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Residents take back their town
Article published on Wednesday, March 30, 2005
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Re: Election

We had an election in my town of Treasure Island on March 8. I still do not understand why we have to have so many elections during the year, but we do. I always felt that once-a-year in November would be enough for busy people like myself. I am sure that quite a few of my neighbors feel the same way, which is why I am so amazed at all the folks who braved the foul morning weather to go to the polls and vote for the future of our beach community.

You see, our town is a small island community on the West coast of Florida. Back in the ’50s it was little more than a glorified sandbar. Our present day island was literally built on the dreams of thousands of blue collar workers from the north who wanted a piece of paradise to retire to after their term at the factory was over. Back then air conditioning was rare and expensive. Many of the people who came to live here had to adapt to our two seasons of summer and hurricane.

Well, many years passed and eventually the secret of Florida was no longer a secret anymore. The pressure has been on over the last several years to cram as many people as possible on to the thin strip of sand that surrounds our state, and our fair island is no exception.

Time and time again building and zoning codes have been modified, public land (often environmentally sensitive) has been traded or given away freely to the developers (without consulting the residents) who want to build on the beach. Community after community has fallen to the wrecking ball and bulldozer only to be replaced by high-priced condominiums or resorts that are unfriendly to the working man or woman and their families. The pace of development is so feverish that many beach towns realize only too late that their corner of the world has been sold from beneath them for a few pieces of silver in the form of tax revenues.

You see, developers only care about one thing, development. They will never stop to think about the quality of life in the communities they are destroying. They will lie, cheat, and steal to gain access and control of any property (or government official) they feel they can exploit for profit, and the residents be damned. Once their money has been made, they will move off to another area and start the process again, leaving behind a crowded, overpriced, community that is devoid of any soul or character. The unending desire and aggressive tactics of developers are well known by everyone. This is why so often that the average person on the street often shrugs their shoulders and says “you can’t stop progress” when confronted with the prospect of losing their own neighborhood.

Ultimately, this may ring true for us all, but on my island, Treasure Island, a wonderful and glorious thing has happened. The residents have democratically taken back their city hall from the clutches of heartless developers. This occurred over three separate elections in which enormous majorities were garnered by candidates who opposed uncontrolled development and the giving away of public land.

The sentiment was so clear to city hall that our city manager recently resigned in disgust to go work for one of the more dominant developers in the area as a highly paid consultant. With the passage of several charter amendments, the people who live in Treasure Island have taken a stand and won control over the future of their community even in the face of adversity in the form of underhanded back-room deals, huge sums of cash dumped into opposing political campaigns (much of it coming from out of state), unethical and illegal behavior of previous commissioners, and the list goes on.

I again want to say loud and clear that I am proud of my fellow citizens, and I am proud to call myself a resident of Treasure Island. Democracy has prevailed. God Bless America. Treasure Island is celebrating its 50th anniversary May 2005.

Leonard R. Kaul Jr.
Treasure Island
Article published on Wednesday, March 30, 2005
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