Make us your home page

Economic reality makes strange bedfellows

It's more than disorienting.

It's enough to make you look around for other signs of the apocalypse, especially that old standby, dogs lying down with cats.

I'm talking about county Commissioner Diane Rowden and Brooksville Realtor Gary Schraut.

The news here is not, for a change, about them squabbling over campaign signs. They are not fighting over whether a developer should or shouldn't have the right to build a subdivision. Schraut is not, as he often was in the past, working to destroy Rowden at the polls.

They are on speaking terms, even friendly terms. What's more, on several issues they actually — and, yes, you are reading this correctly — agree.

Can't get your mind around this? Considering their history — "Gary and I have been going at it for probably 20 years," Rowden said — I don't blame you.

But relax, the world isn't coming to an end. There are reasonable explanations for this new era of good feelings.

Schraut is chairman of the Hernando County Aviation Authority, which oversees the operation of Brooksville-Tampa Bay Regional Airport.

Rowden is the commission's liaison to the authority.

So, she has more opportunity to talk with Schraut and other business leaders.

"It turns out that people who almost perceived each other as enemies have a whole lot in common," Rowden said.

And she and Schraut work together, which means they also watch each other work.

"She is tireless in her efforts with the airport and its staff to get some opportunities down there," Schraut said, "including calling me at 9 o'clock at night when I go to bed at 8 o'clock."

The airport connection put them on the same side — the right side — of the drone issue, agreeing the county should pursue a long-shot chance that the federal government will choose the airport as a testing site.

It also meant Rowden had the support of a lot of other business types while — talk about disorienting — David Russell, the mainstream Republican, the commerce-friendly but drone-averse commission chairman, ended up allied with the Chicken Little crowd.

Some of this, of course, is due to political calculation on Rowden's part.

Formerly a crusader against sprawl, she ran in last year's election as a friend of enterprise and, since being elected, has talked and voted like one.

She's all for extending the Suncoast Parkway, which would serve as a very long, very expensive driveway for the handful of people in Citrus County who might use it.

Last month, when given the chance to vote and speak in favor of progressive, targeted impact fees, she didn't.

But the new Rowden is possible because of a new economic reality that doesn't require her to compromise as much as the old one.

During her previous stint on the commission, to stand up against more home building was to stand in the way of economic growth. The industry was that dominant.

Being pro-business now means finding a long-term replacement for housing, some source of income and employment that is steadier and less destructive.

"We want to grow our economy, we want jobs, and we want to be a place where our kids will come back to live," Rowden said.

Really, it's not a mystery that she and Schraut agree on this. How could anyone not?

Economic reality makes strange bedfellows 04/06/13 [Last modified: Saturday, April 6, 2013 1:00pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Federal agencies demand records from SeaWorld theme park


    ORLANDO — Two federal agencies are reportedly demanding financial records from SeaWorld.

    Killer whales Ikaika and Corky participate in behaviors commonly done in the wild during SeaWorld's Killer Whale educational presentation in this photo from Jan. 9. SeaWorld has been subpoenaed by two federal agencies for comments that executives and the company made in August 2014 about the impact from the "Blackfish" documentary. 
[Nelvin C. Cepeda/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS]
  2. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  3. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  4. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  5. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.