Skin in the Fight

West Palm Beach, FL — The expensive leisurewear that the comfortable retirees wore to plead their case at a county commission meeting made their turnout countable, but otherwise did them no favor. I, who am hoping not to spend my retirement years in a nursing home, am sympathetic with their plight. They worked hard, maybe inherited well, saved judiciously, and then, sadly, purchased property right on the beach. Unfortunately, apparently, the realtors forgot to tell them that the second-largest ocean in the world borders their backyards, and comes crashing in everyday, stealing some of their sand. What a crummy deal. Boy did they get screwed.

So they came before the county commission and pointed out that they pay taxes for a bunch of things they don’t even use, like roads and schools on the other side of the bridge, which they’d rather attend their own funeral than cross, evidently, so it’s time they caught a break. The break they want is for the county to build some groins — picture them — to hold the ocean in place for their convenience at a nearly quarter of a billion dollar cost. Yes some uncountable costs come with that plan — to the sea turtles who make up part of our earthly family, to monitor whether their numbers are decimated, to tear the things out if they are, to taxpayers who will have to pay exponentially more if some part of that doesn’t go right, but this is urgent.

One Islander put it this way, with a catch in his voice: “I stand on my balcony and all I see is water.” Oy! It makes you picture those who stood on their roofs in New Orleans in 2005, doesn’t it? Except that it’s a balcony and not a roof, and it’s like, 27 stories up, instead of one, and when he says see, he means  “see,” he doesn’t mean “drowning in it and my bloated body not being found for three weeks.”

The highlight of the evening was when an otherwise majestic elderly gentleman, dressed for golf, with absolutely no doubt that he was making the best point ever, said that the issue should not be decided “by outsiders with no skin in the fight.” Well, that wasn’t really the highlight. The highlight was when the gadflies, who live way in the hell and gone out west where there is not only no beach, but nothing else to write home about, and who pay for their own dank nasty canal cleaning and road improvement, got up one after another and said, I do, in fact, have skin in this fight, I pay taxes, I go to the beach, except, you’re right, usually not yours, because you’ve fixed it that there’s nowhere to park anywhere near there.

The county commission has gotten much better at listening since three of them went to jail (charges are pending on another) in the last few years, so they voted for the people who didn’t have any skin in the fight except for their own hopes and dreams of how their tax dollars could be spent to make a better world on both sides of the bridge.

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