As many of our neighbors know, I have been appearing before the council for years, expressing concern about the threats of sea level rise and stronger storms, and the need for our barrier island to do something about it. And, indeed, the council has been contemplating action for quite some time.
During our debate, I’ve been heartened that there has been consensus on the GO Bond issue. Friends and neighbors who are considered “liberals,” “Democrats” or “tree-hugging environmentalists” agree. So do others like Ed London, and Paul Nichols, who describes himself as a fiscal conservative and Republican. He recently wrote that “sea level rise and stronger storms are truly existential threats to our way of life.” He also said that “if you want your taxes to be used in the most conservative and cost-effective way, you should be voting yes.”
Since the referendum was put on the ballot, those against it have been denouncing the GO Bond referendum as a dangerous “blank check.” To that, Mr. Nichols says, “Anyone who says ‘blank check’, ‘not the right time’ ‘taxes are too high’ or other mindless platitudes does not understand the issue, and is not qualified to sit on council.” He’s right.
Hysterical candidates have been warning that the council and village administration have been “reckless” for seeking “massive debt” before projects are planned and “shovel ready.” This, of course, is nonsense. But, please, don’t take my word for it. Ask the fiscally conservative, registered Republican mayor of the City of Miami, or the Democratic mayor of the City of Miami Beach. Each has supported, and passed, referendums allowing their commissions to approve GO Bonds for resiliency -- long before the projects are fully planned or shovel ready. What those referendums did, as Mr. Nichols recognized, was to put those municipalities in a position to pay for projects in the most cost-effective way. That’s just common sense and good business.
The threat, of course, is real. All you need to do is look at your stormwater drain at high tide. The water is coming up from under us. Remember May 25? Kids were water skiing down McIntyre, pulled by big-wheeled pickups, while regular cars stalled on the street. Been to the beach at King Tide? The erosion is real, and our wonderful dune system is compromised.
Although the threat is real, our nay-saying neighbors say “we can’t afford it,” just as they said we couldn’t afford incorporation, or the Village Green, or Village Hall, or the Fire Station, or the Rec Center. All of these improvements ended up receiving 2 to 1 support from Key Biscayne voters. And, together, these ventures saved the residents of Key Biscayne hundreds of millions of dollars while improving and preserving our way of life.
Moreover, the bond investments will pay for themselves. Again, look to Miami Beach. Mayor Gelber reports that in February of this year – after their GO Bond passed but long before most bonds have been approved -- the city received a Business Case Analysis from an interdisciplinary panel of financial and academic experts. The panel concluded that “the City’s [planned] targeted investments in stormwater and infrastructure improvements significantly outweigh their costs, and provide substantial benefits to the residents, businesses visitors and government of Miami Beach.”
The Business Case Analysis concluded that the proposed projects would conservatively raise property values by up to 15% per square foot, and reduce insurance premiums by 7.4%. Let’s apply these assumptions to Key Biscayne. As described, if we were to fund the planned projects with GO Bonds, the cost on the median residence would be $100-$220 per year. On the other hand, the cost for insurance would drop about $1,100 per year, and the value of a Mackle tear down would increase about $200,000. Spend $100 to save $1,100? Have your property value increase 15%? Sounds like the improvements
On top of this, Mayor Gelber and Manager Morales report that the passage of the GO bond resolution resulted in significant savings on the bonds themselves. Why? As Manager Morales explained, the city “was able to maintain strong credit ratings through our proactive efforts to reduce risk by investing in our aging infrastructure.” Mayor Gelber further reports that as the bond tranches have gone to market, the city has been able to secure even lower interest rates than it had budgeted.
Faced with the fact that GO Bonds just makes good, conservative business sense, the opponents have become more hysterical, less neighborly. In their chat rooms and on their bullhorns, they warn that GO Bonds – I am not making this up – will produce “poverty, communism... Democracy will cease to exist.”
Really? I would ask my neighbors to return to Planet Earth, here with us, along with the mayors and administrations of our neighboring cities, and neighbors like Mr. Nichols. Please vote, vote early, and vote IN FAVOR of GO Bonds.