We have no problem with elected officials being passionate advocates and rallying political forces to back those passions. At some point, however, high-pressure advocacy becomes pointless overkill. Judging from this week’s Pasco County Commission meeting, Commission Chairman Jack Mariano should consider dialing down his efforts to pressure his commission colleagues into putting even more money in the county budget for SunWest Park, which is in his commission district.
We offer that advice in the wake of Tuesday’s commission meeting walkout by Commissioners Kathryn Starkey and Ted Schrader. They exited after two hours of people demanding that the commission add $450,000 in tourist tax revenue to the $4 million already tentatively budgeted for SunWest Park in fiscal 2015. Mariano wants the extra money for things such as a splash park for youngsters, a second set of bathrooms and a boardwalk. The other commissioners say $4 million is enough for now and those things can wait.
We’re not naive, and know Mariano has been arm twisting by proxy because he has good reason to believe it will work. The County Commission, as an institution, has a long and undistinguished record of kowtowing to public pressure of the sort Mariano has been mustering. On numerous occasions over the decades, it has reversed its earlier decision or, more frequently, ignored the advice or staff, legal counsel and advisory panels and made decisions — often on land use matters — that were later reversed by the courts.
Given that history, Mariano may get the other $450,000 for SunWest. The majority of the commission, however, seems to have drawn a line in the sand over SunWest.