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Eckhouse's removal from Planning and Zoning Board sends bad message

Removal sends a bad message

As a longtime citizen and former city attorney of Tarpon Springs, I feel compelled to voice my deep concern over action recently taken by our Tarpon Springs City Commission.

At the July 1 commission meeting, Tod Eckhouse was removed from the Planning and Zoning Board halfway through his three-year appointed term. To the best of my recollection, this has never previously occurred without cause. This action seems so unfair and egregious that it projects the appearance of being biased, exclusionary and even smacks of retribution.

Since moving to town only a couple of years ago, Mr. Eckhouse has had a very positive influence on Tarpon Springs. He has attended nearly all commission meetings and was appointed as an alternate member of the Planning and Zoning Board, where he distinguished himself as a fair and upstanding member. He has common sense, a 30-year real estate background and is extremely well qualified to serve the citizens in this capacity.

It has always been the custom to advance an alternate to a permanent position when a permanent member resigns. In this case, however, in an unprecedented, last-minute, highly irregular move, the commission removed Mr. Eckhouse from the board entirely. It replaced him with John Tarapani as a permanent member and Bill Vinson as the alternate. While both are well qualified, they are not more qualified than Mr. Eckhouse.

What kind of message is our commission sending to the current board members and other citizens who are contemplating volunteer public service? From this point forward, no citizen can expect any loyalty from our commission. They can now serve with trepidation that they may receive a public slap in the face and humiliation as their reward.

There is not any valid, logical reason for the removal of Mr. Eckhouse. It is, however, interesting to note a couple of facts:

• Mr. Eckhouse tends to be vocal at commission meetings and occasionally critiques the Board of Commissioners. This is precisely the type of citizen Tarpon needs, and not one against whom retribution without cause should be applied.

• It is the Planning and Zoning Board that, among other things, recommends to the commission approval or denial of possible building developments, thereby influencing the location of those buildings and future growth patterns within the city.

We should all expect our leaders to make well-thought-out decisions demonstrating fair play and loyalty toward our hard-working volunteers. This is especially so when the candidate is as highly qualified as Mr. Eckhouse.

Donald E. Scholl, Tarpon Springs

Re: No layoffs in Safety Harbor | story, July 24

Commission sets a great example

I applaud the Safety Harbor City Commission for an intelligent and thorough 2008-09 proposed budget. This is how public officials should conduct themselves when faced with tough financial constraints that they have to operate under at the present time.

It appears that every department has had to tighten up to an extent, but without a layoff of current employees and a major reduction in essential services.

It is too bad that other municipal governments within Pinellas County refuse to display the wisdom that Safety Harbor has demonstrated, by continuing to fund their sacred cows at the cost of laying off long-term employees and/or drastically reducing one or two essential services as if to punish the citizens for daring to ask for tax relief.

Patrick Kroeger, Palm Harbor

Re: City itches to grow | story, July 22

Annexation not such a bad thing

I realize my viewpoint may not be popular, as, according to the article, annexation of areas outside Oldsmar has been voted down in the past.

However, since moving to Florida in 1995, I have been disappointed with the attitude favored by some of the populace to remain unincorporated. These are folk who want to have good schools, good roads, good libraries and numerous government services.

It should cost something to belong to a city or county, and the benefits to all would be worth the added responsibilities. But cost should not be the main issue. The main issue is shared civic commitment to our communities.

Those in favor of living independent of cities or county seem to be like the pioneers of the past, who lived alone in miles of wilderness. Today, Pinellas County is very populated and has experienced tremendous growth.

The time has come for these areas to be incorporated. The focus can then shift to continued improvement in the organization of services between cities and county, to better serve all the citizens of the county.

Jill M. Rommel, Oldsmar

Re: For better or worse, Spam's popular again | Diane Steinle column, July 20

Spam brings up military memories

I wonder how many younger persons started reading the article thinking it had to do with "spam" on the computer? That was the first thing I thought of, and I read it, wondering why computer spam would deserve a place in your column.

However, as I continued to read the column, it brought back some memories from 1955, when we were stationed in Alaska with the U.S. Air Force. Spam canned meat was a good meal with fried potatoes and a salad.

It seemed like the last week of every month, we ate C-rations (as they were called), because the monthly check was used up by then. We didn't borrow money unless a real necessity came up, so we ate what was available and didn't know we were poor. We were just out of money until the first of the month, and we survived, just like you did on Spam in your college years.

It was a good memory, so thanks for letting us know how blessed we are today.

Fran Glaros-Sharp, Clearwater

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Eckhouse's removal from Planning and Zoning Board sends bad message 07/24/08 [Last modified: Sunday, July 27, 2008 7:12pm]
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