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Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano slows down work with tourism tax play

It is just a few days after the New Orleans Saints captured the Super Bowl title and Commissioner Jack Mariano wants to extend the football season.

He started Tuesday morning with an understated flea-flicker that had everything but Faith Hill singing and a Chris Berman-endorsed nickname.

"Jack 'The Knife' Mariano cuts back against the grain. Whoop!''

Mariano put an innocuous discussion item on the commission agenda, titled "Tourist Development-Impact Fee-Policy.'' This is known as disguising your play call.

Labeling it "My never-ending attempt to spend tourism money in Hudson'' would have been a dead giveaway even among the non-sports fans following the saga of how and where Pasco County will spend its $10.5 million in accumulated tourist tax dollars.

The Mariano playbook included:

• The no-huddle offense. Mariano dumped nearly 90 pages of documents, mostly 20-year-old memos and tourism committee meeting minutes, on the rest of the commission to digest without a cover letter or explanation. His inability to articulate his intent left his teammates bewildered.

"I didn't even know why I was reading it,'' said Commissioner Michael Cox.

• The end around. Mariano said he wanted more input from the Tourist Development Council, an advisory panel appointed by the commission to make recommendations on tourist spending.

Essentially, though, he wanted to resurrect an ill-conceived plan to turn public land in Hudson over to a private entity without benefit of a state-mandated request for a proposal to all interested parties. The TDC never heard this idea before the commission correctly killed it last month.

• The double reverse. Pushing more responsibility to the advisory TDC would create the potential to obstruct contract negotiations between Pasco County and Sportsplex USA, a San Diego company working with the county to build and operate a tournament-level softball complex on 24 acres in Trinity.

Mariano, the only commissioner to vote against partnering with Sportplex, failed to adequately disguise this play.

"Aha, a light just went off,'' said Commissioner Ann Hildebrand when she figured out the fakes and misdirections.

• The audible. Mariano said a commission vote seeking private sector interest in running an athletic events center near Saddlebrook also should have been considered by the TDC.

Funny, but Mariano voted to support the request at a Jan. 12 commission meeting and never espoused his theory then that the TDC was being left out of the loop.

• The defense. This came not from Mariano, but from the fearsome foursome to his right.

"I'm really disappointed,'' said Chairman Pat Mulieri, who told Mariano his suggestions cast aspersions on the rest of the commission, making it seem like they weren't acting in the best interest of the public.

"I see no reason for us to be even having this discussion,'' said Commissioner Ted Schrader.

• The penalty. Delay of game called by the rest of the commission.

The gadget plays grow tiresome. Mariano remains on the short end of a 4-1 majority that shows little interest in seeking a sports tourism project for his Hudson-based district. The commission is proceeding on two fronts: pursuing athletic fields and a restaurant in Trinity and asking for public interest in operating an athletic center in Wesley Chapel.

Sportsplex USA management tagged Mariano as an obstructionist and he has done nothing to discredit that definition. Tuesday, the commissioner simply tried a different page from the playbook that, in the end, resembled a common play at the conclusion of a football game:

A Hail Mary that fell incomplete.

Pasco County Commissioner Jack Mariano slows down work with tourism tax play 02/11/10 [Last modified: Thursday, February 11, 2010 6:37pm]

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