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Spin patrol

By DAVID KARP and CHRISTOPHER GOFFARD

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 2, 2000


Flier takes quotes out of context

The latest flier from Stacey Lyn Easterling, a Republican running for the County Commission, was startling for the number of ellipses strewn about various quotes used to attack her Democratic opponent, Commissioner Ben Wacksman.

Easterling quotes liberally from newspaper articles, but a couple of the quotes are taken out of context.

For example, Easterling quotes a Tampa Tribune editorial about waiving impact fees: "The goal was . . . to encourage economic development in working-class neighborhoods . . . Wacksman opposed . . ."

Here's what the Trib actually wrote: "The goal was worthy enough: to encourage economic development in working-class neighborhoods. But the approach was at best slipshod; at worst, deception. In any event, taxpayers throughout the county will be forced to pay the bill for private developers."

The editorial praised Wacksman and other commissioners who opposed the issue.

Another Trib editorial was presented this way: "Wacksman, who serves on the . . . partnership . . . supports a rail system . . ."

The Trib actually wrote: "The partnership, a nonprofit group seeking to promote economic development in West Central Florida, supports a coast-to-coast rail system that would link downtown Tampa and St. Petersburg."

Wacksman is quoted supporting County Administrator Dan Kleman's right to go on a trip to Washington, D.C. The partnership organized the trip to speak to officials about transportation projects, including a rail system. Kleman backed out after some commissioners told him not to go.

The Tribune quotes Wacksman saying Kleman "is not going to discuss rail."

Not all the quotes are out of context, though other articles she cited could not be found.

"That is just not being honest and straightforward," Wacksman said. Easterling did not return calls for comment.

CLEANING UP HIS HOME:If elected, Commissioner Tom Scott has promised to launch "Operation Clean Up" to spruce up his district. But how is he doing at home?

Scott's house was cited twice this year by city code enforcement officers, and property owned by Scott's church, the 34th Street Church of God, was cited, too.

Officials cited Scott on April 26 for not removing junk that had been piled up in his back yard. He had not cleaned things up by May 30 when inspectors looked again. By June 27, Scott had removed the junk.

A neighbor also complained about a van with an expired tag in Scott's driveway. Scott said he never drove the van because insurance was too expensive. He moved it about two months after being cited.

Officials first cited Scott's church on Feb. 3 for leaving junk and broken-down cars on a lot. Scott says he's working to fix the problems caused because other people keep dumping cars on the church property.

"We hired someone to clean it up and come into compliance," Scott said.

A POLITICAL TARGET:Someone keeps harassing Bart Siegel's big balloon.

Siegel, Republican candidate for Hillsborough Circuit Court clerk, says he's afraid political enemies are behind the Tuesday night attack on the 26-foot-tall blue-and-white campaign balloon he keeps on James L. Redman Parkway in Plant City that declares, "Vote Smart, Vote for Bart."

Richard Skinner, who owns Hawkins' Corner, which sells fruit and fruit trees, allowed Siegel to keep the balloon there. He says he found the balloon toppled on its side in a ditch Wednesday morning, with about six of its connecting straps severed. The balloon itself appeared undamaged. "I can't imagine anybody being brazen enough to do this," says Skinner, who filed a police report.

Siegel says vandals first attacked the balloon, which is being lent to him by a supporter, a couple weeks ago when it was on Kennedy Boulevard. "My balloon man, he's real nervous about letting my balloon stay up, because he's afraid they're going to vandalize it again," Siegel said.

"I expect people to steal my signs. But this is going overboard."

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