Commissioner Jess Santamaria was one of two commissioners who voted to create another new government bureaucracy to punish employers and employees. Fortunately, the “wage theft law” was defeated by a 5-2 vote, in large part due to the cool heads that prevailed, which included Priscilla Taylor and Shelley Vana, two outstanding women advocates for the poor.
“Wage theft” is just a clever, emotionally charged term like “corruption county.” These terms are known to appeal to the emotions rather than the intellect. It is easier to manipulate public opinion on an emotional level than try to educate voters with the true facts and consequences.
The fact is that punishing voluntary agreements between employers and employees is simply government interfering in the free market. The result is always fewer jobs, which means greater competition for jobs and therefore greater leverage for employers.
Carrying the crime-fighting banner by Santamaria has already cost taxpayers $9 million a year, and if he had gotten his way we would be paying millions more to find and prosecute employers who provided jobs to willing employees. Those employees are most likely the new arrivals from other countries who are thankful to have a better place to live and work.
While Santamaria does not have a plan to reduce the 40 percent unemployment in his district, he was not responsible for it. Before Santamaria took office, the State of Florida acquired hundreds of thousands of acres of sugar fields in the Glades and took them out of production. Thousands of jobs were lost. Unfortunately, the seat that Santamaria holds on the commission has not been filled by a strong advocate for the Glades and for the poor and starving who live there.
Perhaps the next person to sit in Santamaria’s term-limited seat will have more courage and strength to do the heavy lifting, and he or she might convince lawmakers to pass legislation that will stimulate job development in the Glades. I think we can all agree that 40 percent unemployment is unconscionable.
Commissioner Santamaria is a nice man. It is unfortunate, that he does not have leadership skills. The western communities’ needs are not being met nor are they getting adequate voice on the commission. Other commission areas are getting more attention while the western communities needs are an afterthought.
Let’s hope our commissioner can garner more commission votes and push the agenda for our communities in the western area. We are being left behind.
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