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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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Ex-officials add voices to EPC fight
By TIMES STAFF
Published July 28, 2007
Former Environmental Protection Commission chief Roger Stewart may have stolen the show Thursday in his dressing down of Hillsborough County commissioners who support doing away with the agency's wetlands protection division.
Pouncing on the board for limiting speakers to a minute apiece so that commissioners had time for lunch, Stewart told the board: "If your time is so valuable, get the hell out and do something else."
But a few folks also found some interest in the appearance of former Commissioners Chris Hart and "Big Jim" Selvey, who urged the board to support a compromise that spares the division. Selvey, a real estate broker famous in his time for receiving questionable "greenbelt" tax exemptions on some of his land, likened the EPC to an old tractor that just needs a tuneup. Hart, once overheard saying he wished he had his gun after another commissioner angered him during a meeting, spoke eloquently in favor of a "well-reasoned and balanced" approach.
You won't exactly find these guys swapping granola recipes.
It's not clear what that says about the position staked out by Brian Blair, Jim Norman, Ken Hagan and Kevin White, who voted last month to eliminate local oversight of wetlands.
Just a modification
There's an old trick in government, when a seemingly innocuous item gets slipped into a meeting agenda when most everyone else is paying attention to another hot topic, like, say, county layoffs.
Not saying that's the case here. But it was curious Thursday during a budget workshop that involved lots of tough decisions when County Administrator Pat Bean brought forward a series of proposed "modifications" to board policy.
One was particularly eyebrow-raising. It would allow commissioners to dip into a savings account they use for unexpected expenses with a simple majority vote. Currently a 5-2 super-majority vote is required in order to help ensure that commissioners use it only in emergencies, so that it doesn't just get used as a slush fund.
Another change would add two categories of spending that are justified for using the money: affordable housing and economic development projects. Currently, the other four stated justifications for tapping the account are aimed more at discouraging its use unless there's no other choice.
For instance, the policy says the money can be used only if the expense could not have been foreseen in crafting that year's budget, and if it would be detrimental to the community not to spend the money.
County management and budget director Eric Johnson said the change was being suggested to give commissioners flexibility in uncertain financial times. But don't be surprised if one or more commissioners already have things up their sleeve that fit one of the new justifications, need a little seed money and are controversial enough so that lowering the threshold for tapping the fund would be a real advantage.
And don't be surprised if the proposal doesn't surface for a few months, when people may have forgotten about a certain "policy modification."
We'll take care of it
Bean has proposed eliminating all county spending on the county's public and education access cable channels - but not county government TV.
Louise Thompson, executive director of Tampa Bay Community Network, the nonprofit that runs the public access channel, is proposing another cost-saving solution: let her group run all three stations.
Clever. But probably as likely as commissioners agreeing to forgo their annual pay raises this year, which Commissioner Al Higginbotham has proposed.
A fight is brewing between the County administration and the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission.
Bob Hunter, the Planning Commission's executive director, is asking Bean to identify the duplications between what his office does and work the county performs. Duplication is the reason Bean gave to justify a proposal to slash the Planning Commission's budget 10 percent.
Hunter says there are no duplications and wants Bean to explain, so that he may better defend himself when commissioners meet to adopt a tentative budget Tuesday. Now both sides have gotten their lawyers involved. Stay tuned.
Staff writer Bill Varian contributed to this report.