By Leo Coughlin
I emerged, after spending all day Friday the 13th safely in bed with the blankets pulled up over my head, to find a certain tranquility.
It is calm now in Indian Rocks Beach.
Balmy breezes coming in off the Gulf hint at even warmer days to come, but the political temperatures have cooled.
A key election has been held and the results established some things very clearly. A source of contention in the city has decamped, surrendered, and that voice has been stilled.
No doubt that came about because the mission was not accomplished.
The mission? Well, that was clearly to unhorse Terry Hamilton-Wollin, get her off the City Commission and set a course for a return – at least in terms of influence – of thinking that led the city into the turmoil, upheaval and contentiousness of the past several years.
The instrument for getting rid of Hamilton-Wollin was Don House, who was the candidate of Bill Ockunzzi and Jim Palamara. If there was any doubt about that, those who spotted those two along with House and a publicist in a restaurant just before the election got the picture.
Ah, yes, a new day has dawned, but, perhaps more accurately, a return to the halcyon days when Bob DiNicola presided as mayor when strife and nastiness were strangers in a very pleasant Gulfside city.
Now it appears that stability is well on the way to returning. A new city manager has been hired and there is a new treasurer in place.
And the City Commission is stabilized.
The re-election of Terry Hamilton-Wollin (and the concomitant rejection of House) last week was important. Phil Hanna, the top vote getter, now has a place on the commission, and if Mayor R.B. Johnson will merely do what he has full authority to do, which is to insist on orderly meetings, IRB can head into the future by attending to important business.
Hanna is a brand new face, a man never involved with the city before.
What last week’s election results in Indian Rocks Beach clearly say is that the voters wanted to keep a commissioner already in office – Hamilton-Wollin – and wanted the new face (the choice being between Hanna and House) not to represent the return to a discredited past.
In other words, voters wanted a change to the extent that they could achieve it. They soundly rejected the candidate that represented the Ockunzzi-Palamara-Piniero interest and the “yowlers,” the malcontents who have been heard too long and too loud in recent months.
The combined vote of Hanna (who was the top vote-getter) and Hamilton-Wollin demonstrated a 70 percent rejection of House who has made himself part of the scene for the past two-plus years, obviously not to his own benefit.
Another wise move by the voters was to enact a charter amendment that puts the city’s treasurer under the jurisdiction of the city manager, where it belongs. Formerly, the treasurer reported to the City Commission and this opened the door to micro-managing, particularly on Ockunzzi’s part, and was part and parcel of the problems that beset the city in recent years.
Now the city manager can do his job, in a complete sense without interference from the commission. With a bifurcated manager/treasurer set-up, situations akin to right hand not knowing what the left hand was doing arose. That has now been eliminated.
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