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How many Tampa Bay Waters does it take to change a light bulb?

I needed to change a light bulb. On the way I ran into that government outfit called Tampa Bay Water.

"We can change that light bulb," Tampa Bay Water said. I said okay.

Next thing I knew, Tampa Bay Water was holding meetings with consultants.

I had never seen so many consultants in the same place. They must have some sort of sixth sense for when a government is open for business. Maybe they use a little dance to spread the word, like bees.

The consultants made lots of promises. They said this would be the fanciest durn-tootin' light-bulb change ever done — state of the art.

"Really, as long as it works," I said.

Secretly I was worried. I heard that a previous light bulb had taken longer than expected and cost more, too.

Finally the big day came. There was a ceremony and everything. They named it the C.W. Bill Young Light Bulb.

It lasted for about a day. Then it burned out.

"We'll have to keep it dark for a while to figure out what happened," Tampa Bay Water said, adding it would cost about as much to fix as it cost to do in the first place.

"Didn't something like this happen to you guys on a previous job, too?" I asked.

"Look, this is complicated, cutting-edge stuff," Tampa Bay Water said. "It's not like, say, digging a hole in the ground to store water or something — people have been doing that for thousands of years.

"Besides, we're fixing it. We're suing everybody."

I said that did not keep it from being dark.

"I don't mean to seem ungrateful," I said, "but if I hired you for a job, and you failed utterly to do that job, and in fact it seems to be a pattern, shouldn't you be fired?"

"I'm sorry," Tampa Bay Water said. "Shouldn't I be … what?"

"Let me put it this way," I said. "You're part of the government, right? So when is the election for the Tampa Bay Water board?"

"There isn't one," Tampa Bay Water said. "We are accountable to the people indirectly."

"Indirectly? How?"

"Well, our board is made up of elected officials from around these parts. There are two county commissioners from Pasco, Pinellas and Hills­borough. And one person each from Tampa, St. Petersburg and New Port Richey."

I thought about this. "So if I as a voter want to do something about Tampa Bay Water, I have to do it piecemeal, by getting involved in nine separate city and county elections?

"I mean," I continued, "should I be mad at Mark Sharpe and Al Higginbotham from Hillsborough? Susan Latvala and Karen Seel from Pinellas? Ann Hildebrand and Ted Schrader from Pasco? James Bennett from St. Petersburg, Charlie Miranda from Tampa and Scott McPherson from New Port Richey? Have they apologized or anything?"

"You shouldn't blame them," Tampa Bay Water said. "Besides, they rotate in and out all the time, and some of the ones that approved the earlier light-bulb projects are long gone."

"Doesn't sound like much accountability."

"Hey," Tampa Bay Water said. "We're the improvement here. We got rid of the old water wars. We said that everybody in the Tampa Bay area would work together."

"I still can't help but think," I said, "that there is a better way to do this."

"If you'd like," Tampa Bay Water said, "we could get a consultant on that."

How many Tampa Bay Waters does it take to change a light bulb? 06/08/09 [Last modified: Saturday, June 13, 2009 11:09am]

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