Hernando Phoenix: Will of the People be damned; there will be a Mine

March 17, 2015

March 17, 2015


L to R: Cliff Taylor, City Attorney; Joe Johnson, Vice Mayor; Robert Batistta, Councilman; T. Jennene Norman-Vacha, City Manager; Frankie Burnett, Mayor; Natalie Kahler, councilwoman, Betty Erhard, Councilwoman

There was a new aura setting the tone of the Brooksville City Council meeting last night. Aside from the usual entertainment being amiss the citizens comment time was limited to 20 minutes.  Councilwoman Kahler seemed stressed out and there was a lot of whispering going on before the meeting started. One got the same feeling as what it was like in elementary school when your favorite substitute teacher was there for the day but the principal came in the room to watch.

At the last city council meeting the Mayor directed  council members to go out and talk to the citizens of Brooksville, find out what was going on, talk to Cemex and then come back with a letter stating their position on whether or not to invoke the city’s right-of-first refusal or not since it is the largest adjacent use. This is the city’s legal right and the city council’s job is to do what’s in the best interest of the city and it’s citizens. Right?

Maybe not.  After the usual greeting, pledge and prayer the meeting got underway and a children’s proclamation week was declared for March 23-28. The person accepting the award thanked the council and said it was going to be a great week with lots of activities for kids and their families although she couldn’t remember a single one of them. The meeting moved on to the new right on red ordinance and Councilwoman Kahler stated that the new law was confusing.

Starting March 24th, 2015 at 12:01am everyone must stop completely before turning right on red.
The next item up on the agenda was the citizen’s comment section. The mayor made it clear that any side conversations or whispering would guarantee one being removed from the meeting as well as any phones being left on would guarantee the same. There was a new timer with red, yellow and green lights sitting on top of the counter that we had never seen before either.

As Deevon Quirolo, President of Nature Coast Preservation, Inc stood up to speak the mayor reminded her that she would only have three minutes. As Quirolo spoke it was evident the mayor was more interested in the timer than what one of his constituents had to say as he was fixated on the timer. When Quirolo had 30 seconds left he interrupted her to admonishingly say that she had 30 seconds left.

A few other citizens got up to speak as well.  Joeseph Lemieux reminded the mayor and the city manager that the citizens paid their taxes to cover their paychecks and Rosemarie Grubba called the council ‘cowards’ for not standing up for the citizens of the city.

As all of this went on inside the council chambers, there was another meeting outside in the lobby that council members didn’t know about. There were about twenty upset and angry citizens gathered talking about what a disgrace it was to the veterans that gave their lives for their country and what they were getting in return was the disrespect of being blasted by dynamite and having their bodies jostled about in their graves.

One citizen was overheard saying they couldn’t believe this was happening next to the hospital and her family would never go there again.

When it was time for the council to decide whether or not to write a letter to the county invoking it’s right of first refusal it was decided the elephant would remain in the room as a 4-1 vote in favor of doing nothing was made. The choice of doing nothing was something new added to the plate since the last city council meeting. Councilwoman Betty Erhard stayed true to her word and stood by the people that voted her into office. Joe Johnson, Vice Mayor; Robert Batistta, Councilman;  Frankie Burnett, Mayor and Natalie Kahler, councilwoman all voted to do nothing. Their reasoning was that they didn’t like someone coming in telling them to do their job and they felt that by invoking the city’s right of first refusal due to the fact that the city if the largest adjacent use they would be offending the county. Public trust, the best interests of the people, right of quiet enjoyment, health and safety aside, best interest of the city – the main goal is not to step on the county’s toes. Moving forward however, the city will stay in touch with the county and monitor the situation.

The citizens of Hernando County have turned out in overwhelming opposition to this extreme land use change of quiet residential to industrial mining. The land was never zoned for mining and it wasn’t meant to be used for mining. A twenty year interim use isn’t really interim at all in this case as there is no plan in place for reclamation.

And as far as the principal being in the room last night, ‘he’ was there alright.  Four of the five property owners themselves were there; Joe Mason, Robert Buckner, Tommy Bronson and Powers Dorsett all showed up. An interesting point to note is that one citizen asked who the property owners were and if any of them were there. The only one to make himself known was Robert Buckner.

Jimmy Lodato, former candidate for county commission had a bit of sobering advice for the city council. He said, ‘Moving forward think about the image you are projecting. What you do here and now is important and the image you portray will shape the course of our future. Please keep that in mind when making the decisions that affect our city.”

One still can’t help but wonder what really happened last night.

To learn more about the details of the proposed Cemex mining operation please visit neighborsagainstmining.org.

To contact Dorothy Famiano please email dorothyfamiano@gmail.com

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