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Seniors redefining scope of politics

The springtime of youth vs. the autumn of old age. Together they produce a tension that underlies nearly every public debate in a state heavily populated with retirees and pensioners.

But seldom does that tension erupt in the way it has this year in Hernando County, where voters will be asked Nov. 6 to approve two new taxes aimed primarily at youth and young families.

One would create a new social services agency for children; the other would expand the county's parks program.

"I don't want to pay for them because I'll never use them," 70-year-old Spring Hill resident Folke Erickson told county commissioners as they contemplated the proposed parks tax. "And I'm sure that the one-third of the citizens in this county who are over 65 simply can't afford to pay."

Others voiced similar complaints at the hearing in September, at one point shouting down a 16-year-old high-school student who spoke in favor of the parks tax.

"It got pretty nasty," County Administrator Chuck Hetrick said. "I don't think it's universal, but a lot of your elderly people feel they paid their dues to the young people and want to be left alone."

Or as Fred Wall told commissioners: "We just can't continue to be taxed to support projects that we have nothing to do with."