The Sun Beam Times continues its evaluation on morality and modern society in preparation for a Morality Catechism study on Saturday, 5/26 in St. Petersburg. Nearly any government program is offered for “the common good”, however many actually hurt the common good and leaders engage in immoral acts in their implementation (continued below).
Morality Catechism Study Saturday, 5/26, 10-12 a.m., 431 Southwest BLVD N, St. Petersburg, Fl. At the offices of Dr. David McKalip, M.D. on the SW corner of 4th St. N and 62nd Ave. N. (See Map Here).
Cities and local governments in Pinellas County often violate basic laws we all agree on: don’t steal, don’t lie, don’t envy thy neighbors goods. The political class could use a good Morality Study!
Here are some examples from St. Petersburg and Pinellas County of immoral behaviour. For an act to be morally good, each of the three components need to be good: the intention, the circumstance and the object. A good intention can’t cure a bad outcome at the object or bad circumstances in bringing about an end. An unintended consequence of an act must be considered as well. Let’s evaluate recent Pinellas County Government initiatives to see if they meet these tests on moral action.
Red Light Cameras. The City of St. Petersburg claimed they were interested in lowering crashes at intersections from red light runners. Certainly a laudable intention. However the admitted and more significant intention was to create a new revenue stream for the government which has spent more money nearly every year since 2001. Now there are reports that when police officers run these red lights they are not fined, even when not engaged in official duties. One wonders how often this occurs with speeding by Police officers as well. This is an example of the political class receiving special treatment while the rest of the citizens suffer and clearly cannot be considered moral. The fact that the program is mainly designed to make money also creates an error in the object of the act (red light cameras) which should be to reduce crashes. If crashes are not reduced as a direct result of the cameras (the circumstance), then they are not appropriate. Thus it is important to take seriously the assertions by others that Red light Cameras may have increased accidents! In addition, when the camera mentality pervades the city, citizens will have to be weary of an ever present government watching over them in an intrusive and inappropriate way. So far, it appears that the installation of Red Light Cameras in St. Petersburg is immoral.
St. Petersburg Pier
The City of St. Petersburg plans to demolish the current Pier and replace it with a $50 million project called “the Lens”. The city has acknowledged the costs will be much higher and there are many taxpaying citizens who prefer to keep the old pier or perhaps lease the entire site to private interest to take the burden off the taxpayers. The city’s intention is to save money on the over $1 million annual subsidy, have a pier that will be a signature piece of public architecture for the city and create a draw for visitors. However the circumstances and the object of this project appear to make the entire enterprise immoral. The City council has refused to allow the citizens a vote on options which is something appropriate for such a large project. The city is committing future taxpayers to tens of millions in cost overruns with no way to pay for them – this is an unintended consequence (or perhaps an intended one). The city leaders plan to take out a $50 million loan to pay for the project, further burdening taxpayers with loan payments. This increased tax creates another unintended consequence of hurting taxpayers and the economy. The city won’t consider asking for citizen approval of a private lease to take the burden off the taxpayers. The Proposed pier itself is non-functional and merely a long looping sidewalk over the water with a large cement wall at the end. IN addition, the initial promises of an aquatic observatory are proving false (false witness) but were used to sell the project. There will be little to no meaningful business there to help breed a successful enterprise. The city leaders appear to be committing a moral error.
The city leaders are agitating for increased property tax rates to prevent a “shortfall” in the budget. There stated intention is to maintain city services. However they act immorally when telling taxpayers there will be a $13 million shortfall when in fact the city has had increased overall revenue and it is still markedly higher in 2011 than in 2001. They also commit a moral error by misleading on spending (“Thou shall not bear false witness”). The city spent an additional $34 million in 2011, compared to 2010, yet claims it is constantly cutting “to the bone”. The city also ignores the very negative impact of higher taxes on the economy and jobs and their role in causing the foreclosure problems that affect so many – more unintended consequences. The circumstances of their goal to ensure good city services and a good city in which to live is to use higher taxes. These higher taxes are a danger to the economy. In addition, they are ignoring the higher benefits and wages received by government employees compared to the citizens and taxpayers who support them. Thus, the object (higher taxes) creates a moral error by allowing authority a better life style than those who created the authority – the citizens.
Most local government leaders are insisting on building a commuter train from St. Petersburg to Clearwater. The intention is to decrease congestion, but the facts are that congestion usually goes up because money is moved away from roads to trains and rail also fails on nearly every assertion it makes. In addition the taxpayers are being misled on the actual cost which will likely be in the billions. The voters are being asked to approve an additional penny sales tax which will bring in $113 million. That will be given to an already bankrupt PSTA and will still not cover the costs of a new train. The intention is good (if it is as stated), the circumstance is flawed (increased taxes) and the object is in error (a train that will not serve the intention, but will cause more unintended consequences).
Consistent moral error by the local governments appear in a pattern. Here is a short list of typcal patterns of moral errors by our local governments (there are many more):
1 Bearing False Witness – on actual costs, spending, government employee benefits and revenue streams.
2. Stealing – When taxes are used to promote agendas that don’t serve their stated end or are based on false information, that is theft.
3. Corrupt Authorities – This is not the obvious forms of corruption with personal theft and the like. This is the corruption of allowing government employees and the political class to have a different set of laws to live by, to gain from taxation and regulatory policies by growing their power and scope, and pay for government worker benefits that are unsustainable and not near where the rest of society is living.
If people want morality back in government, they are going to have to step up to the plate and demand moral behaviour. They are going to have to elect people who are not going to lie, who live by moral principals and are open and transparent with their agendas.