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Letters to the Editors

Misplacing millions is disturbing

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 25, 2002

Editor: Re: School review turns up $3-million, June 20 Times:

Maybe it's just me, but as a longtime taxpayer in Hernando County, I find it very disturbing to watch my taxes go up every year, while my services go down, and then read where our politicians have mysteriously found a lost account with several million dollars in it.

The June 20 article stated that the School Board just found $3.3-million. Is this county so poorly managed that we can misplace millions of our hard-earned dollars and nobody misses it? Does this scenario, which has been played out many times in Hernando County, strike anybody else as very disturbing?

The best part of this latest example is that now we have an extra $3.3-million. Does that mean the school tax hike will not be taking place this year, or maybe the many jobs that were lost due to financial woes will be reinstated? Or maybe even the teachers might get the raise they deserve? After all, nobody missed the millions before, so if it was dished out to the teachers and workers, it really would not be missed again, right?

It just makes me very scared to think how many more of my hard-earned taxes may be out there, lost and forgotten.

Remind me never to ask the politicians of Hernando to help me balance my checkbook.
-- Dave Haluka, Brooksville

Alliance to keep residents abreast of county changes

Editor: Re: New coalition echoes CAUSE efforts, June 17 letter to the editor:

Beverly Coe's response to recent articles about the Alliance for a Better Community is off base. Ms. Coe did not attend either organizational meeting June 1 or 15. The misinformation contained in her letter to the editor may stem from her lack of direct knowledge.

The "new, yet unnamed coalition" does have a name: Alliance for a Better Community, or ABC, to keep it simple. After determining it did not intend to be political, the group deliberately chose not to use the word "coalition" in its name. The Alliance for a Better Community is an apolitical alliance of individuals and groups.

As defined at its first meeting, ABC's mission is: "To work with Hernando County government to inform, educate and give notice to the citizens about issues affecting the future of Hernando County."

Ms. Coe incorrectly identifies our purpose as identical to CAUSE's. The purpose of CAUSE is to curb urban sprawl and protect the environment. The purpose of the Alliance for a Better Community is to inform, educate and give notice to Hernando County residents. The scope of ABC's focus is not limited by a particular political or social agenda. It is not pro- or anti-anything. It will be up to residents as to what they do with the information ABC intends to disseminate to them. It is hoped that with notice, education and information, residents will be able to help direct Hernando County's future.

The Alliance for a Better Community sprang from a well of discontent. Residents who are concerned about the manner in which our county is changing wanted an effective point of entry to discuss those changes before they are approved by the county.

Some who are affected by large projects within the county felt they lacked any real opportunity to participate in government decisions that affect their neighborhoods. ABC envisions itself as a clearinghouse to provide useful information that empowers organizations and individuals to act in a timely and meaningful manner to help shape Hernando's future.

No one wants to know after the building permit has been issued that her back yard will abut a tiki bar. No one wants to know after his neighbor's land is rezoned that he can do nothing about the mega-store that's going in on the corner. It's frustrating to attend a meeting in a crowded auditorium where county officials explain why it is too late to do anything about the apartment complex that is being built across the road. These are just a few concerns voiced by residents who felt they need a better opportunity to participate in decisions that affect their future.

Ms. Coe incorrectly infers that the Good Government League formed the Alliance for a Better Community for the purpose of curbing urban sprawl. This is a misstatement of fact. The GGL did not form ABC. Members of the Good Government League were present at the alliance's first meeting, as were members of many other organizations, property owners associations, governmental committees, Realtors, teachers, a lawyer and others who identified themselves simply as "concerned citizens." Curbing urban sprawl is CAUSE's purpose; ABC's purpose is to inform, educate and give notice.

The Alliance for a Better Community does not intend to participate in turf wars. It is no one's competitor. ABC simply seeks to be of assistance to local government officials, Hernando County citizens, and the various groups to which they belong.

Growth is inevitable. The upcoming review of Hernando County's Comprehensive Plan will affect everyone who lives here. The Comprehensive Plan controls the way the county is supposed to grow. Armed with adequate notice of meetings, information and education, residents should be able to participate in a meaningful way in the Comprehensive Plan review process.

The Alliance for a Better Community is a new group, but what we lack in history, we make up for in passion and diversity.

Ms. Coe is correct in stating there is strength in numbers. Just think what Hernando County might look like five, 10 or 20 years from now. Now think what Hernando would look like if everyone had an opportunity to share ideas, experience and solutions. We couldn't help but be better for it.

The Alliance for a Better Community invites all who are interested to attend its next meeting at Oak Hill Hospital, sixth floor conference room Saturday at 10 a.m.
-- Nina Vaznelis, temporary chairperson
Alliance for a Better Community

Commissioners in the dark because they didn't ask

Editor: Re: Budget blame falls on McIntosh, June 18 Times:

Nobody told them about the galloping budget crisis, plead the mystified Hernando county commissioners. That is no excuse. The commission has a responsibility to know.

Appropriate financial and supportive information, if not offered by staff, should be demanded by the commission.

Interim information would have enabled the commission to make timely adjustments in financial affairs calmly instead of hurriedly as now. Rather, the commission allowed personal matters such as its ongoing job preservation to distract from this responsibility. Taxpayers deserve a replacement board able to manage their money efficiently.

This is not unlike the lady who exclaimed "I'm nine months pregnant!" while sipping her martini. "Nobody told me."
-- James A. Willan, Brooksville

Cap shows county worker needs lessons on attire

Editor: Re: Photograph of Emergency Management Officer Annette Doying that accompanied news story Unsettling sinkholes, June 20 Times.

This is petty, but nonetheless disappointing and extremely irritating.

Your paper published a photo of Annette Doying, a county employee who holds the position of an emergency management officer. According to your article, Ms. Doying has the responsibility of walking about our community, meeting with residents, measuring and reporting and sinkholes.

Is anyone out there as appalled as I am over the disgraceful way she was wearing her county-issued baseball cap? From the photo, it was obvious that she was wearing it backward. What image is she projecting to our youth? Is Ms. Doying a catcher on a softball team? Is she a gang member? Or is she employed part time by the sheriff as a sniper?

I would like the commissioners to hire another high-priced consultant and give a workshop to our county employees on the proper way to wear attire. It seems that our employees don't know how to present themselves in the public arena in a professional manner.

And let's not hear any excuse of why she needed to turn her cap for visibility, or that her pig tails (another subject in itself on how to look unprofessional) were obstructing her from wearing her hat properly. The other option was not to wear the hat at all.

Wake up, commissioners, and instill some pride in our workers and not let them walk around our community looking as if they are members of a street gang.
-- Al Pietrowsky, Spring Hill

Commission needs to think before fast tracking

Editor: Re: Slow down on sheriff's budget, June 16 Times editorial:

Your editorial concerning the fast tracking of a new Municipal Services Benefits Unit for the Sheriff's Office budget was correct in calling for a more judicious and balanced study of the consequences before enactment. One can easily understand why the Hernando County commissioners are proceeding at such a pace and giving the appearance of "shooting from the hip." In today's business parlance, they're simply trying to "get ahead of the power curve," or at least catch up to it.

The commission should dial it down a few notches. Deal with either cutting the budget or raising taxes as those are the real choices and they have to be made very soon. Also, before undertaking a costly and time-consuming "visioning" exercise of Hernando County 25 years hence, get a handle on what it will be like in 25 months and deal with that first.

The drafting of an ordinance maintaining property values of the new multifamily and the commercial and rental properties should take advantage of, and facilitate, the existing maintenance requirements of the many residential developments and homeowners associations operating in this county. They already protect a big chunk of our ad valorem tax base and are our primary budget source.

Lastly, occasionally shooting from the hip may be necessary, but please don't give it the appearance of "Ready, fire, aim!"
-- Bill Kelley, Spring Hill

Spread of ugly box stores pocks face of our county

Editor: Residents of Hernando County watch helplessly (it seems) as their county is ravaged by a deadly disease spread through irresponsible links between political concessions and unchecked commercialism.

Pop! Another Wal-Mart.

Pop, pop! Oh no! Another two Wal-Marts.

The cancer of growth spreads and becomes more lethal with the announcement of a Sam's Club. Boxitis infectious! What to do about the epidemic?

Apparently, nothing. Like so many who ignore the symptoms of the disease, there is a dangerous tendency to rationalize. Worse yet, they might even resign themselves to a sense of helplessness and simply accept their fate. The people of Hernando County seem to opt for the latter.

We claim the excuse of being powerless to halt the flow of concrete that rapidly rushes from the deceased veins of Pasco County northward to infect the pristine lands and altruistic dreams that lie in its wake. How sad. Even more tragic is the apparent acceptance of "inevitability," or the belief that nothing can be done. Death is inevitable. Yet, this is not so. Not really.

Granted, time is of the essence. The longer interventions are delayed, the greater risk of becoming terminal. What to do? Look closely at the seething sores of uncontrolled expansion and accept the fact that infection has already invaded the body of Hernando County.

To whom do you entrust treatment? To those who have engaged in the spread of the disease, or those who will bear the consequences -- you! Therein lies the issue.

As Pogo so aptly discovered, "We have met the enemy and they are us!" However, the greater enemy seems to be our sense of powerlessness and our own Pogoetic irresponsibility. Alas, the boxes and concrete cometh, if only. . . .
-- Chuck Fightmaster, Spring Hill

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