Will someone, please, save Safety Harbor from those who say they are “Saving Safety Harbor?”
Lately, things have gotten mean and ugly here in “Mayberry By The Bay.” Over the past year Safety Harbor has lost much of its friendliness. Suddenly, neighbors are being pitted against neighbors. I just saw Aunt Bee running from a mob carrying pitchforks. Nothing, apparently, is out of bounds — not as long as it promotes the agenda of a handful of vocal agitators who act like Safety Harbor has been going downhill ever since somebody screwed up and allowed electricity into town. Damned progress! Their answer is to do whatever it takes to stop any and all development or growth. Civility and respect need not apply. Personally, I disagree. But one of my neighbors with a bullhorn is angered by my disagreement. So, in the last six months I’ve had so many visits from City Code Enforcement, Pinellas County Sheriff Department deputies and the tree police that I now ask about their children and pets.
And just for the record: No infractions of any merit. Only harassment.
Simply, it’s sad. Even worse, the same thing can happen to you.
So, neighbors, I’m asking, please, keep eyes and minds open as we move toward March’s city election. There is a huge difference between preserving quaintness and suffocating all future potential. Think about it: Do you really want to reach a point where permission (and a permit fee) is needed just to trim a tree limb? We’re not to that point yet, but that’s one of the stated goals.
Which bring us to the candidates.
In one corner, Joe Ayoub and Chris Logan. Both can be described as “pro-growth.” That does not, however, mean they want to pave paradise, only that they are not opposed to putting a fresh coat of paint on it. But that open-mindedness is just enough to allow opposing zealots to bemoan the idea of “developers” being elected. And in the other corner, Andy Zodrow and Janet Hooper … Which means those who detest “a developer” being elected are pushing an attorney (insert lawyer joke here) and the director of a local charity that receives money from the city, meaning she will have a conflict of interest and will not be allowed to vote on many issues, including the city budget. What’s their logic? When Safety Harbor slips and falls into a wasteland they can sue somebody? Or claim they didn’t have a vote?
Two words: Good grief.
Every city needs a steady infusion of new residents to keep it running. And the really special communities also have a unique character and appeal that draws admiring visitors who spend money, infuse the local economy and support businesses. But the misguided beliefs of some among us are pushing for a figurative fence around Safety Harbor to keep others out and status quo locked inside. Opportunity only knocks for so long before moving on to a place where it is welcome. Safety Harbor’s future is rich with quality-of-life opportunity but it is being choked by a ball-and-chain desire by some to never move forward.
Don’t buy into it.
There is no better example than the Waterfront Park plight.
Three years ago — Feb. 29, 2012 — the City spent $2.75 million to purchase approximately 13 acres of Tampa Bay shoreline property from the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa for general public use and enjoyment. After the purchase was completed residents enthusiastically offered ideas for what should be built. A Waterfront Park steering committee was appointed to pick from all the ideas and propose a plan. The volunteer committee members gave up more than six months of their time and lives to made recommendations that would have invigorated Safety Harbor’s quality of living. Now, three wasted years later, not only has the recommendation been ignored, city leaders are actually listening to a demand to do nothing with the property beyond letting grass grow. Once it was easy to imagine the visual beauty of walking-jogging trails, kayaking/canoeing, children enjoying a splash park, boating, public entertainment and envious admiration from other municipalities. Instead, the Waterfront Park now has only one functional use: a place to take dogs to poop — and few bother to pick up. Acquiring the Waterfront Park land and then deciding to do nothing with it makes as much sense as buying a new luxury car and never taking it out of the garage because that way you do not need to get gas.
Come on, Safety Harbor.
We have the ingredients to be an attractive, active downtown envied by all. A vibrant downtown district can only benefit Safety Harbor’s future and lifestyle. But we can’t even get a market to come into town.
Way to go, anti-growthers. You’re saving Safety Harbor — from bettering the lives of residents. ~Mick Elliott
Safety Harbor resident blogger, Mick Elliott