CLEARWATER – Republican Representative Larry Ahern got an earful from Clearwater council members last week as they voiced their frustrations with a Legislature that has championed a higher homestead exemption for the coming year and a proposal that would restrict home rule.
Ahern appeared before city leaders on Aug. 16 at city hall to give an “end of session report,” which is ostensibly a recap of the Legislature’s efforts while in session.
Unfortunately for the representative, council members were less than impressed and were vocal in their dissatisfaction.
Councilman Bill Jonson expressed his displeasure with the House adding last-minute amendments that would affect home rule, which allows local municipalities to govern in its own administrative area.
“The amendment was filed a day before the committee meeting where it was heard and nobody really spoke against it because nobody really understood … we didn’t understand it was coming,” Jonson said. “If home rule is to be overturned, it at least should be introduced in the second week of committee so that there can be a dialogue on it.”
Councilman Hoyt Hamilton criticized the most recent session as one of the Legislature’s least productive.
“Thanks for being here – I’m glad you’ve got your bulletproof vest on,” he joked at first. “I can say from my perspective, I’m a little disappointed. I thought this was one of the least productive sessions that the legislature has had in some time.”
Hamilton lambasted Ahern over the proposed homestead exemption increase, which will please voters but hurt local municipalities.
“Now it will fall to us to raise our millage rate to account for the lost revenue we will see,” Hamilton said. “So now we become the bad guys.
“You’re the good guys, we’re the bad guys,” he continued.
Mayor George Cretekos was perhaps the most pointed in his criticism, scolding Ahern.
“I apologize for all of us, because we are pretty upset,” Cretekos said. “When you say, ‘this group is doing something bad,’ it paints everybody in that same brush. You are our representative. You represent the county.
“If the speaker believes cities shouldn’t exist and that local governments don’t know what they’re doing, then that goes against a very core principal that we as Republicans have,” he continued.
“We provide a service and sometimes our legislators forget that.”