By Leo Coughlin
The Mid-Pinellas Chamber of Commerce is thoroughly integrated with the City of Largo, to the extent that many among the populace scratch their heads and wonder whether the city is part of the chamber or the chamber an arm of the city.
So the question now arises as to why the chamber wants its own representative on the City Commission.
That is the obvious purpose in the candidacy of one Louis Brown (I know you don't know who he is, but never mind that for now) for a commission seat in the November election.
Those in the know say the fellow is a candidate for the chamber, and for the "Hive" - the gaggle of folks who like to use taxpayers' money for their entertainment sites (prime example - $10,000 a week - A WEEK! - going to their Cultural Center).
Of course, the real - and deadly serious - candidate to fill Seat 6 on the commission is Curtis Holmes. There are few people in Largo better known than Holmes and what he stands for.
While Brown's name just surfaced a few weeks ago and people are being treated to campaign pictures of this pretty boy, Holmes has been in the trenches at City Commission meetings, playing watchdog on behalf of taxpayers, monitoring the actions of the commission - in total, thoroughly knowledgeable about the city.
Many folks who follow the affairs of the city wonder who Brown is.
They don't know him. And neither do we.
And no wonder. Intense and thorough research has turned up the information that this would-be member of the commission had never been at a commission meeting prior to October 1, just 10 days ago.
Holmes, on the other hand, is the real candidate to fill the seat left vacant with Gay Gentry's departure.
Holmes is beholden to no one and has been running his campaign on that basis. He has been at just about every regular and work shop commission meeting for untold years. He is thoroughly familiar with the city and its issues. He will be a representative of the people, not a special interest group.
The "beholden to no one" aspect of Holmes' approach to public office is refreshing.
He has taken no contributions from special interest groups. He has sought no endorsements from city worker groups or unions.
Ineluctably, special interest groups and unions want something in return for their support. Holmes said he will not be obligated in any such way.
"No due bills will be coming in for me, when I am on the commission," Holmes says.
This keen observer of city business and government over many years who has seen many mayors and commissioners come and go, knows that there is a dynamic working on an individual once attaining public office.
"In almost all cases, they want to stay there and thus become reliant on special interests and unions. And unfortunately they get caught in the trap of 'owing something' for past support and expectation of future backing. I will have none of that," Holmes says.
Brown, however, who recently incorrectly intimated that he is "the only businessman running for the commission," has received contributions from entities that could possibly benefit from legislation.
It appears Brown knows little about the job he seeks and, more importantly, knows even less about his opponent. Holmes has been a highly successful Largo businessman for years.
In taking contributions from special interests, as Brown's campaign financial reports show, does not necessarily mean that he would be a puppet for anyone making a contribution to him, but it contrasts strongly with Holmes' position where such a situation could not possibly arise.
Among contributors to Brown are chiropractic groups, a home inspection association and a radiological company.
As to endorsements, which Holmes has not sought, the question arises as to why city employees' unions are so eager to get into the "endorsement" game?
Remember that elected commissioners vote on the union contracts that set the pay scales and benefits for the employees.
Draw your own conclusion. That is why the federal Hatch Act came into being. Why it, or something very similar to it, is not in force in cities like Largo is a good question.
The pitiful lack of sophistication of these unions can clearly be seen when, like the firefighters outfit, it endorses a candidate who is unknown, has no record, needs directions to city hall and to the thinking of many is totally unqualified to hold elective office based on no background knowledge of the city.
But the biggest question of all is why the Chamber of Commerce, already very influential (too much, many think) in the affairs of the city, thinks it needs to have its own representative on the City Commission.
Who will represent the people - Mr. and Mrs. Largo?
The answer is obvious. Curtis Holmes. He is committed to that.