I haven’t really jumped into FL-24 race other than to raise some concerns I had with Karen Diebel that everyone assures me are actually not big issues.But one thing that has jumped out at me is some of the attacks on Diebel about her voting for tax increases on the Winter Park City Council in Florida. Here are some of the tax increases she’s being beaten up about:* Voted for an increased fee schedule in 2007 that included a $15 fee to process a business certificate, a 2% increase in garbage service, 12% increase in storm water rates, and a 3.09% increase in water and sewer rates.- Winter Park Commission Minutes, 9/24/2007* Voted to allow an increase in taxicab fares.- Winter Park Commission Minutes, 2/25/2008* Voted for increased fee schedule in 2008.- Winter Park Commission Minutes, 3/24/2008* Voted for a fee schedule in 2008 that increased utility meter and recreation fees.- Winter Park Commission Minutes, 3/24/2008* Voted to allow a taxicab trip surcharge and an emergency fuel surcharge.- Winter Park Commission Minutes, 8/25/2008These aren’t the only ones, but the majority in a long list. Were I to run for Congress, I’d be beaten up for these same votes. Why?Well, the federal government has increased compliance and enforcement costs to cities relating to garbage disposal and storm water. I recognize those votes from Ms. Diebel because those were some of the very first votes I had to act on in our City Council here in Macon, Georgia.The federal government insists, for example, that storm water now be treated in certain ways and handled in ways that are ridiculously expensive. Who should pay? The choice is either those who use the service or everyone. It sounds like Ms. Diebel went with charging those who use the service instead of everyone.She voted for increased taxi fares. Taxis are ridiculously regulated by the state. Fares are controlled by government. If you remember gas prices, if the taxi cab drivers could not raise their rates, they would all go out of business. Really — attacking Ms. Diebel for this amounts to being in favor of shutting down an entire industry because without a fee increase, the taxi companies would have shut down, unable to buy gas and make a living.Then there are the recreation fee and license surcharges. I don’t know about Winter Park, but here in Macon, our fee schedule was so out of date, we couldn’t keep up. Most states (and I bet Florida has one) actually have a law that these fees cannot be used for revenue streams, but only for compliance costs. In Macon, we found that fees had not been raised in so long the office in charge of this stuff was losing money instead of breaking even. Surely the people attacking Karen Diebel aren’t in favor fiscal recklessness. If the business licenses office — and whether you like it or not, the municipality has to have one because of state laws — is losing money, it must then be subsidized by the general fund, which comes out of taxpayers’ pockets instead of user generated money.This post is not intended to be pro-Karen or anti-anyone else. I don’t know enough about the race to make a choice. But I saw this list and realized the people attacking Karen Diebel for these votes are either ignorant or deeply opposed to fiscally responsible government operations and the taxi cab industry.Sometimes, at the local level, taxes and fees must go up because of federal and state mandates. It looks like Diebel always sided with increasing the cost to those who use a service and not punishing all the taxpayers.What you won’t find in these attacks, and what I think is commendable, is the frequency with which Karen Diebel has been the lone or almost the only “no” vote on a host of popular measures on her city council. As the person who routinely votes against funding outside entities on our city council, I appreciate her willingness to do what’s right and be unpopular.
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