Democracy requires free and open debate. Good people can differ on major subjects. Just because someone takes a position opposite from yours does not make them immoral, a stooge or an idiot. More often than not, the person hurling invectives against opposing position holders, is giving evidence of their own weak arguments. 

We are having a serious debate in Manatee County over a large development for homeless people and homeless veterans. Reasonable people can differ.

My concern is that a New York developer has taken advantage of a situation by wrapping his argument around our sacred flag. It is understandable that he would use this tactic, just as supporters of late-term abortions use rape victims as props in their arguments. 

One concern is that the county commissioners are considering the idea of giving land valued at $4-$6 million dollars to a New York developer. Have we ever considered giving land of that value to a local developer? 

Our county citizens are preparing for a national recession that will have an impact on their savings. Such a recession will result in lower tax revenues in our county budget. Lower revenues will require either tax increases or a cutback in county services. These cutbacks will hurt county taxpayers who are hard workers and retirees who have worked and saved their whole lives to retire in this area. 

A large development for homeless people will have a negative economic  impact on the surrounding property owners and businesses. Many of our residents have a large percentage of their savings tied up in their home. There is ample economic data that such a large homeless development will have a negative economic impact on the surrounding real estate. 

Has anyone heard a loud outcry of neighborhoods requesting that this homeless development be put in their neighborhood? Has Lakewood Ranch contacted the commissioners to donate land for this project? 

Commissioners have a duty to protect their citizens from crime and the economic devaluation of their neighborhoods. There can be no guarantee from our commissioners that this project will not result in more crime and panhandling in this community. There can be no guarantee that the public will not be wary of purchasing homes in this neighborhood. There is no guarantee that consumers will not avoid patronizing businesses in this neighborhood.

Los Angeles, New York City and San Francisco have spent millions of dollars attempting to help the homeless by providing free housing. The results speak for themselves. One thing is certain, when the investment in housing does not work, there is no way to clean up the mess. The neighborhoods are ruined and often lives are lost. 

One portion of this proposed development is for helping homeless veterans. The effort to help homeless veterans is commendable but we have seen the results for decades in our cities of results of various attempts to help the homeless. No matter how well intentioned the politicians were at the time the efforts were initiated, most citizens look back and question how the politicians could have been so naive. 

I again repeat; Good People Can Differ On This Issue. Trying to help veterans in their time of need is not to be characterized as evil. Attempting to avoid economic harm to a community because such a project is too large, also cannot be characterized as evil.

Bob Spencer
Manatee Herald

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