Sunday, December 26, 2010

Three-agency merger a bad idea built on a myth

Click title for link to PBP editorial re the potential merging of the Departments of Transportation, Community Affairs and Environmental Protection.  This relates to Governor-Elect Scott's transition team's report I posted here a few days ago.

There are a couple of things that come to mind, being a former bureaucrat myself and one that deals with large organizations on a daily basis.  The first thing that I have come to realize is that re-organizations are time-consuming processes that, while they are happening, makes the wheels of the organization grind to a halt.  Usually, they only are put in place to "fight the last war," when new challenges are just around the corner that need to be anticipated and not reacted to.  Think of the Maginot Line as a classic example.  During this, chaos reins and projects that should go forward, don't and projects that shouldn't sometimes do.  Another remembrance of dealing with these three departments is that staff turnover was always an issue.  It seemed that just when you were starting to make some progress with a staff member, they either left, were transfered or let go and you were directed to someone who just got out of school.  Usually this meant that you had to go back and re-do certain steps or re-address issues that had already been resolved.  What is contemplated here might have portions of all of these factors - which would be contrary to the ultimate intent of making regulation more rational.

What also seems to be missing in this transition teams analysis is what needs to be controlled and what doesn't need as much control.  We need an authority, the state of Florida comes to mind, that would regulated what are called "urban growth boundaries" around our major and not-so-major metropolitan areas.  These are lines, usually established by counties, that are meant to be the ultimate limit of urban services - water, sewer, storm drainage, schools, etc.  If these aren't enforced by an entity that has a greater interest other than the local government in mind, then we have a problem.  Much more emphasis has to be placed on the importance of redeveloping areas that are blighted, forgotten or thrown away.  If we can direct re-investment into these parts of Florida at the expense of not reaching further out of a metropolitan center, we can go a long way in planning land uses that are sustainable, with smaller carbon footprints, and take advantage of existing infrastructure.  This has to be a policy shouted from the highest levels of state government to every municipality and local government in order to work.  The only thing that I saw that vaguely looked like this policy in the transition document was "Let cities be cities."  However, who is defining what a "city" is and how is this going to be implemented or enforced.

I am not encouraged by what I hear coming from this transition team.  I really think we do need some state oversight in Florida as it relates to local comprehensive plans.  Otherwise, I think we will become a state filled with sprawling development patterns - even more so than now - with older communities like Lake Worth left with fighting for the scraps or, as is now the case, chasing development away in a vain attempt to win the last war.

I'll be monitoring news related to this topic and keep you informed.