Can't have it both ways
On Thursday, 11/12, the Island Estates Civic Association held its annual meeting. During the meeting, the president and treasurer unveiled a beautification plan they had been working on with the city to re-design the medians on Island Way, the main thoroughfare running through the community. To fund this project, they are contemplating asking the City of Clearwater to allocate $500,000 from Penny for Pinellas money for the trees and shrubs as a capital improvement project. Subsequently, the association would pay to maintain the plantings.
As a resident of Island Estates, I appreciate the efforts to develop this beautification plan and welcome the possibility of the city paying for it. However, I am confused by the logic used by our Association's leadership. Subsequent to this presentation, an invitation was extended by the association president to a leader of a group called the Islands Independence Initiative, Inc (III) to update Civic Association members on their initiative to determine the feasibility of seceding from the City of Clearwater to form the City of Clearwater Beach. The group's reasoning behind this idea is that they have "philosophical" differences in the way the City of Clearwater is run. They object to the way many of the community development codes are written or administered and feel their concerns are not being listened to in spite of the fact that three of the five council members are residents of the communities considered for secession including Island Estates, Clearwater Beach and Sand Key.
During the presentation, the III leader expressed fear to the Island Estates residents that a hotel could be built in Island Estates. She also told the group to be wary that the city could change the zoning at any time to allow for higher densities to encourage hotel development. Indeed, city officials could propose a change in zoning as any city has the right to do. However, when higher densities were proposed previously in Island Estates and citizens spoke in opposition, city officials were sympathetic and denied the additional density. It was also mentioned that the City of Clearwater's millage rate was at least twice that of any other coastal city in Pinellas County. In response to that statement, readers should observe that Clearwater has significantly more services to choose from such as our wonderful libraries and recreation centers. The leader further explained to the group that secession had been considered several times in the past but the ploy did not get as far along as this initiative because they are better organized (maybe the real reason they dropped the idea is that in the end, it did not make sense).
In order to fund the financial feasibility study necessary for legislative sponsorship, the III will have to raise approximately $90,000. Each of the three communities was asked to raise $30,000 by October 22nd. If any community could not reach its goal, they could not participate in the secession and their money would be returned. As of this date, approximately 30% of the objective has been raised and in a desperate attempt to continue the cause, the deadline has been extended to the later part of November.
What I find most ironic about this meeting is that Civic Association leadership would even consider asking the city to invest $500,000 in capital improvements to Island Estates without resolution to this secession scheme. I personally believe the III initiative is divisive and unpatriotic, almost like Florida seceding from the U.S. because we don't like what is going on in Washington. In a democratic society, extracting oneself from the society may not be the best solution addressing concerns. Selecting leadership candidates that share your philosophies and values to lead the society (in this case the city) and providing financial support to get them elected to effect desired changes is a much more pragmatic approach to solving issues. It is a rather poignant observation that the III has no candidate to represent them in the 2010 election. I'll bet with a highly qualified candidate, $90,000, and a well run campaign, the III could certainly achieve representation on the City Council. What will they have after spending $90,000 on a secession feasibility study?
- Frank L. Dame
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