An Opinion By Jan Bergemann 
President, Cyber Citizens For Justice, Inc.

Published January 5, 2011


OK., folks -- election party is over: LET'S GET TO WORK!

Lots of election promises to keep, not only to the folks who supplied the election campaign checks.


Let's face it: Florida's economy is a disaster -- the real estate market more or less non-existent. Florida is Number1 in the USA for foreclosures and the number of unemployed Floridians is growing.


We don't need rallying calls and highly paid economists telling us that it will get better soon. Remember -- economists usually make more mistakes in their economic forecasts than the weathermen make in their weather forecasts.


We have read in the last few weeks all the fancy ideas about new growth, more building and luring more employers to Florida. Isn't that exactly what got us in the mess in the first place?


Exact numbers vary, but there are between 300,000 and 400,000 empty homes and condos in Florida. Industrial parks, shopping malls and strip malls are empty. We built streets and airports to nowhere. We built communities now abandoned by bankrupt developers with just a few homes built. 

In case you forgot: We are still in Florida, where the climate -- especially the humidity -- destroys buildings within a year, if those buildings arenít properly aired and air-conditioned. We will soon be surrounded by ruins -- ugly eyesores. Who is going to pay for the next big catastrophe -- removing these eyesores? What will happen to all the buildings and condos under foreclosure -- full of mold? We are already seeing banks stepping away from their mortgages in court, because the cost of making these homes rentable or sellable again would be more expensive than the whole things are worth.


Every good coach in sports will tell you: "Never change a winning team!" It's sad to see that our legislators forgot about this successful approach.


Florida's economy thrived when retirees from up North were flocking to the Sunshine State; when tourists from all over the world came to Florida for their vacations, even buying vacation homes and timeshares. Those are now all dreams of the past, because we scared away the retirees with horror stories about scams, communities from hell and developers cheating retirees out of their life-savings. I know, some will say that has happened as well in other states; but other states are enforcing their rules and laws -- and don't enact laws that encourage scam artists to fleece the elderly.


We fleeced the tourists, sold them fraudulent timeshares, condos and condo conversions that turned out to be worthless. Our government ignored their complaints, even protected the scam artists. Many are gone, never to return. Spain was only too happy to accommodate these tourists -- and their money.


Retirees were lured from up North with the false promise of easy living in the sunshine. They were not told that they would be liable for paying the association dues of their neighbors who stopped paying their dues for various reasons. They were not told that our legislators would protect the banks and mortgage companies against liability for their unscrupulous lending practices that caused most of the economic disaster in our communities.


Retirees invested their life-savings in their dream homes in the sunshine, only to see their life-savings disappear into nowhere. Home equity, supposed to be used to buy into assisted living facilities if need be, disappeared overnight -- and folks have to stay in their homes -- if they are able to pay the ever-increasing bills and association assessments.


Communities, which promised protection of property values, turned into financial traps. Families are losing their homes even if they paid all the bills they initially agreed to pay.



Overbuilding and growth-mismanagement -- mixed with corruption and fraud -- created the financial mess we are experiencing here in Florida. Do we want to continue this path to doom?  Instead of seeing the writing on the wall our political leaders are already talking about more development, more building!
Attracting more businesses to Florida? Florida is not a state to really accommodate any manufacturing industries -- cost of living is much too high, meaning wages have to rise accordingly. There are many states with much better conditions to attract business.


Before we continue our political and business leaders' dreams of continued growth we should rather listen to the folks whose common sense is still down to earth. How about efforts to again attract retirees and tourists, making them feel welcome again -- not abused as cash cows for greedy scam artists and corrupt politicians? Shouldn't our chief priority be finding buyers and/or renters for all these empty buildings, condos and homes -- before they turn into moldy ruins?


Retirees and tourists have been the main ingredients in the recipe that created a successful economy for Florida. We should go back to using this successful recipe -- instead of dreaming wild dreams that will finally destroy what little is left of the Sunshine State .


Let's use the old recipe to success: KISS.  Keep It Simple, Stupid!  Create laws and enforce these laws in order to show the potential future retirees up North and the tourists from all over the world that we are serious about encouraging them to enjoy their lives and time in Florida.  That is what worked in the past and it will work again.


Florida may have lost a lot of its attractions, like low cost of living and low property taxes. Let's change directions before we lose the last thing Florida is still famous for -- THE SUNSHINE!  Let's stop destroying what little is left of the once proud State of Florida; Her natural beauty, white beaches and lots of sunshine!


If we continue the current way, we destroy our country from the inside out. We have an expert in our state legislature who could lecture his colleagues about what happened to great empires that destroyed themselves from the inside out. Senate Mike Haridopolos is a history professor by trade. Nobody better qualified to tell his colleagues about the great empires that suffered downfalls, caused by greed and corruption.