Holmes Now Has a Chance To Implement Some Ideas
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - There's a new face on the City Commission and Curtis Holmes has a laundry list of ideas he will be pushing as the city's newest legislator.
Many of those ideas have been heard over a protracted period of time because Holmes has been a frequent (just about every commission meeting) and fluent voice at the Citizens Comment microphone expressing ideas.
Three and half years ago Rodney Woods was a new face on the commission but it turned out he had only one idea - get some sort of memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King erected in the city.
No one actually opposed it, but many wondered about the purpose of memorializing a man who had already achieved worldwide fame and was honored and recognized in Largo as a historical figure.
Apparently the goal for Woods was personal so that he could move among the "brothers," as it were, as one who had made an impact in Largo. He was the first African-American to gain political office in Largo but in these days of diminished racial strife that amounts to a resounding "so what?"
Unfortunately, Woods offered nothing else in his 44 month tenure on the City Commission. He served on no allied boards in the county, but never missed a boondoggle trip.
Holmes, on the other hand, is bubbling with thoughts and ideas in the spirit of his mantra of "thinking outside the box."
The overriding theme for Holmes is this -
"Without a doubt the number one issue that currently confronts and will continue to haunt Largo for years to come is the financial situation. There are no governmental agencies, including municipalities, that aren't deciding what services to cut or whose taxes to raise . . . and option 2 is not acceptable," he said.
One concern of Holmes, expressed often by him, is the relative roles of the commission and the administration. "It has become painfully obvious that the elected body is being directed by staff, not the other way around."
This is a plaint that many observers agree on. Very often, staff members - well intentioned, certainly - put forth ideas or cite facts and are never questioned by members of the commission.
One example happened some months ago, Holmes pointed out.
In pointing out some of the costs involved in demolishing the Clock Tower at Bay Drive and Seminole Boulevard, a staff member mentioned an additional $17,000 that would be spent.
"It was obvious," Holmes says, that no one on the commission had prior knowledge of this but no one raised a question." Holmes said the $17,000 had never been previously mentioned.
In fact, the Clock Tower project particularly irks Holmes and is an example of what he has cited again and again of the city outsourcing contracts for jobs that the Public Works Department could perform.
"I think it's crazy," Holmes said. "Spending money on contracts while we reduce our own personnel. It makes no sense."
Another of Holmes's ideas - "To save staff time and to prevent misunderstandings do at Citizens Comment what the County Commission does - Stop the three minute clock and answer questions on the spot."
What has been true in Largo for many years is that queries from the public are ignored, are never answered or responded to in any way. "This must change," Holmes says.
On the outsourcing question, Holmes says that "When the staff recommends that a job be outsourced, I want to know who made the recommendation - for example, who came up with the idea to demolish the Clock Tower in the first place? Another example," he said, "is who decided to plant a forest of trees on 137 Ave North?"
Holmes points out that section of 137th Street just north of Walsingham has had dozens of oak trees planted by the city. "Why so many so close together? Oak trees get big. Why are they planted directly under power lines? Why are some planted under the canopy of existing trees? How much did this project cost including the replacement trees?"
On decorating Central Park at Christmas time, Holmes suggests, as a matter of savings that the city involve neighborhood associations, merchants, civic clubs, churches, etc. to do the decorations. "This idea appears to have fallen on deaf ears," Holmes said. "Maybe we can change that."
Undoubtedly, Holmes's colleagues on the commission will be hearing many of his ideas in the meetings to come.
"It looks like the days of just sitting there like bobbleheads and collecting pay checks is over with," one veteran observer (and a former commission member) said.
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