As I sat here on Saturday morning starting this article, it had been a soggy several days. Hurricane Hermine dropped massive amounts of water on our area as it passed and even though the storm was sitting up near North Carolina on Saturday, we still had tropical moisture streaming in from the Gulf.
My wife, daughter, and eldest granddaughter attempted to make the run to Palatka Friday afternoon to visit my inlaws. They got a slow start due to all of the flooded streets in West Pasco. They eventually hunkered down at a motel as it got dark. No reason to try to travel in rain AND darkness on back woods roads. I was quite relieved when I got the call telling me that they were safe and stationary.
Friday evening’s report from the City Manager was that we had 97 homes inside the city that sustained some form of damage during the storm. Flooding within the city was actually fairly limited. The city has worked hard over the past decade or so to identify areas with repetitive flooding issues and address them. While we still have some trouble spots, we are making progress. The storm water assessment that appears on our tax bills each year is responsible for the stream of funding that has allowed us to address flooding problems citywide.
Pasco County is currently struggling with flooding issues from Holiday to Hudson. This is nothing new. The Tampabay Times reported last fall that the county has a nearly 100 million dollar backlog of drainage projects. Decades of pretending that long term infrastructure needs will simply go away is now becoming apparent. The county absolutely, positively needs to bite the bullet and tell the voters the painful truth: It is going to cost real money to fix things. No more grandstanding about “no new taxes”, no more pretending that things will get better without spending money, no more lying to the voters.
In fairness to the County Commission, this is not a unique problem. We’ve seen the results of three decades of “Voodoo Economics” at the national level as trillions of dollars in desperately needed infrastructure improvements don’t get made while politicians pander to the likes of Grover Norquist. Our Interstates and bridges are literally falling apart!
You can’t complain about flooded streets and potholes if you aren’t willing to pay to solve the problem. You can’t complain that Florida isn’t an attractive place for new businesses and good paying jobs if you aren’t willing to invest in the state transportation network so that people can get from place to place. You can’t “Make America Great Again” if you aren’t willing to raise and spend the tax dollars necessary to address decades of neglect that has made our national infrastructure a mess. SOMEBODY has to pay to solve problems at the city, county, state, and federal levels. It simply doesn’t work any other way.
New Port Richey has proven that a modest storm water assessment each year can make a difference over time. The question for residents of unincorporated Pasco County is whether or not they are willing to insist that the County Commission institute a similar assessment to pay for solving the flooding issues once and for all. Nobody, including the feds, Gov. Scott, or the magic money fairy are going to foot the 100 million dollar bill to fix the drainage issues around Pasco County. If it is going to be paid for, you can bet that Pasco County residents are the ones who are going to have to dig into their wallets to solve the problem.
Anyone who tries to get your vote by promising to solve the storm water problem without cutting other services or raising your taxes is playing you for a fool.
Rob Marlowe, Mayor