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Bush vetoes pare Pinellas programs

In some cases, the aid was for new programs or expansions; agencies are not threatened.

By CURTIS KRUEGER, LISA GREENE and MICHAEL SANDLER

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 6, 2002


In some cases, the aid was for new programs or expansions; agencies are not threatened.

The Florida Center for Teachers hopes to inspire educators to stay in their profession. But after Gov. Jeb Bush vetoed $275,000 for the program on Wednesday, the center itself will have to decide whether it can stay in business.

"We are very disappointed," said Fran Cary, executive director of the Florida Humanities Council, which manages the center in St. Petersburg. "I fear for the future of the program. This is the second year now in a row that we will not have that $275,000."

Cary was among those who were disappointed Wednesday as Bush used his power to kill the financing for projects that had been approved by the Legislature earlier this year. Bush offered a variety of rationales for his vetoes, saying that some had not gone through established processes designed to carefully scrutinize state spending.

Among Pinellas projects, Bush's veto pen sliced out $1.3-million for the Florida Holocaust Museum, $854,000 for the Gulf Coast Museum of Art, $500,000 for drainage improvements on Park Boulevard in Pinellas Park, $200,000 for brick street repairs in Safety Harbor and $100,000 for the Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum and Park.

For many government and nonprofit officials, the vetoes mean they must delay plans for expanding their programs or go back to the drawing board altogether. For some, the state money had been earmarked for new programs or expansions. So the vetoes won't threaten to close those agencies, just limit their growth.

"It's disappointing and it will mean the collapse of some potential programs," said Stephen M. Goldman, museum director of the holocaust museum.

The holocaust museum in St. Petersburg teaches schoolchildren from six counties. The state money Bush vetoed would have helped the museum renovate space in St. Petersburg to accommodate more visitors and possibly open a new center, perhaps in Boca Raton.

"Will it curtail our operations? No. Will it change the way we look at the next 12 months? Yes," Goldman said.

Cedar Hames had a similar take on the governor's veto of $864,000 for galleries, classrooms and studios for the Gulf Coast Museum of Art in Largo. Hames, chairman of the museum's board, said he was "terribly disappointed."

In Tarpon Springs, a request for $100,000 for the new Heritage Center museum was vetoed. The money would have paid for an exhibit showing the development of Tarpon Springs from prehistoric times to early in the last century, when Greek settlers began to arrive, said Kathy Monahan, cultural and civic services director for the city.

In Largo, where the city plans to begin building a $22-million library in Largo Central Park next year, officials had hoped to receive up to $500,000 to start a Reading Center for Excellence with Pinellas County schools.

Officials said the veto would not slow their plans for the new library. "We put this in as an opportunity," said Barbara Murphey, library director. "This is not a cut of a program we have currently. This was an opportunity to increase our level of service."

The vetoes affected several road projects, from brick streets to an overpass.

The city of Clearwater will likely be without $300,000 requested to assist with an $11.1-million roadway and drainage improvement project along Myrtle Avenue. And Safety Harbor lost out on $200,000 in the budget for repairing brick streets.

Pinellas County lost $125,000 slated for an engineering study that would be the first step in a $30-million plan to beautify Gulf Boulevard. "That's the one I was most disappointed about," said county lobbyist Elithia Stanfield.

The county also lost $400,000 toward rebuilding an overpass on Tyrone Boulevard near Tyrone Square Mall. The county originally asked for more than $6-million for that project, hoping that it could be done in conjunction with some resurfacing work on the same road, Stanfield said. But legislators allocated only $400,000, and that was cut as well.

"I obviously would have preferred for both of those programs to be funded," St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said, referring to the Tyrone overpass and the holocaust museum. "But I understand the concept that both the state and our city had a lot of tough financial decisions to make."

In Pinellas Park, $500,000 toward long-needed drainage improvements on Park Boulevard was vetoed.

-- Times staff writers Katherine Gazella and Bryan Gilmer contributed to this story.

Pinellas vetoes

The following local projects were vetoed by Gov. Jeb Bush on Wednesday:

Gulf Coast Museum of Art: $854,000

Florida Holocaust Museum: $1.3-million

Myrtle Avenue: $300,000

Largo Library: $500,000

Florida Teaching Center: $275,000

Pinellas nutritional program: $56,250

Sun Coast Hospital outreach program: $270,000

Park Boulevard drainage improvement: $500,000

Pinellas engineering study: $125,000

Tarpon Springs Heritage Museum and Park: $100,000

Tyrone Boulevard overpass: $400,000

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