Let’s revisit the purpose of a CRA

163.355 Finding of necessity by county or municipality.—No county or municipality shall exercise the community redevelopment authority conferred by this part until after the governing body has adopted a resolution, supported by data and analysis, which makes a legislative finding that the conditions in the area meet the criteria described in s. 163.340(7) or (8). The resolution must state that:

(1) One or more slum or blighted areas, or one or more areas in which there is a shortage of housing affordable to residents of low or moderate income, including the elderly, exist in such county or municipality; and

(2) The rehabilitation, conservation, or redevelopment, or a combination thereof, of such area or areas, including, if appropriate, the development of housing which residents of low or moderate income, including the elderly, can afford, is necessary in the interest of the public health, safety, morals, or welfare of the residents of such county or municipality.


Citizen Request for CRA Oversight in Brevard County

At the Feb 9, 2016 Brevard County Commission meeting, a citizen’s request was put on the agenda that a Citizens’s Review Committee be formed to review and provide management oversight for Brevard Co. Community Redevelopment Agencies (CRAs), Economic Development Programs and proposals, corporate tax abatements and cash incentive programs.

Commissioner Robin Fisher, in referring to CRAs stated at that meeting:
“They also have an audit of financials, they have to account for their dollars and where they spend it. People will debate about wheter they like how they spend it. There’s a process by Florida Statute that says what a CRA has to do.”

“There are checks and balances in place. If we want to enforce the ones we have, let’s enforce the ones we have. But to put another committee over some volunteers we already appointed by this board I wouldn’t be supportive of that.”

However, is this really true? Do we have all the needed checks and balances in place to police CRAs?



Miami-Dade Grand Jury Report on CRAs

Within a week of that meeting I was alerted to the Miami-Dade Grand Jury Report entitled
CRAs, The Good, The Bad, And the Questionable” that had just been published.  Although this Grand Jury was focused on Miami’s CRAs, the report contained many findings that could be applied to CRAs everywhere including Brevard Co.

Here are a few highlights from their report:

      • We discovered several examples of CRA boards spending large amounts of taxpayer dollars on what appeared to be pet projects of the elected officials. Additionally, there is, at a minimum, a perception and appearance that certain CRA boards are controlled by the commissioner or councilman within whose district boundaries the CRA operates. Under these circumstances, we believe there is significant danger of CRA funds being used as slush funds for the elected officials.
      • Even when misfeasance or malfeasance occurs, we are led to believe that there would be little that anyone could do. There does not appear to be any enforcement mechanisms for violations of the CRA statute or misspending of taxpayers’ money by CRA board members. For that reason, the grand jury strongly believes that there should be additional oversight of CRA board actions as well as additional persons involved in the governing process.
      • “But for” the existence of the CRA, those ad valorem general fund tax dollars would be deposited in the coffers of the county’s general revenue fund and used for the benefit of the entire county. If the county had use of that money, what additional services and benefits could be provided to the citizens who live in geographical areas of the county that do not have a CRA?
      • Under the Florida Constitution, (Article 7 Section 12), city and county elected officials cannot use ad valorem general fund tax dollars to fund bonds without first obtaining voter approval. A CRA board is NOT required to obtain prior voter approval before issuing bond. It can issue bonds to fund lofty, expensive and/or grandiose projects without any input, discussion or approval from the very people who will be paying taxes to pay-off the debt from the issuance of those bonds.
      • Most significantly, we found that CRAs can unilaterally choose to give taxpayer dollars to aperson or company without the exercise of any process of due diligence, without justification and without recourse.
      • The statute does not set forth any guidelines for the policies and procedures that CRAs must follow to distribute monies.
      • Setting aside policies or procedures for disbursement, we learned that CRAs commonly spend monies that addressed the intent of the statute and benefited the community. However, our investigation uncovered large scale spending on projects that did not address slum, blight or affordable housing. However, the people responsible for the decisions to spend money on such projects can justify it because the statute governing CRAs is written so broadly.
      • The State of Florida has specific laws in place that govern the procurement process for various goods and services. The intent of the law is to provide fair competition, reduce opportunity for favoritism and create an ethical process. But CRAs are not bound by many of the laws that govern the procedures by which the state, counties and municipalities can award and distribute money on similar projects. A glaring example is that the CRA statute does not require agencies to engage in a formal bidding process with expending monies. That means those who operate CRAs, or the board members who approve expenditures, are free to solicit a particular person or company to do a specific project without a competitive bidding process. We believe that such lax laws and regulations are fraught with dangers of cronyism, collusion, inflated or exorbitant costs as well as other issues that lead to corrupt practices.
      • In addition to there being no strict laws governing bidding processes (or even requiring a bidding process), there are no laws or guidelines for distributing monies in the form of grants, which is a common method CRAs use to distribute hundreds of thousands and even millions of dollars.
      • While several of the CRAs that we studied have policies and practices that mirror the formal requirements associated with counties and municipalities, using such formal policies and practices is completely discretionary with the CRA. It is clear that the lack of formal bidding requirements and the lack of guidelines for awarding grants can lead to (and has led to) mismanagement, waste, collusion and corruption.
      • While there are some CRAs that utilize policies and procedures that insure the best use and handling of the public monies, we have several concerns with the lax laws that govern CRAs expending money and how CRAs interpret these laws when spending public monies. In very broad terms, Florida Statute 163.387 sets forth how monies can be spent by CRAs and it is being interpreted to permit the expenditure of funds for anything even tangentially related to the community redevelopment plan. FOR THIS REASON, WE BELIEVE THERE SHOULD BE MORE OVERSITE OF CRAs.
      • While the law speaks to the different auditing reporting requirements, there is nothing in the statute that addresses what review is to be undertaken by those who receive the audit or what remedies exist if the information contained in the audit or report is found (if reviewed) to be questionable or deficient. To put it simply, the law does not set forth any standards for review of the information. The reporting requirements appear to be more form over substance.
      • We find that there is no significant oversight for specifying on which projects, programs or services CRAs choose to spend monies. The boards can decide where to distribute monies and in what method to distribute monies without any consideration for the best practices in the industry.
      • It is important to note that in the CRAs where slum or blight was substantially or completely eradicated, we found there is no apparent danger of the area regressing to a slum or blighted area. This is important because the CRAs that continue to operate in the areas where slum or blight has been eradicated rely on the part of the statute that provides CRAs can be used for the “prevention” of slum and blight or rely on examples of slum or blight that do not represent the overall condition of the area within the CRAs boundary. As a result, the amount of money going to those CRAs far exceeds the remaining necessity. We think that this result is inconsistent with the statute and the statute is being interpreted in an overboard manner that enables such areas to continue to receive public tax dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.

Two executives with a different view or opinion of direction

So who’s watching the store?

As you have read from excerpts in the Grand Jury report, they too have concerns about the lack of oversight on CRAs. Although they did a great job in finding many of the problems with CRAs,  I do disagree with their recommendation that oversight of CRAs should be provided by Florida League of Cities/FRA or by adding a Brevard Co. Commissioner to the Board. As you read on, I believe you will see why.

After the County Commission meeting turned down the request for additional oversight, I went down the same path I did a few years back and started my internet research to see what reporting structures I could find on CRAs.

My internet research took me to the website by the Florida Redevelopment Association (FRA), upon which I found a CRA annual checklist for reporting and compliance. It states:

          • Florida’s Chief Financial Officer oversees the local government Annual Financial Reporting system, which every city, county and special district (CRA) must participate in each year.
          • CRA must submit their yearly audit to the Auditor General, who is authorized to audit CRAs as directed by the Legislative Auditing Committee.
          • The Florida Special District Accountability Program is in charge of registering/monitoring compliance/publishing each CRAs profile online (as dependent special districts providing guidance on state requirements and collecting annual special district fees.

On the surface this all sounds great because you are led to believe that there are State agencies monitoring what is happening on CRAs. However, my two phone calls, one to the Chief Financial Officer and one to the Auditor General, informed me that they themselves perform no audits and only check that a report has been filed. I was informed auditing and policing is the responsibility of the governing authority of the CRA.

Two down, and one to go. An email reply from the Florida Special District Accountability Program stated:

“If you’re talking about the annual report to taxing authorities that is required by Chapter 163, Part III, F.S., the state does not have involvement with that report. I think the Florida Redevelopment Association has information on their website, including examples. Carol Westmoreland (1-800-616-1513) can answer any questions about that report.”


Here’s what is important about that email. The Florida Redevelopment Associaton (FRA) is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to assisting Florida professionals and volunteers in community revitalization efforts. They operate under a contract with the Florida League of Cities. The Florida League of Cities is group of  city officials of municipal governments. Their mission is to shape legislation, share the advantages of cooperative action, and exchange ideas and experiences. I guess you could call them lobbyists for their cities. So why wouldn’t they want CRAs to give them additional funding or “free money”? This is why I am so concerned that the Grand Jury made the recommendation for the FRA to be appointed as additional oversight for CRAs. Kind of like putting a fox in the hen house.

To further prove my point, back in October 2015, the Budget Review Committee was to present to the Board of County Commissioners their recommendations regarding the budget. One of the recommendations was to take an in-depth look at money going to CRAs. When the FRA caught wind of this, they sent out an high alert email to all those in charge of CRAs. On the day of the meeting the room filled up with those who wanted to protect their cash cow. I was forwarded a copy of that email:

                   Hello, the attached report is really negative to city CRAs in Brevard – all  of them.  Generalizations without backup, misstatements, misleading conclusions and inaccuracies abound. Apparently done by a “citizen’s committee”. Would like to see the membership of that committee. The report is going to be presented to the County Commission on Thursday, October 1. I would be happy to draft some points/responses for the record, for your use. Feel free to pass on!!!
Carol Westmoreland, Executive Director, Florida Redevelopment Association

Brevard CRAs

According to Brevard Co. Attorney Scott Knox, we currently have 15 core CRAs in Brevard Co, several of which have been expanded over the years. Of the 15, four (Cocoa Village, Titusville, Melbourne Historic Downtown and MIRA) were created prior to July 1, 1994. Because the Board of County Commissioners authority over CRAs within cities is the result of a statute that did not apply until the date of the county charter was adopted (7/1/94), of the four CRAs created before that date, only the Merrit Island Redevelopment Agency is subject to the jurisdiction and control of the Board of County Commissioners at this time.

Of the remaining eleven CRAs, ten CRAs were created after July 1, 1994 by various cities and one through join action of the City of West Melbourne and the County. The ten created by the cities all involve the Board’s delegation of the County’s authority to create the CRA to each city.

As stated in the beginning of this article, the reason for CRAs was to address issues of slums, blight and the shortage of affordable housing within a designated area. I do believe that there are areas that CRAs can do some good and Miami-Dade is probably one of those places. But just how much blight or slum can be found in Brevard County? And if it did exist at one point, how long does it take for those 20+ year CRAs to achieve their objectives?  Has even one penny of an CRA money in Brevard gone to affordable housing?

Another thing that rarely gets attention are the additional expenses of the administration fees. The Grand Jury report discovered that a CRA board in Miami was spending $300,000 in salary and benefits for three employees who were managing the remaining $100,000 in TIF funds! In Brevard, Troy Post, director of the North Brevard Economic Development Zone makes approximately $105,000 and the director of Merritt Island Redevelopment Agency director makes approximately $93,500, not including benefits. It is hard to find the true administrative costs are for the other CRAs because expenses are many of them are commingled with the city expenses.

The Grand Jury report also recommends that every CRA board appoint a commissioner. I see this only as a bigger concern for cronyism. Take a look at the N. Brevard Economic Development Zone in which Robin Fisher is the sitting Commissioner on the board. Other members of the board are his business partner in Colefish, Inc; his accountant; his neighbor appointed to Board; his attorney, another former business partner; and the Titusville Planning Director whose wife is a former business partner of Robin Fisher’s wife. Rather than oversight being supplied by the Commissioner, this is more like a neighborhood baseball team with Robin Fisher as the coach.



Where do we go from here?

I believe due to the loose language in the law and lack of oversight, CRAs in their current form are unmanageable and they lack public transparency. There is much evidence that other counties in Florida are running into CRA problems and causing financial difficulties because of the lack of oversight. They drain the general fund and take tax payer money that could be better used for road maintenance, county employee salary increases, pensions, libraries, etc.  As long as CRAs are in existance, your tax dollars will be directed more towards wants,  rather than needs.  As a matter of fact, that’s what started this discussion on CRAs, the lack of funding to help fix our roads.

If CRAs are to remain, there is much work that needs to be done. (see end of this article) The Florida Legislature should begin work on a a major overhaul of FS 163 Part III. Taxpayers need to have some insurance their tax dollars are being spent with more accountability and an transparent process. Financial reporting of CRAs need to be independent of the municipality reports, done in a uniform and timely manner and posted with easy access for all to see. The agreement by the Brevard County Commissioners to standardize the reporting structure of CRAs is a good start.  Let’s go from there.

Before one penny is given to a CRA, we need something in place that would ensure compliance with FS 163 and restrict redevelopment plans to its true purpose. This would eliminate a good deal of the wasteful spending or the creation of CRAs every time a city needs additional funds. And in cases where when non-compliance is found on existing CRAs, major penalties should be put in place for not adhering to the statute.

Another solution would be that if CRAs are so important to a city, then maybe they should fund them themselves and stop taking money from the county general fund.  If they have to use money from their own city budget, then possily they would pay more attention to how the money is being spent.  As long as they keep getting this “free money” with no oversight in place, then you will keep seeing CRA boards spending it for  palm trees, parks,  lift stations, etc.

Milton Friedman, an American economist who received the 1976 Nobel Memorial Price in Economic Sciences said it best:

      1. You can spend your own money on yourself. When you do that, why then you really watch out what you’re doing, and you try to get the most for your money. So when you spend your money on yourself you bargain hard and get almost exactly what you wanted.
      2. You can spend your own money on somebody else. For example, I buy a birthday present for someone. Well, then I’m not so careful about the content of the present, but I’m very careful about the cost.
      3. I can spend somebody else’s money on myself. And if I spend somebody else’s money on myself, then I’m sure going to have a good lunch!
      4. I can spend somebody else’s money on somebody or something else. And if I spend somebody else’s money on somebody or something else, I’m not concerned about how much it is, and I’m not concerned about what I get.

Almost all government agencies, but especially evident with CRAs, does it’s best work at number four!


Recommended changes to statutes and practices

The following are some of the recommended changes that should be applied to CRAs:

  1. Restrict CRA redevelopment plans to true purposes of 163.355,163.340 (7) & (8); actual necessity.
  2. Mandate that plan resolution will address specific ”blight” condition. (Parking, Transportation)
  3. Review statutory “blight” definitions for relevancy. Open to any interpretation as written.
  4. Compliance review annually by designated oversight agency: A new Community Redevelopment Administration for all Brevard CRA’s; State IG, Financial manager in Clerk’s office; State Attorney?
  5. Enforcement of compliance by withholding of all funding until corrected.
  6. Budget submitted to County under same schedule as other departments.
  7. Cap administrative costs at no more than 10% of budgeted revenues. 90% must go to the enabling Plan .
  8. NO elected officials to sit on boards…only residents of the CRA area appointed by Commissioners and councils. It is their taxes on their property, and their concerns for their community.
  9. NO bonding without local referendum.
  10. CRA sunsets when initial projects plan is completed, or abandoned. No more than 48 mos permitted for start of projects. Failure is dissolution.
  11. All board members must have some area of expertise that relates to the board duties, complete a two day course of the requirements of FS 163, 189 and limits of authority of agencies; course may be conducted by the local authority attorney, or a STATE AGENCY FRA; or designated certifier by Florida legislature. This would be in addition to the 4hr ethics class for officials.
  12. All CRA’s to provide long-range projections of funding, revenues, expenditures to ensure viability.
  13. NO CRA term longer than 20 years; allowable extensions for finishing projects begun; revenues go to debt service to dissolve CRA.
  14. TIF (Tax Incremental Funding) funding to exclude new construction ad valorem revenues; only assessment increases. *
  15. CRA must conduct in-depth due diligence for any corporate grants to ensure performance. Must reflect positive results to community (jobs, taxes, redevelopment, etc)
  16. Non-performing grants will result in money being returned to general fund of local authority.
  17. ALL other affordable housing resources must be tapped and exhausted (FEDERAL housing, Doc Stamps, etc.) prior to establishment of CRA.
  18. Prohibited from spending CRA resources on services being provided by local authority under assessed millages. Double taxation.
  19. Procurement of goods and services must conform to state bidding and procurement guidelines; Open to all qualified suppliers, maintain competitive restraints.
  20. Annual audit of all CRA activities for performance, forensic, accuracy, and conformance with plan. See FS 163 for requirements.
  21. FRA should be a state agency, not a division of the League of Cities if given duties of oversight, education, guidance, and credibility in CRA administration. Current performance deplorable in factual representation of limits and scope of legitimate CRA’s. Cities are the main proponent of CRA’s since they receive their portion from the County General Fund. Ergo Carol Westmoreland’s vigorous promotion. They have consistently ignored their own Code of Ethics in the presentation of “false and misleading information”.
  22. TIF funding is currently available to all governmental authorities to perform every aspect of a CRA without creation of a CRA. Avoid the depletion of general fund monies by taking direct action to accomplish the same programs. CRA’s deprive the county of revenue increases to pay for inflationary and long-term benefit commitments.
  23. Under no circumstance should CRA boards contain the same officials, or contracted attorneys who vote to create, manage, and appoint cronies to the CRA. Responsible residents/businesses of the CRA zone should determine the expenditures of the TIFF property tax moneys.
  24. A full review of FS 163 and 189 should be done to correct obvious personal and official conflicts, ethical deviations, and exceptions to Florida statutes and the Constitution.
  25. CRA fund balances shall not exceed the requirements for completion of planned projects. Surpluses returned to the proper General Fund.
  26. Renewal or extension of a CRA require an updated finding of necessity.
  27. “Blight” condition to require at least three of the conditions listed in 163.387(2), “a” through “o”.
  28. Boundary changes would require a new finding of necessity, and full compliance with statutes.
  29. ALL board members would be required to declare conflict if voting on any issue in which an extended family member or business associate in any capacity would be a party to the issue.

*TIF funding captures all the new construction increases local governments use to pay for inflation, benefit commitments, expansions, new hires, etc. Only recourse is higher taxes, fees, assessments. Entire concept is illogical in government planning. Serves no worthwhile purpose that cannot be done in regular session by local authority.




Miami-Dade Grand Jury Report: CRAs, The Good, The Bad and The Questionable:

Brevard Co. 101: The Creation of CRAs





Gas Tax Increase Fact Summary

By Joyce Errecart

On Sept. 28, 2015, the Brevard County Commission approved the Fiscal Year 2016 budget of more than $1 billion and set property tax rates. Less than six weeks later, on November 5, the Brevard County Commission considered increasing the county gas tax by 6 cents per gallon. Several hundred people attended the workshop, and many citizens recommended ways to cut the budget to make more money available for road maintenance. Not one suggestion made by citizens and Commissioner Trudie Infantini was commented upon favorably by the Commission, and the Commission didn’t ask county staff to prepare options for cutting budgeted spending.

The County Commission met again for a workshop on Dec. 10, 2015. Again, many residents made numerous suggestions for reducing the budget to raise funds for road maintenance, and again, not one suggestion was commented on favorably by the Commission (other than by Commissioner Infantini). Again, the Commission didn’t ask county staff to prepare options for cutting budgeted spending to free up funds for road maintenance. Commissioner Infantini spoke against the tax increase, and Commissioner Curt Smith indicated that he was not prepared to vote for the tax increase at that time. Another workshop has been scheduled for Jan. 14, 2016.

The County has used a list, which has been called a prioritized list, of road projects that totals $474 million to show that gas taxes must be increased. The first 7 items on that list, totaling more than $66 million in projected costs, are for sidewalks. On Dec. 10, County staff presented a list, that wasn’t prioritized, showing that 347 miles must be resurfaced and 36 miles must be reconstructed.

Keeping the public safe and maintaining public roads are the most important functions of county government. How could the County Commission approve a budget without providing for road maintenance? Three members of the 5 member Citizens Advisory Budget Committee, appointed by County Commissioners, made recommendations for reducing the 2016 budget. Not one of those recommendations was adopted.

It cost $78,273 to repave one mile of road in 2015. If the County must pave 55 miles per year, a number that’s been suggested, then it would cost $4.3 million. The County Commission can’t find $4.3 million in a total budget that exceeds $1 billion? (Most commissioners consider it a roughly $180 million operating budget because of special funds.) The county must exhaust all alternatives before raising taxes. Alternatives include selling unused or underused buildings, implementing and budgeting savings on expensive telecommunication systems, reviewing more options for reducing health insurance costs, and requiring county personnel to present budget saving options. A gas tax increase will fall most heavily on poor people, nonprofits that serve poor people, and on seniors living on fixed incomes.

The critical vote on the Commission is Commissioner Curt Smith. Four votes are needed to increase the gas tax. Commissioners Robin Fisher, Jim Barfield and Andy Anderson have indicated support for the tax increase. Commissioner Infantini has vocally opposed the tax increase. Commissioner Smith has indicated that he wants to save taxpayer dollars by resurfacing roads before more expensive repairs are needed, and apparently is concerned that a majority of commissioners won’t vote to cut other spending in order to raise funds for road repairs.

If you can’t come to speak in person at the workshop on Jan 14 at 1 p.m. in Viera in the County government complex, please call or email Commissioner Curt Smith.  His phone number is 321-633-2044. His email address

Robin Fisher is at 321-264-6750 and

Jim Barfield is at 321-454-6601 and

Trudie Infantini is at 321-952-6300 and

Andy Anderson is at 321-253-6611 and

For more information, visit or contact Joyce Errecart at

Brevard Co. proposed six cent per gallon gas tax and why you should oppose it.

Workshops will begin this Thursday, December 10 in Viera @ 1:00 p.m. to discuss the proposed gas tax.  The following presentation was created to help you understand why you should be opposed it.  Please try to attend the meeting to let your voice be heard.  Thank you.







Budget Review Committee Recommendations

by Dale Young

Elected Commissioners have the statutory responsibility for administrative and fiscal oversight of all county functions and finances. It is totally inappropriate to dodge that lawful responsibility by repeatedly stating “the public wanted it, or they voted for it”. The public is in no position to make those determinations, since they have very little access to the operational and financial information available to both commissioners and management. Almost without exception, huge projects, expenditures, and indebtedness are undertaken to enhance popularity at the polls rather than protect the public funds and future. This situation is illustrated by the later section on Debt.

It is highly unlikely that an insurance selection committee composed entirely of county employees will be inclined, or be in any position to select coverage with a long range view to sustainability. Would it seem logical that group would want the most favorable package without regard to the impact on county finances five years later. (See Commission Responsibilities)

Does any local authority have any right take public funds intended for administrative needs and use them for business ventures in competition with established, tax paying, job-providing, privately-funded businesses? Any business, whether local or not? Generally, this is the result of some state or federal grant too good to pass up. Coastal Emergency, T-Hangers, Spec buildings, Real estate ventures, private airports, golf courses…..) Brevard County needs to enact a firm policy of using the private business resources for any such projects and ventures.

There is an annual and repetitive bemoaning by management about revenue shortfalls; yet it is the committed policy of the commission to skim portions of the General Fund Ad Valorem revenues for distribution to more than two dozen organizations with local feel-good localized programs. Currently, nearly $7 million per year is diverted from the general management resources needed for salary increases, inflationary costs, pension benefits, capital improvements, health insurance, equipment and program replacements, ad infinitum. In the name of responsible fiscal management, it is time for the county to end this skimming of COUNTY contributions, and apply any future such funds to the abolishing of related debts. This allows the local authorities to adopt any such programs they can financially or politically justify.
This revenue drain has consumed over $100 million general fund dollars to date and is currently estimated to gobble an additional QUARTER BILLION over the next thirty years. How can the county claim revenue shortages?

Outstanding indebtedness was over $417,605,000 at the end of 2014, and currently requires over $33 million in annual debt service, or roughly a quarter of new property tax revenues. The road repair crisis persists in spite of over $154 million having been borrowed since 2005, with added gas tax revenues of roughly $18 million annually. (added 10 year total of $180 million for $525 million for roads).

There is little consistency in our bond negotiations, as $129 million are at interest rates of 2-3%, and the balance of $116 million at 4-5%. Are we borrowing for the benefit of the bond purveyors?

Would recommend that an analysis of specific return on the bonded dollar precede any bond acquisition, and published on the county web site, ass well as by public notice.
Recommend eliminating the costs of insurance, since these are government bonds with practically zero failures, and are only bonuses to the issuers.

Recommend open positions are carried no more than six months; compensations and benefits be shown as vacancies. Staffing services used where appropriate.

Utilize historical data for more realistic budget estimates. Shortages of over $100 million through the fiscal year would indicate a budget of little practical use.

All grant recipients of any Brevard County funding provide complete financial details as to the utilization of those funds: All persons employed in the grant project; all disbursements of funds and recipients; accomplishments of grant money; future financial needs.

by Peter Fusscas

1. Long Range Strategic Plans and Priorities
a. Each year a report should be published to the public and to the County manager, specifying and ranking the priorities for all departments of government and the associated spending priorities. This report will provide guidance for each succeeding budget year.

2. Zero Based Budgeting: a pilot program
a. Select an agency or department within an agency and run a pilot program to introduce, train, test, and evaluate zero based budgeting.

3. CRA and Economic Development Zones
a. Estimated Future Expenditures: Total GF Expenditures over 20 Years, $203,244,471.
b. Should this money be applied to the county’s critical needs?
c. Monitor and Report on CRA’s

4. If economic development is a county priority, the BCC should consider expanding the NBEDZ model to the other four county districts. Over time that will level the playing field and expand Eco. Dev. throughout the entire county.

5. Health Care Costs: There is a critical need to identify potential reductions in healthcare costs.
a. What are the Effects of Healthcare Costs on Employee Wages and Salaries? -29% over the past 9 years.
b. An independent consulting company can guide the evaluation of alternative plan designs and nontraditional solutions to the county’s healthcare plan.

6. Close the budget gap between the Adopted Budget and the Final Budget.
a. Over a 10 year period the gap between adopted and final budget averaged over $100 million dollars.
b. The proposed adopted budget should be up-dated just prior to final approval of the Adopted Budget.

7. Summary: Financial Impact.
CRA’s: $203 million over 20 years.
600 retirees removed from county health insurance: $3.5 million per year or $70 million over 20 years. (plus a saving to the retirees)
Health care models: $9-$15 million per year or $180 – $300 million over 20 years.
Cadillac Tax: $21 million over three years or $140 million over 20 Years.
Unfilled Positions (Vacant) at the end of each year. 10 year average $3,672,590 x 20= $73.452 million. Make this part of a dedicated Road Repair reserve.
Total: $593 million-$713 million over 20 years and with eliminating unfilled positions: $666.452 million – $786.452 million.

by Dave Pasley
Since there was no Budget Review Committee consensus, each member brought forward their individual comments.

It was the opinion of some of the committee members and their learned opinions that there are funds available to support all current County NEEDS.
The money in the current budget is available to meet the needs of roads/infrastructure improvements. The County Commission’s first budgeting responsibility is disciplined budgeting, setting priorities and establishing goals and objectives. None of which seems to even be considered. If I were from Mars looking at how Brevard County spends their money, I would have to conclude that their #1 priority is not roads, infrastructures, salaries etc, but more on non-essential items along with giving out more than $10 million in EDC/CRA/NBEDZ/Cash Incentives.
Why are Brevard County Taxpayers supporting three separate IT Departments? County IT Dept., School Board IT Dept, and Clerks IT dept. including Telephone system. AT&T/Nortel system outdated and expensive. VOIP upgrade needed. Studies need to determine if it would be cost effective to outsource IT Department operations. Also what is the cost of maintaining outdated systems vs. bringing in modern, up to date management systems.
In further review of the budget we found that some items require some in-depth review for more possible cost savings:

– the County pays for a number of positions for Court Administration but none are mandated.

– Could we contract out hauling to a commercial landfill and not spend tens of millions building one on US 192?

– EELS Facilities and Staff review.
– Board raises without adjustments to shortage/surplus positions.
– The continuations of repeating annual appropriations for mistakes, for example Cody.
– Sacred cows such as Public Safety or Employee Health Benefits. These have not been cut or examined since 2009.
– County owned buildings that set idle without any plan to utilize or surplus them.
. . . . . and my personal favorite, money spent without a supporting business case such as the $6M spent on Mosquito Control Helicopters.
If property tax revenue rises by say $5 million this year, where is the $5 million going? Raises, insurance, who knows as there seems to be no clear plan.

by Mike Slotkin

In the context of the citizen’s budget review committee (hereafter CBRC), my feedback is proffered for the purposes of commenting on the sustainability of Brevard County’s service offerings. Specifically, whether the county is financially positioned to maintain its service amenity across the spectrum of activities it supports.

My participation with the CBRC comes about one year after my work on the Blue Ribbon Transportation Committee ended. The conclusion that committee arrived at was that roads and other transportation infrastructure were critically under-funded (for reference purposes the order of magnitude was a revenue need in excess of $600 million over a 15 year recovery window), and in Spring 2014 a plan to address our deteriorating infrastructure was submitted to the Brevard County Commission. No action was taken.

With respect to this committee and Brevard County’s overall budget the imperative becomes to ascertain to what degree the critical imbalance between roads funding and need is reflexive of critical imbalances in other service areas, or an isolated phenomenon whereby roads funding served as the proverbial neglected step-child, deferring its share to other departments in times of declining revenues. Sadly, my conclusion, after numerous CBRC sessions during the course of the late spring and summer 2015, is that the former position holds, and pockets of stress are appearing in other functional areas, including but not limited to health insurance, employee retention, IT, parks, environmental lands, and fire/EMS.

Time did not permit a comprehensive review of all governmental functions, but it is doubtful that funds are recoverable from an aspect of government that is over-funded (if that even exists … more likely, less under-funded) to reduce the stresses above, let alone make significant progress with respect to roads and infrastructure. In other words, in my opinion this problem won’t be solved by securing greater efficiencies, which, when possible, should always be a desired goal. The order of magnitude involved in correcting the roads and infrastructure decay along with Brevard County’s currently low ad valorem tax collections in relation to income (more on that next) necessitates new revenue sources.

I came into this exercise with a very specific macro view that is informed by the ratio of ad valorem1 tax receipts in relation to income. Tax receipts, the numerator in this ratio, reflect the ability of County Government to supply goods and service amenity to its constituents. Income, and more specifically, personal income, the sum of net earnings, transfer receipts, and dividends-interest-rents at the county-level, is a demand proxy which reflects greater purchasing power and population. The greater purchasing power a community has, and the more people that inhabit its sphere, the greater the amount of goods and services demanded, some of which are public ally provided.

As is evidenced by Figure 1, (Figure unsupported byWordpress) this ratio, which exhibits a distinct pattern of cyclicality, was re-approaching its FY 2000 low-water mark in 2013. This is the last year for which personal income data for Brevard County exists. It is likely that the FY 2000 low-water mark was broached in FY 2014, and confirmation will occur this November with the next data release by the Census Bureau. The tanking of this ratio is representative of fiscal duress, and given the dim prospects for short-term recovery of revenues sufficient to restore this ratio to a more favorable level, in my opinion Brevard County will face increasing difficulty in maintaining service amenity.
The causes of this fiscal trap – a combination of factors that includes a housing bubble and bust, the particulars of our taxing/roll-back formula, etc. – are worthy of more intense scrutiny but are not the subject at hand. The ulterior question is what to do about this.

The Blue Ribbon Committee submitted a detailed plan to tackle the roads and infrastructure issue via new revenues associated with an infrastructure sales tax, expanding the existing gas tax regime, and the restoration of transportation impact fees. In my opinion this option is the only viable pathway to address the infrastructure decline which permeates Brevard County. I would also posit that this option affords the ability to devote any future increases in ad valorem revenues to other pockets of need which are already apparent. This constitutes my central recommendation to the Brevard County Commission, and thus, the next section serves as background for that plan, which has been extracted from the earlier Blue Ribbon Report.
Figure 2 (Figure unsupported by WordPress) provides a holistic view of Brevard County’s current infrastructure dilemma, calibrated to a 15-year cycle. On an annual basis, approximately $14 million (labeled Current Expenses) is presently available for the recurring funding of routine maintenance ($11.435mi), resurfacing ($0.626mi), equipment ($1.615mi), and landscaping ($0.324mi). Unfortunately, that level of funding, which derives from gas taxes, general fund revenues, and MSTU dollars, only allows for the resurfacing of about 8 miles of roads per year, far short of the 55 miles per year needed to resurface Brevard’s 1,110 miles of roads on a 20 year rotation (i.e., 1,100 miles/20 years = 55). A 20-year resurfacing rotation ensures that the roads do not decay to the point of needing reconstruction, which is prohibitively more expensive.

Ensuring that all Brevard County roads are resurfaced on a 20 year rotation requires an additional $4.2mi per year. Including traffic, drainage, and sidewalk maintenance bumps that annual figure to $6.2mi (labeled Additional Recurring Funding in red); thus, the recurring maintenance requirements, all things normalized, would require $20.2mi per year over the next 15 years, in contrast to the $14mi currently available.

All things are not normalized, however, as Brevard County has a legacy bill. In 2014, due to the lack of fidelity to the prescribed 20 year resurfacing schedule, about 280 miles of road required either partial or full reconstruction, at an annual cost of $10.06mi. Factoring in the annualized backlog costs for traffic, drainage, and sidewalk maintenance (i.e., $1.8mi) yields a yearly legacy remediation bill of $11.86mi (labeled Deferred Maintenance Legacy Costs in red), to be incurred over the next 15 years.

In total, sustaining the existing roadway infrastructure requires additional funding of $18.06mi per year (i.e., $6.2mi + 11.86mi) over the next 15 years, at which point remediation would be complete. Sustainable funding for roadway infrastructure would then fall to the aforementioned $6.2mi (albeit adjusted for inflation) beyond what is presently available.

None of the revenues discussed up to this point are associated with infrastructure expansion. It is thought that in excess of $440mi in new road construction projects to be completed over the next 15 years is needed for the alleviation of transportation capacity constraints. This would involve in the neighborhood of about $30mi per year. There is currently no funding base for this.

Given this background, the following recommendations were forwarded to the Brevard County Commissioners, and for completeness are repeated here. For clarity purposes the acronym BRAC refers to the Blue Ribbon Advisory Commission.

1. Maintain current funding – $14M annually. The current Public Works budget is derived from multiple sources including general revenue. The BRAC recommends maintaining a combination of current revenue sources to keep this level of annual funding. New sources of revenue should not be used to supplant existing funds.

2. Levy 6 cents per gallon of additional gas tax – $7.8 annually. The BRAC recommends that the Board of County Commissioners take action prior to July 1 to begin collecting new gas tax revenue on January 1, 2015. These funds should be fully committed to regularly scheduled maintenance of existing infrastructure which is the first priority. These funds should not be bonded.

Due to annexation and the significant number of county roads now withing city limits, it is suggested that, in advance of this levy, a new interlocal agreement be negotiated committing 60% of a new funding to county roads and 40% to city-maintained roads. With this formula, new projected County revenue would be $2,042,900 from the 9th cent fuel tax and $5,727,903 from the five-cent Local Option Gas Tax. The municipalities would receive and additional $3,818,652 annually. Distribution of current gas tax revenues would continue using the existing formula (47% county/53% cities.

3. Collect impact fees to support capacity expansion – $3.4 annually. The BRAC recommends that the County Commission allow the current moratorium on impact fees to sunset as scheduled on December 31, 2014. The annual revenue from impact fees will fluctuate proportionately to growth and their use will be limited to increasing capacity to support that growth. The County is conducting an analysis of the impact fee structure and should work closely with real estate and building professionals to set appropriate impact fees that will support capacity expansion.

4. Support a one-half cent infrastructure sales tax referendum – $17.45M annually. The infrastructure sales tax is the only funding mechanism that provides the revenue needed to support maintenance, reconstruction, and capacity for the County and the cities. The BRAC recommends that an infrastructure sales tax referendum be placed on the November, 2014 ballot. The sales tax would be limited to 15 years with all funding dedicated to transportation infrastructure. They also recommend the development of interlocal agreements for the County and cities, prior to the referendum, that include the following commitments:

– Limited to 15 years
– Revenue can only be used for transportation infrastructure (as defined by the LOGT statute)
– Funds will be distributed based on the Department of Revenue allocation formula
– Resurfacing and maintenance of existing infrastructure will be prioritized
– Each jurisdiction will produce and maintain a list of project priorities
– Each jurisdiction will be required to produce an annual accountability report
– The additional six cents gas tax would be rescinded during the years that the infrastructure sales tax is collected
– Bonding is discouraged (may consider limited bonding)
Brevard is currently facing two fiscal realities that are intertwining but separate. Firstly, ad valorem revenue collections are failing to keep pace with community income, and secondly, given the legacy nature of the problem, it appears that an adequate revenue formula to address roads and infrastructure has never really been in place. Fixing reality #2 can help contribute to the alleviation of some of the difficulties associated with reality #1, by addressing the most transparent crisis point of the moment (i.e., roads and infrastructure) and enabling the channeling of future revenue increases that would naturally occur to the numerous current and anticipated areas of need (i.e., health insurance increases, salary compression affecting retention, parks/environmental lands, fire/emergency services, and others).

The search for cost savings via greater efficiencies should always be encouraged, and it should be noted and reaffirming that many of the ideas introduced by CBRC members have already been examined by County Management and Staff (i.e., IT outsourcing, health insurance for County employees Medicare eligible, etc.). The pursuit of greater efficiencies, however, should not be a coverlet designed to obscure the unpleasant reality of insufficient revenues. With respect to the roads crisis, and in my opinion, there is no solution that exists absent new revenue sources. I believe this was the reality that existed 15 months ago when the BRAC issued its report, and I think this reality is even more relevant today.



Letter to EyeonBrevard: Benefits of Carbon Dioxide and Oil

By Ed Priselac

As CO2 increases, vegetation becomes stronger, producing more oxygen and yielding greater output of nutrients.  Thus–though it may not be wise–we are actually able to use some of our vegetative  food as fuel.

When it comes to oil, nothing on our planet comes close to producing the type of energy we derive from it (except perhaps, coal).  And the products we make from oil are not only mind-boggling, but essential to our lives here on Earth.  Try receiving medical care without all the plastics–especially the tubing–in hospitals.  Your computer, cell phone, TV, automobile, home appliances would simply not exist without by-products, primarily plastic, produced from oil–not to mention lubricants we need for our machinery to function.  One could fill the Empire State Building with listings of oil derived essentials for our society to function.

Please recognize we would be back to self-gardening, well water, and hunting for our survival if we lost our access to fossil fuels.

The Citizen Budget Review Committee is Back in Business

After a long hiatus in Brevard County, the Citizen Budget Review Committee is back in business.

Created by Resolution # 90-164 in March of 1990, this committee has been reconstituted to assist in the budget setting process and make recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners prior to the hearings in July and September to set the County tax millage rate and budget for the year starting October 1, 2015.

The Citizen Budget Review Committee consists of five County residents, each of whom is appointed by a County Commissioner, plus the County Manager as an ex officio member. Appointees do not have to reside in the District from which they are appointed.

Current appointees are:
District 1: Doug Baker
District 2: Michael Slotkin
District 3: Michael Hartman (Chair)
District 4: Peter Fusscas (Vice Chair)
District 5: Dale Young

Meetings are open to the public and public comment is encouraged and appreciated. Meetings are currently scheduled for the following times and places:

Where: Building C at the Government Center, Atlantic and Florida Rooms are on the 3rd Floor, Space Coast Room is on the Second Floor

All of the meetings will begin at 10:00 am.


May 27th – Florida Room

June 10th – Atlantic Room

June 24th – Space Coast Room

July 8th – Atlantic Room

July 15th – Space Coast Room

The first hearing to set the tentative County tax millage rate will be held on July 22nd, so it’s critical that concerned taxpayers attend these meetings and make their ideas and wishes known to the committee. Major topics scheduled to be discussed in the May and June meetings include the cost of health care to the County and the detailed budgets for several departments that collectively spent over 75% of the tax dollars that you paid to the County last year.

AAF: The Safety of High Speed Rail in Populated Areas

For months, we have discussed the many impacts AAF will have on our communities. There has been a tendency to focus on how those impacts translate into costs, but we seem to have overlooked the human costs.

The environmental impact study (EIS), which was paid for by AAF, was submitted to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) as part of AAF’s application for a $1.75 Billion federally subsidized loan. The study, released last month, concludes, “The Project would not appreciably affect public health, safety and security in the rail corridor.”

A brief analysis of the facts contradicts the EIS conclusions on several fronts:

  1. Over the past 15 years (1999 – 2013), there have been 221 fatalities along the FEC corridor from Miami to Cocoa. It is one of the deadliest corridors in the country. Under AAF’s plan, the number of trains will increase by over 300%, and the speed of the trains will double and even triple, relative to freight operations.

Technologies can be implemented to mitigate some of the increased risk. AAF is required by law to use Positive Train Control (PTC) technology by 2015. Unfortunately, PTC is designed to avoid accidents caused by human error, and, according to’s Eric Jaffe, only 35% of all rail accidents are caused by human error. What is AAF doing to mitigate the remaining 65%?

About 75 percent, 171 deaths, occurred on the right of way, outside of at-grade crossings, and involve trespassers. AAF offers nothing to address this problem. Setting aside the increased speed, we can conclude that the number of trespasser deaths could increase by the same percentage as the number of trains using the corridor. This could result in an additional 340 deaths along the FEC corridor in AAF’s first 15 years of operation.


  1. FRA has strenuous requirements for grade crossing and safety equipment for trains traveling 111 mph, but the same is not true for trains traveling 110 mph. For example, trains going 111 mph must implement barriers at crossings that are capable of stopping vehicle impact and track intrusion, as well as electronic warning systems. For trains traveling 110 mph, the FRA simply recommends “the most sophisticated warning or traffic control devices that fit the location”, which does not have specific requirements.

The EIS is basing its safety impact study on the promise that AAF will make safety improvements, but no details are offered to explain what will be done, and, whether they will fully comply with FRA the On-Site Engineering Field Reports. In addition, the power to regulate safety is nebulous. It appears the sole authority to impose requirements is FDOT, and they have not made public their requirements.


  1. AAF will be sharing the rail corridor with its parent company’s freight operations. Mixed use tracks present additional challenges. US Sugar recently built a 100 million gallon ethanol production facility in Clewiston, and the Florida taxpayers just agreed to pay $30 million to upgrade its privately owned railroad, South Central Florida Express, which connects with FEC in Fort Pierce for distribution of its products.

Will FEC be equipped to transport ethanol, which is more explosive than oil, through the middle of significant population centers? How comfortable should we be with this arrangement when AAF has presented no detailed safety plan? How will FEC ensure its freight trains can safely dodge AAF’s 110 mph passenger trains?

The EIS did not assess the consequences of a derailment, either by a high-speed train or a freight train full of ethanol or tar.

According to Brian Gilleran, FRA Grade Crossing Safety Engineer, “As train speeds increase, any condition that could result in train derailment becomes of greater concern. Any number of unforeseen events, such as motor vehicle brake failure, slick road surfaces, motorist errors, or other factors may result in a vehicle going through a lowered gate just prior to train arrival. At higher train speeds, the derailment potential is increased for a train collision with an errant motor vehicle on the crossing.”

AAF has not adequately explained its safety improvement plans, and the EIS has done an inadequate job, drawing conclusions about safety in the total absence of any specifics or substantiation. AAF has made no commitment to implement specific mitigation equipment and technologies, and because of the 110 mph speed, there appears to be no single agency responsible for holding AAF legally accountable for its safety choices.

Nonetheless, Florida’s precious coastal communities will have to live with the consequences.


Comments on AAF’s project are due December 3rd, 2014.

By email:
Mr. John Winkle


By mail:

Mr. John Winkle

Federal Railroad Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Room W38-311

Washington, DC 20590.


They Just Need $500 Million More…Will You Help?

Are you confused about All Aboard Florida’s plans? Information about their high-speed passenger rail service from Orlando to Miami has been coming in at a furious pace. Here’s a brief overview to help you understand where things stand and how you can submit your opinion to the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA).

All Aboard Florida (AAF)’s application to the FRA required an Environmental Impact Study (EIS). As Rich Campbell pointed out in a recent TCPalm editorial, the EIS was developed using data that was largely provided by AAF, and AAF paid a vendor to create the study. Unfortunately, AAF has been unwilling to release the economic feasibility study that serves as the basis for their investment in this project. Select economic figures were included in an addendum to the EIS.

The draft EIS was released in September, and the public has until December 3 to submit comments about it to the FRA. Each week over the next five weeks, I’ll dig into a different area of impact covered by the 520-page EIS to understand how the Space Coast will be affected. The subjects will include: safety, the environment, infrastructure, alternatives and the community.

It is not clear which government subsidized funding mechanism AAF will use to get the nearly $2 billion in capital it needs to upgrade its parent company’s rail infrastructure and build new track from Cocoa to Orlando. After the public comment period on the EIS has ended, the FRA will make a decision about AAF’s request for up to $1.875 Billion in federal loans at a significant discount from market rate. The value of that discount amounts to more than $3 billion in benefit to AAF over the life of the loan.

This week, AAF announced it has also applied for an alternate financing option from the USDOT Federal Highway Administration (FHA) through Enterprise Florida. This program allows private companies investing in desired infrastructure to issue tax-free Private Activity Bonds (PABs). According to the program’s website the value of the subsidy is 25 – 30% of the value of the bonds sold. If AAF uses this mechanism to meet all of its capital needs, it would represent a taxpayer subsidy of $420 – 500 million.

As of April 2014, AAF’s parent company, Florida East Coast Industries (FECI) had a junk-level credit rating from Moody’s (Caa1), which could make their PABs a tough sell on Wall Street.

The FHA program requires that the PABs be requested by government bodies, such as the counties where the capital will be spent. AAF believes it will get enough from five counties, where its project has the most support: Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, Orange and Brevard. There is a limit to the amount of PABs each county can request. Tuesday, the Brevard Board of County Commissioners will vote on whether it will increase that limit to accommodate AAF and Enterprise Florida’s request.

FECI owns rail, real estate and intermodal companies. AAF will leverage the right of way and other assets of its affiliate companies. As such, the list of taxpayer-funded projects that benefitted FECI, which is the exclusive rail provider at all of Florida’s southeastern ports, should also be noted.


If AAF is allowed to move forward with the project, taxpayers in each county along AAF’s route will also be responsible for millions of dollars in costs to accommodate the expanded rail infrastructure and conversion to high speed trains. These costs include upgrades of grade crossings, increased crossing maintenance, quiet zones and specialty safety equipment for emergency responders.

Next week’s article will review the EIS assessment AAF’s project on our communities’ safety.

Comments on AAF’s project are due December 3rd, 2014.

By email:
Mr. John Winkle


By mail:

Mr. John Winkle

Federal Railroad Administration

1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE

Room W38-311

Washington, DC 20590.



Letter to EyeonBrevard: The EDC, a ship of false hope

By Dub Drinnon

The Economic Development Commission recently called this election a ‘war.’ It’s a war all right, the two warring factions are the thinking citizens, left and right, who realize the destructive influence and the futility of government involvement in business, on the one hand, and those who cling to the rose-colored delusion that government can somehow revive a sick economy, on the other. The more we see of this entangled EDC, the more it is revealed to be a deceitful, hypocritical entity seeking to artificially stimulate industrial and commercial growth in a despondent economy by repeating the very reasons it became despondent.

The County Commission and its lawyer only add to the disgrace by their expensive resistance to citizen demand for accountability.  It is trying to justify itself by “jobs creation,” which, in view of the funding involved, is miniscule.  When a “job” is considered as an end in itself to be created, the logic is the same as hooking a dying patient to life support, with the jobs being the artificially-induced breaths. It is a desperation move, and it does not work because the patient is dying. High employment must be considered a natural sign of a vibrant, healthy economy, with natural, healthy breathing.  Counting the breaths is all right, but the other signs and symptoms are more important. To try and entice business entities, including government agencies and government contractors to an economically despondent area with tax-evasion schemes and special favors is short-sightedness and simple-mindedness in the extreme, and is bureaucratic corruption.  This is no doubt the reason this commission is going to such lengths to hide its dealings from its employer, the people.

Our economy’s salvation, if still possible, will be in the lowering of taxes and the shrinking of the bureaucracy which we allowed to develop during more prosperous times. Lower taxes and the open admission of past errors and willingness to learn from them, might attract new business, together with a policy of disdain and antagonism for government intervention; but the present course is headed only toward further distress. It is not time for a new captain; it’s time for dry-dock and maybe salvage of some scrap iron from this incompetent, secretive, useless EDC ship of false hope.

Some Common Sense about Common Core

Authored by Ed Priselac


Rep Steve Crisafuli headlines his Florida Today article supporting Common Core as ‘Testing is part of life’


His sub-headiline states, ‘Measuring kids’ progress will better prepare them for future“ I’m sure you recognize his intent: support centralized federal control of all schools in the U.S. Why he embraces Statism, I don’t know. It is obvious Rep Crisafuli, as with many politicians, is enthralled by federal largesse. Those of us who believe that local citizens are far better suited to determine children’s education—including measuring student’s progress—are considered out-of-touch and obstructionist.


Forty-five years ago the United States put persons on the moon and brought them back.


In the early 1900s, Henry Ford formed Ford Motor Company and began producing affordable automobiles using assembly line operations.


Thomas Edison was born in the mid-1800s. Among his inventions were the incandescent light bulb and the phonograph.


How did these individuals and the country accomplish these amazing feats? There was no centralized, standardized testing of students.

What has changed?


Well, what has changed has been the incessant drumbeat for years and years that the United States is behind the rest of the civilized world in quality of education. Who decided this: the left, the politicians, and the compliant media.


Now we have Common Core, centralized control of curriculum and testing of both students and teachers. Teachers are now just as much pawns to the system as students. Teachers are also ‘graded’ by how well or how poorly their students fare on the nationalized tests.

How can I say this is bad if none other than Bill Gates supports Common Core standards? One word: Power! Mr. Gates now is part of the elite ruling class in this country. He has position, prestige, and access to this country’s power leadership. Heady stuff.


Yes, but what about Jeb Bush? Not sure about this one. In part, Governor Bush probably believes in the efficacy of centralized, federal test control. However, one must also view his possible financial interests, as Pearson Testing, the largest of the test and text organizations, apparently contributes to two of Governor Bush’s education foundations. I urge the reader to research this more closely.


A number of conclusions come to mind:


1. What made this country great was the freedom afforded by a smaller federal government, which allowed thinkers, entrepreneurs, inventors, risk-takers, the opportunity to follow-through on their dreams. None other than President John F. Kennedy boldly directed NASA to “put a man on the moon….” Did he say our schools are below standard compared to the rest of the world? Absolutely not! President Kennedy proudly and boldly proclaimed we can do this!


2. Freedom also allowed entrepreneurs to build factories and businesses, enabling lower prices through mass-production and efficiency of operations.

Americans, when left alone, produced the greatest country the world has even known. Now, however, we are bombarded by news that we are behind in education and, guess what, only centralized control of all our schools will bring us back to the top. Are you beginning to get the picture?


No, my friends, centralized control (Statism, Communism, Fascism) causes only hardship; unsustainable, outrageous federal debt; an explosion of self-perpetuating federal agencies and bureaus, all designed to suppress individual freedom.