Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Voters didn't get to pick the real boss

I decided to do what I usually do when I want straight answers: go right to the top and direct my questions to the guy running the show.

So, Gary Schraut — Realtor, developer and chairman of a soft-money electioneering group that helped oust incumbent Democratic county Commissioner Diane Rowden — what do you want to see on the commission's agenda in the next four years?

A temporary impact fee reduction, an idea the commission rejected in August?

How about dumping the 2006 rule that requires a 4-1 majority to amend the county's comprehensive plan?

Or maybe a comp plan change for the Quarry Preserve, a new city planned for Florida Rock Industry's mined-out 4,200-acre quarry north of Brooksville.

Schraut likes all these ideas to some degree, meaning you can pretty well bet they'll get a sympathetic hearing from the current commission.

Schraut, of course, said I'm overstating his influence. So do the other builders and developers willing to talk (not many, by the way).

Okay, but it's hard to deny that our two newly elected Republican commissioners, John Druzbick and Jim Adkins, are indebted to the housing industry because of a campaign tactic new to Hernando commission races: late-season attack ads paid for with money raised outside the candidates' campaigns and the fundraising rules that apply to them.

It's also hard not to see that this display of political muscle will send a chilling message to current commissioners — or staffers — who might want to challenge these interests.

"To be honest with you, my timing was exquisite," said former county development director Grant Tolbert, who retired in September.

Strange, because I thought we had all recognized the dangers of unchecked growth — rampant speculation that inflated our tax bills, for example, and the low wages that come with overreliance on the housing industry.

But now we've all but invited the following folks to the dais:

• Schraut, chairman of the Council for Stronger Neighborhoods, a statewide group that raised more than $600,000 from Realtors and spent about $20,000 for campaign fliers that rehashed Rowden's 15-year-old Sunshine law violation.

• Businessman Tom Barnette, who contributed to the Committee to Protect Florida, a soft-money organization that created an anti-Rowden Web site; Gene Manuel, founder of Coastal Engineering Associates, who also contributed to the committee, and landowner Tommy Bronson, whose $3,000 donation was six times the maximum legal contribution to a commission campaign.

• Blaise Ingoglia, who said he spent $25,000 of his own money on an ad campaign attacking Rowden and fellow Democratic incumbent Chris Kingsley.

Ingoglia says otherwise, but his campaign may have been enough to tip the election in favor of Adkins, who won by less than 2 percent. Druzbick, on the other hand, prevailed by nearly 6,000 votes and probably didn't need much help, Schraut said. He added that the rules for soft-money groups limit their contact with candidates, and Druzbick never saw or approved the anti-Rowden flier.

In other words, Druzbick let Schraut take charge even before he was elected. Personally, I don't find that reassuring.

Voters didn't get to pick the real boss 11/08/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 11, 2008 7:09pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Unemployed with a pre-existing condition, Republican David Jolly came to see Obamacare as 'safety net'


    Former Congressman David Jolly, who ran against Obamacare in 2013, said in an interview Monday night that he now considers it a "safety net."

  2. Five children hospitalized after chlorine release at Tampa pool store


    Five children were sickened at a pool store north of Tampa on Monday after a cloud of chlorine was released, according to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue.

  3. Deputies find unidentified decomposing body in Dunedin canal

    Public Safety

    DUNEDIN — Pinellas County sheriff's deputies found an unidentified male body floating in a Dunedin canal Monday afternoon, the Sheriff's Office said.

  4. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  5. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108