LARGO — With many national and state campaigns falling into a morass of mudslinging, candidates for Largo's two City Commission seats have been mostly cordial — so much so that on their websites and printed material, the most prominent displays are credentials, not specific attacks.
While nearly every candidate has come out against "spending" in its various incarnations (reckless, unnecessary, excessive), one candidate, Robert Hunsicker, points to specific city pro- jects he views as particularly wasteful in a mailer sent to city voters.
One claim in Hunsicker's "Did you know your tax dollars support … " mailer says the city spends $9,000 per week supporting the Largo Cultural Center. That's true, Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert acknowledges.
But two others — palm tree planting along medians and community center trips to the Hard Rock Casino — are misleading, some say.
Former City Commissioner Gay Gentry takes issue with the claim that the city spent "$5,200 per palm tree from Arizona."
"What they don't say is that the tax dollars we're talking about aren't Largo city tax dollars. Those trees were purchased through Department of Transportation funds," Gentry said. "I find that wording misleading. … I just found it distasteful."
Although Gentry isn't an unbiased observer — she contributed to Hunsicker's rival, incumbent Harriet Crozier — her claim is mostly true, city officials say.
Schubert said the money for the palm trees imported from Arizona that line some city medians came from a Florida Department of Transportation grant. If the city didn't accept and spend the money, it would have gone to another municipality, he said.
Hunsicker said while it is true most of the trees were paid for with grant money, others, such as those planted in Largo Central Park, were paid for with city funds.
Another claim by Hunsicker is that the city pays for trips to the casino and Ellenton mall for senior residents who participate in a community center program.
Schubert said the city does offer trips to those locations through one of its senior programs, but the trips are funded by fees paid by the participants and are cost-neutral — the type of things cities should do to enrich residents' lives.
Hunsicker disagrees with the explanation.
"They may be hiding some of the overhead," he said.
Dominick Tao can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 580-2951.