Mary Kate Leming, Editor
“Sweeping action may be gratifying and may create the aura of strong leadership, but its unintended consequences may lead to costs that are too high to bear.”
— Teresa Sullivan, reinstated University of Virginia president
While visiting Washington D.C. this past month, I became fascinated with the dramatic ouster (and subsequent reinstatement) of the University of Virginia’s president.
The above quote struck a cord with me on a local issue: the possible outsourcing of our local police protection to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.
After sitting through hours of heated discussion in frigid commission chambers, it is obvious that coastal residents have an emotional connection to their local law enforcement and to their hometowns.
It is also clear that many who have been elected to sit on the dais feel it is their fiduciary responsibility to implement “sweeping action” in the face of what they call the “unsustainable” costs of community policing.
I urge caution — and cooperation.
Consider this: The circulation area of The Coastal Star [the barrier island communities of South Palm Beach through coastal Boca Raton] reaches 3 percent of the households in Palm Beach County. But, these households represent 16 percent of the taxable real estate value of the county.
Sure, ocean and waterfront contribute to this value, but so do intangible quality of life issues. Our elected officials must recognize these and begin talking with neighboring communities — before any sweeping (and irreversible) changes are made that may threaten the very existence of our small towns.
Town leaders should pursue the formation of a barrier island task force to look at the policing evaluations being done now town-by-town and make logical (and fiscally responsible) suggestions for future planning along the coast. Policing is the hot topic right now, but there are many more that should be addressed as we consider our coastal future.
The Florida Coalition for Preservation has been requesting that officials in our towns assign members to an A1A Visioning Committee that could compile and consider both the fiduciary and intangible concerns of coastal residents. They have offered to help locate an outside consultant to facilitate these discussions and keep participants focused on what matters most to our residents today and in the future.
Why not take them up on it? I’ve heard some say that we’ve tried this before and it didn’t work. Reminds me of a boss I once had who said, “We tried a woman in that job before and it didn’t work.” In both cases this is a lazy and unacceptable response.
Task forces and visioning groups don’t provide quick or easy solutions. But to avoid unintended consequences, our elected officials must avoid implementing sweeping changes and demonstrate strong leadership by talking with their neighbors.
Mary Kate Leming, Editor