Citizen Comments at Largo Meeting Often Give Best Flavor of Our Times
by Leo Coughlin
LARGO - Sometimes the best and most interesting news at Largo City Commission meetings can be picked up not on the official agenda to be acted upon but at citizen comments.
The City Commission is notorious for ignoring or not even responding to the queries, information and other material offered by citizens (which probably helps contribute to the apathy in the city).
But for those in attendance and those citizens tuned in on Channel 15 comments by citizens offer an insight into what the public is thinking and how remote the city government is from the citizenry.
Some of the stuff is way out there. For example, at the commission's August 7 meeting, one citizen suggested that members of the commission take a 2 percent pay cut for one year to help out in these parlous economic times.
Back of the envelope calculation reveals that action might save something less than $2,800 in the budget.
That amount of savings could be achieved by canceling the boondoggle trip to New Orleans (Bourbon Street were we come!) in November by Mayor Pat Gerard and Commissioner Rodney Woods to attend the annual orgy of the National League of Cities.
Some citizens took notice of the four-day sojourn in the Crescent City (one pointing out that it gave Woods a wonderful opportunity to visit his home grounds from whence he came) and expressed some umbrage about this fun trip to the South's leading location of fleshpots.
What will happen in New Orleans in November when folks from cities all over the country will meet to guzzle and frolic in the Vieux Carre happened in Washington, D.C., last year when Commissioner Andy Guyette and the former city manager were in attendance.
On that occasion Guyette had reason at one point to contact his traveling partner, and despite looking high and low, could not find him.
When said CM was finally found Guyette told of his unsuccessful search and heard these ominous words - "I was sitting right next to you."
However, said CM was in drag and Guyette, a polite and prudent man, did not take notice of the beauty (?) esconced next to him. You know the rest of the story.
Then of course the usual claque mustered up by the parks and recreation folks showed up to protest some park closings, etc., and Geoff Moakley, always on hand with a sharpened pencil and ways to save money, chipped in with some ideas.
John Atanasio had some ideas along those lines also, but there is no record or hint of the commission, individually or collectively, ever paying any attention to these stellar citizens and their money saving ideas.
Maybe the highlight of the show before the elected anointeds got down to gleefully spending money was the plea by Charlie Harper, a former commissioner himself, to prevent the Anona School from being wiped off the map.
And Harper went beyond that, begging the commission to consider measures to set up some kind of process to save and preserve historic buildings scattered around the city.
As a fellow who spent almost all his life in Largo, Harper, backed by the Largo Historical Society, wants to preserve parts of the past which bespeak the character of the city.
Such sentiment could be lost on the four Yankee carpet baggers who sit on the commission (Guyette, Gerard, Gigi Arntzen and Harriet Crozier) and the other three Southerners all (Mary Black, Tennessee; Gay Gentry, Mississippi, and Woods, Louisiana) do not have roots in Largo.
But Harper's importunings received a favorable response and it was agreed that something would be done to save places like the old Johnson place on 2nd Street and the old Largo Hotel.
And, yes, the School Board would be asked to save Anona School, the oldest in Pinellas County that dates from at least 1874 and maybe earlier.
Comment time went on for more than 45 minutes and it got some seasoning from a bloviator who performs in a manner akin to your old friendly Uncle Fred but which the young among us would recognize as and properly term B.S.
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