Pinellas projects: dog park, people park, fort fixes, museum

Published May 7, 2007

In Pinellas County, which enjoys strong representation in the Legislature, nearly $250-million was set aside for local projects in the final state budget.

Many items approved by Tallahassee lawmakers appear to be discretionary, just the kinds of things those same state lawmakers have chastised local governments for throwing away money on.

There are $200,000 for a dog park in Clearwater, $200,000 for Pinellas County to build a people park in Largo, $150,000 to restore a railroad station in Dunedin, $500,000 to fix up the fort at Fort De Soto Park, and $600,000 for "instructional enhancements" at the Florida Holocaust Museum.

County Commissioner Ken Welch said the appropriations, which have yet to survive the governor's veto pen, undercut the charges state lawmakers have leveled against local governments and unmask their rhetoric.

"You can't have it both ways, " Welch said. "They are giving us money, and rightly so, because there are local needs across the state of Florida. It is an admission that those needs exist."

Welch went further, suggesting it was hypocritical for state leaders to advocate a new level of restraint in local taxation and spending when they continue with business as usual.

"I don't see the state rolling back its revenues to 2001 levels, " Welch said, referring to one proposal for local governments being considered by the Legislature. "It's kind of the pot calling the kettle black."