LARGO - As scheduled - "in the bag," so to speak - the Largo City Commission approved Tuesday night the new use of the old library building, taking the first official vote ever in the long struggle over determining the building's future.
It means that the present Community Center, long a mainstay for veteran Largo residents, will be abandoned.
This fits in with the overall plan of making the 4th Street area downtown into the epicenter of new Largo with high rises and a homosexual playground.
Only Commissioner Mary Black raised a lone voice against abandoning the Community Center and turning the old library (the rehabbing of which will cost some $2.3 million).
The by-play as Black set forth her views was interesting and not seen by those who weren't present in the council chambers.
As Black spelled out her position, Mayor Pat Gerard looked at City Manager Steve Stanton several times, smirking as she did so, apparently amused by Black's futile attempts to throw a little cold water on the plan that has been Gerard's hobby horse for two years.
One of Black's key points was that this was, indeed, the first time an official vote was ever taken. The issue has been very cleverly choreographed through the governmental process.
Gerard got tired of any delays in bringing to fruition her pet project and impatiently asked for a motion. Commissioner Harriet Crozier made it, Commissioner Andy Guyette seconded it and the subject was history.
Accomplished with smoke and mirrors, as it were. No formal vote by the commission until now, no public hearing, no public input that was paid attention to.
Various ideas had been put forth for the use of the old library. One was to tear it down and make a parking lot. Even more absurd was a laughable suggestion to name it after Martin Luther King.
St. Petersburg College came up with a sterling idea to place one of its schools there. This would have been no cost to the city (the present planning will cost taxpayers $2.3 million and watch it go up) and some prestige would have been accorded to otherwise dowdy Largo.
An idea by Gerard last fall, who was then a commissioner, led to a conflict of interest charge. Gerard wanted to place a program sponsored by her employer in the old library building. The complaint was found to have probable cause but was not pursued, making a laughing stock throughout the state of the Florida Ethics Commission.
As to the old library building, the Community Center and the future of the old downtown core of the city, the fact is that Largo has a very competent and skillful city manager who is designing the city in a way he thinks is proper. He is playing Svengali to the city's Trilby.
No doubt the final product will be as nice as the accomplishments (Largo Central Park, the Cultural Center, the new Largo Public Library, the park and recreation facilities) along the way.
The trouble is, as good and positive as it is, it is all being done by a non-elected official with the elected commission merely a rubber stamp. This could be dangerous and negative with a different set of facts.
Stanton has become the Robert Moses of Largo. Moses was the dynamic figure who changed the face of New York - city and state.
Curtis Holmes, a citizen long active in city affairs, made a suggestion at citizen comments that the commission hire an internal auditor who would report to the commission alone.
There is no chance of that happening. Anyone working for the city is under the direct control of Stanton. To bring this idea into reality would require commission action and the commission can take no action without the subject being on the agenda. Stanton controls the agenda.
Also, Stanton and Gerard are so intertwined in their goals neither one is going to do anything to upset the other's applecart.
What will be interesting will be when the five bobbleheads (excepting Black) on the commission are replaced by human beings who have their own independent thoughts and are not burdened with the crippling effects of nepotism, cronyism and conflict of interest.
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