The phrase coined by the late House Speaker Tip O’Neil, “All politics are local,” seems not to be the case here in the great State of Florida.
The Florida Legislature has over the years stripped away local government controls over certain issues and looks to continue the practice with current bills being considered this legislative session.
Good ole Tip wasn’t the only wise gentleman to believe in the power of local government and local support, early thinkers on the birth of our democracy also held such beliefs.
The French scholar Alexis de Tocqueville, who in 1835 wrote his study “Democracy in America,” stated that at the core of this new experiment was local government. “Local assemblies of citizens constitute the strength of a free nation. A nation may establish a system of free government, but without the spirit of municipal institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty.” Alexis goes further, stating that “municipal independence is therefore a natural consequence of the principle of sovereignty of the people in the United States.”
Powerful words to justify having municipalities and local government control known as Home Rule. Who knows best when it comes to local issues in our single-family neighborhoods, our communities, our Island City? The precious power of Home Rule allows us to form a local government that can enact ordinances, codes and resolutions and that allows us to create and protect the community in which we live, work and play.
Unfortunately this past week at our City Commission meeting, we had a local elected official vote against local rule. Sounds a bit crazy but that is exactly what Commissioner Chris Caputo did. Thankfully our four other local elected officials sitting on the dais had clearer heads in a 4 to 1 vote. The resolution voted on was a clear Home Rule issue, urging state lawmakers to defeat the latest attempt to further strip away local control and local jurisdiction. Unfortunately Commissioner Caputo felt a need to confuse the issue and make it into a platform to state his undying support of short-term vacation rentals throughout our Island City.
Commissioner Resnick attempted to throw Commissioner Caputo a lifeline and reel him back in to voting on the basic topic of are you for Home Rule or against Home Rule, unfortunately Commissioner Caputo made his answer quite clear by voting against the resolution.
Some might chalk it up to inexperience but do not be fooled Islanders, Commissioner Caputo made it very clear that he will defend and protect short-term vacation rental business owners here in the Island City even if it means voting against preserving and protecting our right to Home Rule in the great State of Florida.
Chris might want to take a moment and learn from good ole Tip, who knew how to win reelections, yes, all politics are local. Short-term renters do not live and vote in our city, nor do the majority of short-term vacation home owners. However, those who do vote are the ones who live next to or down the block from short-term vacation rentals and whose lives and communities are disrupted every few days.
Commissioner Resnick was correct in sounding the warning bells of the dangers of losing what little control municipalities have left to control short term rentals in our single-family neighborhoods. He is correct in saying that residents are beginning to move out and that property values will decrease as more vacation rentals move in.
I am all for having a Bed & Breakfast district, a boutique hotel in the Arts & Entertainment District, and the rights of property owners to rent out their property on a monthly or yearly basis. I am not in favor of turning our single-family neighborhoods into roadside motels with frequent check-ins and check-outs all hours of the day and night. Nor am I in favor of losing control over my right to live in a community that has a say in the basic quality of life that makes life so enjoyable here in our Island City.
Thankfully Alexis saw the beauty and wonder of our great democracy and of local Home Rule. Hopefully our state legislatures will see the same and defeat the current bills in the legislature. Commissioner Caputo unfortunately thinks otherwise, but there lies another beauty of our democracy, the 4 to 1 vote clearly states the overwhelming vote of the majority to govern.
Protecting and preserving our wonderful neighborhoods here in our Island City is what makes life just better here…
Sal Torre has been a columnist for the Wilton Manors Gazette since its inception. Sal has served on the Wilton Drive Task Force, Budget Review Advisory Board, and Charter Review Board, among others. Sal is currently President of the Westside Association of Wilton Manors and Secretary for the Friend of the Wilton Manors Library. He is employed with Broward County in the Human Services Division.