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Can we restore civility to Safety Harbor now?


Tranquility. That was the reason my wife and I decided to buy our first home here more than 13 years ago. Now that the second bitter, divided election cycle in a row is behind us, I must ask my neighbors: Can we now restore civility to the city we all love?

Disagreements on issues affecting the city always have been present, and they always will be. Even in a city of 17,000 people, it’s impossible to make everyone happy all of the time. But in the past two years, these disputes have gotten nastier. Much, much nastier.

I’m tired of it.

And I believe most residents are tired of it, too.

In the past two elections, we’ve witnessed the petty stealing of campaign signs, and the almost-as-petty wasting of Sheriff’s Office resources reporting those thefts. We’ve listened in horror as dozens of our fellow citizens heckled candidates at a forum, and residents threaten violence on each other at that same forum. And while I felt blessed that we had four strong candidates to choose from in Tuesday’s election, I felt disappointed when every single one of them chose to use their campaign fliers to tell me why not to vote for their opponent. I was hoping at least one would simply tell me why to vote for he or she instead.

This isn’t Washington, D.C. This is Safety Harbor, Florida. Negative campaigning should have no place here.

I’m tired of it.

And I believe most residents are tired of it, too.

Our city has been torn apart over a debate falsely framed as an absolute. Not every tree should be saved, though most should. Not every building should be built, though some should. One can be “pro-development” and still love trees. One can be “pro-environment” and still see the value in development. They key, as in with most things in life, is balance. And that’s been lost as rational citizens like myself have let extremists on both sides take our city away from us.

I’m tired of it.

And I believe most residents are tired of it, too.

Imagine for a minute if those who feel the need to disrespect our elected officials at the commission podium, and those who feel the need to disrespect our elected officials in cartoons posted to a Facebook page, would rechannel all of that passion and love that they clearly have for our city into positive pursuits, instead of negative ones? Imagine what could be accomplished. So, so much. The longer we let those who seek to divide speak loudest, the sooner it will be that those of us who seek to unite will have no voice at all.

The four candidates who sought office on Tuesday probably felt they needed to cater to the extremists on their “teams” to be elected. But the election is over. It’s time to govern. And to the five excellent commissioners who are leading our city now, I offer this: You can’t govern to the extremes. You have to govern to the masses. And the masses will be watching closely to see to whom you give the bigger voice – the dividers or the uniters.

I want my city back.

And I believe most residents want their city back, too.

~Scott Long~

Scott Long
Scott Long, Safety Harbor Resident Blogger



  1. The Safety Harbor community is a wonderful place. Yes, the newly elected must make good decisions for the benefit of the “entire” Safety Harbor community.

    The newly elected need to have the entire community (downtown and subdivisions) in mind when making decisions and not just the collected interests of a few which appear to be in the downtown area.

    While I have and will continue to support the Mattie Williams Foundation, there appears to be a conflict of interest with Janet Hooper being the Executive Director of this Foundation and now a city commissioner. The city gave this foundation of upwards to a $100,000 in donations last year. Someone, please correct me if I am wrong. It doesn’t appear ethically correct to have her as a commissioner voting on decisions in regards to $’s being given to this foundation.

    We do not want our taxes to be raised because the mayor and commissioners are making decisions that do not improve the economic efforts of our community and the downtown area which bring in tax dollars. What have and will the mayor and commissioners be doing to help our businesses on Main Street and the surrounding side streets stay in existence and flourish? We have seen some come and go….. I’m not sure if the downtown residents even support these businesses. If it wasn’t for these businesses, our downtown area would be a “ghost town”.

    Make decisions that help all of these businesses survive instead of struggle.

    What is happening with the Marina Park? We are waiting for this to be developed. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful if the park was finished in time to support the upcoming Song Festival which Kiaralinda has so graciously organized for our beautiful city. What a beautiful background (a finished park) for this wonderful Song Festival. What are the delays with this as there have been no updates on the Safety Harbor City Scape Newsletter? The community is wondering, please let us know.

    Please attend commissioner meetings to further understand the decisions made by our elected officials.

  2. Great article Scott. I wish you would have written it earlier. We could have used this type of reasoned argument on these pages. I hope to read more from you soon.
    The Bandit

  3. Well said! Thank you! Everyone I know that lives in Safety Harbor was fed up with the negative ads. I know it is hard not to respond to “attacks” with more negativity, but most people will respect it when they see someone with true character standing firm on a platform of integrity…and not lowering themselves to the negativity we’ve seen in the last 2 elections.

  4. Hooray Scott Long for putting my thoughts and feelings into words! I don’t know you, but I hope you will run for something some day.

  5. Great blog Scott. Voters (those who took the time to vote) have spoken. Time shall tell how we are represented and hopefully more Safety Harbor residents will be paying attention.

  6. Well said, Scott.

    The thing about an election where one candidate or faction gets a percentage point or two over 50% of the vote, and the other side gets a point or two below 50%, is that there is a danger that almost half of the voters may not feel represented going forward due to “partisan politics”. That is really unfortunate on a national level; it is a disaster at the level of a small town such as Safety Harbor.
    As a resident of Safety Harbor, I am counting on the newly elected and other 3 commissioners to be above partisan politics, and to think of the good of this wonderful community as a whole when making decisions that affect all of us, even including those who failed to vote. None on the commission was elected to represent a faction. Rather, each was elected to use their best informed, unbiased judgment.

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