Firing Still a Hot Topic But King Memorial is Hotter
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - With this city still reeling from the peremptory firing of a 33-year employee who was further humiliated by being immediately marched out of City Hall, the burning dispute over spending $60,000 on a memorial to Martin Luther King continues.
That issue has come down to a choice of where scarce taxpayer money should be sensibly spent.
The choice, it appears now, is to spend the money on sorely needed sidewalks or on a sop to one member of the commission.
In other words, do commission members do what is best for all the citizens and the city in general or do they do a favor for a colleague.
Public comment was sparse from commission members who noted in silence, for all practical purposes, the firing of Brenda Francisco, who had been executive secretary to the now departed city manager, Steve Stanton.
Mac Craig, who had been acting city manager, was moved into the job by the commission and he was there less than a week before he moved Francisco out of her job. She was offered no other position with the city and instead was immediately escorted from the building.
Of course, any comments from commission members would have been useless and a waste of time anyway. The commission virtually has no power.
All power still resides in the hands of the city manager.
But the commission can determine how money is spent, if the members take the time to review spending proposals.
The King memorial has been on a roller coaster ride for years, $15,000 originally having been earmarked by the commission for it, a suggestion from Stanton that $250,000 be spent and now the current idea of wasting $60,000 on the project.
Curtis Holmes, an eagle-eyed citizen who watches city affairs and took put papers last week as a candidate for seat 6 on the commission in the November election, suggested that the money be spent on sidewalks. They are needed in the city. There is no disagreement on that.
Then, last week, Commissioner Andy Guyette asked the crucial question - "How many feet of sidewalk can we get for sixty thousand dollars?"
Craig, answering the first crucial question of his new regime, said "two thousand, four hundered."
There already is $50,000 budgeted for new sidewalks. Take the $60,000 from the King boondoggle and the city can add about a mile of sidewalks which is a safety benefit to all, particularly children.
In the realm of "importance," that word has been attached to the "need" for a King memorial but any sensible person would opt for sidewalks. Think of it this way: What would Dr. King do?
The great irony is this - Commissioner Rodney Woods, the person doggedly pushing for a King memorial, said when he was first elected to the commission that his priority would be to increase funding to build sidewalks. "Surely, considerations of children's safety cannot have been overridden by his hobbyhorse for the King memorial, can it?" one observer asked.
Thus, the question now becomes - what are the priorities of the commission?
Return to Home Page
Return to Current Edition