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Wait on us, but please don't live close to us

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© St. Petersburg Times, published February 18, 2001

Pasco County government, which, historically, hardly ever met a development it didn't like, found one -- and maybe more -- Tuesday.

In a county where ranchers and grove owners are coping with the hard (but darned lucrative) realization that raising yuppies willing to put their Lexuses and BMWs on anything paved and southbound to go to work every day, government finally found a sticking point.

Poor people.

Proposals for developments of homes with six-digit price tags and lot sizes up to three acres, slide through the governmental approval process faster than a Zamboni with snowmobile treads.

But under pressure from neighbors who don't want their roads, schools, views and breathing space clogged up with the kind of people who can only rent apartments and are not quite in the golf-course and country-club set, county commissioners on Tuesday gave what some would almost literally call the bum's rush for turning down plans to build a 216-unit apartment project for lower income families at Trouble Creek and Little Roads.

Don't get me wrong.

Like any other Florida cracker, I am absolutely convinced that we have too many people sharing too little space and too little water and should build a large stone wall with machine-gun turrets across the state line immediately.

But that isn't going to happen, especially because our idea of industry tends to run to surf-board waxing, bogus sponge-diving performances for tourists and hi-tech doodad factories that have to be built with wide gates so nobody gets trampled during their bi-annual layoff orgies.

The only thing we have to sell is sunshine, real estate and low taxes as our politicians (the ones who didn't start off that way) go bald from scratching their heads and wondering why less revenue won't support more infrastructure.

And who wants the place cluttered up with poor people? Everyone knows they commit more crimes. That's why so many presidential pardons are issued for them and not for wealthy financiers who are also big campaign contributors.

They will all have rusting Camaros on blocks in the parking lots of their complexes, send their oversized families to schools already holding classes in portables and use darn near as much water as it takes to irrigate the county's ubiquitous golf courses and fill the swimming pools behind the houses of the well-to-do.

Not that I or, heaven forbid, government, would ever stereotype.

But let's be honest.

If those low-income types really want their jobs waiting on and bussing our tables, doing the construction work on our country clubs, carrying our golf clubs, working in our government centers or, sadly (and a lot of them fall into the category that would have been served by the apartments) teaching in our schools then they should be willing to sacrifice for it.

Let them commute from the places they are comfortable and welcome. All they have to do is use our completely adequate and accessible mass transit system.

I salute the Pasco County Commission and all others who protect us from having people just starting their families and careers and struggling to make ends meet rub elbows with those who would be somehow sullied by the contact and for whom diversity is a word best applied to financial portfolios.

Comedian and storyteller Brother Dave Gardner used to say:

"I believe we ought to tax the poor people. It would give them something to strive for."

You know, he might have been on to something. Just the sheer numbers alone would make a poverty impact fee, applicable only to those unable to pay it, as wise a move as anything else local government has come up with on the growth and revenue side lately.

Oh yeah, and before you ask how close the nearest low income housing unit is to my house, let me volunteer it: about 20 feet.

I have survived.

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