LARGO - While the U.S. Constitution forbids Congress from making ANY law in respect to establishing a religion the Largo City Commission spent 30 minutes June 20 trying to establish a method of prayer with which to begin its meetings.
But another item - featuring the "A" word - created two individuals sitting on the dais with the classic, panicked "deer in the headlights" look.
The discussion explored the subject from all aspects with Talmudical hair splitting thrown in with all but one commissioner (Harriet Crozier) opining from their well of theological knowledge.
A solution would be to take a clue from nearby jurisdictions. Clearwater, Belleair Shore, Belleair Beach do not bother with public, pre-meeting prayers. Indian Rocks Beach offers 10 minutes of silence following the Pledge of Allegiance.
Largo citizens at the meeting, along with much of a TV audience, were astounded at the slice and dice discussion on prayer.
Language relating to how prayer should be conducted mentioned that those uttering pleas to the Almighty show the "diversity of faiths."
Of course, that aspect alone is fraught with peril. So far, Largo has paraded divines to the podium who reflect the scope of Christian sects. No Jewish clergyman in memory has offered prayer.
And what happens, as one noted observer asked, if certain Islamic sects want to be part of the proceedings and include in their supplications the destruction of Israel and the death of infidels (non-Muslims)?
Is someone from a Wicca group welcome? How about Scientologists? Or, Heaven forbid, a Satanist?
This is all about diversity, the word emphasized over and over again in Largo these days.
Round and round the prayer discussion went last Tuesday. Commissioner Gay Gentry, true to her didactic predilections, tried to explain all about religion. Others chipped in with their august pronouncements.
In all, the scene only ratified the advice given to youngsters down through the ages to avoid talking about religion because it might risk friendships.
But in Largo, once elected one becomes an expert.
Now as to the "A" word.
"A" in this case stands for auditor.
The suggestion that there should be an auditor in the city who would report to the City Commission was reiterated by Curtis Holmes, a citizen, at the June 20 meeting.
When Messrs. Steve Stanton, the city manager, and his myrmidon, Alan Zimmet, the city's lawyer, got around to commenting on it, they did so like men holding an infant's soiled garment at arm's length.
No, sirree, there will be no auditor in Largo.
An auditor, contrary to some public notions, would not be there just to add up the money and check the cash register. Oh, no. An auditor would thoroughly check all city procedures - for example, if the commission were acting in accordance with the charter, etc.
Stanton wants none of that. He is running that Largo ship solely and wants no one looking over his shoulder at anything going on in the city. He intends to keep it that way. Of course, Zimmet, who, along with his firm, takes about half a million dollars year out of Largo, was right in tune with the boss.
Check and balance is a notion for another place and another time. Not for Largo, in Stanton's view.
One commissioner, of limited experience, is starting to learn about details and is a little chagrined to discover that power in Largo has shifted from elected officials to the administration. There is a peas in the pod symbiotic closeness in some cases and if one is not in, one is out in the cold.
Once again, as happened last year, money - $50,000 plus worth - had to be pulled out of surplus to feed the voracious Zimmet maw that has unlimited appetite.
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