Beaches without life guards, higher bus fares, laid off county workers, a major tax hike. Such a dismal budget proposal is hardly shocking in a county that's drowning in a housing bust. But Palm Beach County's proposal--detailed in the Palm Beach Post this morning--is stomach- turning because it can't entirely be blamed on the economy. Yes, the county is facing its worse hemorrhage in property values since the Great Depression. But it's also coming off a Nicole Ritchie-style spending spree that must make it harder to weather tough times.
Earlier this week, a grand jury released a detailed criticism of these questionable spending choices. There was the $60 million spent to buy the Mecca Farms property--twice as much as "credible evidence" indicated it was worth--plus the ongoing cost of maintaining that land, since the Scripps Research Institute was never built there.
Then there's the commissioners' beloved slush funds, which enabled them
to spend millions of dollars on pet projects in their districts when
times were good. Now that the boom days are over, they've still got
$3.4 million leftover in those discretionary funds.
And of course, there's the untold millions that taxpayers shelled out to developers and bond underwriters so that former county commissioners Mary McCarty, Warren Newell and Tony Masilotti--all later slammed with federal corruption charges--could reap the profits.
Now Palm Tran riders may have to scrimp to pay higher fees? That's the kind of political leadership that makes people proud to live in paradise.