What does he know, and when did he know it?

Contributing Columnist

The question I am most often asked is how I stay in touch with the goings on the key to be able to write a column each week.

The answer is that the issues that come up are almost always issues that have been faced in the past. One of the arguments against term limits is that problems that have been discussed and dealt with seem to be revisited with every change of leadership, so I find myself remembering and reporting on things past.

I was thinking of this when the idea resurfaced that it would be less costly if the United States government paid for the renourishment of the beach. Even before I had a chance to give our history on this subject, the impracticality of the idea was already explained and, as it had been in the past, buried.

Another gasp from the past is the idea of a community recreation center. This was a very heavily argued idea that eventually had to be resolved with a referendum. This vote went fairly heavily against the project. I was involved in pushing the plan and was sorry to see it fail, but fail it did.

There were objections, and it will be helpful for the current advocates to revisit the arguments against and either make the corrections or better explain the benefits.

The old project had two totally separate groups of enthusiasts. One group was concerned with the lack of facilities for exercise programs, fitness center equipment and concentration on the physical side of the residents’ wellbeing.

The other group saw the new building as a place that could make a wonderful contribution to the intellectual side. They felt that the large auditorium would be a mecca for lecture series, authors’ book tour events and additional space for the Education Center, especially those courses that were overflowing the current center’s facilities. It was also expected that the SILL Lectures could be shown through closed circuit. Unfortunately, for those in favor of a center, the two sides were not often on the same page.

There was a part of the opposition that had a hint of class envy. There were a small group of tennis players that, for one reason or another, felt they were being excluded from the town Tennis Center, so they made a big deal out of the elimination of the cement tennis courts. This played on previously held prejudices and was a big factor in the defeat.

With the leading exponent of the center, who was both the architect and the major proponent now being the mayor of the town, I am sure that all of these issues will be addressed and hopefully resolved. Whether Mayor Brown will be able to tell a story that will be more successful in convincing the voters this time remains to be seen. From a cost standpoint, if it is done with a general obligation bond issue, the individual contribution per taxpayer will be minimal. However, in this anti-tax era, no vote can be taken for granted.

The major argument that the pro growth group makes is that they want to energize the community. A well-run community center can be a major focus, and with the shrinking presence of the Art Center and the disappearance of the LBK Golf Club as a municipal gathering place, the community center might be the best thing that could happen to bring the residents together.

On another note, in what has to be one of the strangest ironies I have seen in many a year, the state legislature and the governor in their zeal to remove any restrictions on developers has passed a law that prohibits a town from holding a referendum to increase density. Since the Longboat Key Charter only allows a change in density by referendum and now since the town is not allowed to hold a referendum, the density as set by the charter is set in stone and can no longer be raised.

In short, the change in the law now makes it impossible under current law to add density, which is really what the writers of the charter wanted in the first place. They were advised that would have been illegal, so they put in the referendum as the supposedly fatal stumbling block. Now that the state has made it illegal to hold a referendum, it makes it even more difficult to expand than it was before the legislators meddled in. Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. There should be a few red faces in right-wing Republican circles in Tallahassee.

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