Tell us the truth before the Penny vote

Published February 11, 2007

Before the March 13 election on the "Penny for Pinellas" sales tax, the county should tell the voters its decisions for the Brooker Creek Preserve.

Here are four simple questions for the Pinellas County Commission, yes or no:

(1) Are you going to pump from Brooker Creek lands to irrigate a nearby golf course?

(2) Are you going to use the preserve for proposed soccer fields, parking lots and such, and will you do more of that in the future?

(3) Are you going to keep building water-treatment plants and anything else the county happens to need there?

(4) Are you going to "de-preserve" any of the preserve, change the designation and remove acreage from it?

These questions bear on the Penny for Pinellas. After all, part of the sales pitch for the tax has been its use in acquiring land for preservation.

The county ought to answer before the election.

Instead, amazingly, the County Commission is scheduled to take up the Brooker Creek question on ...

Thursday, March 15.

Two days after the Penny for Pinellas election.

Good grief! If that timing is deliberate, it is offensive. If it is the result of the pace of bureaucracy, then it is dumb.

Heck, why wait two whole days after the election?

Why not just start pumping as soon as the votes are counted on election night?

They could have a party at midnight or something. They could climb up on the wellheads and dance and yell, "Woo-hoo, fooled 'em!"

It almost makes me want to vote against the tax. Almost, I said. There's a lot of important stuff in there, $1.9-billion worth over 10 years.

But I'm thinking about it.

Two days after the election? Two days? Good grief.

It's already been two months since the county's Environmental Science Forum, a citizens' group, voted 9-4 to recommend against the pumping.

The County Commission already has talked about that recommendation once.

But when the topic came up in December, the commission said it would meet in February to hash it out.

This is February. So much for that.

The county folks say the decision must be based on "the science." That means: They're intent on pumping, no matter what anybody says.

And, of course, it must be "the science" that told them to wait until just after the election to bring it back up.

I would politely point out that this is the same county that pumped Pasco County until its middle caved in like a bad Charlton Heston disaster movie, while denying "scientifically" that pumping had anything to do with it.

What's more, I challenge the underlying straw man, that the county is bound by its "science," as if the commissioners were helpless - "Oh, goodness us! We sure would LIKE to preserve the preserve, but that mean old Science is forcing us not to!"

The County Commission could settle this question as a matter of policy tomorrow.

This can't possibly be discussed until March 15? Are you kidding? Was this some smart-aleck's idea of a joke? Did somebody say sarcastically, "Hey, let's show all those whiners by putting it off until two days after the election," and it got written down?

If the county cannot answer these long-running questions in the next month, why should the voters buy a pig (or a Penny) in a poke?