Is City Hall Heaven leaning toward Hell?
“Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it,” George Santayana.
This is the third in a trilogy about three kinds of Heaven and Hell: Homeowner Heaven and Hell, Helicopter Hell (there is no helicopter heaven), and now City Hall Heaven and Hell.
Destin has been my hometown since before it became a city in 1985. For more than three decades, we enjoyed “City Hall Heaven.” During that time, the mayors and council members were all long-time residents who knew the people and history of our great city. They had no personal agendas to push on us. But that is no longer the case.
We did have a close brush with “City Hall Hell” just over 10 years ago when the real estate market suddenly spiked. Prices went out of sight. That’s when a few council members panicked and wanted the city to buy into the real estate business. They proposed having taxpayers buy a whole apartment complex and renting the units out as “workforce housing.” Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed and it never happened. Right after that, the real estate market crashed. The free market and private enterprise did what government was unable to do: make Destin housing affordable again.
We now have a similar situation with the current mayor and some council members wanting taxpayers to purchase the Gulf Power electric utility for $71 million. That’s $71 followed by six zeros, as in $71,000,000. That averages out to $4,551.28 for every Gulf Power customer in the city. I can think of better things to do with my money. For example, we could fix some of our infamous traffic woes by completing the U.S. Highway 98 bypass from Beach Drive to the Marler Bridge. That project is now stalled; we don’t have the money to pay for it.
We have all experienced a dog chasing our car while we were driving. We never worried about it because we knew that the dog wouldn’t know what to do with the car if he caught it. But think what would happen if the dog caught the car, pulled us out, got behind the wheel and drove off. That’s what would happen if we allow this utility purchase to go through: a $71 million carjacking. If this dog gets behind the wheel, it will make the $71 million look like pocket change. But that is the subject for a future column.
In defense of the current mayor and one of the council members, they are relative newcomers. They weren’t here when we had a close brush with “City Hall Hell” a few years back. They don’t know the people and the history of Destin like we old- timers do. So cut them some slack.
We all love Destin and want to preserve it by electing the right candidates who will continue making it City Hall Heaven. We have that opportunity next spring. Stay tuned.
Jack Simpson has owned and managed rental properties in Destin since 1974 and has lived in the city since 1983. His column is designed to start conversations in the community. To respond to Jack's column in The Log, email your letter to the editor or guest column to email@example.com. To contact Jack directly, email firstname.lastname@example.org.