City government is not the enemy

COMMENTARY

“Zudans provided no example of how our local citizen’s religious affairs or other institutions are “in a constant struggle against ever expanding governments (the city?)”

KEN AND DEBORAH DAIGE

Val Zudans

At the last city council meeting a city ordinance was read abandoning all of Tallahassee Avenue in McAnsh Park. New council member Zudans read a statement into the public record during city council discussion and before public comment.

Zudans stated:  “Civil societies such as churches, non-profits, and private businesses are in a constant struggle against ever expanding governments. If you want more limited government, you must be supportive of civil societies and institutions that compete against more government. Saint Helen’s Church is a pillar of our community’s civil society.Having fewer entry points into neighborhoods off busy roads like route 60 improves the quality of life of that surrounding neighborhood, improves the safety of the students at Saint Helen’s school, it saves the city money on the maintenance of the road, and most importantly supports a pillar of our civil society,” Zudans statement read. 

Zudans statement includes a peculiar use of word grouping.

Civil relates to or involves the general public, their activities, needs, or ways as distinguished from special (as military or religious) affairs (public schools function with a different form government on reservations). 

That is a very important point – as distinguished from religious affairs.

An elected official in our City of Vero Beach takes an oath and is sworn to uphold the US Constitution, the Florida State Constitution and the City Charter.

The elected official overlooks the business of the city.

Our City Charter outlines our City Council-City Manager form of government.

There is no elected mayor – the appointment comes from the elected city council.

The city manager operates at the pleasure of the city council. Our city has a police force that operates under the city manager. 

A society is a community that has common traditions and institutions as well as collective activities and interests that incorporate broad based views with rights as well as responsibilities. 

Zudans provided no example of how our local citizen’s religious affairs or other institutions are “in a constant struggle against ever expanding governments (the city?)” These various institutions have wide and varied freedoms and do not have to follow the sunshine law, public records law, or open meetings law, as local government – the people’s business – has to.

“Florida is one of 37 states with a “no-aid” provision in its state constitution. A proposal before the Florida Constitution Revision Commission would eliminate our Constitution’s “no-aid” provision that prohibits direct or indirect public funding of any church, religious group, or sectarian institution. This proposal will allow hospitals, housing programs, and natural-disaster relief programs run by a religious organization to receive public funding” – information from the Mayfield Minute. 

Will there be procedures or requirements outlined for religious organizations to apply for public funding with public records kept on how the religious organizations used public funding?  Will a special account of public funds be created for this? 

Do we want government interference telling us which religious organizations are ‘pillars of the community’ and that government knows best when it selects which various religious activities receives public funding?

An elected official brings their political and other philosophies with them to the dais. Their decisions made on our behalf are based in those philosophies.

Council member Zudans has stated, and it is evident by his demeanor and speech, that he has strong views (opinions). Will he temper his philosophy with his decision-making for the community as a whole? 

This is not the first time our city council members have voted decisions based on their beliefs or philosophies. During the 2017-2018 City Budget Hearings we discovered the city was following a 2011 financial benchmark philosophy. Essential services were noticeably reduced. What used to be considered essential had become value-added. This was not clearly expressed to the citizens who bear the brunt of these reduced/slashed services. Our taxes and fees did not go down but we are receiving less from our local tax and fee payments. We were able to persuade the city council to return code enforcement as an essential instead of value-added service under the police budget. The code department had been repositioned under the police department two budget cycles ago. 

Our city is approximately 13 square miles. There has been very little historic annexation. Our form of government has not enlarged itself and we have fewer employees.

It appears the role of local government is not clearly understood by many of our elected officials. 

The business of the city will drastically change if the decisions for us, the citizens, are made using a philosophical belief system instead of following the intent of the law or ordinance. 

The decision made by city council to give a taxpayer owned and funded avenue to a church-school was not made using any ordinance intent but became a philosophical belief which is not a recommended means of governing.

 

2 comments

  1. Thank you, Ken & Deb Daige, for making this perfectly clear. We have an abundance of churches both in the City and beyond. I would not attempt to sort them into pillars or ‘other’ in our community.

  2. What allows our City Council to give away our city land to a Church. We do respect the separation of Church and State I assume.
    Blocking off the street during certain school hours is understandable for the safety of the children not for the benefit of the church. There is a difference.
    It may not seem like we are giving them much, but it sets a dangerous precedent. Please don’t let the camel’s nose into the tent.

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