By Taniel Shant
The term “stewardship” is defined as an ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. To be a good steward, one must have the principles and ethics that enables him or her to be responsible for someone or something, and to be a good manager in carrying out those duties. In politics, the concept of stewardship seems to be lost on citizens, the majority of whom think of politicians as egotistical and ambitious opportunists who are only out to enrich themselves. One needs only to look at the dismal approval rating of Members of Congress to see evidence of Americans’ distrust in government. In other words, most people don’t believe, rightly so, that their government is a responsible steward of their way of life.
This is an important concept because, to me, to be a good public servant is to be a good steward, particularly when it comes to the fiscal management of our government’s resources. One large example of our county government’s lack of stewardship is this disastrous proposal to raise our sales tax by 17%.
Falsely marketed as a “penny tax,” local officials have embarked on a marketing campaign to positively change public opinion on this issue. If people were told the truth, that it is a 17% tax hike, voters would reject it outright.
Officials say that there are only three ways to pay for the infrastructure and education needs in Palm Beach County: 1) raise the sales tax; 2) raise the property tax; or 3) issue a bond. This shortsighted thinking is what is wrong with politics today. There is always another way, and that is to find the money in our $4.3 Billion dollar county budget. Whereas raising taxes is a first resort to many, it is a last resort for me. A responsible steward would first seek to find waste, fraud, and abuse to ensure our government is run efficiently and responsibly before shifting the burden on the people.
For example, a recent audit of the Palm Beach County School District found that it paid 3x more for a new school bus routing software than any other county in the state, while at the same time cutting safety and maintenance inspections of the vehicles and drivers that transport our children. The same audit also found over $500,000 in missing fuel. Imagine how much more waste exists, particularly in those departments that refuse an audit.
There is another question that should be asked: How much is the public relations blitz costing taxpayers? According to my sources, it is somewhere in the $120,000 to $150,000 range. So now we have our local government using taxpayer dollars for a marketing campaign, falsely labeled “one county, one penny,” with beautiful glossy handouts, a state-of-the-art website, yard signs, and three video advertisements being marketed in order to get you to give them more of your hard earned money. Thomas Jefferson once said, “To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.”
Commissioner Mary Lou Berger showcased poor stewardship when she voted in favor of the 17% sales tax increase. This tax is regressive and it hurts the most vulnerable communities in our society, namely the poor, hard-working middle-class Americans, and seniors.
Ghandi once said, “to serve is to lead.” A good steward is a good servant and thus a good leader. It is my hope that in this election the people in Palm Beach County ask themselves, “Who do I trust to be a good steward over my life and my tax dollars?” With that in mind, you should vote for the person with the ethic that embodies the responsible planning and management of resources. After all, that’s what stewardship is all about.