By Seth Grossman, Political Columnist???
?? I am writing this while vacationing in the original Century Village in West Palm Beach, Florida.?? This is the perfect place to write about New Jersey’s motto of “Liberty and Prosperity”.
?? The original Century Village is where roughly 1,800 elderly Democrats made history by punching the wrong circle on their ballots, thereby electing George W. Bush in 2000.
?? But Century Village also made history when it was created 40 years ago.?? In 1968, West Palm Beach lawyer Irwin Levy and some friends bought a square mile of useless swamp land four miles outside of town for almost nothing.?? They dug out ditches which became lakes, and used the dirt to build up the surrounding land.?? They then used simple, identical plans to build 8,000 apartment units in 300 buildings that look like concrete barracks.?? But Levy also built a huge million dollar clubhouse with a state of the art stage and movie theater, a first class golf course, 18 swimming pools, a gym, tennis, shuffleboard, ping pong, and bocci courts and bought sailboats for the lakes.?
?? The whole project cost Levy and his friends about $8 million of borrowed money, but they took in $72 million by selling the 8,000 condos for $9,000 each by 1974.?? Levy himself built three more Century Villages, while other developers have since built hundreds of similar projects for seniors around the country.
?? About 8,000 year round residents, and another 8,000 “snowbirds” now live in the original Century Village of West Palm.?? One bedroom units now sell for $35,000, while two bedrooms go for $70,000.?? Many New Jersey seniors would call them bargains.
?? The biggest attraction of Century Village is its liberty, that is its traditional American self-government.?? Each of the 300 separate apartment buildings is run by its independently elected condominium association.?? The 40 year old buildings and surrounding grounds are spotless and maintained in mint condition.?? Costs are minimal.?? Each unit owner pays his own separately metered electric and water.?? But the condo associations used their bulk buying power to get good deals on landscaping, repairs, insurance, and premium TV cable service which is included in the monthly condo fee of about $250 per month.
?? Century Village residents also elect and pay another $100 per month to a larger United Community Organization (UCO).?? This “federal” government handles issues affecting the entire community, such as the clubhouse, the swimming pools, the trash pick-up, the security, and a very convenient free bus service.???
?? Contractors and employees of the resident associates have no civil service or pension rights.?? Maintenance, trash, and security companies are constantly fired and replaced.?? Volunteers supplement the paid staff and volunteer associations collect dues and watch every penny spent on recreation or entertainment.?? There is no admission charge for movies, and the live stage shows cost $8 per ticket.
?? Security at Century Village is tighter than at any airport.?? Your photo ID is checked whenever you enter the complex or any recreational facility.?? Senior citizen volunteers are trained and equipped by the County Sheriff.?? Crime within Century Village is almost non-existent.
?? If you are retired on an $1,800 per month social security check, you can live well in Century Village.?? You would pay $800 per year on real estate taxes, and about $500 for apartment insurance.?? That would bring your housing costs to about $450 per month, or 25% of your income.
?? Liberty brought prosperity to Century Village.?? Think of how low New Jersey taxes would be if our public schools and local governments were run the same way!
?? But most people don’t see it that way?- especially the seniors who live in Century Village.?? Retired seniors from the high tax, big government states of the northeast now dominate Florida politics.?? Instead of demanding that government be run like Century Village, they have demanded and gotten the big government and high taxes of their old home states.?? But Florida’s retired seniors used their political clout to shift most of the big new tax burden on businesses, tourists, and new residents.?? The predictable result is that few people are moving to Florida these days, while lots of people and businesses are moving out.?? They are moving to low tax, small government states like Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia, and the Carolinas.?? Florida real estate values are plummeting.?? To be continued….
Somers Point attorney Seth Grossman is acting president of www.libertyandprosperity.org.