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In Tarpon: 5 questions that deserve yes votes

Tarpon Springs residents have some choices to make in a referendum election Tuesday on subjects as diverse as buying park land, contributing city lots for low-income housing, altering the city charter and inviting cable TV competition.

Voters will have five referendum items to decide with a yes or no vote. Another question (it would have been item No. 4 on the ballot) was withdrawn because it involved a land purchase related to the ABR Information Services project, a moot issue once ABR decided to move to St. Petersburg.

Each referendum item is worthy of voter approval.

The ballot will include:

ITEM NO. 1: The charter currently requires high-ranking city employees to move inside city limits within a year of being hired. In 1994, voters decided that city department heads and charter officials should live in Tarpon Springs.

Now, city officials say they would like more flexibility in hiring the best people for city jobs. This item would change the rule so that city commissioners could excuse the residency requirement for an additional year for an employee who had a good reason not to move.

This is a reasonable change to the charter. A valued city employee might have a valid excuse for not immediately moving inside city limits. Why should the city lose that person's talents because of an inflexible rule?

The Times recommends a yes vote.

ITEM NO. 2: This question asks voters for permission to purchase a residential lot in Trentwood Manor for not more than $100,000 so the city can turn the site into a mini-park.

There is no recreational facility in this subdivision, so the city would like to buy a house and lot and turn it into a park. The neighborhood supports the idea.

The Times recommends a yes vote.

ITEM NO. 3: This question seeks voter approval for the city to transfer lots it owns in the Union Academy neighborhood to a non-profit group to build low- to moderate-income housing. This would not only provide an affordable home to a family that needs it but also would return property to the tax rolls.

The Times recommends a yes vote.

ITEM NO. 5: This would allow the city to extend the length of its contract with its pension plan administrator, Variable Life Insurance Co., from five years to 10 years. City officials say the longer contract would provide more stability for the pension program.

The Times recommends a yes vote.

ITEM NO. 6: Voters are asked to approve a 10-year franchise agreement with GTE Media Ventures to provide cable TV service inside the city. The city charter allows only five-year franchises without voter approval, but GTE wanted a longer commitment so it could recoup its investment. GTE would compete with TCI Cablevision, and competition usually gives consumers more choices and better service, and sometimes it lowers prices.

The Times recommends a yes vote.

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