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Talk of school overcrowding leads to 'delusions'

By Times Staff
Published October 4, 2005

Hillsborough School Board member Jennifer Faliero wants everyone to know: County Commissioner Ronda Storms lied.

"The woman is suffering from delusions," Faliero said. "I'm serious."

The reason for Faliero's anger?

Last week, Storms told reporters the School Board hasn't offered solutions to limiting development where schools are congested.

Storms vowed to take a strong stand to help ease the problem since school leaders say they are facing a $364-million deficit in the next five years to build and repair schools.

Storms said that the School Board has not only failed to try to resolve the crowding issue, but its officials repeatedly told commissioners during the last couple of years that there was plenty of capacity. When county planners recommended denying new subdivisions without enough schools last week, Storms said at least the county was offering solutions. Meanwhile superintendent MaryEllen Elia said the action was premature.

"I have no idea why we haven't heard anything from the School Board," Storms said earlier. "Well, somebody has to demonstrate leadership. If the School Board isn't going to act, then I will."

Faliero, who represents fast-growing eastern and southern Hillsborough like Storms, called the commissioner's comments untrue. She said the school district has built more than 60 schools in the last decade to get ahead of growth and even built at least two schools by securing extra state money for constructing thrifty schools.

She asked why Storms has not brought the issue of higher school impact fees on developers forward since the County Commission has the authority to increase the fees, not the School Board. Storms says she'll raise the subject at Wednesday's meeting.

"I just feel her comments are totally out of line and untrue," Faliero said Friday. "She is misrepresenting her constituency. She's just taking the heat off her voting record - that she's personally approved and has contributed to overcrowded roads."

"She's so busy with moral issues. She has not done her job. Now she's going to come back to deflect her own inability to take a stand."

Storms didn't return a call seeking comment.

Feeling a bit of remorse about her comments, Faliero said Monday she wrongly took Storms' comments personally. She said she hoped the two agencies will work together to solve growth problems.

"In the best interest of moving forward, we don't need name calling in public," Faliero said. "That's not how we need to behave."

WRONGLY BLAMED: The political junkie misspoke in a recent offering, zinging Hillsborough Commission Chairman Jim Norman for failing to halt Storms' verbal assault on Commissioner Kathy Castor at a recent meeting.

Storms had accused Castor of raw politics for seeking a last-minute spending package for community planning without notice. Without rebuke from the chairman, Storms proceeded to describe Castor as the most incompetent politician in the history of the universe.

But at the time, Norman had relinquished the chairman's gavel to Ken Hagan so he could make a motion under the board's procedural rules. That put Hagan in charge of running the meeting.

That said, nothing in the rulebook prevented anyone on the notoriously thin-skinned commission from speaking up during the beyond-the-pale bruising. And no one did.

NOTHING TO LOSE: Tampa City Council membe r Mary Alvarez has become a bit feisty at council meetings now that she has decided she won't run for re-election in 2007.

There was the time the council rejected increasing stormwater fees in a 4-3 vote. Alvarez, who favored the boost, chided her colleagues and started to walk out of the meeting.

When Chairman Gwen Miller told her the council still had to do information reports, which is when the council members address off-the-agenda items, Alvarez waved her hand, said she had nothing to say and kept on walking. (The council later passed the stormwater fee increase.)

At another meeting, Alvarez walked into the middle of a rezoning discussion to hear council member Linda Saul-Sena, who often gives developers the thumbs-down, saying she couldn't remember how she had voted on the topic.

"You voted no," Alvarez joked.

When the council considered raising their salaries and changing their meeting schedules, Alvarez said those difficult issues should be addressed in 2007. When she's gone.

--Times staff writers Melanie Ave, Bill Varian and Janet Zink contributed to this report.

[Last modified October 4, 2005, 02:15:30]

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