BELLEAIR — Town commissioners have made it clear they do not support systemic racism and unanimously approved a resolution June 16 affirming their support for human rights.
Town Manager J.P. Murphy began the meeting by reading a three-page letter stating the town’s position and what steps are being taken to ensure, what he called, “our ethical obligation.”
“We share the heartbreak over the senseless death of George Floyd,” he read. “The protests and passions of our people seeking change are impossible to ignore.”
The letter continued that the town of Belleair reaffirms its commitment to aggressive respect for human rights.
“Again, we state that discrimination and bigotry in any form contradict who we are, who our residents are, and what we as a community will stand for,” he continued. “Instead, we accept and welcome diversity of race, gender, age religion, sexual orientation, sexual preference, ability and all other identities in our community.”
Murphy continued on saying the town recognizes the conversation about systemic racism and discrimination is difficult, but he wrote that having the dialogue is necessary in order to bring awareness to issues surrounding diversity and inclusion.
“Doing this successfully means we will need to embrace new ideas, policies and skills, and above all the courage to step into roles that we may have been uncomfortable with in the past,” he read. “For our part in this nationwide dialogue we will commit to reevaluating our practices and policies, inspecting them through a diversity and inclusion lens.”
Central to the death of Floyd was the actions of the Minneapolis Police Department. In Belleair, Murphy wrote, the police department is taking an active role in making sure that what happened in Minneapolis and other places will not happen in Belleair.
“Chief (Rick) Doyle is an active board member of the Pinellas Police Standards Council, which is a panel made up of all the police chiefs, sheriff and the State Attorney’s office,” he wrote. “Belleair resident and St. Pete Police Chief Tony Holloway is spearheading efforts to evaluate the use of force and other policies that will affect policy change countywide.”
Murphy wrote that the town’s police officers already practice community policing.
“Our officers welcome the opportunity to emphatically listen to our community, diligently seek out reform and working alongside our community, not against it,” he said.
Murphy suggested to make the changes necessary it will take more than just changes in the police department.
“Systemic racism and discrimination are far reaching in our society and goes beyond policing,” he said. “We are committed to being agents of change within our town to lead to a new future.”
The letter was later presented in resolution form and given unanimous approval.
In other news
• It was decided that a budget workshop will be held sometime in July. Commissioners agreed to have an open public meeting with residents having the option of “zooming” into the meeting from their homes. The town provides technological help for residents who might not know how to use their computer to get into the meeting.
The pandemic has wreaked havoc with the town’s budget. Murphy estimates that all revenue to the town that would have been generated by sales will be down an estimated 30% by year’s end. That would amount to $300,000. On the other hand, the revenues from property taxes is up over 7% or $350,000. Agreeing that the gain and loss are a wash Murphy, commented, “I don’t have a lot of heartburn over that.”
• Three parcels of land known as the Ahlf property have been sold by the town to Richard Dimmitt. The properties, located on Baybrook Place, sold for just under $1.4 million. It is understood Dimmitt will build an estate home on part of the property while keeping the waterfront part for recreation.
Several years ago, Ahlf made a deal with the town to donate the property as long as the town paid his property taxes until his death. He died a year ago thus setting in motion the sale.
• The commission meeting for July 7 has been canceled. The next meeting will be on Tuesday, July 14.