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2000: So many fiascoes, so little newsprint

What a year.

We said hello to Chad and goodbye to Hap. The next president of the United States stopped for a visit. Voters fired a Cannon. Three City Council seats changed hands in Port Richey after the regularly scheduled April election, but voters only got to select one of the replacements. Election debates focused on crotches and a naked lady. Sylvia Young bid adieu after 20 years as a county commissioner. Dade City Mayor Charles McIntosh left City Hall for the Edwinola. The Pasco Republican Party picked a fight with itself.

Such a politically active year deserves an award. We are happy to oblige. In the tradition of Esquire magazine's dubious achievements, we present the Pasco Platitudes for the year 2000.

PREMATURE ASSESSMENT: Dade City attorney Joe McClain wrote a Nov. 16 letter to newspapers complimenting Supervisor of Elections Kurt Browning.

"He (Browning) and the canvassing board got it right the first time, and we can be proud that there have been no images from Pasco County on television of anyone holding ballot cards up the light, or discussions of "pregnant chad" or dimpled chad," McClain wrote.

Nine days later, lawyers for Texas Gov. George W. Bush sued Browning and the canvassing board, contending they unfairly disallowed some absentee ballots from overseas.

Bush's lawyer?

Dennis J. Alfonso, McClain's partner and son-in-law.

MEDIA DARLING: State Rep. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, appeared on national television 75 times between the election and mid-December, according to an estimate from the majority office in the Florida House of Representatives.

RESUME BRIGHTENER: Retiring County Commissioner Sylvia Young listed battling a grasshopper infestation as one of her top accomplishments during 20 years in office.

THE NEW GROWTH MANAGEMENT ACT: Tom Lincoln, a member of Citizens for Sanity who announced then dropped a Democratic candidacy against Fasano, argued against County Commission approval of the massive Connerton new-town project in central Pasco.

Lincoln's preferred alternative?

"Seize the land."

MEDIA CRITIC: Port Richey City Council member Joe Menicola complained the St. Petersburg Times focuses on non-stories. Among the non-stories covered since Menicola's election was his organization and execution of a citywide trash cleanup day and his plan to collect school supplies for needy children.

POLITICAL CRITIC: Menicola's first agenda item as a Port Richey City Council member was to seek to remove the Spirit of '76 Republican Club's name from an adopt-a-highway clean-up sign along Washington Street in Port Richey.

POWER PLAY: New Port Richey Council member Tom Finn said he was muscled off the city's mural committee by fellow council member Virginia Miller.

WOMEN IN BLACK: On the day they discussed adoption of a tougher dress code for school students, all five members of the Pasco School Board wore similar looking dark-colored suits.

OOOPS: Commissioner Pat Mulieri signed a letter saying she and other commissioners objected to anti-SLAPP suit legislation proposed in Tallahassee. One little problem _ the County Commission hadn't discussed the bill and its biggest backers were Mulieri's core group of grass-roots water activists in Land O' Lakes.

DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS: Pasco County Commissioner Steve Simon and Sen. Jack Latvala spoke about their different opinions on water issues during a chance meeting at the Chasco Fiesta parade in March.

Here's Simon's account: "He strode across 30 yards to reach me, his fists clenched. He said, "Who the "f' do you think you are?' I was terrified. My hands were shaking. I didn't know what had set him off."

UNSUCCESSFUL ELECTIONEERING: Delivered to a mailbox near you was campaign literature from Eileen Ferdinand about her opponent's idea to paint a giant naked lady mural in New Port Richey and an accusation from David "Hap" Clark that his adversary had pulled an employee into a private office to discuss her crotch. Republican County Commission Ed Poulin ran advertisements that boasted he was for school choice. Jack Armstrong's mailer was critical of the incumbent who had dropped out of the race two months earlier.

All lost.

DO WE HAVE A QUORUM? Newly elected commissioners Ted Schrader and Peter Altman and County Attorney Robert Sumner all announced potential conflicts of interest on unrelated matters during the Nov. 21 board meeting.

GRIEF COUNSELING: Now ex-Sheriff Lee Cannon addressed reporters after the January fatal shooting of a student at Ridgewood High School, but was interrupted by a teenage girl.

"Why is my friend dead?" she asked.

"You need to go look in a mirror if you want to start blaming people," Cannon snapped.

YEA, BUT WHAT WILL HE TELL HIS CLIENTS? In December, Cannon accepted a job with the Hillsborough Public Defender's Office protecting the rights of juveniles facing felony charges in adult court.

SOCIAL EVENT OF THE YEAR: Any post-Port Richey City Council gathering at the Seaside Inn. Participants, however, warn that conversations center on Tiger Woods and other guy stuff.

IN THE DARK: A transformer failed during Texas Gov. George W. Bush's October visit to Pasco-Hernando Community College, leaving the crowded gymnasium without lights. The Republican-dominated crowd cheered, believing the darkened hall was part of the script.

BUT IT'S NOTHING PERSONAL: "She calls me the carpetbagger from Georgia and I call her the harlot from Dade City." _ developer Bill Adair explaining his soured relationship with then-County Commissioner Sylvia Young amid a scuttled deal to get Pasco free land to expand Burks park.

A PICTURE'S WORTH 1,000 WORDS: At Young's behest, the County Commission voted to produce, frame and display images of Pasco County's network of parks and libraries after news of the botched park land deal with Adair became public.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The Pasco Sheriff's Office said it "misplaced" an undisclosed amount of money from an undisclosed criminal case from an undisclosed location inside its property evidence building. The money isn't missing, officials said, because they haven't finished looking for it.

TELLING IT LIKE IT IS: Showing that word semantics aren't exclusive property of Lee Cannon, new Sheriff Bob White dismissed 10 employees Thursday but said the terminations should not be characterized as firings.

"It's not a matter of being fired or asked to resign," White said. "They were told in a polite, courteous and professional way that they would not be reappointed."

Presumably, White's new hires are now looking for the money that's not lost.

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