Coppen Rebuts 'Scare Tactics' on IRB's Budget by Ockunzzi
by Leo Coughlin
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH - An Indian Rocks Beach commission member has rebutted claims made by Mayor-Commissioner Bill Ockunzzi who appears to have opened his re-election campaign with high production e-mail flyers that were sent out on a widespread basis.
These communications, in effect from Ockunzzi himself, but sent out over the names of others, bypasses the public records requirements of Florida law, but nevertheless are no secret.
Commissioner Jose Coppen called Ockunzzi's trumpeting of budget matters unacceptable and said that "alarmist glossy reports that have circulated by e-mail in the last few weeks have taken the democratic process to a dismally low level."
Coppen pointed out that Ockunzzi's message, supported by a loyal claque of followers, says "This is your LAST CHANCE to speak up before your City Commission cuts a police officer, raises rates and fees, spends your tax money hiring a full time librarian and funds yet another community planning study," is distorted and misleading.
"All the half truths being parroted about cutting a police officer are political propaganda meant to create panic and promote confusion," Coppen said.
He points out that Sheriff Jim Coats met with the commission and that Coats, responding to the commission's desire to cut some costs, suggested that because of the very low crime rate in the city that a community police officer work alongside a regular deputy during the daylight shift.
A community police officer is fully qualified and armed.
With neighboring Belleair Beach being policed by the Sheriff's Office and nearby Belleair Bluffs also with deputies present, plus roving sheriff's deputies, any incident in IRB requiring police would present no problem.
"During evenings and weekends we would retain the same protection," Coppen pointed out, "far from any danger the apocalyptic scenarios present."
As to the increase in fees, Coppen said the solid waste and sewer fees need to be increased to maintain the same level of service.
"This unpleasant fact has been postponed for years and now it must be implemented," he said.
While he said he opposed hiring a full-time librarian and in fact wants a referendum before the city commits itself to the huge expense of an ever-expanding library, Coppen said Ockunzzi voted to spend the librarian funds.
Coppen also disputed the contention implied in a planning study. "This is more than just a planning study," he said. "It is meant as a comprehensive architectural design guideline to prevent 'Mediterranian fortresses' from dominating Gulf Boulevard. Without tighter building codes the City Commission would not be able to protect the small town atmosphere of Indian Rocks Beach."
Coppen said of Ockunzzi's scare tactics in his pamphleteering, "Half a truth is the most reprehensible of lies."
Having lost two of his companions on the commission in March's election, Ockunzzi's power has been cut to near zero. Political observers in IRB speculate that Ockunzzi is panic stricken with fear over losing his seat in the March election.
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