Wednesday, December 7, 2016

The Late Waldo Proffitt Jr. on Growth

Longtime editorial writer and managing editor of the Herald TribuneWaldo Proffitt Jr. died Dec. 6. This reflection was shared with us by Dan Lobeck:

Waldo Proffitt Jr.

October 8, 1924 - December 6, 2016

As Managing Editor of the Sarasota Herald-Tribune from 1961-1998, and as a columnist and editorial writer,
Waldo Proffitt  helped shape Sarasota County for the better (together for most of that time with Publisher David Lindsay).  

He always favored carefully managed and controlled growth, as reflected in these interview excerpts.
Waldo Proffitt is greatly missed.

From an Interview – 10/16/2013:
 … growth is not necessarily good, it’s only the right kind of growth that will help the community remain a good place for people to live and that is the product that Sarasota has to sell: that this is a good place to live. And I believe that that idea has become fairly widely circulated, I certainly hope so.


Well, don’t let yourself get overwhelmed by density. I mean that’s not easy to do, because the more people you can pack into a given area, the more money you can make.


I’m very fond of Siesta Key but the fact is that now it is getting overpopulated and unless we are very careful about what we allow to be built in there, it can have an negative impact on the quality of life, and that is, I think, a statement that I think could be applied to almost any waterfront community— they are very sensitive to density.

From an Interview – 8/27/2003:


I always tried to sell the concept that growth is good up to a point … I can tell you what the maximum population [of Sarasota County] will be. I figured it out to be 1.6 billion. The population of Sarasota County would give you twelve square feet for every person to lie down in the sun, and you couldn’t have any double decking because everybody wants to get the sunshine. … then you can start asking the question, how much growth should we have? Then you start asking a whole different set of questions, and then you’ve come to the concept of sustainability. How much growth can we sustain over the long haul based on the resources available? The truth is we don’t know, and people have thought about this and they still don’t know. We will never get a satisfactory answer to that question, but as long as you keep asking the question, you get people in a mind-set where they are not afraid to say, no, you can’t do that because that is something we can’t sustain over the long haul. We can’t follow this precedent.

Question: In very specific cases, if we look at Southwest Florida, already there are issues of water, pollution, and traffic. Once that starts impacting the life of an average citizen of this community, they are going to start complaining.

WP: Yes, and [they] have.

Question: But the power of the developers is that they will say, look, we want to expand, that’s jobs, more people come, more businesses, it helps the economy, more taxes, better schools, that growth is not only essential but beneficial. How do you counteract those kinds of statements?

WP: In the first place, you go back and examine the tax history in the county, which I don’t think anybody has done recently but I did several times and printed the results. The truth of the matter is that as the community grows, the per capita tax rises. Growth doesn’t lower your taxes; it actually raises them. I think in most any situation, you can check the tax records and that is what happens. 

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