Editor: After careful consideration of the position put forth by four Pinellas County Commissioners to sell the taxpayer owned lands known as Cross Bar and Al Bar Ranches in Pasco County, I concluded that this sale would not be in the best interests of the citizens of Pinellas County.
There are numerous reasons against the sale – water independence, water self-reliance, rate stability, income from the property, and the fact that it is an irreplaceable asset. On the other hand, I could only find one reason to sell: short-term and shortsighted financial gain. Our elected officials have a responsibility to manage the county budget without selling a precious water resource or otherwise “raiding the balance sheet.”
Because water supply is a critical long-term issue, I sent out an e-mail to tens of thousands of Pinellas County voters (http://ymlp.com/z09GXJ). The response to this e-mail was strong, and the latest count from the board records clerk shows 109 people contacting the Board of County Commissioners to express opposition to the sale of the land, and only two expressing support for the sale of the land.
Since my e-mail, all four commissioners in favor of the sale – Latvala, Long, Justice and Welch – have sent out e-mails to constituents defending their position. Ms. Long claimed that she is “working hard with [county] staff” to determine “what future value the land holds for our citizens.” But Ms. Long misses the point: this is not about the value of the land, it is about water self-reliance and independence.
Mr. Justice began one e-mail by declaring, “There is no danger of losing access to our water resources now or in the future.” Three paragraphs later in that same e-mail, Mr. Justice said he “will only support the sale of this land if our water resources remain secure.” It is clear from Mr. Justice’s first statement that he has already made up his mind that our water resources are secure, which renders his second and conditional statement meaningless.
Yesterday, Ms. Latvala tried to make this controversy about “water safety” in an e-mail to constituents, an e-mail which was published today in the St. Petersburg Tribune.
“Water safety” is not the issue. The issue is and continues to be water independence and self-reliance, particularly drinking water.
Because of this continuing barrage of misinformation and attempts at distraction by certain commissioners, this morning I sent out an update to concerned citizens and elected officials. Why is this sale being rushed through in the waning days of Ms. Latvala’s time on the commission? Voters should also ask themselves, who is Ms. Latvala representing in this matter? The citizens of Pinellas County? Or is she representing Tampa Bay Water, a special district of the state of Florida which she is the chairwoman of.
The people don’t want government for special districts, or for special interests. The people are tired of that because they suffer as a result. Let’s get back to government for the people.