Pine Island – incorporation
To the editor
The GICPA is once again pushing for incorporation. The members of the GICPA have put forth a false narrative as to why they believe incorporation is best for the residents. The narrative is significantly based on what I strongly believe is a biased and unprofessionally written feasibility study from August 2017. They are also using fear mongering of annexation of Cape Coral as a basis for the incorporation. Let’s review both angles. Whether you are for or against, the foundation for making an informed decision must be based on a professionally written study. Until a new study that is backed up by factual data is formulated, one must pause and look for the man behind the curtain.
Annexation — The recent fights against Cape Coral regarding the annexation of the property where D&D sit was situational.
Cape Coral owned the land as part of a large auction. They were looking to annex land they already owned. While this round has been settled, the possibility of another push to annex these parcels is very real unless they sell the property. The fight against annexation is one I support completely. That being said, it should be understood that Cape Coral cannot annex the “village” of Matlacha unless the majority of Matlacha voters vote affirmatively to be annexed (FL Statute 171.044). So, unless Matlacha residents vote for it, Cape Coral cannot annex the village of Matlacha.
Feasibility Study I read the feasibility study in full and I have some serious issues with it. A feasibility study should be an unbiased opinion based on facts.
Bias in the report — It should be noted the three authors of the study have Pine Island residential addresses as listed in the report. A resident of Pine Island or Matlacha should not be writing a report as there is a natural bias. As someone who writes professional reports for my livelihood, I have an ethical duty to recuse myself if there is the slightest potential conflict of interest or bias. The report continues with biased statements throughout. The conclusion of a feasibility report of any kind isn’t where an opinion belongs. The body of the report should be factual and not have opinions throughout. Statements throughout the body of the report use opinions without facts or data being cited to back it up. “The residents of Matlacha-Pine Island prefer the Home Rule powers afforded them by a municipal government” is a perfect example a statement that appears factual but has no content to back up the conclusion. This is just one example. There are so many similar examples in the report over and over. The SWOT analysis continues the same opinion-based statements without facts to back them up. Some examples “We need to create commercial opportunities” (understand this translates to not enough tax base). “Our large retirement population is apathetic to our issues.” This statement should make every retired person who has chosen to call this place home livid. The authors consistently use the terms “we,” “I” and “our” throughout the report continuing to show bias. Who is “our” and why are the retirees that are registered voters excluded from your issues? The list of opinionated statements without facts or data continue.
“Both generational and situational poverty”
“Large percentage of students needing meal assistance”
“Drop out rate of island students not earning HS diploma”
“Younger generation drug-related crime”
These are just examples that one will find throughout if they read the 49-page report.
Lastly, a review of the projected budget numbers is creative and relies on complete conjecture. A review of a single line item that I can provide fact-based knowledge is insurance. Page 40 the budget calls for insurance costs at $75,000 (not including heath insurance). That number is so far off the mark, it’s utterly ridiculous to believe the town can be properly insured for liability, property, directors and officers, employment practices liability, auto, employee theft, workers compensation and umbrella for as little as $75,000. They are likely off by about $100,000.
The budget projection goes further to assume a 3% property tax increase annually. If you paid property taxes from 2009-2012, you saw a decline in property taxes, which equates to a significant decline in revenues to the town. Regardless of your political stance, a recession will happen again. When a town can’t survive on its revenues, then the endless cycle of loans and interest begin to creep into the picture which begets more taxes to pay for it.
I have many personal reasons to be against incorporation and it is mostly based on another layer of government telling me what I can and can’t do on my private property. That being said, anyone who is unsure really needs to demand that an unbiased report be put together and a report that refers to factual data to form a professional opinion.
Ronald Hicks, CIC, CRM, CRIS