By Leo Coughlin
You see Marty Shelby up in front of the Largo City Commission speaking as a citizen on an important issue and you realize what a loss it is that he is not sitting on that commission he is addressing.
He used to be on the Largo City Commission.
And when he was, frankly, it was a much better commission.
Bob Jackson was mayor then and the mayor now, Pat Gerard, was one of Shelby's colleagues on the commission.
Gerard seems to be getting the drift of the staff-driven voraciousness to put in place all the high-falutin' development plans they studied in college. She expressed gratitude to Shelby for his focused and well reasoned opposition to the overblown plan for redevelopment on West Bay Drive.
Shelby's neighborhood borders on the area that city planners want to spruce up with high rises (undefined) and lots of other question-raising touches. It is not all bad, but there are severe problems.
So he was speaking for a good chunk of the population in his presentation which was given with all the calmness and rational talk of the good lawyer that Shelby is.
He was pleasant, measured, non-accusatory, no bluster, no histrionics, no BS. And what he said all made sense and probably carried the weight that tipped the commission into its verdict to send the questionable plan back to the drawing board.
It was obvious that some sitting up there on the dais hearing Shelby's words didn't quite know what all the discussion was about.
Commissioner Rodney Woods sat there in apparent befuddlement as though the information contained in the almost 300-page document was as mysterious to him as the intricacies of the rule against perpetuities. He just stared fixedly at the screen of his laptop - a tool the Largo taxpayers grace the elected officials with.
Mac Craig, the city manager, appeared to be in similar dire straits, seemingly a stranger to all the wonderments for the future that members of his vast staff had dreamed up.
One commission member has expressed dissatisfaction with the maneuvering of the staff to jam their projects through to approval without the elected getting a chance for a thorough review.
Remember, the Planning Board recommended against the project more than once. But the staff blithely pursues its own interests and recommends approval. Naturally. They are the judges of their own case.
"Why do they keep coming up with these things and trying to rush them through?" one conscientious citizen wailed. The answer?
Because this is what keeps them on the payroll. Once the city's Strategic Plan was adopted some years ago, all manner of projects can proceed, regardless of time, place and economics.
Shelby's performance, low key and super effective, came after the commission rejected unanimously a plan to ruin a neighborhood off East Bay Drive in the area of the City Hall and the plan to make Highland Avenue into a grand boulevard.
In short, what is wrong with the West Bay Redevelopment project is plain - among other things, there are no clear-cut definitions in the plan for building heights, story limits avoid height definitions and "swapping" of benefits among contractors could lead to all kinds of bad stuff.
Shelby was speaking for more than himself. He was representing public opinion which was, at least at this point, overwhelmingly against the plan - mostly, one thinks, because of the pitfalls inherent in it.
Would that he represent the city's police chief, Lester Aradi, who had an injustice visited on him.
With Shelby as advocate - and this is not to put words in his mouth or assign him a task he may not want, this is strictly hypothetical - maybe he could persuade the commission.
If the commission collectively has the guts that God gave a lazy white dog, they will call Craig to task.
Suspend the chief?
Why, the very gall of it makes the hair on the back of one's neck rise.
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