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Florida must do more

Editor, The Beacon:

Thank you for printing the article regarding Mr. Earl Edwards (the homeless man who lives on a bench). It is a first step to bringing light to our mental health care problem, especially in Florida.

I love our town of DeLand and am proud to call myself a part of such a compassionate community.

Reading comments on the online version of the article, I found so many people either blaming themselves or others in our town for the plight of Mr. Edwards and the question as to what to do with him.

How do we help him and yet keep others safe?

Mental illness is a complex health care problem that has just recently started being talked about, but mostly in the entertainment world. In that world, resources exist for those stricken with mental health illness.

One in five people suffer from a mental illness. Seventy percent never get treatment because of stigma, cost, or simply lack of resources available. Many turn to drugs to self-medicate, as they are more readily available than meds.

This throws them in jail, but that isn’t the answer. Our jails are overflowing with people who need adequate mental health care facilities, not jail.

Baker Acting? You can’t fix a complex problem in 72 hours, which is the time limit under Baker Acting someone.

Now for the most difficult fact to swallow. It is not the fault of Mr. Edwards or his exhausted family. It is not for attorney Bauer to worry or feel guilty about what to do with Mr. Edwards. And it is most definitely not the fault of the compassionate DeLand residents who have tried, or the city itself.

The problem lies with our state and its representatives. You see, a fact most don’t know is that Florida is 49th (yes, one away from the worst) in mental health care! Forty-ninth! How shameful!

With the incredible growth and tax base increasing, they have done nothing for the one in five people who are stricken with a mental illness.

And so the terribly sad saga of Mr. Edwards and those like him will continue until we demand our representatives do something. Mr. Edwards may be the light in DeLand that will lead you to fight for change.

Join me and write, call and scream for decent health care for these individuals.

God bless you all!

Bridget Voll

Deltona

 


 

 

He’s not supporting the proposed sales-tax hike

BY KEITH L. CHESTER

I am not supporting the half-cent sales-tax increase.

In 2007, we were warned of a road-funding crisis by George Recktenwald, who at the time was public-works director for the County of Volusia. Nothing was done.

Zoning changes and developments continued to be approved, causing unfunded or underfunded impacts.

Against the wishes and advice of many, SunRail was approved in 2007 without known funding sources and while the county was in a known road-funding and budget crisis.

The citizens were put on the hook for untold millions of dollars, and that obligation will continue beyond the time many of us remain on this Earth.

Millions that could have been used for our county and local road needs have been and will be squandered on SunRail.

We were told in 2007 that if SunRail was not operating to DeLand by 2013, the county could renegotiate the contract. It is now 2019, and no contract changes have been made.

Twelve years since the first SunRail contracts were signed and no one knows what SunRail will cost the citizens of Volusia County or how it will be paid for.

Some members of the current County Council have told us “there is no Plan B” for the needed road improvements beyond the half-cent sales tax, yet the county’s staff and politicians knew about the road-funding crisis going back to 2007.

County Council to blame

In my opinion, some of the current members of the County Council can be blamed for the lack of planning if they have been sitting on the dais for several terms or if they were supporters of the former county manager who was responsible for steering the ship.

Some members of the County Council plan on bonding the half-cent sales-tax funding and, once done, there is no way out if the economy takes a dive again. We could be obligated until 2040.

Developments continue to be approved with little if any land-use or building-code changes that would allow for fewer impacts on the roads, environment, drinking water, and other quality-of-life issues. Little if any consideration is given to sustainable practices such as xeriscaping. The county and cities should be leading the charge and setting the example.

The current half-cent sales-tax plan is all over the place — no one knows how much the tourist will contribute, 30 percent? 35 percent? 40 percent? — and there is no real commitment on projects. It appears in many cases figures and project ideas are being pulled out of the air.

It feels like SunRail all over again.

Transparency

Take, for example, the lack of transparency with ECHO. There is very little information left on the county’s website for the public’s view, and I fear there will also be a lack of transparency with the half-cent sales tax if it is approved.

If you want information pertaining to ECHO projects, you have to submit a request, and if you want to view numerous documents, you may be charged.

The half-cent sales-tax ordinance states, “The County Council by resolution may establish rules of procedure for the citizens’ oversight committee,” yet there have been no procedures presented.

The citizens’ committee will have no authority, and there will be no one holding the cities and county accountable.

As with ECHO, no elected person will have the political will to go against the county or a city if the rules are violated.

As with ECHO, the County Council will have a great deal of authority over the half-cent sales-tax program. I personally do not feel that they, as a governing body, can be trusted with that.

Will more lead to more?

Some justify the half-cent sales-tax increase by telling us it is just a little bit more out of our pockets, yet the just “a little bit mores” add up, and we already pay far more to the county beyond our property taxes.

We are being asked to pony up more of our hard-earned money after the county has given millions of our tax dollars away, and there are no assurances this practice will not continue.

An additional sales tax will reduce the amount of money that flows through our local economy that supports our local businesses.

I see the need for road improvements; however, without a mitigation plan included that would ensure we will not need to be asked to contribute more in the future for the impacts caused by new developments, and a plan for better overall governance by the leaders of the cities and county, I will not be able to vote in favor of the half-cent sales-tax increase.

Please let us not forget we already pay a County of Volusia 5-cent-per-gallon gas tax that is supposed to be used for road projects. When enacting the gas tax, we went through a song-and-dance that was very similar to what we are experiencing now with the half-cent sales-tax money grab.

— Chester, a DeLand resident, is Lake Helen’s former police chief.

 


Pretty simple

Editor, The Beacon:

I read David Rausch-enberger’s column in The Beacon recently.

One point he misses and all other columns I’ve read also miss is that the easiest way to see if you are paying more or less tax is to look at the “Total Tax” line (Line 15 on the 2018 Form 1040) and compare that to the same line in your 2017 form.

If the amount is smaller this year, then you paid less tax. And vice versa.

Of course, your gross income must be reasonably comparable.

The refund vs. take-home-pay argument is hard to fathom, but the total tax comparison is simple.

Larry Peter

DeLand

 


 

 

Appreciates perspective on differences

Editor, The Beacon:

I want to express my sincere appreciation for the recent letter following the heading “We can show that Christian love is deeper than our differences.”

I so agree with everything expressed so well by the writer and pray that many of us will read, listen and respond to Jesus’ admonition to love God above all things, love your neighbor as yourself and love your enemies.

This, I believe, is the path for a better society.

May we look for the good daily.

Betty Gregg Black

DeLand