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Local victories come with warning: Shape up

The national campaign theme of change failed to resonate among Pasco County voters where a majority of the public is satisfied with the way its local government is run.

Voters retained Republicans in local, state legislative and congressional offices, but the status quo of officeholders should not construed as a blanket endorsement of all things local. Consider:

• Sheriff Bob White won a historic third consecutive term as sheriff — something that hadn't been accomplished in nearly half a century — even though slightly more than 50 percent of the voters didn't pick him in the three-person race.

White should make note of his falling vote total. Nearly 20,000 people who voted for White four years ago failed to do so Tuesday. When 16 percent of your support departs, it would be wise to re-evaluate your performance.

Over the next several months, the sheriff and County Commission should map out a long-range plan for public safety funding in light of the budget constraints from Amendment 1 property tax exemptions and falling sales tax collections. White's budget blustering of 2007 need not be repeated.

• Superintendent of Schools Heather Fiorentino should make good on her pledge of improving communications. Yes, it is a two-way street, but her relationship with the United School Employees of Pasco — schoolteachers and ancillary staffers — is in need of repair. (Roadside pickets don't pop up when people are happy with the way things are going.)

Fiorentino, as the elected leader of the district, should assert that leadership to try to improve employee morale, the traditional by-product of which is increased productivity.

• Commissioner Ann Hildebrand, elected to a seventh, four-year term, saw her raw vote total drop by a few hundred votes between 2004 and 2008 even though 22,000 more people voted Tuesday compared with four years ago. Likewise, the number of people who went to the polls, but did not vote in the commission races increased by 3,000 over four years ago.

It means newer residents take for granted or are unfamiliar with the aspects of Pasco County that have improved over the past two decades. The void of libraries, public parks, preserved land, public transportation and new highways predates their tenure here. Their familiarity with the quality-of-life infrastructure is accompanied by a sense of entitlement that is soured by new fees and reduced operating hours forced by Amendment 1.

Delivering quality, affordable services is the task ahead for Hildebrand, re-elected Commissioners Jack Mariano and Ted Schrader and the rest of the board members who were not on the 2008 ballot.

Votes didn't mandate wholesale changes, but a few tweaks certainly are in order.

Local victories come with warning: Shape up 11/05/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 7, 2008 8:17pm]
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