SARASOTA HERALD-TRIBUNE/FRIDAY, JULY 13, 1984
Let the Basin Boards Be
The Southwest Florida Water Manage- other water districts into which the state
ment District wants to downgrade the is divided are under the control of ap-
boards that oversee the nine basins, or pointed boards. Board members cannot be
sub-districts into which the management held accountable at the polls by the vot-
district is divided. But there are good -ers upon whose property they can levy
reasons, both general and particular, for taxes.
not doing this. To be sure, the members of basin
One of the particular reasons was cited boards are appointed too, by the gover-
the other day by Commissioner West- nor. But as residents of the sub-districts
wood Fletcher of Manatee County: If the they serve, they are more visible, more
Manasota Basin Board is stripped of its numerous and likely to be more accessi-
taxing powers, as SWFWMD proposes, ble. They hold their meetings close to
Manatee is not likely to get the- $1.8 home.
million it is seeking from the basin board Floridians are almost inevitably going
to help buy the Estech property to protect .to be taxed more and more for water
and supplement the county's Lake Mana- management projects as the state's grow-
tee water supply. ing population makes increasingly heavy
The multi-county district, headquar- demands on finite water resources.
tered in Brooksville, might of course pro- Under SWFWMD's present rules, local
vide the funding itself. It has taxing basin boards can make taxing and spend-
power. But fr9m Manatee's viewpoint the ing decisions on local water management
two-county basin board is much more projects. If proposed changes are adopted,
likely to respond to this or any other local those decisions will be made in Brooks-
need. ville, with basin boards reduced to a
It is a' valid democratic principle that strictly advisory status.
governmental power should be kept as District officials say that the change
close to the people as is practical. And, will make for more efficient management,
with the water management district and it may be the case that not all of the
setup that Florida has, basin boards can basin boards are as active and effective
be a very useful way of doing that. as the Manasota board has been. But that
There is another and even more basic is an argument for improving them, not
principle of good governance which the downgrading them.
Florida setup violates- that taxing pow- In this area certainly, no need for
ers should reside with elected rather than concentrating more power in the appoint-
appointed officials. SWFWMD and the ed district boards has been shown.