Saturday, February 24, 2018
Politics

What Jan Platt's name really means

You expect controversy at the Hillsborough County Commission.

Taxes and transportation, redistricting and development — all deserve big battles and public dustups.

But controversy over naming a successful land preservation plan for the commissioner who came up with it? Opposition to adding Jan Platt's name to the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Preservation Program — Platt having been one of the good guys in government?

Seriously?

Now 77 and involved in causes from Head Start to libraries, Platt showed up at a commission meeting last month to commemorate a quarter-century of ELAPP, which over the years has preserved more than 61,000 county acres.

That's when Commissioner Kevin Beckner floated the idea of naming the program for her, or at least adding her name to it — not that "ELAPP" isn't downright melodious.

And get this: Though Platt is a Democrat's Democrat, the idea won unanimous initial approval from commissioners of all stripe. And some days these guys can't even agree on where to order lunch.

"I was very, very touched," Platt says.

So: A popular, well-meant program honoring the person who conceived it — a no-brainer, right?

Wrong.

Some involved in environmental causes contend that adding the name of a politician could hurt a program that's had nonpartisan support.

As a commissioner, Platt fiercely protected the environment and refused to hand over the keys to developers. She was also known for steadfastly, even primly, playing by the rules.

And here is the truth about being one of the good guys: Not everyone is going to like you for it.

Commissioner No, they famously called her, though Commissioner No Nonsense fit pretty well, too.

Do those opposed really think people will change their opinion of ELAPP because it has "Jan Platt" attached?

Do they truly believe her name will overshadow how people see the pros and cons of the actual program?

Because this seems highly doubtful to me.

Yes, you have to be careful about which names you hang on buildings and such. But odds are slim to none that Platt — whose worst detractors probably can't come up with much uglier to say about her than "goody two-shoes" — will embarrass us.

And if we decide we're no longer naming things for important politicians who influenced them, we're going to have a whole lot of naked schools, parks and public buildings on our hands.

Interesting historic note: The commission raised a fracas a few years back when it voted to name its Moral Courage Award, the highest honor given to citizens, for the late Ralph Hughes. That controversy was well deserved given that Hughes was a millionaire activist who contributed thousands to commissioners.

This is not that.

This is about props for an advocate of a popular environmental program, twice extended by voters by the way, to keep the best of what we have around here.

Asked what she thinks, Platt says it's up to the commission.

Here's hoping they go with honoring true public service over bowing to controversy when, for once, there really isn't any.

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