Mr. Dame, what are you and the City afraid of?
Frank Dame's letter to the editor, regarding a presentation I made at the Island Estates Civic Association town hall meeting November 12, 2009 as a volunteer representative for Islands Independence Initiative, Inc. (III), takes great liberty with facts, makes false assumptions and rushes to judgment about the important question of self-governance being explored by III.
Six months ago, III announced that it was going to research why Sand Key, Clearwater Beach and Island Estates with 10% of Clearwater's population pay 40% of City property taxes and would we be better off if we were able to break free from Clearwater? III said its analysis would begin by investigating if it is legally possible and financially feasible for our three islands to form a new city and when initial research was completed that information would be shared at town hall type meetings.
III now knows it is legally possible for the three islands to incorporate a new City. IECA did nothing more than provide a forum for this information to be shared with its island residents and for them to ask questions of III. The IECA did not take a position on the initiative and its smart leaders understand that it is premature for anyone to do so because all of the facts do not yet exist by which to make an informed decision.
An economic feasibility study is the next step in the investigation into self-governance and it will accomplish two things. First, it will allow island community residents to make an informed decision as to whether it makes economic sense to form our own city. Second, if the community decides it does make economic sense, then we will have a study that responds to the request from our Pinellas County Legislative Delegates (our local state representatives and senators) for such a study to be submitted with our requested Special Act required to form this new city.
As presented at the IECA Town Hall meeting, on September 21, 2009 III launched the goal of raising $30,000 from each of the three islands to share the economic study cost of $90,000. To gauge the interest of the each island, it was requested that the donation amounts be $155.00 per household to require participation of approximately 200 households on each island. The fund raising deadline was established as October 22nd and then extended to November 30th only after many residents expressed their concern that not everyone had heard about the initiative and had the opportunity to discuss it.
Mr. Dame suggests that III is being "unpatriotic" in exercising its Constitutional right to explore self-governance by using the existing framework of the Florida Constitution and statutes intended for this purpose. He even goes beyond the pale and describes the process as a "ploy." To diminish the importance of the residents desire to be involved in the process to investigate self-governance is truly "unpatriotic."
Once again, Mr. Dame would have the reader believe his remarks are made only as a private resident of Island Estates, failing to disclose that he is employed by an organization that receives city funding and that he was appointed by the City Council and presently serves as a member of the Clearwater Community Development Board; the very board that unanimously made so many decisions that has helped fuel our island communities to ask if self-governance might be the best and most cost efficient solution.
Mr. Dame asks why III does not spend $90,000 in promoting a candidate to the City Council rather than an economic feasibility study. He answers his own question when he correctly states that three of the existing five council members are residents of the islands, and still we are not being heard.
Mr. Dame wants to know what the three islands will have after spending $90,000 on an economic feasibility study. The answer Mr. Dame is that the island communities will have the facts - 10% of Clearwater's population will know where 40% of its City property taxes are being spent and what they are getting in return. The question III would ask you, Mr. Dame, "Why are you afraid of the answer to that question?"
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