To this Marco resident, City Council meeting of Monday, 19 March 2018, deciding which words should appear on the ambulance ballot was disappointing, but not entirely unexpected. That ballot will appear this August in a referendum asking whether or not you thought adding a City owned and operated ambulance service to the ambulance service Marco already receives from the County was a good idea. I’ve yet to form an opinion on the subject because some questions haven’t been addressed and some maneuverings leave me uncomfortable. For example, four or five different drafts of ballot language were submitted by different councilors for yesterday’s Council meeting, but only ONE of them, (Councilor Honig’s) was discussed…and approved. Yes, there was some waltzing around certain contained words, but in the end, his ballot language remained oddly unchanged. In my opinion, that language contains misleading or inaccurate data that could certainly qualify as “lobbying.” One example: “The County EMS organization is undergoing change. Marco Island has no ability to improve service to the community.” That charge is Scare Tactics 101 and, without evidence, shouldn’t be on a ballot. Another example: “Marco Island could take full control of EMS, etc.” My understanding is that, by law, city emergency services will still fall under County and State dominant jurisdiction.
Another flaw in the approved ballot language is its failure to mention that all the costs of a city ambulance service would not replace the $3M or so the City pays annually to the County for emergency services but would be added on to those continuing costs. That grand annual total for the City isn’t known yet. Amusingly, when that initial dollar number is finally determined, some City officers felt that the total cost shouldn’t be stated in the millions of dollars because that number would be “too complicated” for the public to understand. They thought it wiser to use Ad Valorem millage rates, percentages, taxable values, etc. They also felt that being “locked” into any start-up dollar figure should certainly be avoided.
Well, the foregoing describes only a few of my concerns. The creative “dance” that masqueraded as “objective” Council discussion on Monday should understandably be named “The Spin.” I wonder how many Marco voters will blindly applaud such verbal dancing without question. I prefer being told all pros and cons first, don’t you?