association
P.O. Box 1085
Santa Rosa Beach, FL 32459
04-24-2012, 06:10 AM #2
Thank you for this. As a group which believes in limited government, what public projects would you, or have you supported? I expect a line about responsibility and fairness. But I am interested in specifics. Do you support parks, walkovers, parking, schools, fire services, roads, bridges, anything?
04-24-2012, 12:49 PM #3
Last edited by Andy A; 04-24-2012 at 12:51 PM.I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability. Ron Hart
04-24-2012, 06:00 PM #4
I will also be voting for the tax.
04-24-2012, 06:46 PM #5
Don't know why you didn't get electronic ballot. All members were to have received it. Please send your current email address to Bob at email@example.com so he can update the records.
As to the rhetorical question of what the WCTA supports, I'm but one member, but I think I can say that it has and will support the principles of good, open, honest, accountable, transparent governance. As to any specific project, there are unlikely to be many which will have the unanimous approval of either the members or the board. In the case of the bridge/highway project, there is a clear consensus among the nearly 800 voting. Whether all members or board members like it or not, the vote is as it is.
The position mandated by this vote aside, each member is free to vote as he or she wishes at the polls. No organization or individual is likely to be right 100% or the time. In the case of the WCTA, I think a fair assessment will state clearly that its efforts have been a substantial and significant positive for the citizens of this county over the years, and whether a given stand is popular or not with the most vocal is not sufficient reason for taking or altering a position.
I've had the pleasure of seeing Andy at a number of BCC and TDC meetings. He is manifestly an honorable, well-informed and well-intentioned man. I suspect he would be inclined to say something similar about me. Despite our liking and respecting one another, we have differed to a minor extent over this particular issue in means, not ends. I suspect we will agree far more than we will disagree going forward.
I would hope that bobbob would be willing to consider the merits of the above, and further would hope that he bring his questioning mind to BCC, TDC, and WCTA meetings. If so, I'll see you there. We have important battles to fight about good, responsible governance, and I can assure you the WCTA welcomes involved, informed citizens who are willing to work with it for the betterment of our county. The BCC and the TDC? Well, maybe not so much.
Bobbob, if you want to effect change in the WCTA, not to mention the BCC and the TDC, you have the WCTA email address above. Use it to join and then come give it your best shot at meetings. While it's non-partisan, there are strong personalities and divergent opinions. Sounds like you'd fit right in. Join the fight!
04-24-2012, 07:32 PM #6
Unless I have misunderstood what is happening behind the scenes of the BCC/TDC a vote against the sales tax is a vote for the toll. Wonder if the ballot will have any wording to reflect the toll option available to BCC/TDC if/when the tax fails.
04-24-2012, 08:30 PM #7
Absentee ballots do not show any such wording re toll.
04-24-2012, 10:13 PM #8
Wow. Wonder how people would vote if they realized that within 5 years they will have to stop for a traffic light at Short Avenue and then stop and drop ($4.00 or $5.00) every time they cross the only bridge in Walton County connecting South Walton with North Walton. The distance between these two stops will be less than one quarter mile. I do not have any reason to believe there will not be a toll booth and even if there isn't it will still be another expense to live in Walton County and that is exactly what FDOT wants. It is amazing to me that we are so easily manipulated by politics. Politics is easily manipulated by big business. I can only hope that the BCC/TDC will not become a part of this problem in voting for a toll. A toll will completely change the economic dynamics of commerce between North Walton and South Walton. A toll with be a death warrant for many small businesses North of the bridge. South Walton will pay more for services. I do not see any winners in a toll bridge. I hope the visibility of a toll bridge will be a reminder of who not to vote for...
04-24-2012, 11:41 PM #9
There are NO Toll Booths !
The State says a $2.00 toll will be adequate to pay for the bridge. If discounts are given to local residents the number might change or the payoff extended.
The Mid-Bay bridge did not kill business on either side of the Toll Road.
04-24-2012, 11:51 PM #10
The WCTA is 30 years old and I cannot give you history past 8 years back.
The WCTA supported the building of the Court House Annex, Butler Elementary and South Walton High School.
During my association they have advocated and supported:
The creation of North Walton Fire and Rescue
The "accelerated" paving program (loans to finance)
The Dirt to Pavement program (loans to finance)
The creation of the in-house paving program (reallocation of dollars resulting in savings to taxpayers and job creation)
The purchase of the land and construction of the new "park" at Helen McCall Park
The expansion of the Sheriff's Office staff to provide for better coverage
A raise for all WCSO deputies in 2007
The purchase of the new SLEERS radio system
The elimination of long distance calls between South and North Walton (This was a WCTA project alone)
The remodeling of the Sheriff's substation in Freeport.
I'm sure their are more but I just wanted you to realize some of the "supported" projects.
All while keeping the 3 lowest millage rate in the State of Florida.
Last edited by Bob Hudson; 04-24-2012 at 11:55 PM.
04-25-2012, 12:37 AM #11
I don't want either, but if I have to choose, I'd say sales tax. My significant other works in South Walton and a toll would just create another bill we (my wife and I) would be forced to PAY EVERY MONTH! So, if it's one or the other, I say sales tax. Nevertheless, we need that other bridge...I just wish I knew of a better way to get it.
04-25-2012, 07:28 AM #12
Please quit comparing the Midbay bridge with the 331 bridge. It is not an apples to apples comparison. Freeport is not the same as Niceville. Walton county is not Okaloosa county. There is only one bridge in Walton and there are two in Okaloosa. I could go on but I believe this comparison only serves one interest (ram the toll with manipulative methods down our throats).
04-25-2012, 10:21 AM #13
lazin&drinkin, thank you for the very kind words and you are certainly right in your assessment of my actions and feeling as well as my deep respect for you. That said, I have never been a single issue person when it comes to support of any organization. I have been informed of certain changes in the leadership of the WCTA that leave me cold in the manner in which they occurred. Therefore, my wife and I will not be renewing our membership. I know my lack of renewal will have no effect whatsoever on the WCTA but it will make me feel better.
I strongly believe the WCTA has the responsibility and duty to not only be a watchdog for our tax dollars, but to also inform and educate our citizens on issues regarding the expenditure of their tax dollars. In my view, in this particular case, they did neither, one way or the other.
While I do not believe the BCC will approve a toll if the sales tax fails, I believe from observing past actions by FDOT and the Turnpike Authority, it will not be very long before a toll bridge is built at the state's expense and the toll will be never ending. When I started crossing the MidBay Bridge to Eglin the toll was $2.00. It is now $3.00 and $2.50 if you have a Sun Pass. I need to go to Eglin on occassion but my need to go to DeFuniak Springs or Freeport will be greatly deminished with the advent of a toll bridge should I still be here. I feel I am not alone in this opinion.
That pretty well sums up my position on the bridge issue and is the last I have to say on it except that I will be voting for it, futile though it may be.I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability. Ron Hart
04-25-2012, 02:08 PM #14
The 331 bridge over the bay is already existing. Having two more lanes does not provide a new route. The only change for current users of the bridge is having to pay a toll.
I think this is a big distinction. I support the new bridge but not the toll. As much as I dislike an increase in the sales tax, I just don't believe the toll will ever be removed.
04-25-2012, 08:33 PM #15
And you really believe a tax will be removed?
04-25-2012, 09:55 PM #16
Neither the tax or toll would go away in our lifetime. I think we could live with the tax and we should vote for the tax. Unfortunately this forum maybe a minority in that thinking. Because we already have a bridge it was an impossible task to convince people that we need a new bridge and that we have to pay for it with a tax. FDOT has wanted the toll all along and they knew it would be impossible for this county to pass the tax. They continue to manipulate the BCC with carrots of discounts for local citizens and then almost is the same breath they say "but it will delay the length of time required to pay it off". FDOT knows full well that once they have a contract for the toll no one in Walton county will have a say on any of it ever again. FDOT could claim repairs and maintenance to keep the toll forever. The toll will not go away. FDOT is very deceptive and they do not keep their promises. It takes money and time to educate people into a tax increase. We never had a chance...
04-26-2012, 06:50 AM #17
Bob Hudson wrote
And you really believe a tax will be removed?
Yes, based on what Mr. Imfeld said.
Last edited by Bob Wells; 04-26-2012 at 06:53 AM.
04-26-2012, 06:57 AM #18
This is what the Ballot says,
Levy of Charter County and Regional Transportation System Surtax
( Vote for One )
Shall Walton County levy a sales surtax within Walton County at a rate of 0.5% to pay debt service and to
fund costs associated with the construction of improvements to the U.S. Highway 331 bridge over the
Choctawhatchee Bay, which levy shall be deposited into a restricted-use trust fund, beginning
January 1, 2013 and expiring December 31 of the year debt issued for the bridge improvements is
04-26-2012, 08:25 AM #19
This language would not prevent the BCC to define "bridge improvements" as maintenance and repair for both the North and South bound bridges or upgrading the old bridge. There will need to be a precise definition for "bridge improvements" and possible "restricted-use trust" before any of us should feel comfortable with the tax expiring. If the language is corrected or amended with limiting definitions as for as use of the funds then it becomes very likely that the tax will expire. What an opportunity we have to get this road and bridge if only we had the time to fully educate our voters! Of course FDOT knew that we would not have the time or the money to pass the tax and the toll will never go away and will continue to increase. FDOT has slam dunked a never ending toll (tax that is hidden in semantics) while each voter that votes No to the tax believes that they are voting against more tax and government expansion. These voters will never know what hit them...
If the choice isn't really no for both, then people are going to be stuck with the toll. If people really can say no to both, and live with the fact they won't get a bridge as a result, that's fine. But if they vote no to the tax and then have no choice but getting the toll for a bridge that's going to be built anyway, they've just been completely hoodwinked and are stuck with the greater of two evils, not the lesser.
Why wasn't one of the questions "If you must choose a sales tax or a toll, which would you pick?"
Last edited by lenzoe; 05-04-2012 at 11:38 PM.
05-05-2012, 01:19 PM #21
I would suggest you read the press release again. There is nothing misleading about the two questions.
WCTA members were asked two very simple questions by the Board of Directors.
They were not asked whether they personally supported the tax or toll. They were asked whether the WCTA should support a "Tax Increase" and if the Tax failed should they support a "Toll"
The response from them speaks for itself.
05-05-2012, 09:04 PM #22
05-06-2012, 10:16 AM #23
While I don't agree this is political, I certainly think the WCTA was biased and wrong in their assessment of the toll and tax issue. Their members belong to the WCTA because they think they are overtaxed in this nation. I don't disagree with that but as with most issues you must look a the specifics of the situation. The WCTA leadership saw fit to mislead and misinform their membership about the bridge issue. Instead of pointing out both sides and letting the membership then decide, they chose to use the no new tax dialogue as "education" for their members.
Let me say this loud and clear. I don't like wasted and unnecessary taxes! Taxes are needed, however, to run all facets of our goverment, local, state and federal. Our choice becomes one of those that will promote our desires and needs and those wasted on friviolous uses. This is one that would further our destiny and the WCTA was remiss in not educating their membership on both sides of the issue. VOTE YES ON MAY 8TH.I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability. Ron Hart
05-06-2012, 12:17 PM #24
Please give me some examples where the WCTA mislead and misinformed its membership on this issue.
Its easy to make statements - now its time to back yours up.
05-06-2012, 01:36 PM #25
Just speaking from "main street" Walton County:
No. 1. We have waited and waited and cooperated and cooperated for years and years for a four lane road between the bridge and I-10.
No. 2. We would like to have a new bridge completing 4 lanes over the bay.
No. 3. Our economy has been hit very hard over the last few years from unscrupulous financial institutions creating the housing crisis to criminal oil drilling corporations polluting our environment like has never been seen before (both beyond our control or causation). We can not afford another dollar to pay for this bridge neither should we have to as it will not bring in one more penny to this county other than a very limited number of pennies from the construction years.
No. 4. We do not fully understand the consequences of voting No to the referendum as there are powers that can still tax toll us which will be much worse than the .5% tax. A No vote should be a NO vote for any form of tax.
No. 5. What we really want is for one or more of our elected officials to do the right thing for this county. Please find a way to get us this needed road and if you can also get us a bridge without any tax that would probably get you elected for as long as you so desire.
No. 6. If you can not find a way sad is that may be then please explain to us why voting Yes to the sales tax is best for all of us.
05-06-2012, 01:39 PM #26
I think you unfairly accuse the WCTA leadership by saying they chose to mislead and misinform the membership on the bridge. Similarly, I think you might wish to re-think your belief that the leadership has a responsibility in this case to point out both sides and let the members decide. The members did decide the position, by the way.
The leadership voted to oppose the original proposal of the bridge absent a 331 commitment. You will recall this was out of the blue. Walton officials had asked FDOT to consider our cost-sharing in widening 331, but the FDOT response was not responsive to that offer, instead pressing the Governor's preferences of high visibility projects, bridges (tolled) being his ideal outcome.
The County reached out to the WCTA leadership for help, and as you are aware, that help was readily given. Assurances were made by Secretary Prasad in the ensuing Tallahassee meeting, assurances which have subsequently been shown to be false in some cases. The most salient of those is the matter of the toll and its potential local discounts. Yes, we could have those and Mr. Barfield was directed to furnish those post-haste. Yes, FDOT had plenary authority in this. Neither turned out to be in accord with reality. WCTA leadership enthusiasm for the new proposition was replaced by disillusionment and disappointment.
"Facts" propounded by County representatives at public information sessions proved to be erroneous, including the FDOT contribution, said at a meeting in Miramar Beach by Bill Imfeld to be 177 mil or some such number, which number was actually the putative total of both state and local contributions, with the local contribution stated separately and correctly by Bill as 75 mil. Another was that the new bridge would be on the west side of the existing one. We know these to be false statements. It matters not that they were in the first case no doubt innocent mistakes and in the latter of unknown provenance. The simple fact is that the information furnished by state and county was wrong on multiple fronts.
Organizations like the Chamber of Commerce had no studies, no projections of specific, if putative, economic impact, nor did the state. If they have such, they continue to keep them secret from the rest of us. One might infer that were such studies in hand, they would have been publicly trumpeted by advocates. The silence speaks loudly. This has been a priority for decades, we are told repeatedly. If so, where is the due diligence?
What purpose would be served by WCTA leadership pointing out the obvious, i.e., everyone believes there will be real but unknown and unquantified benefits if we accede to this demand by the State? How does an unknown weigh in the balance? A fair assessment would, I think, conclude that presenting that information is the responsibility of our government and our economic development organizations. The WCTA purports to be neither.
If organs of the state and of the business community, with all the resources they possess, do not have this information to share, how can one expect a group such as the WCTA to quickly come up with such information? That leadership is a very small group of volunteers, not only unpaid but also not reimbursed individual expenses incurred in carrying out the work of the organization. With a handful or two of people actually trying to serve as taxpayer advocates and as watchdogs for good government, with $10 a year dues, what is reasonable to expect this single digit number of citizen advocates to do?
Constraints of time, money, and human resources mandate that the leadership try to select what it believes to be those few projects which are the most important and at least possibly doable. Setting forth facts which do not exist is not one of those priorities, nor should it be.
That table having been set and a number of members, dues-paying but not active in the WCTA, having objected to the original position of the leadership being taken without any input from members, the leadership of the WCTA elected to poll its members on what position the WCTA should take in this matter. There was no unanimity of opinion in the leadership, and the subsequent poll likewise demonstrated no unanimity. What the poll did show was that the overwhelming majority of members responding wanted neither tax nor toll, and that number represented about 1/3 of the total membership.
In such a situation, Andy, what do you think responsible leadership should have done? The WCTA leadership believed that following the mandate of its membership was appropriate.
The WCTA leadership does strive to inform its members, but it must in the end rely on those members to be intelligent, educated citizens willing to do their duty as citizens and do their own due diligence, in effect relying on members to emulate you. It is said that a man's got to know his limitations, and that aphorism may be validly applied to organizations. The WCTA simply does not have the resources to do what the State, the County, and the Chamber of Commerce have not done.
Absent those resources, the leadership, having found both County and FDOT information to be unreliable and plastic, refuses to make up stuff and refuses to parrot information from in part unreliable official sources. Neither the leadership nor the membership of the WCTA suggests that bridge and road are undesirable and lacking in value. Only a fool would suggest that there is no inherent value or economic benefit to be derived. Quite the contrary. What is being voiced is a verdict on the means and timing, both being judged deficient. The FDOT and the County have imposed a sudden, unexpected crisis-reponse situation on voters and organizations, and the WCTA objects.
Another sales tax makes our bed tax collectors even less price-competitive than our neighbors. Where are the studies showing that these already discriminated against private property owners will not be unduly harmed by this tax? At the margin, they are indeed likely to be harmed, and that economic harm will ripple in the local economy. How much? Beats me.
I do believe that a re-assessment of the TDC and its tax and spend fiefdom should be an antecedent of any further burden on these private property citizens. Why are we not levying the same bed tax on others who benefit from tourist dollars? Restaurants and a host of other businesses in effect get a free ride on the backs of these real property owners. Why are we giving so much money to Southwest Airlines from those bed tax dollars? There is a whole set of issues that beg for consideration in this particular milieu, and they have not been afforded that little luxury. In sum, the tax-toll issue needs to be explored more systematically than has been done.
There is a case to be made, and advocates have failed to advance a reasonable, comprehensive plan. The law of unintended consequences lurks.
We have inadequate infrastructure for the tourist loads we have today. How are we to deal with a bigger funnel leading to the same spout, emptying into the same bowl on either end? Similar questions could be asked with no particular plan in evidence for dealing with the problems this project would impose.
Benefits to be had? Absolutely! Problems inherent? You bet! As a discerning citizen, I expect a more comprehensive argument than strike while the iron is hot and costs low (in relative terms). And by the way, FDOT here--please ignore those statements I made to you on behalf of the State when they prove untrue.
This is still America, thanks in no small part to men such as you, and the voters will have the final say on the tax. One side will win and one will lose in the ballot proposition. Should the tax pass, time to move forward. Should it fail, the ball will be in the court of the BCC, whether for good or bad I suppose depending on one's perspective.
At the end of the day, the proposition will come to pass or not, but life will go on. Like you, I believe we have an enduring obligation to our successors in life. Honest men and women laboring honestly for their differing views of the moment will ultimately produce a good outcome, fulfilling our obligations to our fellow man. Which of us is to say that his course is the one true path in matters political? Not I.
We can honestly and honorably differ, and having done so, we're likely to come to a better solution than either of us would come up with on his own. Thank you for your honest and honorable participation. I personally look forward to participating with you in trying to make Walton a better place for all of us. I respectfully submit you have overlooked some things in making your accusations.
05-07-2012, 01:00 PM #27
This is the last I am going to say on this issue. The vote is tomorrow and I hope all will participate whether for or against. County leadership, in all areas is wrong and the WCTA is right, according to them. It is normally a very dedicated organization but in this case, I believe personalities with certain agendas took over instead. Bob, please don't ask me to explain as I will not, but you know of what I speak and lazin&drinkin long dissertation above to explain your position does one other thing. It also explains why others, such as me, have the stance we do. I vehmently disagree with the WCTA position in this case. I am tired of stating why I feel as I do and will vote according to my feelings, though because of the actions of those such as the WCTA, it will be in vain with regard to this issue. There has not been the time nor the effort and ability to educate the electorate on this issue. I'll end by making a prediction. The referendum will fail. Within three years a toll bridge will be started to cross the bay and everyone except the State of Florida will lose, especially the citizens of Walton County.I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability. Ron Hart
05-07-2012, 02:14 PM #28
05-07-2012, 03:52 PM #29
I really hope Andy is wrong on his prediction (however I am not holding my breath). I hope the voters have asked enough questions that will explain what voting no on the sales tax referendum actually means. Hopefully this self education will convince enough voters that voting yes to the referendum will both ensure a new bridge and road and NO TOLLS! A vote no will create another taxing agency for Walton County businesses, services and anyone just wanting to go to the beach...
05-09-2012, 11:29 PM #30
The WCTA obviously didn't get their way. I voted for the tax. I hate toll roads and I avoid the Mid Bay Bridge. Some of the people who work in the south end of the county live north of the bay and a toll would really be a pain in the butt for them.
05-10-2012, 07:40 AM #31
I'll only say I'm glad my prediction was wrong, mputnal3.I think of government as the Mafia without the moral authority or predictability. Ron Hart
05-10-2012, 02:01 PM #32
Andy A, I admit I was not only holding my breath but making promises to the big man upstairs. I want to pass on my business to my son one day and I believe that a toll bridge would jepordize the future success of our location. I love Walton County but a toll bridge would have created a bad situation for us. I held my breath, made promises to be a better citizen and steward of our resources. As my blood pressure climbed higher and higher I decided to check Sowal for information on the vote. It was like a shot of adrenalin to my faith in the system and people. One of my older customers just told me today that he and his wife do not use that bridge very much but really worried about the people who live North of the Bay and work South of the Bay and therefore took the time to go vote for the tax because he understood there would be a toll if not the tax! I told him thank you, thank you and thank you...
05-10-2012, 02:04 PM #33
The slick way to get a tax increase is to have it on a referendum all by itself like the school tax last year. Both issues would have been voted down if they had not been a stand alone issue. Just another trick used by creative politicos. I find it disgusting when efforts are made to discourage voters from going to the polls although I voted for the tax.
05-10-2012, 02:57 PM #34
Politics and big business is rapidly becoming a problem for the free market system. The tolling agency has friends in the governor's office. Fairness in commerce and trade is being manipulated by this relationship. I read where it would take 30 years for the toll to be paid off. Many of us will not be around in 30 years and it is very possible they will need bridge improvements by then requiring more tolls (never ending). I believe we will have a chance to see the end of the tax. I am very proud that Walton County was able to see through the maze of mirrors to understand what was happening. As a society and now more than ever we will need to pay closer attention to policy and not rhetoric and party affiliation.
05-10-2012, 03:25 PM #35
05-14-2012, 07:00 AM #36
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