King Statue Idea in Largo Dies With a Whimper Not Bang
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The self-serving, long-lived plan put forward by Commissioner Rodney Woods for a memorial to Martin Luther King died with a whimper not a bang last week.
The idea - a bad one to begin with - is now permanently dead and certainly not "on the back burner" as hopefully described by some of the starry-eyed with their fingers crossed and their heads up in some nether region.
In its latest version the project was to cost $60,000. At one point the price ranged as high as $250,000 (a quarter of a million dollars!).
While the commission mentioned putting $15,000 in the general fund to maybe do something "in the future," this was pure cosmetic cheese.
Even Woods, whose chief mission seems to represent the memory of Martin Luther King (as though that were needed), caved in to the reality of this foolish expenditure.
Woods, who represents no Largo interest or constituency and performs no known useful function on the commission, tried to peddle another idea with King's name attached to it. That was some confused scholarship idea, tied into the Pinellas County Education Foundation.
An official at the foundation knew nothing about any such incipient plan.
If Woods' latest idea is anywhere right now it appears to be in what was formerly known as "limbo."
When the City Commission met last week in its work session one of the items on the original agenda was a discussion of the King nonsense which has been chewed over to the point where all the meat and juice has been eviscerated.
But as the six who were there settled down - Mayor Pat Gerard was absent and in parts unknown - it was announced that the King item had been eliminated from the agenda.
No explanation - at that point - was given, but here is what happened in the background -
It goes back to the time when the former city manager, Steve Stanton, was in a struggle to persuade one and all including, most importantly, the City Commission that he could continue to show up for work and be effective while all dolled up in women's clothing (really - you can't make this stuff up).
In a search for supporting votes, Stanton promised a work session in the future on the King matter. The time for that, apparently, rolled around last week.
But Vice Mayor Harriet Crozier, who was to preside in the absence of Gerard, examined the agenda, discovered the King item, and asked City Manager Mac Craig to delete it.
This was a departure from normal procedure (but, no matter, Largo folks very seldom follow correct process, the rule of law just does not exist in the city). Usually, the commission as a whole acts on an issue like this. But, no matter, by removing it, the King nonsense became dead once and for all.
It had quite a history.
In fact, it launched Woods into office which came about because of racial issues.
Some years ago, Charlie Harper, then a commission member, suggested a modest memorial to King to ameliorate some incidents that had happened among city personnel (name calling, that kind of stupid stuff).
Citizen Woods, who at that time was a regular at the citizens comment microphone, seized this as his raison d'etre and ran with it. He filed for office and then good luck struck when his opponent introduced a racial element into the campaign. Woods apparently rode a sympathy vote into a chair on the commission.
Then he himself became a purveyor of racial vituperation, calling those who genuinely and honestly opposed a King statue "racists."
No doubt he learned that tactic from the mayor herself who, when frustrated in wanting to keep La Stanton as city manager, called the opponents "bigots."
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