There are many things you can buy for $100 million. You can build a world class park on the waterfront that helps revitalize downtown Clearwater that features an amphitheater and 19-acre park and still have $16 million left to spend, while generating revenue. You could also purchase almost five Dunedin City Halls (at a cost of $22 million each).
But the members of the Clearwater City Council think their most pressing need is a new City Hall for themselves. The price tag started at $30 million and has ballooned to $90 million. While the City Council has yet to commit to a particular price tag, it will easily top $100 million before all is said and done. All this for a building that brings no value to the city other than a nice office for those who work there, a city that already has a $250 million shortfall for such projects.
Like many, I was sad at Mayor Frank Hibbard’s sudden resignation with a year left in his term. But the attention should be placed on why he resigned. He was the only one trying to stand up against this fiscal insanity.
I have been a proud Clearwater resident for 15 years, and in 15 years I will still be living in this beautiful city. We have a world class beach, the best restaurants, and Ruth Eckerd Hall, and we are the spring home to the National League Champions. This is why so many visitors flock to our city every year — because Clearwater is paradise.
But Clearwater has been walking a dangerous path in the last few years. After we lost our longtime city manager, his replacement barely lasted a year. As the Tampa Bay Times recently reported, residents were charged for recycling even though the city wasn’t actually recycling. It was so egregious that the FBI has taken notice.
The City Council’s controversial plan for Drew Street will be bad for the small businesses along that important corridor while greatly impacting traffic. Condensing lanes on such an important travel artery makes no sense.
Our city is worth fighting for, and we cannot let these issues taint the Clearwater we know and love.
Clearwater needs new leadership. There is a long-standing tradition when there is an appointment on the City Council that the person who gets appointed does not seek reelection when the term is up. I would expect the current City Council to keep that tradition and not appoint one of their own. There are many capable candidates in Clearwater who fit this criteria and could be a caretaker in the mayor’s office for the next year.
Chris Latvala is the current Pinellas County Commissioner representing Clearwater (District 5). The former state representative has been a resident of the city for the past 15 years.