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A Times Editorial

A trail mix of missteps

Misleading times two

Neil Brickfield is trying to turn his race for Pinellas County Commission into a referendum on school spending. Don't be misled.

His campaign mailed a flier earlier this month attacking his opponent in the Republican primary, three-term School Board member Jane Gallucci, for low graduation rates and voting "to increase school spending by $800-million since 2004."

Brickfield's math does not add up. The total budget has increased from $1.1-billion to $1.5-billion since 2004, or half the amount he claims. But Brickfield says he counted the increases cumulatively each year, a peculiar method he did not to apply to his own record. As a Safety Harbor city commissioner, he reported he "cut property tax rates four times." He didn't say property taxes actually increased 15.5 percent during his tenure.

The attempt to brand Gallucci as a big-spender makes Brickfield look both devious and ill-informed. The Legislature sets the required property tax rate and state sales tax allocation for school district budgets, leaving school boards with little say. Brickfield said he knew about all that funding law, the Florida Education Finance Program, but also called it "the F-R-E-E-P."

This is a classic campaign distortion, and voters should be wary.

A false appraisal

Pinellas chief deputy property appraiser Pam Dubov can expect opponents to link her to her retiring boss, Jim Smith, and his distasteful land deal with county government. But an attempt by her Republican primary opponent, Frank Gregoire, to question her credentials is blatantly false.

In a mailing, Gregoire implies that Dubov is not "a professional appraiser" and compares his "licensed real estate broker" status with her lack of "licensed appraiser" status.

That's a meaningless distinction. The state no longer even issues a "licensed appraiser" designation. Rather, it declares someone as a "certified general appraiser" or a "certified residential appraiser." Gregoire is the latter.

By considerable contrast, Dubov is: a "certified Florida evaluator," a nationally "accredited senior appraiser" and an internationally "certified assessment evaluator." All signify that Dubov, who is also an attorney and an instructor on appraisal methodology, has achieved the highest distinctions in the field of assessment for property tax purposes.

No wonder Gregoire is twisting the truth.

Protecting the boss

One might think an incumbent sheriff would lack the time or inclination to challenge procedural violations in his opponent's ads. But more worrisome is the fact that Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats didn't file these official campaign complaints himself. His secretary did.

Three times since January, secretary Josephine Mattson or her husband has filed complaints against Randall Jones, one of two Democrats challenging Coats. Mattson told a Times reporter she did all the work at home, on her own, but used the notary stamp from the office. "I know not to use company time," she said, "because that's a huge violation."

This does not meet the smell test. Coats should know better than to look the other way while his department staff does his campaign's dirty work.

A trail mix of missteps 07/27/08 [Last modified: Wednesday, July 30, 2008 2:18pm]
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