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Week in review

By SHARON KENNEDY WYNNE

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 18, 2001


Schools ban door-to-door fundraising

Schools ban door-to-door fundraising

INVERNESS -- Neighbors will be spared the cute pleading eyes of elementary school kids hawking candy, candles and gift wrap after a school district ban on door-to-door sales.

The move by the Citrus County School Board was prompted when a 9-year-old girl was mauled last fall by a dog as she helped her brother sell candy in a school fundraiser.

On Thursday, the board decided to ban such sales tactics for elementary students. Those in middle and high schools would be discouraged, not prohibited, from selling door to door under the new policy.

Board member Carol Snyder said residents had raised concerns about safety and also the frequency with which high-priced baubles are offered for sale. That leads to the dilemma of not being able to afford items but not wanting to disappoint the children, Snyder said.

Snyder also questioned the amount of classroom instructional time that is used to prepare students for fundraisers.

Amid skepticism, mayor supports cultural district

TAMPA -- Tampa Mayor Dick Greco has a vision.

With a $30-million art museum as the crown jewel of a massive new arts district and another $14-million to double the size of the Lowry Park Zoo, Tampa would be bumped into the "world-class" league of culturally enriched cities.

But he's facing some tough critics -- from skeptical crowds at public hearings to election-minded City Council members who think neighborhood needs should take precedence when spending the Community Investment Tax that made the new Buccaneers' stadium possible.

"Replacing faulty sewer lines is not a sexy thing," said former county commissioner Joe Chillura, who helped craft the tax. "It's not something that leaves a legacy for a politician. Nevertheless, it's the type of thing people thought they were voting on when they voted for the tax."

But Greco says these amenities would help attract high-tech companies and well-educated families.

"Why don't you fix holes?" the mayor asked. "Because there will always be a hole in someone's front yard. But Tampa can have more well-rounded people."

Chatty staffer fired over senator's media policy

BROOKSVILLE -- When Hernando County Commissioner Paul Sullivan lost his re-election bid, state Sen. Ginny Brown-Waite came to the rescue with a job offer. Now, less than three months after Sullivan began working as her legislative aide, the senator has fired him.

The reason? He schmoozed with reporters and repeatedly violated her office policy that staffers not speak with members of the media, she said.

Since Sullivan started working for Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, the tension between the two former political allies has been building. The last straw, she says, came Friday -- when he asked a reporter to dinner. Sullivan says the reporter was an old friend he wanted to catch up with.

The senator says they undoubtedly would have talked shop. Her policy is meant to ensure that if someone criticizes her for a statement, she can make sure she's the one who made it.

"Very often, staff doesn't have the complete picture of something, whereas I have the whole picture," she said. "I don't hide from the media. I take my own lumps."

School Board avoids subject of prayer

INVERNESS -- Citrus County School Board member Carol Snyder wanted to see a moment of silence instead of a possibly objectionable prayer at the start of board meetings.

When Snyder tried to raise the issue at Tuesday's meeting, she got a moment of silence, all right: No one seconded her motion, so the subject was dropped.

The prayer issue has been hotly debated by the board and the community since Snyder asked the board in November to consider changing its policy of making nearly all the meetings' opening prayers overtly Christian.

Board member Pat Deutschman took issue with the continuing debate.

"We have been assaulted by articles in the paper, by the threats of lawsuits . . . the recurring remarks (by) all five of us have misled students," she said. Deutschman placed the blame for confusion about the issues squarely on Snyder.

Hernando schools to end driver's training courses

BROOKSVILLE -- Hernando County high schools will drop driver's education courses in an effort to push high school kids into other electives that are more academically challenging.

With driver's education out of the way, students might have more opportunities to take classes such as journalism, speech/debate, music theory, world geography, literature and oceanography, School Board members said.

But some see the value in teaching students to drive safely.

Lucille Chrisafulle, who founded the county's Mothers Against Drunk Driving chapter 16 years ago and led it until the group dissolved last year, thinks cutting driver's education is a bad idea.

"I think that's foolish," she said. "I think it's going to cost some lives."

Other area school districts -- Citrus, Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas -- still offer driver's education during the school day.

The Hernando board left open the possibility that driver's education could survive in an after-school, non-credit program. But to take it, students might have to pay $25 an hour.

Spring warms up with election season

Some familiar faces are coming and going as the bay area spring election season gets under way.

In Clearwater, former Clearwater mayor and longtime political figure Rita Garvey lost her bid to return to the City Commission on Tuesday in a tight race with political newcomer Hoyt Hamilton. Garvey, 55, spent 18 years on the Clearwater City Commission, losing a bid for a fifth term as mayor to Brian Aungst in a race that followed revelations of Garvey's alcoholism.

In Oldsmar, former Mayor Jerry Beverland won back his old job by defeating council member Ed Manny for the city's top elective post on Tuesday. Beverland, who campaigned against a proposed city-run charter school, received nearly 61 percent of the ballots cast.

Next up is the St. Petersburg mayor's race on March 27, which appears to be a dead heat.

A St. Petersburg Times telephone poll showed Rick Baker with 36 percent support and Kathleen Ford with 32 percent. That puts Baker's lead within the poll's margin of error and points to an unpredictable election where the long-anointed front-runner, Baker, looks vulnerable.

Coming up this week

Michael Schiavo will ask a Pinellas judge Monday if he can remove his wife's life support before her parents' appeals have been exhausted, further complicating the St. Petersburg right-to-die case that has garnered national publicity. The parents of Terri Schiavo are opposed to removing the tube at all, saying she would starve to death.

The Tampa Bay region could face the toughest -- and potentially the most expensive -- program of water conservation in its history if water regulators adopt a proposed emergency order this week. The Southwest Florida Water Management District is considering, among other things, requiring local governments to set new, higher water rates and to prove they could meet the water needs of new development. The draft order comes in the midst of the worst drought in the more than 85 years that records have been kept.

- Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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