There may be hope for Port Richey.
In a progressive lurch forward Monday, the hyperpolitical "City of the Darned" advanced on two fronts. First, sponsors of an inane recall petition were forced to cancel their game for lack of public support. Second, the City Council voted to approve a new city charter. Port Richey voters will decide whether to approve the charter on their April 12 ballot. Taken together these developments offer some reason for optimism.
The demise of the recall petition provides a measure of relief to the city from the sort of political banality which for years has impeded professional management. Sponsors of the recall petition, who wryly refer to themselves as the "Due Process Committee," wanted to remove council members Jack England, Pat Guttman and Madolyn Salzillo for reasons which are notable only for their pettiness. Such minor bickering has posed a chronic impediment to good government in Port Richey. For far too long council members and local gadflys have paralyzed the city, using council chambers as their personal playpen. Any indication, no matter how minor, that change is possible should come as good news to long suffering city residents.
Another indication of possible change came Monday night as the council sat down for the second reading of its new city charter. Though petty bickering prevailed for hours, the council ultimately approved the document.
This is, perhaps, the single most important action of the council in years. Council members deserve credit for acting in the best interest of their constituents for a change, instead of their own egos. The new charter would establish a city manager form or government in which city employees could function as professionals instead of political pawns. Voters should rush to the polls to approve it April 12 for it may be their last hope of salvaging a city from the political train wreck that is Port Richey.
Because the council would be empowered under the new charter to appoint a city manager, voters also should carefully consider their choices to fill contested council seats. Voters should vote for candidates who strongly support the charter and profess a sincere commitment to adhere to its principles. With any luck, the 1994 election in Port Richey will lay the foundation for municipal renewal.