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By Editorial board
November 03, 2013
Socialism has been a recurring topic of discussion at recent Martin County Commission meetings.
To wit, a steady stream of speakers during public comment have decried the county’s participation in Seven50 — a regional organization formed in 2010 to draft a comprehensive plan for economic development and quality of life for seven Southeast Florida counties for 50 years.
• “I’m begging you to withdraw from Seven50.”
• “The socialists in Europe who wanted to herd people into urban areas have come to America and now want to do the same with us.”
• “Our area here is seven counties they want to consolidate into one.”
• “A system is being developed to rearrange society to fit a preplanned utopia.”
And so it goes.
If Martin County continues down this path, according to opponents of Seven50, the county will lose its autonomy and be forced to implement plans developed — and imposed — by others unfamiliar with Martin County’s unique qualities and characteristics.
Let’s be clear: Seven50 is an experiment in regional planning. It’s presumptuous to think a regional organization is capable of developing a comprehensive plan that adequately addresses all of the critical issues confronted by individual cities and counties. Moreover, this experiment could prove to be a boondoggle, a waste of time and money that produces few positive results.
Martin County has its own comprehensive plan, one painstakingly protected, for good reason, by local residents. It must continue to be Martin County’s guide to the future.
Still, there is value in participating in Seven50 — in the form of shared resources, information and funding.
Some issues, such as the development of transportation corridors and the restoration of a flow-way south of Lake Okeechobee, MUST be addressed from a regional perspective. Other issues, such as maintaining beaches and dredging inlets, are local issues that may be addressed more efficiently through joint efforts and regional cooperation.
There are 127 local governments in the 7-county area. Only three — Indian River County, the city of Vero Beach and the town of Indian River Shores — have decided not to participate in Seven50.
On Tuesday, commissioners will hear an update from county staff on the county’s participation in the regional organization. The commission should stay the course with respect to Seven50.
The organization is no panacea. But neither is it the harbinger of socialism predicted by opponents.
Seven50 may be flawed, but it could produce some useful results for Martin County.