Friday, July 31, 2009
CITIZEN-LED GOVERNMENT REFORM GROUP SCORES FIRST MAJOR VICTORY
Legal Opinion Sets Stage for Dismantling of Sweetheart Deal for Good Ol' Boy Network
NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FLORIDA (July 29, 2009)--Concern Citizens of New Smyrna Beach (CCNSB) announced today that it had achieved the first victory in a recently launched effort to reform local government.
The City of New Smyrna Beach is a well-known resort community of 23,000 full-time residents located northeast of Orlando. In a 46-page legal opinion rendered this month by an Orlando law firm (see www.reformnsbgovt.org), it was determined that a 99-year lease of a city-owned property with 43 boat slips was void because the City had not power or authority to enter into such agreement.
The invalid lease between the City and a private men's club, the Anglers' Yacht Club, provided the club with exclusive use of a multi-million-dollar waterfront property for a mere $25 a year. In an environment of shrinking city revenues and a higher tax burden being levied on local residents, the CCNSB contended that the long-standing sweetheart deal for the Anglers' Yacht Club was an inappropriate use of public property for private benefit, which deprived the City of substantial revenues that could alleviate the need to again raise taxes on New Smyrna Beach residents.
Formed in September 2009 by a a handful of resourceful retirees, the CCNSB has focused its efforts on extracting accountability and fiscal responsibility from its elected officials. Bill Koleszar, vice chairman and co-founder of CCNSB, stated, "Business as usual is no longer acceptable. With the momentum this victory provides us, we are going to continue to fight to reign in the unchecked spending and sweetheart deals that benefit the few at the cost of the hardworking taxpayers of New Smyrna Beach."
In stead of carrying pitchforks and torches, the CCNSB has challenged the status quo of City Hall by using shoe leather and legal prowess to uncover inefficiencies and abuse. Indeed, the group has recently questioned several items in the proposed 2010 City budget, including $14,000 for City employee coffee and $30,000 for ornamental "painted fish."
"After my husband passed away I had to start managing my own finances and was shocked at how high my property taxes are on my little condominium," said Boni Cass, a 69-year-old retired widow living in New Smyrna Beach. "I very much respect the CCNSB and its efforts in my behalf. I don't know how to fight City Hall. All I know is that if my taxes go much higher, I'm not sure I'm going to have enough money to buy my prescription medicine or gifts for my grandchildren. I worked hard my whole life; I just never imagined that I'd be faced with these hard choices."
The legal victory by the CCNSB lays the foundation for its efforts to affect citywide elections this November and countywide elections in 2010.
Tom Gifford, a New Smyrna Beach taxpayer, described the victory succinctly: "It took a small group of angry, highly resourceful taxpayers only 180 days to overturn 65 years of taxpayer abuse committed by their elected officials."
Two city commissioners, Jack Grasty and Randy Richenberg, voted to support the private men's club in 2005; the same this month voted for a 27% hike in City property taxes.
Mr. Koleszar observed, "It seems that our elected officials care only about two things--spending our tax money and being re-elected. It's time that the taxpayers say NO to both. Both commissioners will stand for election this November. Keep your eye on this one! It could set the stage for a taxpayer revolt in countywide elections next year."