Now that Winter Haven, the welfare queen of cities, is on the record with its plan to use USF Polytechnic as the world’s most high tech remote park-and-ride lot for a Legoland, maybe city and business leaders over there could actually consider paying a fair share of the campus’ development instead of riding off everyone else’s dime.
If you’ll remember, Polk County and the city of Lakeland have both contributed $5 million to the campus. Let’s just say Winter Haven has not. (Yes, yes, I know your CRA gives a couple of nickels each year. That’ll buy about half the commemorative pens at the grand opening of the first building. I’m talking about real money.)
Lakeland’s contribution represents about 5 percent of its general fund budget. For Winter Haven, an equivalent amount would equal about $1.85 million by my calculations. Feel free to tweak, but the number needs to have six zeroes behind it. Same goes for Auburndale (more or less $1.3 million). Hard to tell with Lake Alfred (maybe about $500,000), but you get the idea. Any city or organization that thinks it has an opinion about what Lakeland should do with this campus needs to put a downpayment on that opinion, just like Lakeland did. If this is a countywide campus, fund it that way.
Note to the passive Lakeland city government and Chamber: Maybe this would make a nice negotiating/resolution stance in dealing with our overbearing neighbors. OK, Jack Myers, R-Orlando, and TPO, we’ll happily second your motion on having a stop at USFP when the cities involved in this TPO contribute the same proportional amount of money that Lakeland’s citizens have. Bob Gernert, you’ll appear before your commission to urge a $1.8 million donation, right? Consider this a question I’d like answered, Bob. You can just do it in comments. Don’t worry, I won’t hold my breath.
And, our commitment to the USFP station is contingent on the campus meeting certain development benchmarks (work them out amongst yourselves) over the next 5-10 years. If it fails to meet those benchmarks – private donations can be one of them – the site reverts to one with more immediate population access like 98 or Kathleen Road.
I continue to think that a 50-year time horizon favors the USFP site, but the obnoxiousness of a bunch of welfare queen cities in the east helping to spend Lakeland’s investment without a hint of self-awareness or self-reliance annoys me. I love me some conservatives.
I know, Winter Haven cheated on the CSX DRI development, got caught (by me), then benefitted from the state’s changing the rules. And I know, Winter Haven cheered as Orlando dumped its unwanted train traffic on Lakeland. And I know, Winter Haven hasn’t done a whiff of meaningful planning for the S.R. 60 corridor it now owns. And I know, Winter Haven sponges off Lakeland’s bus service – and has for years. I should expect nothing more from Handout City. But I’m an old-fashioned conservative that way. There’s always time to man up and take responsibility for your own ambitions.