Sunday, September 22, 2019

Manatee Commissioner: Consciousness of Public Participation

Local Government is Not a Spectator Sport

Misty Servia
Sunday, Sep 22, 2019
I believe our citizens should play a meaningful role in the decisions our Board of County Commissioners makes for the community. When the county effectively engages with residents, the result is usually a healthy partnership that tackles issues from different perspectives, yielding the best results for everyone.

Our Board recently approved a $1.5 billion budget, and there were only a handful of citizens who spoke at the numerous public meetings that started in February of this year. Approving a budget to spend our tax dollars may be the most important thing your local government does, but you wouldn’t know it if measured by the public’s interest. Take note that a workshop is planned next February to discuss reducing the millage rate. And yes, we all love a tax break, but it may also result in reduced services, which is concerning to me. How do you feel about that?

Our County has considered implementing a stormwater fee for more than 30-years and is now in a place where it just may happen. We have all experienced some degree of flooding recently, and indicators show our future storms will be even more frequent and intense. A better stormwater system can improve the red tide and algae problems too, which are becoming as common in the summer as traffic is during rush hour. But look, there are different levels of service being considered, and they all come with a price tag. Are you willing to pay for the Cadillac version, or, do you prefer the Buick?

Manatee County is considering a boat ramp parking fee, as well. If you have taken your boat to one of our ramps lately, you have likely experienced a line to launch, not to mention limited trailer parking and ramps that are in disrepair. There is no question that we need more boat ramps and have to catch up on needed maintenance. Our facilities are enjoyed not only by our residents, but visitors and charter captains who make a living on the water. Who should pay to maintain our ramps? Only those who use them? Should our residents be allowed to park for free and require the out-of-town visitors to pay? Maybe we should pay for them out of the general fund, which means everyone pays, whether you are a boater or not, but that option may not sit well with our residents who don’t even own a boat.

I created the "District 4 Citizens Coalition on Growth” to give our citizens a larger voice in their local government. The group meets the third Wednesday of each month at 6:30 p.m. at the Bayshore Recreation Center and discusses timely local issues. We have open seats on the coalition and members of the public are always welcome. I am proud to carry feedback gathered at this meeting to our board and share it with other county commissioners.

Let’s face it, neighborhoods gain greater control over their everyday quality of life when we all come together in discussion, and even when we disagree, we find that we have many things in common too.

Misty Servia is a Manatee County Commissioner who represents District 4. She can be reached at

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