LARGO - While the Largo Cultural Center continues to reach into Largo taxpayers’ pockets and filch more than $10,600 every week, five of the seven City Commission members are apparently blithely satisfied and don’t care one way or the other.
Consider – Ten Thousand Six Hundred Dollars Plus every week.
Because the press plays a role, in part, of representing the people, the following queries were sent to the mayor and commissioners on October 6.
“The Largo Cultural Center operates at a deficit of more than $10,600 a week. Do you approve or disapprove of this drain on taxpayer funds?
“2. Do you believe that some sort of remedial action is needed to stop this weekly deficit which represents almost half of the expenditure outlay for the center?
“3. What action do you believe should be taken to staunch this bleeding of taxpayer funds?
“4. Do you believe the general public has been aware of this deficit? Do you believe the general public approves of this deficit funding?
“5. How long have you been aware of this deficit funding?”
Only two elected officials cared enough about the public and those taxpayers who voted them into office to give a response.
This article was prepared more than two weeks after the questions were submitted, so that the elected officials would have plenty of time to weigh their answers.
Obviously, most of the commission is perfectly satisfied that a $10,600 weekly drain on the city’s treasury continued, or those members who failed to respond to the surrogate of the people feel arrogant and above answering the public’s questions.
The responses that were received were not direct answers to the questions, but at least it put Mayor Bob Jackson and Commissioner Gay Gentry on record as to their thoughts on this drain of money.
Commissioners Harriet Crozier, an architect of nepotism whose husband was hired as a city worker after she was elected to office; Pat Gerard, an announced candidate for mayor who uses her elected position to promote – at city taxpayers expense – projects for the private group she works for; Mary Black, Jean Halvorsen, and Andy Guyette, new to the commission and still wondering where the men’s room is, didn’t bother to reply.
Why should they? It is only money and, with government, unlike the private world, there is an unlimited supply of that.
As part of her answer, Gentry made a reference to some letter or such that was on file some place. She further evaded the nub of the question by proclaiming that “I am pleased that the Recreation, Parks and Arts Department continues to find ways to offer it services at a superior level while being cognizant of its responsibility as a steward of the taxpayers’ money.”
If that bafflegab throws you, the translation is – “Whatever is spent is fine with me.”
Then there was a further suggestion and reference to something else.
Jackson, on the other hand, alertly pointed out the history and intent of the Cultural Center and noted that the spending had got out of hand because the original purpose was forgotten.
“Originally, the idea was to present entertainment for Largo citizens that would cost $10 or $12 for admission,” Jackson said. “Now the prices are at $36 to $40 for an event.”
Jackson also pointed out how at the beginning there was an anticipation that the city would have to subsidize the center to the tune of $250,000 a year. He sadly noted that that figure has doubled.
He bemoaned the fact that the popular Renaissance Festival had been abandoned. “It cost the city nothing,” he said. “Now we had a music festival that lost $55,000.”
Jackson pointed out that the $70,000 raised for the center by the Partners in Progress cost $56,000 to accumulate for a net return of a paltry $14,000 which wouldn't cover a week and three days of the $10,600 weekly loss.
Both responses betoken the huge failure of the Cultural Center – Gentry’s meanderings of language and Jackson’s specifics.
The other five apparently are perfectly happy to see 10,600 of those greenbacks take wing every week, week after week, every week of the year. It’s only money
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