From The Observer News
Wandering Florida - ‘Can’t Get There From Here’
Feb 15, 2007, 08:44
The Florida Dream is full of sunsets, warm weather, and time spent relaxing and enjoying the pleasures of paradise. I must have missed the section of the brochure that mentions being stuck in traffic for hours trying to travel a few miles. Ahh….another chapter in the transition from Florida Dream to Florida Nightmare.
I’m not a rocket scientist, nor even a scientist of any variety for that matter. With that said even I understand the connection between increased development and more traffic. Why does it seem to be so complicated for those in elected positions to make those connections? We hear, particularly around election time, commitments from our soon to be Commissioners or Legislators that they will do something about transportation. We hear calls for more funding, more research, and more planning. What we don’t hear are calls for fewer people.
What seems to get lost in the process these days that passes for growth management in Florida is the concept that existing citizens, property owners, business owners, and taxpayers have rights. We have the right to safe roads that are not constantly locked in gridlock. We have the right to commutes that are not constantly lengthened due to more development. If only we had a couple of those high dollar consultants and lawyers that the developers have, we might get some attention from elected officials.
I have lived in the greater Tampa Bay area all my life and am constantly amazed at how bad the transportation situation in our region is becoming. Traveling from north to south or east to west across the Tampa Bay region is almost a full day’s trek (perhaps I exaggerate a bit…but not by much). This impacts quality of life, commerce, and public safety. We seem to just turn up the car radio and hunker down for a longer commute. We don’t have to, nor do we have to settle for the mess we find ourselves in.
This region’s transportation nightmare did not happen in a vacuum. A series of decisions by local, regional, and state level elected officials led to the crisis we find ourselves in today. Every time you read an article in the paper about new development being permitted picture more cars on the road, and more cars between you and your destination.
It is tempting to spend some time skewering the many, many bad decisions that have led us to where we are today (and it is something I profoundly enjoy doing) but ultimately it does not lead us to solutions. With that said, our elected and appointed leaders seem chronically unable to learn from their mistakes and that is unacceptable.
I’m not suggesting transportation planning is easy. I’m suggesting that those who we elect need to think more critically about the impacts of the decisions they make on all of us and our water, schools, roads, parks, and services. Even if we don’t contribute to their campaigns, or hire high priced consultants or lawyers…..we should matter in the process.
We do matter, and the best part is we have the one thing that provides them with the ability to be an elected official….we have the vote.
Our region would be an entirely different place if every one of us started using our incredible power as citizens just one hour a week. Just one hour each week write a letter, make a phone call, send an email, whatever you can do about an issue that concerns you. Let your County Commission know you pay attention. I propose to you that if we started a campaign for that sort of action, everyone spending that one hour a week being part of the process, there is no limit to what we can accomplish.
If nothing else maybe we could get to work on time and with a smile.
You can contact Joe Murphy regarding his “Wandering Florida” columns by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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