Editor: Most everyone loves the story of Winter, and most everyone appreciates the rehabilitative efforts provided by the (Clearwater Marine Aquarium).
However, many question the wisdom of a Charter Amendment that would relinquish control and use of publicly owned land for a sole specified use, i.e. a marine aquarium. The CMA even has the audacity in its promotional efforts to claim that the amendment will safeguard the city’s public land for public use, while at the same time reserving it for itself, a commercial venture, albeit a nonprofit venture. It further states that "it will ensure no condos or other commercial property can be built on this valuable property.” Well, most likely that couldn't be done without a public referendum anyway.
The most troubling aspect of it all, however, is the prospect of a very costly, unique, intricate multi-level aquarium being built that ultimately could serve no other purpose. In the event the aquarium is not successful, or went bankrupt, CMA claims that creditors or the City could "replace management and operate the aquarium.” I'm sure no creditors or the city would relish that idea. Alternatively, those same creditors or the City could "disassemble the building, sell the assets and give the land back to the city.” Again, no mention is made of who would pay for such costly demolition. Even though CMA promotional material states "Taxpayers will have no obligation for CMA's debt,” what else would one do with an unprofitable $160 million aquarium building sitting on public land? Too pessimistic? Well, just check the financials of the Florida Aquarium in Tampa, and Mote Marine Aquarium in Sarasota, and you will find that they are not profitable and being supported by taxpayer dollars.
As far as CMA's other claims, please do yourself a favor and review them carefully. Most likely you will come up with the same conclusion that a "no" vote for the Charter Amendment is the best preventative measure for this very risky reservation of Public Land for a commercial enterprise.