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Something fishy going on and it's not the mermaids

Maybe it's something in the water.

How else to explain the fishy ways the Weeki Wachee commission continues to operate the City of Mermaids?

The commission was already doing a whale of a job turning public opinion against it by doubling the property tax rate, blowing hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys to fight a losing battle to take over Florida Water Services, and maintaining _ unconvincingly _ that the government and the attraction are separate entities.

But now we learn that in the week or so leading up to today's hearing by the county's state legislative delegation, which will consider revoking the city's charter, the commission has held at least two meetings that were not fully noticed to the public. It seems the commission just gathers willy-nilly on short notice, with scant regard for seeking advice from taxpayers.

Given the downward spiral the city's leaders are in, and previous statements by Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey, who has been pointedly critical of the commission, today's hearing should be, as one network likes to boast, "must-see TV."

The hearing will be broadcast live at 2 p.m. on Hernando County Government Broadcasting, which is Channel 19 for Bright House cable customers.

Chairwoman Betty Whitehouse didn't have to say a thing, but at Tuesday's Hernando County Commission meeting, she said enough to let her constituents know she's a class act.

Whitehouse, who is in the last year of her first term on the commission, has been facing some challenges to her health. She fell and broke a leg just before Christmas, and since then it has been evident that she has not been at the top of her game. Rumors have swirled about what might be wrong.

Recognizing that residents deserved some explanation, Whitehouse, 64, announced Tuesday she has been diagnosed with a malignant tumor in her colon, and that she would not be able to attend meetings for a while. She is scheduled for surgery today in Tampa.

Because health is such a deeply personal topic, one can certainly appreciate how difficult it was for Whitehouse to make such a declaration. That was evident as she teared up toward the end of her statement.

But my hat's off to her for understanding that being an elected public servant puts her in a hybrid category that obliges her to disclose more than others about her personal life. The same goes for School Board member Sandra Nicholson, who recently underwent heart bypass surgery.

I hope both also understand that the people who put them into office are concerned, not just curious, about their well-being.

So, Karen Thurman will not enter the ring for a rematch with U.S. Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite, the Brooksville Republican who unseated Thurman in 2002.

With all due respect to Brian Moore, who is running as a Democrat against Brown-Waite this year, and Cindy Cino, who is registered as an independent in Citrus County, Thurman's decision all but assures the incumbent another two-year term.

National Democratic Party leaders aren't likely to steer any serious money toward the 5th Congressional District unless there is a candidate of at least Thurman's stature in the race. Try as they may, neither Moore nor Cino can match Thurman's name recognition, her experience or her campaign contributions. Truth be told, Democrats don't have anyone in the 5th District who can fill that bill, making this Brown-Waite's race for Congress more like a stroll.

The political scene will be much more exciting locally. So far, 27 candidates are on the ballot, which includes two seats on the School Board, all the constitutional offices and county judge.

But the County Commission races are the most hotly contested. Sixteen of the 27 candidates are vying for three seats on the commission. Five candidates have filed to unseat Commissioner Diane Rowden, three want to take over Commissioner Mary Aiken's job, and six believe they can do a better job than Betty Whitehouse.

Rowden and Aiken have filed for re-election; Whitehouse, understandably occupied with other matters, has not.

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