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Group's flier targets commissioner

By DAVID KARP

© St. Petersburg Times, published October 24, 2000


TAMPA -- A conservative group led by David Caton has mailed out a flier that claims County Commissioner Jan Platt opposes limiting children's access to pornography and wants to give homosexuals "special status" in the county.

The flier claims Platt voted against an effort to block children's access to pornography at libraries and opposed a lawsuit to stop a sex shop from opening near a school.

The flier from the Florida Family Association represents the latest attack on Platt, a Democrat running for re-election against Republican Joe Chillura.

Chillura, a former commissioner, has attacked Platt with similar themes in his campaign fliers. Platt accused Chillura of deliberately distorting issues in his fliers. And she said Monday that Caton's organization has done the same thing.

"They have misconstrued the facts," Platt said. "I think desperate candidates have to do this sort of thing."

Caton could not be reached for comment Monday. His non-profit organization claims its flier is a non-partisan comparison of candidates' records.

Here's what the record shows:

Platt opposed a move this year to put electronic filters on all 156 computers at the county's libraries to block certain Web sites, including pornographic ones. But Platt did not oppose putting filters on computers that children can use, as Caton's flier claims, citing unspecified public records from 1999 and 2000.

The county had already restricted children's use of computers at public libraries.

"That's a whole different issue," Platt said. She said she favors limiting children's access to pornography, but opposes filtering every computer for adults. The filters block out Web sites about breast cancer, prostate cancer and other non-pornographic topics.

Platt did vote against a lawsuit to stop a pornographic store from opening in a neighborhood, as Caton's flier says. But she voted in favor of state legislation that would have blocked the sex shop.

Platt said she thought the lawsuit would fail and could have jeopardized the city's entire adult use ordinance. The lawsuit, which the county filed over Platt's objections, was thrown out of court.

"I am the one who started the adult use ordinance in the county," Platt said. "I am well aware of what is legally possible and what is impossible."

Platt said she does not favor giving homosexuals "special" rights, but she does support making it illegal to discriminate against gays and lesbians, as well as other minority groups and women.

"That is not a special right," Platt said. "That is a right that should be guaranteed to every citizen. There is nothing special about it."

- Times Staff Writer David Karp can be reached at (813) 226-3376 or karp@sptimes.com.

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