LARGO - A potpourri of issues is keeping the cauldron boiling in Largo, a city that seems to be all at sea in terms of leadership from its elected officials.
In short, there is no leadership and in that vacuum the city's management has taken the helm and the typical apathy of the city, extended to the highest elected levels, has seen responsibility abandoned.
Not least among the talk being bandied about is election prospects for 2007. There is no election in March. A change in the Charter last year makes November the election time.
It figures that Mesdames Harriet Crozier and Gay Gentry will seek re-election to their commission seats. Both will get strong scrutiny.
Crozier has been in office a long time. Maybe time for a change in any event. Gentry is steady and sensible but needs to show more leadership, challenging what is so easily swallowed, and help restore the power of those in elected office.
With election day set November 6, campaigning will take place mainly in September and October. Deadline for petition cards is August 31.
Knowledgeable sources in Largo figure a candidate will have to raise a minimum of $10,000 to conduct a realistic campaign.
And the talk - totally unofficial right now - is that there may be some familiar names challenging for commission seats. Among those who watch the situation closely there is a lot of dissatisfaction.
Leading the dissatisfactions is the relationship of the part time lawyer, Alan Zimmet, to the city. He gets paid more than $2,000 a week whether he shows up or not and he is the decision maker on extending litigation for the city and if it is expanded most of the business goes to his law firm.
This is raising very serious questions.
Another issue that has cropped up is City Manager Steve Stanton's announced plan to set aside up to a quarter of a million dollars for a Martin Luther King memorial.
That really has gone off like a stink bomb in the city with very little or no commission support seen. The commission earmarked a limit of $15,000 toward a memorial which was more in the nature of being nice than a real discerned need for such.
Largo's administration has not given up on wooing the folks in Ridgecrest (predominantly African-American) but the people in that section have made it emphatically clear that they want to stay under county, not Largo, jurisdiction.
Then there is the fudging about the recent MLK celebration in connection with the civil rights leader's birthday. A close count would have shown barely 100 people showing up for the event.
Joan Byrne, head of the Recreation Department, was huffing and puffing about 200 folks being there and the county's only daily newspaper covered the event as though the Prince of Wales was the featured speaker. This in contrast to its total ignoring of a Halloween event when thousand upon thousands of people crowded into and jostled around Central Park.
Among the other pieces of interesting tidbits is the observation by one alert citizen that the city management places three major spending items on the agenda for a work session at the same time.
It raises the question of whether this is an attempt to by-pass public comment and input on the items. There is no public participation in workshops and the next step up the line is at a regular meeting where the items come up for approval with a green light given management.
"Manipulation," the observing citizen calls it.
That same personage points out that Largo's population has gone from about 70,000 to the current 75,000 (a 7 percent increase) while budget outlays are up 77 percent. Even adjusting for inflation over seven years, that's a whopping 50 percent or so increase.
Maybe that is attributable in part to the increase in city employees (809 in 2000, 901 now for an 11.3 percent increase). That could factor out to about $5 million in additional spending.
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