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Response to Dec. 16 editorial

By Staff | Dec 22, 2010

To the editor,

It was extremely interesting to read the opening statements in your Dec. 16th editorial: “From a very young age, we are taught how to share. The concept of fairness, equity and balance in our lives is one of the fundamental elements passed down from generation to generation. But apparently for some [water managers], the concept of fair treatment has been lost on them.”

That was echoed by the Public Policy Director for SCCF: singling out the Caloosahatchee for water restrictions not applicable to any other users was described as inequitable and contrary to “fundamental fairness.” You both assert that fairness, equity and balance are principles fundamental to good governance, and I could not agree more.

Yet, very recently, when seven bayfront property owners respectfully asked the City Council to restore to them the riparian dock rights that the city had taken when their property was singled out in 1993, their quest for fair treatment was soundly rejected.

After initially being told by some on the council that restoration of those rights was a matter of ethics and equity, the welcome mat was yanked out from beneath them due to a vocal group which doesn’t like the look of docks at the entrance to Sanibel. Wrapped in the disguise of seagrass protection, dock opponents told these few bayfront owners that they should be happy to sacrifice their right to a dock for the privilege to live on Sanibel. Notice that not everyone on Sanibel was asked to sacrifice equally by contributing to pay for the dock rights that were taken.

(One is reminded of the barnyard animals’ gift to the farmer – the chickens suggested a breakfast of ham and eggs. The pigs pointed out that for chickens, that’s a contribution and for pigs, it’s a sacrifice. In the Sanibel barnyard, no contributions were offered; merely sacrifices imposed upon a few.)

Adding insult to injury, during those hearings, it was suggested more than once in not so veiled terms that these bayfront owners should be quiet and consider the personal consequences of pressing for their docks in the face of such strong opposition.

The opposition invoked the mantra of seagrass protection. Representatives of SCCF were quick to focus on and magnify the possibility of impacts to 6,500 acres of seagrass beds by the one acre maximum amount of dock space (assuming every bayfront owner built the largest possible dock). But issues of fundamental fairness and concepts of equity and balance — those were ignored when docks were denied to that small group of hopeful bayfront owners at their last appearance before City Council.

So your editorial and the recent protests for justice in the face of inequitable treatment are refreshing contrasts to positions taken during the dock debate where the Lake Okeechobee releases were also regularly mentioned — but only to speculate about whether doing the right thing for this small group of people might be perceived negatively by the water managers and USACE, about whom you now so bitterly complain.

Some, it seems, have forgotten the Golden Rule: If you expect to be treated fairly, you must first treat others fairly. Otherwise, your demands for fairness and justice ring hollow.

Steven C. Hartsell

Fort Myers