Communication Builds Our Community

Facts, Not innuendo, Should Guide City Business, Citizen Behavior

People often look to their perceived "leaders" for guidance on conduct. In an atmosphere of charged and heated politics on a national level, it is no wonder that people are too often quick to accuse or insinuate wrongdoing even in their hometowns.

Lake Wales is not immune from such behavior.

Such problems can be exacerbated when evidence arises, as it sometimes will, that political decisions have resulted in unexpected outcomes. When that happens, the solution is neither ignoring the problems nor making wild accusations of corruption or "kickbacks."

A recent investigation by LakeWalesNews.net has revealed numerous questionable practices at a city-funded "business incubator." The project was enthusiastically embraced by elected officials two years ago in hopes that it would stimulate the re-birth of a historic commercial district on Lincoln Avenue, in the city's economically-depressed Northwest Neighborhood, where empty storefronts line the street.

A vision of new construction and new shops is an attractive one, and no one should blame those seeking to achieve positive outcomes. But when problems are found, action must be taken, and we expect that city staff and commissioners will do exactly that.

The city commission was likewise surprised by public reaction to proposal to grant ownership of what neighbors consider a tiny jewel of a park to a private developer. They had agreed to transfer ownership of what they perceived to be a low-value parcel to the CRA for disposition in support of more affordable housing in the city, a worthwhile goal.

The history of the adjoining tract of land added to the disturbing innuendo, since it had been sold as "surplus" several years ago for $8,111.11, only to be subdivided and "flipped" to a developer for $250,000, creating an exorbitant windfall.

The city sold the property to the highest bidder at that time and brought into stark focus the extreme effects that simple re-zoning can have on property values.

There is no evidence of wrong-doing in any of that.

Communication Builds Our Community

Referring to the investigative report on the BizLINC incubator, Deputy Mayor Robin Gibson commented that "in a twisted way, I welcome it. I welcome the challenge. "We are being tested. as to our integrity...(and) we have an opportunity here to demonstrate our values."

"I am grateful for independent journalism in this town," Gibson said. "There are a lot of small towns that have lost their newspapers, and they are suffering the consequences."

"This is where the buck stops," he added. "I welcome the opportunity to demonstrate who we are." That is exactly on point.

While citizens have a right to disagree, sometimes passionately, on issues that affect their lives, good sense and restraint would urge caution to avoid baseless insinuations of wrongdoing or "under the table" dealings unless proof is found. Commissioner Keith Thompson made a compelling case for restraint at a recent meeting of the board.

The goals and challenges facing the city are significant. A fear of overwhelming growth that destroys our quality of life is pervasive. Commissioners need the trust of citizens to do their jobs, but such trust is fragile in this era of political hyperbole. Exhibiting openness and a willingness to say "no" when the situation demands it are qualities that will serve them well in retaining it.

 

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