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    The week in review


    © St. Petersburg Times, published March 11, 2001

    Breach in Sunshine Law alleged

    CRYSTAL RIVER -- How in the world do three City Council members come up with the idea of firing the city manager without any public discussion about their gripes, a Crystal River resident asks in a pointed letter to prosecutors.

    In a complaint filed by resident Bud Kramer, City Council members Joe Chrietzberg, Mike Gudis and Ray Wallace provided little reason before voting in November not to renew David Sallee's contract when it expires in June.

    "How could three councilmen agree on this serious issue without discussion, unless they had discussed it beforehand, either among themselves, or through a third party?" Kramer wrote.

    While it may look fishy, that's a hard charge to prove, said Mark Simpson, assistant state attorney in Ocala who received the complaint Monday.

    "What I'm reading doesn't jump out at me saying "violation.' " Simpson said.

    It is a "quantum leap" to charge council members with collusion simply because they did not provide a reason at the time, Simpson added.

    Rules aim to keep parent fans in line

    TAMPA -- High school sports can be a scene of fights, tantrums and name-calling -- and that's just the parents.

    After a fatal fight near Boston last year, schools are enforcing rules to punish spectators who are rude, crude or pushy.

    Recently, the Hillsborough County school district launched a publicity campaign to promote proper behavior. Signs encouraging self-control will be posted at fields, stadiums and gymnasiums around the county. Announcements will be made before and during games asking fans to show respect.

    The district came up with its unruly spectator rules in the wake of a fatal fight between two hockey dads outside Boston last year, and amid growing concerns over school violence and a general lack of civility.

    "It's just a sign of the times," said Amelia Lubrano, Blake's assistant principal.

    The district's athletic director, Vernon Kohrn, said the rules give "teeth to what already is being done. More importantly, it is a positive approach to good sportsmanlike conduct."

    Water managers may lower banks of two rivers

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- The Anclote and Pithlachascotee rivers have been dredged, bridged, siphoned and shaped by the hands of humans.

    Now comes one of the most ambitious undertakings of all: lowering the banks of the Pasco County rivers to restore surrounding wetlands and replenish underground drinking water.

    Tentative plans call for diverting water from the two rivers only during high-water periods, said Wojciech Mroz, surface water manager at the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

    The goal is to tap excess river water for overstressed wetlands that otherwise empties into the Gulf of Mexico.

    The conservation effort represents a rare meeting of the minds of environmentalists and developers.

    Tom Reese, a St. Petersburg environmental lawyer specializing in water issues, said Mroz's approach is far preferable to slapping a dam across the rivers.

    "This is something we've been trying to do in a lot of different places," Reese said.

    Success of African-American fest has planners regrouping

    LARGO -- Organizers of the African-American Heritage Celebration in Largo hoped for 4,000 visitors this year. Some 8,000 showed up.

    Flush with unexpected success, organizers are trying to figure out how to fix the two biggest problems -- tight parking and vendors running out of food -- as well as a host of logistical problems that come with success.

    Those who attended the celebration were treated to storytelling, gospel, jazz, blues and Caribbean music, dancing, drumming and cooking demonstrations.

    The event was almost an afterthought in 2000. The county's Heritage Village museum and a group looking to establish an African-American history museum in Pinellas had gathered some old photos of the county's first black families.

    They were having trouble identifying all the people in the photos, so they staged a celebration with food and music to attract some people hoping more eyes on the photos would help.

    To their surprise, the followup event ballooned in crowd size this year.

    "The community really is starving for more cultural stuff and more recognition of African-American contributions to this county and to Florida in general," said committee member Deborah A. Godfrey. "We need to get that out there."

    Developers call new Pasco land rules unfair

    NEW PORT RICHEY -- Last year, environmentalists sued to change Pasco County's growth plan, arguing the county was suburbanizing too quickly and sloppily.

    The county dodged litigation in August by handing concessions to the slow-growth activists.

    Now developers are sore.

    On Tuesday, the county was sued by prominent landowners worried that the environmental concessions in the county's growth plan will render much of their property unable to be developed.

    One of the activists that settled with Pasco last year, Judy Williams, called developers shortsighted for thinking environmental protection is economically harmful to Pasco.

    The new regulations will increase property values as Pasco becomes a more enticing place to live, Williams said.

    "Developers don't want things to change," Williams said. "I can't say I blame them. They make an awful lot of money here. But the time has come to protect the people."

    Coming up this week

    The week might be a tough one for Largo City Manager Steve Stanton. Stanton irked his bosses last week when they learned he is one of four finalists for the top job in Westminster, Colo., a larger city. Since then, commissioners have been sharply divided over Stanton's future. Some, including Mayor Bob Jackson, have urged giving Stanton a three-year contract to keep him. But then City Commissioner Marty Shelby last week issued a one-line memo asking the city attorney to draw up required paperwork to fire Stanton.


    Here's how some bay area school districts handle the rude, crude and pushy:

    Hillsborough: Athletes and coaches can be fined for unsportsmanlike conduct. Unruly spectators may be asked to leave or will be arrested, if necessary, and may be banned from future events.

    Pinellas: Athletes, coaches and fans who are ejected from sporting events may be fined. Also considering a specific unruly fans policy that could take effect next school year.

    Pasco: No formal procedures in place, but district may address the issue soon.

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