A Call to Civil Disobedience?

Gulfport Mayor Sam HendersonThe media has of late been rife with stories of corporate and governmental mandates which distinctly lack any shred of holiday spirit – and arguably any sound ethical or economic foundations. The Tampa Bay Times awarded the Sour Orange Awards to (drum roll please) Worst Actor: the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act and, a close second, Duke Energy’s pre-emptive fee collection for nuclear energy projects. The federal flood insurance legislation is currently in place, and is set to impact nearly one-sixth of Pinellas property owners with unmanageable insurance premiums. This poorly planned policy has the potential to dislocate residents and businesses.

Meanwhile, Duke Energy is following Progress Energy in lock step, charging customers (you and me) for project costs they are not required by law to incur. They can force you to pay for it, but they do not have any obligation to build it. They aren’t even required to list these fees under a separate line item on your bill. Sounds a little like theft, doesn’t it?

In times like these, I have to think that there is a place for civil disobedience. Yes, I know the City of Gulfport raised utility fees recently, but only to the extent that the city itself is obligated to cover these costs to the providers. When we charge for water, we still provide the water. When we charge for garbage collection, we still collect it. That is the difference: we are accountable to you. But what is happening in the broader picture is simply the dismantling of peoples’ ability to maintain their quality of life.

I have to wonder, what happens if we collectively refuse to participate? If one person stops paying the new insurance differential or the extra $25 on the electric bill, then that person’s property is likely to undergo foreclosure or have the power shut off. If one million people refuse? Is it possible for regular people to take back the reigns of the economy? I do not write today to incite rebellion, but at a minimum, I do believe this is worthy of reflection and discussion. It may be that we have the duty to issue a peaceful but stern mandate of our own, for ourselves and those who will inherit these burdens.

We are built to take a stand. I wish you one and all a happy holiday season, and I hope that your joy in life will remain unclouded in spite of the troubles with which we are presented. We are all in this together, and I remain optimistic that we can overcome these current difficulties, as Gulfporters and Americans, as we have throughout our history.

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