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Playing by the “Rules”?

Playing by the “Rules”?

There is currently a battle in progress in Wakulla County.  Contrary to what some would have us believe, it is not a battle between those who love the wetlands and those who don’t.  We all love our wetlands and all of our natural resources.  The battle that currently rages in Wakulla County is between those who believe in property rights and freedom, on one side, and on the other, a group of Radicals who believe their agenda gives them the right to control the rest of us.  

In the 1970’s, Community Organizer Saul Alinsky wrote a book called “Rules for Radicals”.  Mr. Alinsky’s rules are in full play by those who wish to take away your rights.  We saw an example of this in the Wakulla News this week.

RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions.

Below, you will find a letter that appeared in response to a letter that I wrote last week.  Then you will find my letter.  As you read the response, notice how the writer attempts to ridicule me with irrational statements that are fabricated and are unrelated to my comments.  I think you will agree that the writer is unable to present a defense for his statements.  They are certainly irrational!  Fortunately, they are not infuriating, because I see through his shallow attempt to ridicule me, and I think you will too!

Thomas’ math is flawed

Commissioner Ralph Thomas’ letter, “Math shows wetlands issue raises taxes” in the June 19 issue of The Wakulla News is an attempt to impeach the goals of the Wakulla Wetland Alliance.
Thomas’ attempt fails because it is based on numerous fallacies and outright mistakes.
Thomas uses the term buffers extremely loosely and makes no distinction between what can and cannot be done in the two types of wetland buffers in our county’s wetland ordinance. The buffer immediately surrounding the wetlands is 35-feet wide and, with some exceptions, is to be left in a natural state, while the second buffer is 40-feet wide and can be used for some development.
His assertion that both buffer zones are “unusable” is false. The ordinance allows a large number uses in both buffer zones, too many to completely numerate here. Uses allowed include construction and maintenance of docks, piers, boardwalks, walkways, seawalls, parks, nature trails, boat ramps, boundary fences as well as hunting, trapping, and fishing. Residences are not allowed in the 35-foot buffer, but variances can be and are granted for the construction of residences in the 40-foot buffer.
In Thomas’ eyes the only legitimate use of land is to construct buildings; the more and denser anywhere and everywhere the better. He ignores that wetlands are needed for the preservation, protection and improvement of the public health, safety, welfare, and quality of life of our citizens.
Clearly, Thomas believes that our sport and commercial fishing and ecotourism business are of little or no value to Wakulla citizens’ economic wellbeing and quality of life.
The commissioner points out that land with wetlands and their buffers may be taxed at a lower rate than property where residential or business buildings exist and assert because of this they generate fewer taxes. He contends: “When some folks don’t pay their proportionate share of tax, everyone else has to pay more.”
Obviously, he believes it is unfair for property tax rates to vary based on use, and wants everyone to be taxed at the same rate.
To see how this defies common sense, consider a family living in a home appraised at $1 million on a five-acre lot as contrasted to a family living in a home appraised at $50,000 on an adjoining five-acre lot. Thomas says to be fair, both should pay the same amount of taxes.
Apparently, Thomas learned enough basic mathematics to calculate the area and radius of a circle, but since he is treating variables and their relationships to each other as fixed, and since they are not, his conclusions are extremely misleading. I am not aware of any wetland or homestead circles in Wakulla County. Usually, a homestead is more or less rectangle in shape with the small side bordering a stream, lake, or bay. By varying the width of the wetlands and buffers as well as the depth of the property one could come up with almost any percent of usable land according to Thomas’ inapplicable principles.
Commissioner Thomas letter insinuates that the “wetlands issue” will increase the taxes we will pay to our county. The opposite is true. Our ecotourism and commercial and sport fishery industries are heavily dependent on the amount and quality of our wetlands. Out-of-county visitors and buyers of our local products place money directly or indirectly into our county’s tax coffers. They are extremely important to the wellbeing of our local restaurants, service stations, and many other businesses. If this source of county income did not exist, we, the locals, would have to make up the difference. Wakulla’s wetlands provide a huge non-monetary windfall to us locals; they provide a mechanism for us to communicate with nature and enjoy quality outdoor activities, so important to our quality of life and mental and emotional health.

Victor W. Lambou
Chair, Wakulla Wetland Alliance

My Letter

Math shows wetlands issue raises taxese

Last week, Ms. Dana Peck wrote a letter to the editor chastising her fellow citizens for failing “to correctly state the facts” (“Wetlands issue represents freedom,” Opinion Page, June 12).
 She was responding to a previous letter from a citizen who stated, “protecting wetlands would increase property taxes.”  She invited readers to place a call to the Wakulla County property appraiser’s office to confirm that “wetlands are assessed at lower market values, so property taxes on wetlands are lower.”
I am publically acknowledging that I agree with Ms. Peck’s statement. I must admit, Ms. Peck always does her homework and you can rest assured that her statements are factual. However, just because she is telling the truth doesn’t guarantee that she is telling us the “whole truth.”  
Ms. Peck is a retired educator, so I’m sure she will appreciate knowing that, when I read her letter, it immediately reminded me of one of my teachers. One day I was in math class and asked my teacher why I needed to learn about pi. How will I ever use this in the real world? I asked.
She proceeded to give me a stern lecture which included the statement that I needed to pay attention so I would one day be an intelligent adult and a productive member of society. Ms. Peck’s letter gave me the idea to do a little math to see if I could add a few more facts to her statement.  
The wetlands debate that has occurred for the past year is actually more about buffers than about wetlands, because state regulations will not allow building in the wetlands. Our local ordinance imposes a 75 foot buffer around all wetlands.  
So Ms. Peck’s statement made me want to do a little math to see exactly what we are really talking about.
Let’s say you have a one acre circle of wetlands on your property. One acre equals 43,560 square feet. As I learned in math class, we determine the area of a circle with the formula, and to determine the radius we use the formula r=√(A÷π).
Since I paid attention in math class, I was able to determine that the radius of my one acre of wetlands is 117.75 feet. If I add a 75 foot wetlands buffer to my radius, I get a new radius of 192.75 feet.  
When I plug that in,  I determine that the area of my wetlands plus my wetlands buffer is 116,718.22 square feet or 2.68 acres. So our local ordinance renders 2.68 acres unusable to protect 1 acre of wetlands.
What Ms. Peck didn’t tell us, when this unusable land is taxed at a lower rate, less revenue is generated to the county. So if you have 5 acres with no wetlands and your neighbor has 5 acres with a 1 acre wetland, we just determined that more than half of your neighbor’s property is unusable and according to Ms. Peck, is taxed at a lower rate. In other words, you are paying more taxes than your neighbor.
Would you pay the same price for 5 acres that is 100 percent usable as you would 5 acres with 2.68 acres that are unusable?
When land becomes unusable, its value decreases. When its value decreases, it generates less tax revenue.  
When some folks don’t pay their proportionate share of taxes, everyone else has to pay more.  
I encourage you to pay a visit to our property appraiser. Take this letter with you and ask him if I’m telling the truth. Also stop by Wakulla High School, where I graduated, and ask them to check my math.
Hopefully, they will give me an A+.

Ralph Thomas
County commissioner

Decide for yourself and tell me what you think in the comments section below.



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