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A Times Editorial

Crystal River leaders don't serve voters

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 25, 2002

When the good Lord was handing out common sense, the leaders of Crystal River turned it down, saying they were holding out for dollars, not pennies.

Political infighting in the small town continues to wipe out reason, further proof to the rest of Citrus County that Crystal River can't quite get a grip on this thing called responsible government.

The antics of the local leaders would be humorous if they didn't divert so much time and resources from the important task of running a town. Given the distractions, it's a wonder that anything is being accomplished at City Hall.

In just the past few days, we've seen:

-- Resolution, after a costly investigation, of the accusation from the wife of a defeated candidate for City Council that the victor in the race committed an elections violation. The fine: a whopping $1.

-- Another council member charge her colleagues and the mayor with violating the state's Government in the Sunshine Law, setting off another costly investigation.

-- A police officer sue the town and his chief for violating his right of free speech after he criticized the chief for a meeting he held with officers before last year's elections. The officer has since been demoted and ordered to receive mental health treatment.

-- Further criticism of the police department for not expunging a file in a criminal case involving a School Board candidate, who quit the race after the details of the case were revealed.

-- The city manager catch heat for getting the city involved in a doomed effort to float a derelict warship out of Kings Bay.

-- The wife of the city manager publicly scold the council for being rude to her husband and pledging to use all of her wiles to get him to quit. If she succeeds, and we wouldn't bet against her, the city will be looking for its ninth city manager in 12 years.

Those are just the political battles that made headlines. Just imagine what skirmishes are going on behind the scenes.

It's all too easy to mock Crystal River leaders for how they've conducted themselves throughout the years. Mainly, that is because they have provided so much ammunition for critics and cynics. At some point, however, the games played stop being funny.

City halls everywhere are, by their nature, political battlefields. The difference in Crystal River is that the people involved can't seem to separate their political agendas from the tasks that they were hired by voters to perform.

The taxpayers and voters deserve better. Demonstrations of leadership and common sense would be good places to start.

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