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: :TAAIPA TIMES
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Spicola sputters about.
By MORRIS KENNEDY
Times Staff Writer
"They're voting against their own
people," state Sen. Guy Spicola charged
today, chastising the Hillsborough
County commission's resolution against
a referendum to continue water manage-
The commission's unanimous vote
yesterday to oppose a constitutional
amendment that would continue the tax-
ing powers of the Southwest Florida
Water Management District (SWFWMD)
was "playing right into Pinellas and St.
Petersburg's hands," the Hillsborough
County senator said.
"The happiest people today are going
to be those across the bay," Spicola
predicted. "This is exactly what they
want to do. They want to create a crisis
in order to create a statewide water au-
Spicola argued that the referendum
would actually have the effect of reduc-
ing the amount of millage SWFWMD
If the referendum is defeated,
SWPWMD will retain its right to assess
a total of 1.3 mills, instead of 1 mill
under the new proposed .law, Spicola
said. "Defeating it could raise taxes.
They're voting against their own people
for a tax break there."
SBut, the referendum appears to be
secondary, providing a vehicle with
which the commission can lodge its
protest against the way Hillsborough
County is represented on SWFWMD's
nine-member governing board. The
county has one vote on that board, and
they have each complained that this ar-
rangement violates the principle of dem-
Commission chairman Betty Castor
said yesterday the referendum offers the
commission and eitiens an "opportunity
to express ourselves."
With water management authorities
anxiously awaiting, the outcome of the
March 9 vote, which could mean security
or a mad scramble for alternate sources
of revenue, they are in a uniquely vul-
If some changes don't come now in
the way Hlilliborough County is repre-
sented on the board, Mrs. Castor said
"after that, I don't anticipate any
changes for a long time."
SWFWMD's blunt-spoken chairman
Derrill McAteer said he was not "partic-
ularly surprised" by the commission's
opposition, and called it "1 political tool
to make a point."
Defending his agency's past record in
Hillsborough County, McAteer said this
area has been the "single biggest benefi-
ciary" from SWFWMD money and proj-
ects. The Tampa Bypass Canal and the
Hillsborough Flood Detention Aesa are
two of the water district's largest proj-
ects, he said.
Hillsborough commissioners have
expressed a preference for weighted vot-
ing on the SWFWMD governing board,
under which the most populous counties
would have a full vote, and less populat-
ed areas would have. correspondingly
less power, in the form of percentages of
a single vote.
Turning over the future of a natural
resource as valuable as water to such a
system would be complicated, chaotic,
and unfair to less populated areas, McA-
"To me, if the user gets control of the
resource, God forbid," he said.
The United States Senate is not or-
ganised along population lines, with
more populous states having more votes,
and SWFWMD should not be either,
McAteer said. The nine members of that
governing board are all appointed by the
governor, who is elected under- a one-
man, one-vote system, he pointed out.
The bulk of SWFWMD's present tax-
ing authority lies with the lesser divi-
sions, divided along water flow lines,
called basin. boards. Each basin board
has the legal authority to levy a one-mill
tax, and Hillsborough County has three
such basin boards, each with appointed
members representing the residents
within its boundaries.
McAteer maintained that Hillsbor-
ough County has more basin boards than
any other governmental entity within
SWPWMD's jurisdiction, and therefore
has the most representation In taxing
"Hillsborough County has got the
biggest representation in the entire dis-
trict,"' McAteer said. "I just don't under-
stand the Hillsborough County commis-
Spicola labeled the commission's vote
"really sad," and said if the voters fol-
low that decision it could "set water
management back 10 years."