OLDSMAR — City Council member Jerry Beverland doesn't advocate offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. But unless the city can come up with an alternative, the former longtime mayor said local governments have no business meddling.
"If you don't want any drilling in the gulf," he said, "buy an electric car … and quit complaining."
Beverland's comments came Tuesday night, after he was the lone dissenter in the council's 4-1 vote to adopt a resolution opposing offshore oil and gas drilling in Florida's waters. More than effecting any kind of change, the resolution officially puts the city's position on the record.
"Honestly," Mayor Jim Ronecker said, "this is not going to change federal policy one bit whatsoever either way."
"This resolution," council member Janice Miller said, "just shows the government where the cities of Florida are coming from."
Clearwater, Largo, Safety Harbor, Tarpon Springs, St. Petersburg, Tampa, and the Barrier Islands Governmental Council, which represents 11 Pinellas County beach communities, passed similar resolutions late last year — before the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion off Louisiana's coast.
That April 20 explosion and the resulting oil spill, along with other factors, prompted Oldsmar to take a stance Tuesday.
"This is the worst environmental disaster in this country in our lifetime," council member Linda Norris said. "It doesn't even compare to the Exxon Valdez."
Oldsmar's resolution extends beyond Florida waters to federal ones that are not already approved for gas and oil exploration.
"These resolutions that we pass without an alternative don't make any sense to me," Beverland said. "If you're going to have a resolution to do away with mayonnaise, then what are you going to replace it with? If you want ketchup, put ketchup in there."
Norris said the resolution would "push us into having to think and work for the alternative."
Oldsmar joined Largo, Safety Harbor, St. Pete Beach and the Florida League of Cities in opposing Amendment 4, or Hometown Democracy as it is more commonly known.
Council members said that the proposed amendment to the Florida Constitution would ignore the community's long-term planning needs and force taxpayers to fund "numerous elections."
For the past 25 years — and only after extensive public hearings and review — local governments have voted on changes to their comprehensive plans, a sort of blueprint for development and growth in a community.
If Hometown Democracy became law, every change would have to be voted through a referendum.
"The city urges its citizens to exercise their existing rights to influence the quality of life in their city by participating in the development and amendment of its comprehensive plan," the resolution states.