Holmes Takes Byrne to Task on Outsider Review of Department
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - The basis of accreditation for fire and police departments is unarguably justified - it results in lower insurance rates for fire and theft loss.
But an accreditation process for a recreation department is an exercise and an expense - though not exorbitant - Commissioner Curtis Holmes feels the city of Largo can well do without.
When he discovered that Largo's Parks, Recreation and Arts Department was among those service areas of the city undergoing accreditation, at no little cost, Holmes raised very serious questions.
Those questions spurred a response from Joan Byrne, director of the RPA, whose initial justification for her department started with high-flown language, bordering on the biblical and no doubt designed to persuade critics not to risk heavenly thunderbolts.
"It starts in Parks - Sense of COMMUNITY, Good HEALTH, Respect for NATURE, CONSERVATION of natural treasures, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT, ACHIEVEMENT, Ties to HERITAGE, Florida's FUTURE."
And so Byrne's hosannas began, abandoning all adherence to English composition, punctuation and employing the shout out (that is the effect of words all capitalized) the words that are so dear to the hearts of all patriots.
Try it. Read and shout out those all-cap words.
"If Recreation, Parks and Arts is doing all of that, it is doing far more than it was designed to do," one astute observer opined.
Holmes saw much lacking in Byrne's justification.
Once she got down to sensible, sedate language she claimed, "Accreditation provides validation that the agency is operating efficiently and effectively throughout its various operations."
Holmes lit on that - "Does this include the financial 'efficiency' of the golf course and Cultural Center?"
Of course, both are heavily subsidized by taxpayers because they are losing propositions - the Cultural Center to the tune of a half million dollars (almost $10,000 a week!) and the golf course at $250,000 annually.
Byrne wrote in addition "The standards (of excellence discerned in an accreditation evaluation) provide an effective and credible means of evaluating a park and recreation agency's overall system."
This near meaningless and self-serving rhetoric was greeted by Holmes with the question - "Am I to assume that the customers of the parks department aren't qualified to 'evaluate' its service level?"
The long and self-justifying essay by Byrnes, who is a lioness in protecting the empire she has built in recent years, is also full of self-serving and self-congratulatory comments as well as Byrne's own description of a "self-assessment report."
Holmes, who has emerged in the 10-plus months since he was elected to the City Commission as a zealous questioner of wasted taxpayer funds and procedures in the city that have been otherwise totally ignored by his colleagues on the commission, wondered at that if the city were paying "a fee to a third party to grade our self-assessment?"
As to cost, Byrne wrote that the city pays $3,500 to $4,000 every five years for the accreditation and spends $300 a year to maintain its accreditation standards.
According to Byrne the areas the accreditation looks at are planning, administration and organization, finance, programming, risk management, facility and land use management, security and evaluation and research.
This seems to be an exercise in redundancy as all these elements would normally come under the general operation of the department and any discrepancies as overseen by the city manager would quickly be discerned and corrected.
Holmes summed up his view of this example of exaggerated bureaucratic hi-jinks and argle-bargle in succinct fashion -
"This is all nonsense. The parks department either works or it doesn't. We don't need an outsider telling us this."
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