“Because of current beach-related issues affecting the entire state, the city will defer comments to a later date.”
It’s been a rough week for Daily News reporter Annie Blanks.
It turns out, very few people want to talk about the problems that are going on at the beach in Destin. More specifically, no one at the city wants to talk about code enforcement. No one wants to talk about beach vendor setups. No one wants to talk about why it’s so hard for so many people to go to the beach and have a good time.
In her story on A1 today, Blanks relays a quote from the City of Destin that was sent to her in reply to questions she was asked to email. According to her story: “Because of current beach-related issues affecting the entire state, the city will defer comments to a later date,” the city said in an official statement provided to the Daily News.
Now, I can get on board with that response if we are talking about customary use, House Bill 631 or any ordinance that has changed since July 1. But these are the questions on code enforcement the city declined to answer:
Who/does anyone patrol or at least monitor the beach for vendor violations?
Does an officer have to be called to the beach or can he/she voluntarily go down there to check to make sure things are in code?
What is the process if a vendor is found to be in violation of code? First time, subsequent times?
What/if anything do officers do about “private beach” signs on property that’s not private?
This could not have less to do with the rest of the state. It has everything to do with complacency by a group of government officials. As the city spends more taxypayer dollars to deal with code enforcement — the department added two new positions and nearly doubled its salaries in the city’s 2018 budget — the results are anything but spectacular.
There’s confusion, bullying and misinformation running amuck on the beaches the city is in charge of, and instead of doing something about it officials are burying their head in the sand and hiding behind other areas’ problems when confronted with concerns.
You don’t have to be an erosion control line specialist to enforce the city’s beach chair vendor ordinances; you simply need to be able to use a measuring tape. Find the wet sand, measure 20 feet.
Avoiding questions and continuing to bury their heads in the sand — regardless of what side of the ECL officials choose to use — is unacceptable. Employees of the City of Destin are paid by the taxpayers. And when taxpayers have concerns and questions, they deserve answers.
If our reporters can’t get clarity from the city and if our queries are avoided by simple, silly blanket statements that have nothing to do with the question, then how can any of the city’s residents expect to get answers. How can anyone trust that the city has its residents’ best interests at heart?
We don’t expect our public officials to be perfect. We don’t expect the decisions they make to work out 100 percent of the time. But we do expect our governments to be responsive. That isn’t happening here.
Our economy — and our reputation — depends on people going to the beach and having a great time, both tourists and locals. The rules should be made clear. The rules should be enforced. Our leaders should be held accountable for making that happen. There just is no excuse for the current situation.
Jason Blakeney is the executive editor of the Northwest Florida Daily News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 315-4404.