The Florida Constitution, as adopted in 1968, provides for cities and counties to have broad authority to govern themselves. It has been a commonly accepted truth that government closest to the people is the best government. Depending on your source, it is attributed to both Thomas Jefferson and Henry David Thoreau. Regardless of the actual source, I believe it to be very accurate.
While there are some things that are best handled by the federal and state governments, national defense and university systems respectively come to mind, there are far more things that are best handled at the local city or county level. Pasco County is responsible for addressing county wide concerns and each city is responsible for addressing issues within its boundary.
By way of example: Pasco County and New Port Richey both have sign ordinances that are stricter than those at the state or federal levels. The ordinances are not identical, but we do compare notes and both the city and the county are looking at the other’s ordinances for things that might be good ideas that should be adopted.
Another example: The county came up with something called “The Harbors Plan” for redeveloping West Pasco. One component was to address the eyesore that is US19. Both New Port Richey and Port Richey jumped in and started improving the medians within their jurisdiction. Pasco County is doing the same in the unincorporated areas. Each area will be distinctive enough that you should be able to tell when you go from one jurisdiction to another.
Pasco County, New Port Richey, and Port Richey are working together to address the safety issue presented for people trying to get from one side of US 19 to the other. That is how the whole idea of an underpass under the US 19 bridge came about. The cities and the county are presenting a united front to the Florida Department of Transportation in asking for assistance in getting this much needed project built. With a projected cost north of $3.5 million dollars, this is not a project that Port Richey could possibly tackle alone. Likewise, we’ve been looking at the feasibility of a multi-use overpass at US 19 and Marine Parkway.
Cities have the benefit of being close to the residents. New Port Richey council members are all easily accessible. The same is true for Port Richey. If you have an issue or idea, it is easy enough to get one or all of us on the phone. Compare that with trying to get the attention of one or more of the 160 legislators in Tallahassee. Your local legislators are easy enough to contact, but I submit that you’ll have a lot of difficulty trying to get an issue heard at the state level.
Over the years, the legislature has attempted to roll back the home rule rights of the cities and counties. Unfortunately, these efforts often come in the form of “one size fits all” solutions to problems that may be very different from city to city and county to county. I would humbly submit that things like tree ordinances, plastic bag and straw bans, and cell tower placements are issues that are FAR better decided at the local level rather than Tallahassee.
Electric scooter regulations likely DO need to be different for different cities. Tampa and New Port Richey are very different.
The legislature passed a law preempting city ordinances about front yard vegetable gardens. I opposed the law because it likely invalidates our ordinance that actively ENCOURAGES people to to plant front yard vegetable gardens. I was quite happy to be able tell people who were upset that they couldn’t plant vegetables in their yard that they ought to move to New Port Richey!
The recent dust-up regarding Port Richey is a perfect example of legislative overreach. A legislator decided that Port Richey should be dissolved by the Legislature. Should the decision of whether or not Port Richey continues to exist be decided by a group of 160 people in Tallahassee, many of whom couldn’t find Port Richey on a map if their lives depended on it, or by the citizens of Port Richey? I believe that is a fundamental Home Rule issue best decided by the citizens of Port Richey. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed this past Friday and our legislative delegation agreed to give the newly elected officials in Port Richey a chance to prove that they can make things happen for the better in Port Richey. I’m certainly rooting for Mayor Scott Tremblay and his colleagues to do exactly that.
There are a number of issues that need to be addressed locally. The cities and Pasco County can address these together in ways that work for everyone, with the cities addressing specific local concerns and the county looking at a slightly broader picture. Perhaps the best example I can give you is what is happening in the Leisure Lane/Van Doren neighborhood. New Port Richey, Pasco County, and Habitat for Humanity are all working together to revitalize this area. While we’d love some financial assistance from the state to complete this rather major makeover, I’m convinced that the city, county, and Habitat can continue to work closely together to fix the area up. We don’t need the state mandating how we do it.
Home Rule is an important concept for all of us. I encourage you to watch the bills that get filed for this coming legislative session and ask yourself: “Is this something best decided statewide or should local cities and counties be able to craft solutions that meet their unique situations?”
I also encourage you to get to know the members of your city council and county commission. Decisions that are made at the local level have far more of an impact on your day to day life than most decisions made in Tallahassee or Washington D.C.. As an added bonus, your local elected officials are easy to catch in their office, on the sidewalk, or at the grocery store if you have a concern.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor