Crystal River defenders mount an offense

A proposed referendum on dissolving the municipality prompts bumper stickers and buttons touting the city.

Published June 21, 2005

CRYSTAL RIVER - The months since fall's city elections have not been kind to the city.

There was the post-election bickering on the City Council. Then there was a tumultuous parting with the city manager, prompting a residents' campaign to dissolve the city. And finally there was a judge's decision last week to reject the city's controversial 2004 annexation.

While it seems that there are plenty of reasons for the collective self-esteem of the embattled city to be at an all-time low, City Council member Susan Kirk and others feel otherwise - and they are wearing their feelings on their lapels and on their cars.

At the suggestion of residents, Kirk recently helped arrange for the city to get bumper stickers and buttons emblazoned with the phrase: "My city, I'm part of it, I'm proud of it."

A few buttons adorned audience members at the council's meeting June 13.

Kirk says she got the request for the bumper stickers and buttons about two weeks ago.

Members of two different homeowners associations - she didn't want to name which - came to her and asked about bumper stickers with slogans declaring pride in the city.

"They said they wanted some because they didn't agree with the issue of dissolving the city," Kirk said.

So, as the residents' campaign appeared to have netted the requisite number of signatures - 10 percent, or 247, of the city's 2,472 registered voters - to force the city to hold a referendum on dissolving the city, Kirk got to thinking.

She called the Florida League of Cities to get some information about cities that have dissolved.

"Does it end up to be cheaper" under county jurisdiction?

"Do they save on taxes?"

Kirk especially wanted to know how common it was for residents to dissolve their cities. She learned that it's "a very rare occurence." There were only two such instances in recent years, she said.

In fact, the trend in Florida is to incorporate.

Her research has showed that since the 1990s, 22 cities have been incorporated.

"People are realizing that local government control is in their favor," Kirk said.

Since her election to the council in 2001, Kirk said, there have been seven additional cities incorporated in the state. And Sugarmill Woods, in unincorporated southwestern Citrus County, is looking into becoming a city, she said.

Kirk then asked the Florida League of Cities officials about the bumper stickers and buttons.

"They said they'd be glad to send them down," Kirk said.

Today, the bumper stickers and buttons are available at City Hall.

--Raghuram Vadarevu can be reached at rvadarevu@sptimes.com or 352 564-3627.