Thursday, August 07, 2008

Dark Secrets on Pensacola Beach

Per curiam affirmances "are incompatible with the spirit of Florida's 'Government in the Sunshine' laws, whose purpose... is to prevent at non-public meetings the crystallization of secret decisions to a point just short of ceremonial acceptance."
-- Krosschell, DCAs, PCAs, and Government in the Darkness, 1 Fla. Coastal L. Rev. 12 (1999)

Overnight, Pensacola news reporter Michael Stewart has written a second article about the Portofino real estate tax decision of the First District Court of Appeals. Is this guy prolific, or what?

Michael Stewart has more words at his fingertips than your average Florida appeals court judge scratches out in a month at five times the money! And that, of course, was the point of our baseball metaphor.

Much of Stewart's latest effort is devoted to gathering reactions from local pols to the really, really tough question, "How would you like to scoop up $19 million in extra tax money from a few folks with almost no voting power, for reasons the Florida appellate court has approved without articulating what those reasons may be?"

Naturally, Escambia County commissioner Mike Whitehead -- who's made a career of baiting beach residents for his mainland constituents -- offered up a reaction that rests on an outright lie. Whitehead is quoted as saying:
Beach residents use all the same services as other Escambia County residents, from the Sheriff's Office to the court system, and animal control to mosquito control.
Whitehead knows full well that from time immemorial Pensacola Beach residents annually are specially assessed Municipal Service Benefit Unit fees for county law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services, mosquito control, and, yes, even animal control. Like everyone else in Escambia County, they also pay court filing fees, state intangible taxes, sales taxes, and other assessments which, as elsewhere, in part go to support the state court system.

What Whitehead also knows is that it's a whole lot easier to get away with such public prevarications when judicial panels employed to decide the legality of adding new taxes routinely 'crystallize' their decisions in secret, in the dark.

Stewart roped in one more interesting reaction. Escambia County Property Appraiser Chris Jones told him "he had no choice but impose the taxes."
"I understand and empathize with leaseholders out there," Jones said. "But my job is to uphold the law."
Ironically, Jones appears to have done done this by attacking "a state law as part of the defense in a law suit disputing his or her assessments." That could be a problem for him in the still-pending lawsuit affecting all other Pensacola Beach residents.


Shasuma said...

ask buck about the policy or lease amendment to change the lease fees paid by hotels to the SRIA. A reduction in fees is a violation of the bond covenants.

All hotels are affected, not just the ones that are open today.

ckc said...

I thought the same thing when reading this guy's article?? WHasssup Mike? Are you an idiot or just deliberately trying to entice some of your constituents to further bash the beach leaseholders for doing what anyone else could have done..leasing beach property and putting a structure on it. Mike knows very well what he was saying and that it was misleading. And for Jone's this the dumb an dumber show?? We don't want your sympathy Mr Jones, just for you keep to your business and let the lawmakers make OR CHANGE the law. Not your job! Funny how no letters to the editor have addressed this??

Anonymous said...

Jones just gives the assessed value of the property. He is not the tax collector