Pinellas bickering insults voters

A Times Editorial
Published February 18, 2007

Don't hold your breath waiting for city and county leaders in Pinellas to work together to fix thorny problems in your communities. They can't even stop bickering among themselves.

About 150 officials representing nearly every Pinellas city and the county convened Feb. 9 for a court-ordered mediation session to resolve issues in their months-long legal battle over county charter amendments.

At the end of the unprecedented daylong session, they had made not one scintilla of progress. Oh, but the lawyers had racked up more billable hours in this nasty feud that already has sucked up hundreds of thousands of tax dollars.

Both sides offered settlement proposals, but the mediation ultimately failed because the cities insisted the county admit that two annexation-related charter amendments voters approved in November were so poorly worded that voters could not have known what they were approving.

The county would like to settle but properly drew the line at that demand. "We believe the people voted and we have to respect and honor their votes," said County Commission Chairman Ronnie Duncan.

City officials aren't the only ones refusing to follow the voters' desire for more controls on municipal annexations. Pinellas' state legislators have refused to sponsor enabling legislation required before the charter amendments can take effect.

It is ridiculous how much time and money are being wasted on this feud over ego and power. It needs to stop. Perhaps Clearwater, which has shown less hostility toward the county government, can guide this gaggle of city politicians back to the negotiating table with an offer that is both reasonable and respectful of voters' decisions.