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    Letters to the Editors

    Hart has right to keep eye on Clearwater staff

    © St. Petersburg Times, published January 12, 2001

    EDITOR'S NOTE: The first six letters concern a dispute between Clearwater City Commissioner Ed Hart and Interim City Manager Bill Horne over whether Hart should be allowed to attend internal meetings of the city staff. Hart has expressed a desire to sit in on staff meetings concerning the city budget and redevelopment projects on Clearwater Beach. Horne and City Attorney Pam Akin have said that if Hart attends staff meetings, other commissioners and perhaps even the public may have to be invited.

    I congratulate City Commissioner Ed Hart on trying to look after Clearwater Beach residents' interests. Nobody else on the City Commission is interested, other than in giving everything to the developers, who will get immensely rich at our expense.

    I even hear rumbles that the city wants to place an assessment on homeowners to pay for some of the things it is going to give the developers.

    I am sure that I am not alone in stressing that I am elderly, living on a fixed income, and any more taxes are going to drive me off the beach that I love so dearly. I hope if that happens, I have some recourse to sue the city.

    Interim City Manager Bill Horne does not run this city. He cannot dictate to the City Commission, to which I hope he answers. Maybe we should search for a manager compatible with our interests: no high-rise condos, no density increases, no taking over property against the owner's will.

    Please leave our beach alone. I wish we had five Ed Harts on the commission to look after our interests.
    -- Keith Eaton, Clearwater

    Hart's job is commissioner, not being Big Brother

    Ed Hart just doesn't get it. He is an elected official whose job is to set policy and give staff direction on how to carry out that policy. He wants to be everything: elected official, staff member and city manager.

    His accusing Interim City Manager Bill Horne of lying to him about a meeting and threatening to make him resign is absurd. What Hart alluded to in his e-mail to Horne is even more absurd. He essentially said, how dare you have a staff meeting without my knowledge or consent? Does this mean that Hart has to approve every staff meeting before it is held? That would make for a really efficient city government.

    Commissioner Hart, you have become the single most divisive person in the city of Clearwater. The mayor, other commissioners and Mr. Horne all have taken positive steps to bring this city back together and to restore trust in our government. You, sir, continue to meddle, micro-manage and disrupt.

    While the others seek consensus, you keep talking about not getting enough information and criticizing staff at every opportunity.

    Get off the ego trip, commissioner. You don't deserve to be treated any differently than the other elected officials.

    I had heard you had become the Save the Bayfront commissioner. Your actions the past six months unfortunately confirm this.
    -- Terry Smith, Clearwater

    Keeping information from officials hurts government

    With the rapid pace of today's information world and need to be informed, I fail to understand why a Clearwater elected official is barred from a city staff meeting, especially one on a topic so important and timely as redevelopment.

    It just begs the question, what does the staff have to hide?

    I can't believe that a professional and knowledgeable staff member or department head would be intimidated by the mere presence of an elected official. I would rather think that staff would be pleased that a city commissioner has an interest and cares enough to attend.

    Everyone benefits when there is a better understanding of issues and finding the right solution. I can't help but believe that both the roundabout and downtown referendum would have been different if the City Commission had been more involved early on. Previous city commissioners have complained that staff sometimes gave more information and data to some commissioners than others.

    Interim City Manager Bill Horne's concerns are valid, but he should remember that we are a state and city with government in the sunshine and he alone has the authority and control of all staff meetings, which should ensure order and efficiency.

    City Commissioner Ed Hart should be allowed to attend staff meetings to listen and observe for the benefit of better government. Horne should only bar an elected official from interfering in the meeting.
    -- David R. Little, Clearwater

    Meetings are open to powerful people only, not residents

    Who says that Clearwater city staff meetings are closed? They may be kept secret from, and closed to, the taxpayers and their elected representatives, but they sure are wide open to the city attorney, city manager, city staff, developers, attorneys, consultants, etc.

    The name of the game is "churn Clearwater's real estate, then charge commissions, interest, legal fees and other fees." To accomplish this, however, information reaching the public and City Commission must be filtered. This is the city manager's job. The city attorney's job is to bend or interpret the law in ways that appear to support what the city manager needs to say to get the taxpayers and commission to go along with it.

    The roundabout fiasco is but one of many costly results of Clearwater's secret meetings. It is impossible for the Clearwater city commissioners and taxpayers to have too much information if they are going to stop tax money from going down the drain like water in the roundabout fountain.
    -- Jack N. Alvord, Clearwater

    Hart would sap productivity from city's staff meetings

    Commissioner Hart's emphasis on details is one of the main reasons I voted for him. My experience with city staff meetings suggests, however, that his silent presence would undermine the quality of the staff meetings he wants to attend.

    Particularly in the redevelopment area, the city needs to guard against going beyond what is strictly legal.
    -- Mary Moore Boulay, Clearwater

    Finding out more information wouldn't hurt anything

    It seems a city commissioner, who is willing to go the extra distance to be educated and informed about crucial issues to our city, is being denied access to meetings.

    City administrators have surely moved Clearwater forward and likely feel that they will continue to move our city in a positive direction. The question remains as to whether this will happen if many feel that the process is not open.

    Everyone concerned realizes the extreme value and opportunity that the present state of our beach and downtown present to all of us. It is for this reason that everyone wishes to ensure that public decisions be made exactly in that way: publicly.

    Our commissioners represent us and therefore should be provided the ability to perform. I hope that all of our city leaders continue to work together, with concern for the public undertow that continues to affect our city. Residents undoubtedly look forward to a well-thought-out resurgence for our city.
    -- Ric Ortega, Clearwater

    Salvation Army thankful for holiday volunteers

    At the Salvation Army, we have been overwhelmed by the number of volunteers who gave us their personal time this holiday season. They came as families, office associates, Scouts and Civil Air Patrol cadets, resident association members, church groups, civic club members, school classmates, hospital staffers and compassionate individuals.

    Rolling up their sleeves, they collected, sorted and packed food baskets. With great creativity, they turned a storefront into a toy department where moms and dads found joy for their kids. Also, 2,800 often-forgotten prisoners and their families at the Pinellas County Jail were remembered and assisted. Lonely people in hospitals and nursing homes received gifts, a cheery visit and a program of Christmas music.

    So we take this opportunity to express gratitude to the many who enlisted with us for a blessed Thanksgiving and Christmas season. To our donors who sent generous checks or dropped in pennies at the Red Kettle, you touched more than 6,000 families in our area.

    We will continue to do more with less for the people who need our services throughout the year. May God bless you everyone.
    -- John T. Needham, Salvation Army corps officer

    Why can't police chief play fair with his pension?

    Re: Police chief seeking pension, lump sum, Jan. 11 story.

    For 20 years, Sid Klein, Clearwater's chief of police, has made a career out of enforcing rules. Now it's pension time and Sid doesn't want to play by the rules. How does that adage go? "What's good for the goose . . . "
    -- Fred Nassif, Clearwater

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