LARGO – Those in attendance and those who tuned in by television were treated to the theater of the absurd at the Largo City Commission meeting Tuesday night.
Others (and those present who still can’t believe it) can be astounded if they tune into the re-runs.
If it gets any more absurd, the commission itself will lose all the very little credibility it has now.
This is what happened –
John Atanasio, a sincere, dedicated citizen of Largo who watches numbers for the city as assiduously as he does in his own very successful business, made some points in discussing the city’s Capital Improvement Program which anticipates spending $180,764,000 over the next six years – or, as Atanasio pointed out, on the average of about $30 million a year.
In the midst of discussing the huge expenditure of replacing and adding vehicles (well over $2 million next year alone), Mayor Pat “Shaky” Gerard took great delight in cutting Atanasio off on the basis of the three minute rule. (The rule is absolutely strictly enforced by this regime that does not want to hear from citizenry, protest to the contrary notwithstanding.)
At which point another citizen Geoff Moakly, who also serves a watchdog role, offered his time at the citizens podium so that Atanasio could continue.
This threw Gerard into a confused, nail biting posture (a signature of her ongoing performance as presiding officer) and the whole deal resulted in Commissioner Rodney Woods moving to waive any applicable rule and allow the Moakley donation of his time to take place.
Whereupon Madame Gerard called for roll call vote. Everyone went along with it except Commissioner Gay Gentry who otherwise professes all kinds of knowledge gained at her many hours crouched at the knees of League of Cities gurus. In this case, she abandoned all American civil principle and forsook Thomas Jefferson and all the Founding Fathers in opposing what was a sensible action.
Atanasio continued with his analysis, focusing, among other things, on the $2.3 million planned to be spent on the old library building for which no future has yet been established, and then was cut off again by the wild-eyed mayor, wielding her gavel like a scepter.
At this point, citizen Ross Herman yielded time he otherwise would have used. “Got to have another vote,” Gerard mumbled. Woods again did his number but this time the vote was 4-3, Mesdames Crozier and Arntzen opting to join Gentry in opposition.
Despite the balking on the hen house side of the commission dais, Atanasio continued, winding up with a plea that the commissioners “Please consider what you are doing.”
This plea coming, mind you, in a city that has doubled its expenditures in the past six or seven years.
Then there was the bandwagon performance Tuesday night. For those who want to know the technique for jumping on the bandwagon, tune in to the Largo City Commission.
All the commission members loved the $3 million-plus program added to the Police Department’s crime fighting tools.
Gerard loved it so much that she just shivered with delight and bemoaned that she could not make the motion giving the okay for the huge expenditure.
Crozier magnanimously suggested the mayor relinquish the gavel and do so. Having breathed fire and water to get that gavel, Gerard was taking no chances and politely declined. Crozier made the motion.
On an expenditure of a comparatively minuscule amount, mayor and commissioners equally leaped aboard the careening bandwagon, this time authorizing $20,000 for an anti-violence campaign – “Real Men Don’t Hit Women.”
Not surprisingly, voting for this was unanimous. (Anything to the contrary would, of course, have been tantamount to coming out against motherhood, the flag, apple pie and Babe Ruth.)
Ironically, the $20,000 in funds for this program comes from Pinch-A-Penny, a company that the city administration has tried to torpedo in its business ventures (also, the same outfit that chipped in $100,000 for the new library). So it was no cost to the city – though arms on the dais were strained with vigorous back patting in self praise.
The focus on the Police Department became the occasion for heaping huge amounts of praise on Chief Lester Aradi – all of these encomiums right on target, well earned and accurate.
Penny Janowski, a very long resident of the city, transplanting her Florida roots from the Panhandle to Largo, made a strong plea against dumping the Community Center which is right in the center of what people think of as downtown Largo.
She gave a reasoned presentation of hanging onto that piece of property.
Perhaps she does not know that the city has bought up properties all around the center. Something is afoot, but what that is belongs to the future.
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