(ran NTP edition)
A thick envelope landed a few weeks ago in the mailbox of Tim Curtain, elected official.
To run for re-election, Curtain would have to meet a heavy load of requirements. He would have to fill out a financial disclosure form, designate a bank account for his campaign fund, sign a loyalty oath, collect 15 signatures on a petition, post a bond at the county courthouse, and swear he had read and understood 38 pages of legal fine print.
"There's not a fat chance in hell that it is going to be done," Curtain said, laughing. "It's a joke."
Curtain holds the position of vice president of the Carrollwood South special taxing district and has been in office for 10 years. No one has ever run against him, he said, let alone cared about the job he holds.
Yet, come election time, the state treats Curtain and officers at 36 other neighborhood taxing districts in Hillsborough like bona fide politicians. Even county Supervisor of Elections Pam Iorio calls it ridiculous and wants to see it changed.
"It would be like me saying, "Come over to my house for dinner, but first fill out this form,' " she said. "That's kind of intimidating to most people."
Iorio said she will ask the County Commission to change Hillsborough's laws to let commissioners appoint neighborhood board members _ something that happens anyway with offices that no one files for.
Last year, just 63 candidates qualified for 164 open seats. No race was contested.
Still, county law required Iorio's office to mail out more than 160 qualifying packets, assign a staff member to process the forms and then call candidates who made minor mistakes in their paperwork.
"They get appointed anyway. So what's this all about?" Iorio asked.
District officers, most of whom don't get paid, do exercise power. They set fees used to maintain lawns, parks and walls, which prop up suburban property values. The Carrollwood South district collected $4,575 last year from the subdivision's 63 families, according to tax records. In Northdale, Country Place collected $80,400, and in Citrus Park, Logan Gate Village took in $97,300, records show.
And from time to time, some districts actually see races. In Twelve Oaks in Town 'N Country, where residents are debating whether to install gates at the subdivision's entrances, 12 people are running for four open seats.
"That's dramatic," said Rick Eldridge, president of that neighborhood's taxing district and a candidate for re-election. "We have not had a contested election in 10 years."
So for Eldridge, exacting elections requirements make sense. The rules ensure he won't be accused of financial mismanagement or voting impropriety, he said.
"I think it's absolutely required," he said. "We are elected officers under the auspices of the secretary of state and subject not only to the Sunshine Laws but also to the scrutiny that comes along with it."
"I got a letter titled "The Honorable Richard Eldridge,' " he said. "It blew me away. I'm just Rick. But it reinforces what we are doing as an independent district."
But for most boards, which see little action for years, all the formality seems out of place. Florida's open government laws, for example, prohibit board members from talking about business on the phone or over dinner.
That requirement makes Curtain scoff. The Carrollwood South board _ mainly Curtain and his wife, and a neighbor, Michael Collins, and his wife _ can't get anyone to attend the group's meeting in the Collins' living room.
So occasionally, Curtain said, the families will talk shop over dinner, not to mention the Sunshine violations that take place in the kitchen, car or elsewhere between Curtain and his wife, Sue.
Here's a list of candidates running in special taxing districts in North of Tampa neighborhoods.
Arlington Special Dependent District _ 5 seats. Marty Bubley, Gregory Hendrickson
Beacon Meadows Special Dependent Tax District _ 4 seats. David Stoops
Carrollwood Meadows Special Dependent Tax District _ 6 seats. Mary Watson, Lillian Weisbrod, Artie Fryer, Randall Leonard, Judith Allee
Carrollwood North Special Dependent Tax District _ 4 seats. Justin Alexander, William Lee Chafin Jr.
Carrollwood Recreation District+ _ 4 seats. Rebecca Hanley, Kim Joyner-Diaz, James Ruyle
Carrollwood South Special Dependent Tax District _ 7 seats. None
Country Lakes Special Dependent Tax District _ 4 seats. None
Country Place Maintenance District _ 3 seats. None
Country Run Maintenance District _ 4 seats. Roger Smith, Laurie Smith.
Hunter's Lake Special Dependent Tax District _ 4 seats. None
Lake Magdalene Special Dependent Tax District _ 7 seats. Peggy Carsey, Joe Cutrano, Dana Hardee, Thayne Swenson, David Snyder.
Northdale Maintenance District+ _ 5 seats. None
Sugarwood Grove Special District _ 6 seats. None
Tarawood Special Dependent Tax District _ 4 seats. None
Village Estates West Special Dependent Tax District _ 7 seats. Stan Rakita, Brian Goodrich, Diana M. Lopez, Edmundo Lopez, Marge Rawls, Mark Louis Daboll.
TOWN 'N COUNTRY
Bay Crest Special District _ 4 seats. Patricia Gillis, Harry Paddock.
The Cove at Bayport Colony Special Dependent Tax District _ 5 seats. John Russek, Linda Slack, Bret Walley
Hammock Woods Special Dependent Tax District _ 3 seats. None
Logan Gate Village Special Dependent Tax District _ 7 seats. Michael Quillen.
Twelve Oaks Special District _ 4 seats. John Burns, Richard Eldridge, Michael Griffith, Nancy Henjum, Gregory Saden, Maxim Saus, Karen Uhlig, Kenneth Walker, Robert Taylor, George Mogan, Marty McMahon, Lynda MacPherson.
Lake Brant Special Dependent District _ 4 seats. William Ryan, Dan Romesburg.
Lake Heather Special Dependent Tax District _ 4 seats. Hal Pochop, Stuart Benet
North Lakes Maintenance District _ 4 seats. None
Tampa Palms Community Development District+ _ 3 seats. Bob Doran, Mary Seitz, Bill Schneider, Shawn Harrison, Mark Fitzpatrick, Julie Roberson Wolfe.
Windemere Special Dependent Tax District _ 3 seats. None
+ The Carrollwood Recreation District, the Northdale Maintenance District and the Twelve Oaks Special District are set up by state law, unlike the other boards. The Tampa Palms Community Development District is different because it pays members a salary.