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Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite relocates Brooksville office; detractors question motive

BROOKSVILLE — In the world of politics, minutiae matters as much as foreign policy and conspiracies occupy every street corner.

In a word: everything is, well, political. And so maybe it's not surprising that U.S. Rep Ginny Brown-Waite's recent decision to move her district office is causing a fluster among her loyal detractors.

The Brooksville Republican closed her office in the Old Courthouse in downtown Brooksville and moved March 3 to a privately owned strip mall on Spring Hill Drive near the National Guard Armory. She also closed her Dade City office and transferred those staffers to Hernando.

"I suspect it was a move to give her more privacy and not be so accessible to the public," said Brian Moore, a tireless Spring Hill activist who ran for president on the Socialist Party USA ticket.

He suggested a more malevolent motive: "She really has pulled a fast one on us."

Brown-Waite's office immediately dismissed the idea that political strategy played a role.

Lindsay Gilbride, Brown-Waite's spokeswoman, said the move allowed staffers to consolidate offices and leave the cramped quarters at the courthouse.

"This offers increased space to offer better constituent service," she said, declining to disclose the cost of the year-long lease.

But whether intentional or not, the move does carry some political advantages.

The location of Brown-Waite's former office coincided with the seat of power in Hernando County and consequently the epicenter of all protests against "the man." The stately columns, red bricks and wide steps provided a highly visible stage for frequent finger-wagging at Brown-Waite's corner office window.

The change stole some pomp from Jim Piccillo when he announced his congressional bid last month from the courthouse steps. "Definitely it detracts a little bit," he said.

Moore agreed. He provided this case study:

As president of a Nature Coast peace group, he held a joint demonstration April 15 with Pasco Democrats to promote universal health care. The event would have provided an eye-catching foil to the local "tea party" anti-tax protest conducted that same day at the courthouse.

But Moore's group of 15 met at Brown-Waite's new office, where the lease strictly forbids solicitations and demonstrations.

So they stood in the public right of way along Spring Hill Drive — actually, a ditch — waving signs virtually unreadable to motorists speeding by at 55 mph or higher.

At the courthouse, "it's so picturesque and it's a stoplight so cars have to stop," said an exasperated Moore. At the strip mall, "it's really a desolate area. They don't even have a restaurant to go have lunch.

"She can't be embarrassed very well when she's out of the public eye," he said.

Not to mention, Moore said, it's much more dangerous to stand along a major highway.

The private property issue is sure to get debated again as the 2010 election spurs more activity.

Property owner Jennifer Miley understands. Her Clearwater-based company, Regent Properties, is leasing the 9-acre property from the county for 30 years at $4,329 a month.

"It's amazing the things we've had to crack down on and demonstrations are one of them," she said, referring to incidents at other company-owned properties.

As for Brown-Waite's office, Gilbride said the congresswoman's doors are always open. In fact, an open house is planned.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or (352) 754-6114.

If you go

New location

U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, R-Brooksville, has moved her Hernando and Pasco district offices to 16224 Spring Hill Drive, just east of California Street in Brooksville. Her office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. To reach the district office, call (352) 799-8354.

Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite relocates Brooksville office; detractors question motive 05/01/09 [Last modified: Friday, May 1, 2009 8:11pm]
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