1. Archive

This idea's been hanging for too long

Published Sep. 26, 2005

If you didn't think a new century was just around the corner, check this out.

Two, count 'em two, good ideas have come out of Citrus County governmental agencies in less than a week.

That's sort of like learning that Bill Clinton told the truth, Jeb Bush had a clue about public image and Al Gore could get down and funky _ all at the same time. The mind just can't absorb it all at once.

First it was Crystal River police Chief James Farley coming up with a pretty good idea for mounted patrols and doing it out of an understanding of the community and its special events and needs.

This time it's the Citrus County School Board, schools Superintendent Pete Kelly, Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy and School Board Chairwoman Sandra "Sam" Himmel with the idea of opening up school parking lots for extended tailgate parties before and after sporting events.

And something Himmel said in support of the idea is an extremely telling statement.

"When I graduated in 1972, there was nothing for kids to do, and there's still nothing for kids to do around here," Himmel said.


I'll bet if Himmel does a little research she will find someone who was running for elected office in Citrus County then on the strength of his or her commitment to kids and agonizing loudly about how there is nothing for them to do. It's a North Suncoast tradition just as important to any politician as hating Swiftmud, putting down the Department of Transportation and, in Citrus County, being in favor of either hugging manatees or leaving them the heck alone (both sides have about the same number of supporters on that one, but it is ignored at your peril).

Of course, the rest of the tradition is that the kids, the water and the manatees quickly take a back seat to other concerns and, as Himmel so aptly pointed out, not much happens.

And, the thing is, the kids aren't all that demanding.

You only have to take a ride through any city in Pasco, Hernando or Citrus counties (except for those portions of Pasco where children are outlawed) to see them gathering in parking lots (and driving, almost always counterclockwise for some reason, around and around the town square if there is one).

That's what they do, kids.

They gather.

They (and please spare me if the lingo has changed since noon) "hang."

Problem is they generally have their choices of using parking lots that are private property and ducking cops and merchants, or they wind up in the woods or sand dunes where, frequently, more than hanging takes place, totally unsupervised.

No, supervised parking lot parties are not going keep kids from parking in the woods, driving drunk or getting into other kinds of mischief, but it will give some kids an alternative, and it will give parents a chance to give their kids permission to go someplace that they can be checked on.

More important, it is an all too seldom heard government effort at fixing a problem rather than just hand-wringing over it and ignoring it simultaneously.

And sheriff's Lt. James Martone chimed in with a couple of good ideas (Kids, this is a cop talking) about downtown block parties, and the whole thing would involve student participation in the planning and execution.

Yes, it will cost money . . . to do something that has been promised for decades and left largely undone.

It is as important for the message it sends, that someone in charge is finally interested in doing something, as it is for immediate benefits it might confer.

If for no other reason, Citrus pols should do it just because all this good government at one time is scaring me to death. Port Richey already started the ball rolling by becoming (as far as I've heard) relatively sane. The other night I drove past U.S. 41 and State Road 54 in Pasco County and almost didn't recognize the intersection without the barricades and construction that have choked it for nearly a year.

Much more of this efficiency, and I'm going to have to go find a real job.