Adkins/Ingoglia Stimulus Plan Merits Scrutiny
Hernando TodayWe're glad to see government and community leaders working together to come up with new ideas to help spur the gloomy economy in Hernando County.
Published: February 14, 2009
Published: February 14, 2009
However, the "Comprehensive Plan For Recovery" presented Wednesday by Commissioner James Adkins and authored by community activist/home builder Blaise Ingoglia has us scratching our heads - and wondering.
The plan merits scrutiny and public debate, but there are a lot of questions.
At first blush, the plan didn't garner much support. More folks knocked it than praised it.
Commissioners did the right thing by passing the plan off to the county's newly formed business development committee for further review and public debate on March 17. The committee will approve, reject or modify it and report back to the full commission no later than April 17.
Despite the naysayers, Adkins and Ingoglia's CPR shouldn't be considered dead on arrival.
There's little doubt that the Adkins/Ingoglia plan will be a hard sell, with the first question being: Should county government get into the business of trying to stem the foreclosure tsunami in Hernando County with local taxpayer dollars?
There's much about this plan to dislike and deride.
The plan calls for taking $2.5 million from general fund reserves to help finance grant money to potential homeowners who could then buy up foreclosed homes.
With home values dropping nearly 40 percent since their high in June 2006, the housing bust and its associated economic maladies have devastated Hernando County, which had one of the highest unemployment rates in the state in December at 10.9 percent.
Somebody's got to do something. For that, Adkins deserves credit.
When private sector folks like Ingoglia develop plans that call for spending millions in local government tax dollars in their specific industry, you can bet there are self-serving purposes at play that should be questioned. Who will benefit most from this plan?
The plan begs more questions than it provides answers. Like the federal government bailouts, nobody really knows whether the Adkins/Ingoglia CPR would stimulate anything but controversy. However, sitting back and doing nothing doesn't seem to be doing anyone a whole lot of good either.
In praising the Adkins/Ingoglia plan, Commissioner John Druzbick said, "We can no longer sit back and do nothing. We are seeing our neighborhoods go down monthly."
But we must also look long and hard before we leap.
Costs to administer the plan could outweigh its worth. It would compete with other housing assistance programs already available to the public, such as the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which provides grants to the county to purchase foreclosed homes.
Also, if the Adkins/Ingoglia CPR is little more than Commissioner Jeff Stabins' "HELP" stimulus plan, then there's no sense moving forward. While $2.5 million means a lot to the taxpayers of this county, county government may simply be too small and the funding too little to create any real impact on the foreclosure crisis here. It may simply fill a few people's pockets and have little overall economic impact.
Issuing gift cards of up to $4,000 to people who purchase foreclosed homes and $5,000 gift cards to first-time homebuyers of properties valued at $120,000 or less sounds like a crazy idea, especially when one considers that only about 30 percent of real economic impact would be realized locally if the gift cards are used for "promised" retail purchases in Hernando County. The gift cards could always be spent elsewhere and probably would be.
Then there's a market plan that expends money and staff time with no explanation of how to pay for it at a time when we are reducing county government employees.
And what does "passive recruitment" mean?
Casting a verdict on this plan wouldn't be fair until it can be further vetted by the business development committee and the public.
There's much not to like about it, but this county could sure use a shot of economic recovery.
After the business development committee mulls it over and tweaks the plan and the public has more opportunity to comment, there may be something to this idea.
But let's not dismiss it out of hand simply because such "out-of-the-box" ideas have not been proposed before. We can always say "no thanks" and go back to the drawing board.