Saturday, June 20, 2009

EDITORIAL: Keep the city above water

Click title for link to PB Post article.

One of the lessons we need to learn from our water debacle is the need to work cooperatively with other municipalities and the County. Once your reputation is tarnished by going back on agreements or by mismanaging your established relationships and responsibilities, it's difficult to build that back. And, once those relationships start going south is when you usually need to rely on them more and more. So the city's strategic position gets worse and worse; we end up begging for scraps or forgiveness, hat in hand.

When was the last time the city ever negotiated from a position of strength? The County has no incentive to deal with us on the water contract - after it was signed and they acted on good faith to fulfill their responsibilities, we stiff them on a required $6 million payment. Don't think for a minute that the County won't back down on this agreement, no matter how "amicable" we try to make it. Think of the precedent it would set with other local governments that have similar agreements with the County - for water or any other service. Then, imagine you are a County Commissioner and here come representatives from Lake Worth into your office. In one hand, they carry a marked up copy of the County water agreement and in the other hand they carry the "site plan" for the beach. Wouldn't you say to these Lake Worth reps, "Why don't you honor your agreement, and we'll honor ours - and maybe then we can talk about extending the deadline on the $5 million for the beach project?"

I think it is a grave situation when political theater and the goals of an extremist group (Jennings and her supporters) imperil such a valuable resource such as the city's water supply. West Palm Beach has a history of problems with its water supply and will eventually have to switch from its surface water source to another - over the span of ten years. Our 80% plus water fee increase scheduled over a five year period and draconian water restrictions are a result of poor leadership - but unfortunately some revel in the fact that we have this problem as a ready made excuse to stop any kind of re-investment or redevelopment. Why isn't anyone talking about how REGRESSIVE this sort of fee structure is for such a basic human need - water?