Hospital urges: Vote for changes
The March 11 Tarpon Springs municipal election will include three referendum questions on the ballot of great importance to Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital and the community it serves.
As chairman of the hospital's Board of Trustees, I urge citizens to vote yes on the three referendum questions that concern the future growth and progress of the delivery of health care services in our community. Each of the questions proposes an amendment to the city of Tarpon Springs' existing lease of Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital to the hospital's operating foundation.
Referendum question No. 1 asks voters if they will consent to the sale of leased property the foundation owns (consisting of three parcels of land just north of Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital). The city is proposing that this property be sold to AG Armstrong to be included in the land needed for a major retail, residential and medical office development.
The hospital's Board of Trustees believes the construction of a medical office complex as a part of this development will be a major benefit to the residents of Tarpon Springs. The medical office complex would provide the needed office space to doctors and other medical service providers so they may locate or relocate their practices here in town and in close proximity to the hospital. With more medical practices located right here in Tarpon Springs, residents will have convenient access to their health care provider and a variety of physician specialists.
In addition, the developer will include a provision in the development agreement that gives the hospital the exclusive right to use 100 parking spaces in a parking garage to be constructed. The medical office complex is an important complement to the high-quality patient care services already available at Helen Ellis and is vital to the expansion of those services.
Also related to the above described development, referendum question No. 2 would amend the lease to exclude a 1.6-acre city-owned parcel from the current city/hospital lease. This would allow the city to sell this property to the developer to be used as part of the development.
Referendum question No. 3 asks voters to approve the sale of the Helen Ellis Medical Arts Center, a medical office building at 2114 Seven Springs Blvd. in Pasco County. Currently, the building is leased to several physician practices.
Although the hospital owns this facility and leases space to medical providers, the facility provides no benefit to the existing hospital campus. Therefore, the hospital Board of Trustees has authorized the sale, subject to voter approval, of this office building.
The proceeds are to be restricted for the further development of patient care services at the main hospital campus here in Tarpon Springs. All funds from the sale must be designated for capital purposes only, including hospital facility improvements and major medical equipment purchases.
Again, on behalf of the Board of Trustees of Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital, I urge the residents of Tarpon Springs to vote yes on these three referendum ballot questions.
N. Michael Kouskoutis, chairman, Board of Trustees, Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital, Tarpon Springs
Re: Tarpon Springs referendum questions on Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital.
Hospital ex-leader endorses changes
As a former director of the Helen Ellis Memorial Hospital board for 19 years, I have received many calls and inquiries from local citizens regarding the referendum items on the ballot in the March 11 municipal election.
My primary concern has been the welfare of this community. I have gone on record that I support the hospital.
F. Kettrell Powell, Tarpon Springs
Dunedin ballot issues examined
Several Dunedin voters have asked me to explain and comment on the four Dunedin City Charter amendment items which are on the March 11 Dunedin ballot.
I was chairman of the 2006 Charter Review Committee. The Charter Review Committee voted overwhelmingly to retain the current at-large plurality system of electing city commissioners. Mayor Bob Hackworth and Commissioners Dave Eggers and Julie Bujalski voted against the Charter Review Committee recommendation on numbered seats. Commissioners Deborah Kynes and Julie Scales voted to accept all the Charter Review Committee recommendations.
Either method of electing commissioners (by plurality or numbered seats) will be an at-large, citywide election.
As you know, the Dunedin City Commission consists of a mayor and four commissioners. Elections are staggered so that no more than two commissioners are up for election in a given year. The mayor runs separately during the same election as two commissioners.
Under the current plurality system, the two candidates who get the most votes are elected. Under the proposed numbered seats system, each candidate would declare for a seat number. The candidate who gets the most votes in each citywide seat will be elected.
Although there have been extensive studies on various methods of election, there is no empirical evidence that numbered seats are better than our current method. In fact, the results of these studies, which the Dunedin Charter Review Commission considered, do not support the argument that numbered seats result in more candidates and higher voter turnout. Past charter review committees have considered this issue and, like the 2006 committee, recommended keeping the current system.
Municipalities in Pinellas County use both systems. About half use the plurality system that Dunedin has and half use numbered seats.
The four proposed charter changes are on the ballot as four separate items. Items 2, 3 and 4 are relatively minor changes to the charter. Item 2 moves one section to another place in the charter where it is more appropriate. Item 3 changes "and/or" to "or" for clarity. Item 4 expands the time limit for filing referendum petitions from 30 to 60 days.
The committee felt that 30 days is not a reasonable amount of time to collect and file citizen petitions.
I am opposed to numbered seats because I think it will increase negative, personal attack campaigns. I support amendment items 2, 3 and 4.
To see the sample Dunedin ballot on the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Web site, go to www.voterfocus.com/hosting/pinellas/index.php?id=425
Bill Francisco, Dunedin
Re: Amendments would bring fairer elections, editorial, Feb. 28
Vote against numbered seats
You state that the Times recommends Dunedin voters cast a vote in favor of charter amendment question No. 1. This change would mean a change in the method we use to elect city commissioners from our current plurality to assigned seats.
Upon reading your reasoning, I cannot see the logic in your recommendation. You tell us numbered seats are used by many cities around us. Turn this around and it is not used by many cities around us. You say that this year, using our current plurality method, at least one incumbent returns to office. If we were in your assigned seat situation, the newcomer would be running against one of the two incumbents; thus, at least one incumbent would be guaranteed a seat also.
Dunedin is a small town, and as far as I know has not had a problem with the current election process. I have only seen personal attacks happen a few times and when they did I felt it exemplified dirty politics. Now, as I see it, we have newcomers stepping forward to run for Dunedin City Commission because they have made the decision to serve the city. They have not come out and made personal attacks on incumbents.
To change to a numbered seat system will promote groups or individuals targeting incumbents. When this happens, you will get a good idea what dirty politics is all about.
Last year the St. Petersburg Times asked why it was so difficult to get qualified candidates to run for local office. The answer is, "No one wants to get involved with the dirty politics." Good people are willing and able to serve but they do not want to put up with the name-calling and questioning of character.
It seems this City Commission is not satisfied with sound recommendations. The commission asks a qualified, intelligent committee to very carefully look into the election process and bring back a recommendation. Seems our commission has a very difficult time delegating.
I think your recommendation on this amendment change is wrong for Dunedin.
We are known as Delightful Dunedin and if we are to remain delightful, the citizens must vote no on question No. 1 on March 11.
David R. Pauley, Dunedin