Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Jim Naugle ticks off the Lenin-Sentinel.

Florida: Even worse, he made the communist columnist Michael Mayo angry by stating forcing developers into affordable housing is the government sticking its nose into the marketplace.

I've got to admit, when I first read Fort Lauderdale Mayor Jim Naugle's comments pooh-poohing this whole so-called affordable housing crisis in South Florida, I nearly spit out my beer and fell off my couch. Let them work overtime or get second jobs, King James basically sniffed. "I'm supposed to subsidize some schlock sitting on the sofa and drinking a beer, who won't work more than 40 hours a week?" Naugle told the South Florida Sun-Sentinel last week, voicing opposition to a city plan that would force developers to build some affordable units or pay extra fees. "I deny that there is a problem." That's easy for him to say. King James, whose Rio Vista neighbors include captains of industry and trust fund beneficiaries, bought his home on the New River for $362,500 in 1996. Today, that kind of cabbage won't even get you a teardown shack in parts of his city. On Monday, Naugle said he was taken out of context because he personally wouldn't be subsidizing anyone under the proposal. Oh. "It's the developer and the person who buys a higher-priced unit that will be subsidizing them, and I think that's wrong," Naugle said. "It's government interfering with the marketplace and that's Karl Marx." I asked how forcing a developer to set aside 10 percent of units at lower prices was akin to communism. "The person who's working 60 hours to get ahead and making $90,000 a year is going to subsidize the person who's working only 40 hours a week and making $60,000," Naugle said.
Okay, so Naugle could have been a bit nicer in slamming the proposal, but it would have been less entertaining seeing Mayo literally foaming at the mouth thru the rest of the column. Here is the gist of the proposal and the original quote that made the Sun Sentinel ticked off.
The city is under pressure from Broward County to pass a law. Otherwise, the county says it won't allow another wave of construction of thousands of condos downtown. South Florida's cities recently decided housing prices had reached crisis-level highs, and Fort Lauderdale is one of the first to seriously attempt passing a law to do something about it. Fort Lauderdale's law would make residential developers pay for affordable housing, either by providing it within their housing complexes or by paying fees into a trust fund to subsidize housing for the middle class. Mayor Jim Naugle, a conservative politician serving his final term, said people are mistaken if they think they are entitled to an affordable single-family house on a 40-hour-a-week work routine. People need to work more hours and settle for a condo or townhouse, Naugle said. "I'm supposed to subsidize some schlock sitting on the sofa and drinking a beer, who won't work more than 40 hours a week?" he asked. "I deny that there is a problem. You can buy condos all day for $160,000." Working-class residents have told the city they want to buy a home but can't afford it. Still, Naugle's opinions might hit home with some people. "Gas is unaffordable. Now, do gas station owners need to go out and supply affordable gas?" asked Doug Eagon, president of Stiles Corp., which built many of downtown's big towers. Naugle calls the proposed law a "luxury housing tax." "The concept of this ordinance is 'from each according to his ability, to each according to need,' which is the 'Communist Manifesto,' " he said. "One person is working two or three jobs to get ahead and one person isn't," he said. "Should we tax the person that's working hard to get ahead to pay for the one who isn't?" Jim Carras, head of the nonprofit Broward Housing Partnership, countered the mayor's Marx by paraphrasing President Truman. "A decent place to live is the right of every American. "We have maybe stepped away from how we fund it, but even the most conservative Republicans in Congress and the state Legislature see a role for government," Carras said.
I doubt Truman meant that people have to build you a condo downtown then subsidize something you can't afford. If you can't afford a downtown place at the original price, how are you going to afford the places surrounding downtown who sell items at higher prices? I am looking thru the bill of rights and have yet to see anything close to saying affordable housing in the place of your choosing is a God-given right. That is the problem with South Florida, lots of people want stuff they can't afford and demand the government give it to them. Naugle may be crass, but he is 100% correct. If Broward County was serious, they would have given the developers tax breaks/credits and incentives to build affordable housing, instead they want to hit people who can afford it with a stealth tax. Back to Mayo who can't argue with the premise so he falls back on the class warfare bit where all the rich people are just lazy bums with inheritances.
The argument seems based on the faulty premise that people who make more work longer hours. Naugle also seems to think that working harder will translate to home ownership, something that's not always the case in South Florida, where wages lag compared to many other urban areas. Plenty of people work two full-time jobs and can barely afford rent. And if Naugle is so bothered by sloth, how come he doesn't take aim at people who live off inheritances or investments? Non-labor income keeps getting taxed lower than ever, if at all. (See: Florida repeal of intangibles tax, federal repeal of estate tax.) On and on we went, him not realizing how callous he sounded and me wondering how a politician who fancies himself a compassionate conservative could be so tone deaf on the struggles facing many working South Floridians. "So now I'm a `schlock' because I only work 40 hours a week?" Michele Stadler, a full-time working mother, wrote city commissioners and Naugle by e-mail. "To insinuate that by not working more we are lazy is really a disgrace. He needs to take that silver spoon ... and look at the reality of life here in Fort Lauderdale and how it has changed in the last five years from the [perspective] of the middle class."
Then move out of Fort Lauderdale to a place you can afford, you don't have a right to stay there on taxpayers dime just because you feel you deserve it. Then Mayo really goes over the edge.
Naugle said plenty of affordable housing options are around, just maybe not the single-family homes of people's dreams. He also said they should find jobs they love, not be "stuck on working 40 hours a week," and hold off on having children until they are in a better financial position. "It's good to be a gatherer and build a nest before having a family," Naugle said. "That's what I did. I waited. Let's get people thinking about that." While we're at it, maybe we should think about ditching those quaint 20th-century notions about home, work and family. Maybe we need a new model, one that would make a Dickens villain proud. Maybe it's time for nonstop work. After all, if we work only 40 hours a week, that leaves a whole 128 hours open. With all that idle time, it's no wonder people want a place to sleep, eat and spend some quality time with the family.
What part did Naugle say that wasn't true? You don't purposely start a family without figuring if your financial situation can bear it. Did couples saving for a house and kids while focusing on their careers become out of style? People popping babies out like pez then realizing they put themselves in a financial bind? Mayo as usual goes off the deep end because he cannot logically refute Naugle's entire argument.

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