Water supply agency dribbles along
It's been seven months since members of
the West Coast Regional Water Supply Au-
thority announced a grand plan to overhaul
the way the agency does business.
The agency helps coordinate the water
supply for Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco
counties and the cities of St. Petersburg and
Tampa. Major change was badly needed.
West Coast had engaged in seemingly end-
less litigation with the Southwest Florida Wa-
ter Management District. The district regu-
lates water use in the region and had sought
to limit pumping in drinking-water wellfields
that was harming lakes and wetlands in Hills-
borough and Pasco counties.
Though Hillsborough and Pasco represen-
tatives on West Coast's board tried to stop
the relentless pumping, they were usually
outvoted by members from Pinellas, St. Pe-
tersburg and, alas, Tampa.
The conflict threatened to undermine
West Coast altogether, but last year mem-
bers met and devised a promising strategy to
end the conflict and make the agency more
equitable and effective.
The proposal would:
Establish West Coast as a true utility.
Member governments would turn over their
wellfields to West Coast but would be paid
for those assets through rate credits through
Expand the West Coast board from five
to nine members, with three representatives
from each county. All would be elected offi-
cials. The majority would rule. No longer
could a single member scuttle a proposal by
refusing to participate in the funding.
Require all the members to pay the
same wholesale rate for water and to share
the costs of developing new water sources.
Individual jurisdictions could impose addition-
al costs on the wholesale rate for their own
purposes, such as to promote conservation.
Allow a county that opposed a new re-
source project within its jurisdiction to pur-
sue its objection throughout the permitting
process. But once the Southwest Florida Wa-
ter Management District made its final deci-
sion, the government would have to comply.
These changes would force everyone to
work together to solve the region's water
problems. No longer could Pinellas and St.
Petersburg blithely ignore the environmental
damage they were causing in Pasco and Hills-
borough. In turn, Pasco and Hillsborough
could no longer dismiss their neighbors' very
real need for affordable drinking water.
The restructuring could have been
achieved simply, with only interlocal agree-
ments. But since all the hoopla about the pro-
posal, little has been done to effect change.
Conflicts continue on overpumping. Indeed, in
spite of all the talk, West Coast continues to
be a vigorous advocate of wellfield pumping.
West Coast members are scheduled today
to address the proposal. There still seems to
be a lot of doubt among members.-Pinellas
and St. Petersburg have yet to show they are
willing to lessen their dependence on well-
MAYOR DICK GRECO is reluctant to
commit to a plan that might raise city resi-
dents' water rates, since the city has plenty.
of water with the.Hillsborough River reser-
voir and the Morris Bridge Road Wellfield.
His concern is understandable, though it
would be unfortunate if Tampa did not take a
leadership role on an issue of such impor-
tance to the region. Still, Tampa's participa-
tion is not absolutely essential, as long as all
the other parties participate. What is essen-
tial is a revamped West Coast.
It's time the West Coast Regional Water
Supply Authority do more than talk, that it
start to show it is willing to adopt a new ap-
proach to water supply, one that will work to
provide the region's drinking-water supply
while also protecting its natural resources.
Pubshedby The Tre Company 202 Sout Pakef Street
Tampa. Forida 336062395 71
REID ASHE. Publisher and President
KERMIT J. KAUFFMAN. Vice President and General Manager
JEFFREY GREEN, Vice President of Sales and Marketing
EDWIN A. ROBERTS, JR.. Editorial Page Editor
JOE GUIDRY. Deputy Editorial Page Editor
S. BRUCE WITWER. Managing Editor
DONNA M. REED. Deputy Managtng Editor
LLOYD DeFRANCE, Human Resources Director
TONY DiSALVO. Advertising Director
JIM GONNERLNG, Controller
MICHAEL KILGORE. Marketing Communications Dinctor
TED STASNEY. Market Development Director
GREG STEWAR.T. Production Director
JOHN TRUFFA. !nlormat:,on Technoily Director
The Orlando Sentinel, Monday July 21, 1997
FPL execs take heat over power play
L A spokeswoman denied
they get special treatment
during outages in their
neighborhood, but the
state is investigating.
WEST PALM BEACH When
outages occur in the exclusive Lost
Tree Village neighborhood, Florida
Power & Light Co. officials want to
know why, immediately.
7 It's no coincidence. Lost Tree Vil-
lage is home to FPL Group Chair-
man James Broadhead, FPL Presi-
Ident Paul Evanson and several ex-
ecutive officers of major corpora-
tions, The Palm Beach Post reported are not ignored so we can give supe- in this 'area," he wrote. "These indi-
in its Sunday editions. rior treatment to our executives," 'viduals may be some of the decision
If Evanson isn't at work, he's to FPL spokeswoman Stacey Shaw makers involved in choosing a pow-
be notified at home by fax. said Sunday. 'The program that we. er company for their companies."
"You need to be sure that we have given to our executives is de- Competition may prompt such a
have someone investigating [power signed so they can be informed specialized service to develop, but
failures in the village] as soon as when they talk to their neighbors." :the company isn't pursuing this
possible," wrote FPL supervisor Jim : It isn't unusual for top utility ex- idea currently, Shaw said.
Glass in a May memo to restoration ecutives to pay special attention to;. While deregulation may not reach
supervisors and system operators. their neighborhoods, said Bob, Florida for at least a decade, compe-
"Also, if additional resources are Trapp, an official of the Florida Pub- tition in other parts of the country is
needed from the service center, do lic Service Commission. splitting utilities into service, gen-
not hesitate to obtain them as" "What concerns me is the level of eration and delivery companies,
quickly as possible." the flag [a special computer pro- similar to the breakup of AT&T.
The special focus on Lost Tree gram] and faxing the president of. .While executives are considering
Village is being reviewed by state the company," Trapp said. "Quality. the shape of things to come, Shaw
regulators. But a spokeswoman said service shouldn't be just limited to said FPL's first priority is its cus-
the program provides data, not spe- corporate officers." .tomers. The proof is a program
cial treatment during outages. The program may not be limited started in 1996 to target problem
"The program gives them an un- to FPL VIPs, Glass said. neighborhoods that have outdated
derstanding of what the nature of : "There are several executive offi- underground systems and experi-
the outage is, but other customers cers of major corporations that live* ence higher than average outages.
*<- ti. -
S. Florida gets
ready to fight
By BILL HIRSCHMAN
South Florida legislators and school o
cials outgunned in the last legislative se
sion .are regrouping to counterattack
they see as one of the decade's defining
Sties-school crowding. o -;;...
The enemy is House Bill 2121, a new la
I they predict will stall'crucial school co
5 Gov. Chiles asks parents," -
teachers to fight crowding, 6B.
struction programs and add millions in'
costs. They want the measure overhauled in
i a special legislative session this falL
S But the real war is winning a long-term'
financial solution to South Florida's school
crowding crisis, they said. It may mean al-
lowing school boards to increase property
taxes or the Legislature to increase utility
"Clearly we need to get a hold of this.
What are we going to do about overcrowd-
ing?" state Sen. Ron Klein, D-Boca Raton
PLEASE SEE SCHOOLS / 13B
12B Sun-Sentinel, Saturday, July 19, 1997 PB
Ehiles asks parents to fight crowding
By LINDA KLEINDIENST
S Tallahusee ureau Chief
SARPON SPRINGS Gov.
L vton Chiles on Friday enlisted.
parents in his battle to raise
mgre money for public school
construction and promised to
make it an election iqsue if the
Legislature does nothing.
(I understand I'm preaching to
the choir," Chiles told more than
30l) parents and teachers at a
leadership conference sponsored
by the Florida PTA. "Why am I
here? I want the choir to start
chiles, a Democrat, plans to
call the Republican-led Legisla-
tute into a special session before
Thanksgiving to work on a solu-
tin to the state's $3 billion pub-
li school construction backlog.
According to the Florida School
Boards Association, 52 of the
state's 67 school districts have
Chiles urged parents to invite
legislators to their children's
schools for a firsthand look.
"If they understand this is a
problem that you know we've got
and the people know we've got,
then I think it'll be addressed,"
Latha Krishnaiyer of Broward.
County, the first vice president of
the Florida PTA, said the group
would get right to work.
"We're going to ask them to go
out and start making calls today,"
she said. "Our plan is to motivate
the parents. Some legislators
don't understand we have real
problems. We'll bond as a parent
group to make sure we have
schools for all children."
Chiles said school crowding
could become a major issue in
the 1998 election if no help is
forthcoming from the Legisla-
ture's Republican leadership -
primarily House Speaker Daniel
Webster and Senate President
Toni Jennings, both of Orlando.
All 120 House seats and 20 of 40
Senate seats will be up for grabs
in 1998. Chiles cannot seek a
third term, so voters will be
choosing a new governor in a
race that may include Jennings.
"They'd be giving us a heck of a
political issue if they stonewall
this," Chiles said. "I keep think-
ing: Is the resistance coming from
the business community? No. It's
more of a philosophical bent of
some of the Republicans, the
House speaker and some of the
Chiles is seeking a statewide
solution. One possibility is a tax
increase on electric and tele-
phone bills. But GOP legislative
leaders have balked at talk of
Webster is opposed to any
statewide tax increase. Local
school boards have the ability to
raise money for construction
through a half-cent sales tax if
their voters approve, he said.
Friday's speech appeared to
be the opening salvo in a grass-
roots campaign Chiles hopes will
sway legislators. He plans to visit
crowded schools around the state
"I hope it rallied them a little
bit," Chiles said after his speech.
"Obviously, that group should
know there's a problem."
FROM PAGE 1B
South Florida gets
ready to fight for
Stiff opposition is expected
from Republicans, who saw HB
2121 as a justifiable reform of
what they considered wasteful
school construction practices.
Some South Florida legislators
also worry about their long rival-
ry with rural colleagues reluctant
to chip in for problems unique to
high-growth urban areas.
And finally, legislators are no
more ready to increase taxes than
school boards bucking anti-tax fe-
ver and their patrons' distrust be-
cause of construction fiascos.
HB 2121 was designed to force
districts to save money by cutting
classroom sizes, counting porta-
ble classrooms as permanent
space and making it difficult to
erect education palaces.
But Broward County and Palm
Beach County school officials say
the real consequence is to make
it harder to prove that a district
needs more money to build class-
rooms and enlarge overtaxed fa-
cilities such as cafeterias.
Even worse, they say the law
means scrapping cost-efficient
designs that districts reuse and
hiring architects to redraw plans.
That could add 6 to 12 months
to construction time andincrease
the cost by hundreds of thou-
sands of dollars, Broward school
officials said last week.
Strategy sessions and briefings
are scheduled for the next few
Legislators and school con-
struction officials from Broward,
Palm Beach and Dade counties
will meet on Aug. 4 at Nova
Southeastern University, state
Sen. Howard Forman, D-Pem-
broke Pines said.
After a briefing by Broward
TION: Join the on-
about education is-
sues on an interac-
tive forum 'Making Schools
Work.' On AOL, keyword:
SSDE News and on the Web at
school officials, legislators will
discuss revisions to HB 2121,
passed in the closing hours of the
In a separate effort, top school
construction officials from South
Florida have been called by Gov.
Lawton Chiles to meet on Thurs-
day in Tallahassee. Their goal is
to draft revisions to HB 2121 and
suggest long-term solutions.
That will ensure that the gover-
nor has some proposal for the
special session expected in late
October or early November.
Chiles has asked the Gover-
nor's Education Commission to
develop similar proposals, but
Republican legislators on the
committee have sent mixed sig-
nals about whether a consensus
can be reached.
All the groups are targeting
provisions of HB 2121 that in-
crease a school's capacity on
One provision counts 75 per-
cent of portable classrooms as
part of a school's permanent ca-
pacity. With such a calculation,
only one Broward school, West-
ern High, would be considered
critically crowded. Before the
change, 29 schools were on the
Several local legislators think
percentage should be minimized.
But even Broward School Board
members such as Bob Parks rec-
ognize that some percentage of
the freestanding trailers may
have to be counted.
Another provision calculates
the capacity of an elementary
school by including rooms cus-
tomized for special uses, such as
art or music classes. The state
would not insist those be convert-
ed to classrooms, but the school's
need would assume those rooms
were being used as traditional
That could add 200 to 400 seats
in a Broward elementary school
without actually increasing
space, but it would water down
the quality of education, said
Broward Associate Superinten-
dent Ray de la Feuilliez.
But state construction chief
Spessard Boatrighf answered
that the current crisis means spe-
cial programs might have to be
cut back to allow those rooms to
be used as traditional
The tri-county offensive is cer-
tain to run into a political'mine
field, in part because some local
legislators support HB 2121, in-
cluding Rep. Bill Andrews, R-
Delray Beach, and Rep. Tom
Equally formidable are Flori-
da legislators who cannot relate
to areas like South Florida facing
growth problems, both Forman
and Klein said.
Still, similar concerns have
been voiced from virtually every
growth county, as well as some ru-
ral counties, said Tatjana Marti-
nez, legislative liaison for the
Florida School Board
Klein thinks legislators' paro-
chial concerns might be over-
come by switching the responsi-
bility to local school boards.
He said school boards could be
given authority to raise property
taxes for construction needs from
$2 to $2.50 per $1,000 of assessed
Republicans who sank a simi-
lar proposal, last spring say
school boards just want legisla-
tors to absorb political heat.
never erected a school
A pamphlet distributed by state
Rep. Bill Andrews, R-Delray
Beach, is titled Finally ... A
Solution to School Overcrowding With-
out New Taxes.
Rep. Andrews hasn't earned that
Finally. Fundamental parts of his plan
are based on wishful thinking.
Rep. Andrews wants to build small-
er, cheaper, neighborhood schools that
serve about 500 students. No argument
so far. But can the Palm Beach County
School District really afford to build
those schools 114 of them with
the money available now?
Mr. Andrews assumes the schools
can be built for $2.5 million each. Yet
Suzanne Marshall, a state' employee
who helped design the schools, said no
one knows if they really can be built for
that little. First glitch in the cost figure:
it doesn't include the cost of land.
Mr. Andrews assumes he can pay
much of the school construction costs
by eliminating most bus service. He
assumes that because he assumes most
students will be within 2 miles of the
schools they attend.
Mr. Andrews assumes the schools
can be smaller because they'll be built
next to city and county parks. Mr.
Andrews also assumes the cities and
counties will donate much of the land
near those parks.
Mr. Andrews assumes that the fed-
eral Office of Civil Rights will overlook
the segregation his plan entails.
Mr. Andrews assumes that roving
principals in charge of several schools
- he doesn't think every school needs
one can maintain discipline.
Mr. Andrews assumes his plan will
enable the district to have smaller class
sizes, and he assumes the district will
be able to afford the extra teachers for
that because teachers will work for less
if promised fewer students per class.
The lawmaker says he can
solve the school construction
problem. But first he has a lot
of questions to answer.
; Those are just a few of the things
.Mr. Andrews assumes. But don't make
the mistake of assuming Mr. Andrews'
!untried assumptions can't be enacted
:into law. Mr. Andrews co-sponsored a
,law passed in the last legislative session
.that assumed portables were as good as
permanent classrooms. (It's a wonder
,Mr. Andrews' new plan doesn't call for
.converting the buses he's phasing out
imto portable that is, permanent -
'' The law also assumed art and music
-fooms should count as regular class-
'rooms. Did no one in Tallahassee ask
:where first-graders go when they leave
.the music room? Apparently, lawmak-
ers assume these nomadic tykes mi-
grate to the classroom of the students
'rptating in for their turn in the music
: That law, like Mr. Andrews' latest
'proposal, assumes most school crowd-
m:ig has been caused by wasteful con-
'truction spending by the district.
: Some of the things Mr. Andrews
assumes might prove to be true. But
Mr. Andrews hasn't demonstrated that
any of it is true.
SMeanwhile, Rep. Andrews' assump-
tions are causing harm. Because porta-
bles count as classrooms, the crowding
problem is partly "solved." Never mind
.that kids still eat lunch at 10 am.
Because Mr. Andrews says districts can
build his fantasy schools with no extra
money, serious discussions about how
to build schools are put off.
Worse, Mr. Andrews is sabotaging
his constituents. Legislators from no-
growth counties don't think crowding is
a problem worthy of a statewide solu-
tion. Representatives from areas over-
whelmed by growth should be fighting
that perception and backing Gov.
Chiles' call for a special session, but the
Palm Beach County House member
who heads an education committee is
saying things are just fine assuming
his assumptions come true. So why
would lawmakers from less crowded
counties vote to help?
The school board has invited Rep.
Andrews to a July 28 workshop on
school construction. That session can
be useful to the board and to Mr.
Andrews. It's the perfect chance to
begin studying, in detail, the assump-
tions underlying Mr. Andrews' plan.
Where, exactly, would all these new
schools go? Name some builders who
will promise to build them for $2.5 mil-
lion. Which specific councils and com-
missions will promise to donate appro-
priate sites? Exactly how many buses
can be eliminated?
For its part, the school board can
look at Mr. Andrews and see an ex-
treme example of the problems it has
created for itself. Because the board
and administration have not been as
frugal, competent and open as they
should be, people have begun to believe
that every construction project is a
boondoggle and every educational pro-
gram a fraud. After three years of
delays and snags, the board still hasn't
gotten a question ready for the ballot tb
ask whether voters are willing to do
more for students. So now board mem-
bers have to deal with a lawmaker
telling them to do less.
The board and administration have
not yet persuaded the public they're
ready to handle more construction
money. The district also has been slow
to present its own construction plan.
Into that vacuum stepped Mr. Andrews.
There are many people who share
Mr. Andrews' goals. Who wouldn't
want more efficiently designed build-
ings, as little busing as possible and
smaller class size? But what if the
solution isn't as easy as Mr. Andrews
assumes? What if the district really
needs more money? What if growth and
legislative indifference and cowardice
are more to blame than school district
incompetence? Is Mr. Andrews still
willing to pursue those goals?
For now, Mr. Andrews isn't willing
to spend more on children. Others
opposed to new taxes are even worse
Gold Coast Builders advocates dou-
ble sessions and busing students long
distances to less crowded schools.
Plenty of people want to do less for
schoolchildren. The people who reject
simplistic solutions need to return the
focus to real, detailed, educationally
sound solutions. The July 28 workshop
would be a good place to start getting
back on track. Finally.
p" (. .
Few charter schools
opening in state;
success tests await
S By LONA O'CONNOR
As the charter school
movement sweeps through much
o of Florida and the rest of the
Country, much is expected,
S perhaps too much.
S Reformers behind it are
, counting on it to jolt sluggish
= school bureaucracies into
S slimming down and responding to
By introducing competition
into what is now a monopoly run
by school districts, charter
schools are expected to be lean,
mean teaching machines,
producing better students on
shoestring budgets and sweat
equity. Students' test scores are
scrutinized minutely at charter
schools for signs of improvement
Ultimately, a charter school
could be forced out of business if
student achievement doesn't
But charter schools have many
critics. Teachers' unions in
Massachusetts fought the
establishment of charters and
continue to work to limit their
growth. Teacher unions remain
skeptical, saying at best that
charters will produce modest
improvements at limited
numbers of schools.
In states like Florida, local
school boards control charters.
Advocates say that means
charters can never be free
enough to produce reform.
Legislation enacted last year
allows private individuals in
Florida to open free,
nonsectarian public charter
schools. Last year, the Liberty
City Charter School opened in
This fall, four will open in
Broward County and one more in
Miami Shores. Palm Beach
County has not yet approved any
charters. In Florida, there is a
total of six charters already in
operation, with 34 more
The charter is a contract to
improve student achievement -
or be shut down. Like any public
school, charter school operators
in Florida will collect about
$4,000 in state money for each
Because charters are public,
parents pay no tuition. Unlike
public magnet schools, there are
no entrance exams or auditions.
Any student in the county can
apply, limited only by school
Charter schools are free of
many bureaucratic restrictions.
They can, for instance, fire
teachers for poor performance.
And charter schools can
PLEASE SEE SCHOOLS / 3G
I Charterschoos B
THE PALM BEACH POST MONDAY, JULY 21, 1997
GOP may flunk school-crowding
worry that a stalemate
would do serious
By SHIRISH DATE
Palm Beach Post Capital Bureau
TALLAHASSEE Even if
this November's special session
iQ school crowding accomplishes
little, it still could play pretty well
Television ads, that is, next
summer and fall during the various
1998 political campaigns.
" Curt Kiser, a former state sen-
ator and three years ago a Republi-
can candidate for lieutenant gover-
nor, can already see the TV spots
Democrats could use. On half of
the screen: a classroom, prefera-
bly a trailer, packed to overflowing
with fourth-graders. On the other
half: the empty state House cham-
ber, signifying the Republican
leadership that went home with-
out building more schools foryour
"It could paint a pretty bleak
picture pretty quickly," Kiser said.
Kiser is not alone among Re-
publicans who fear that Gov. Law-
ton Chiles may be preparing to box
them into a difficult corner in the
next election year by insisting on a
special session, even if as it
now appears little of signifi-
cance is accomplished.
Here's the scenario: Chiles
and top Democrats demand that
lawmakers allocate more state
money to solve the classroom
shortage that afflicts Florida's fast-
est growing, most populous school
districts. Republicans, particularly
House Republicans, refuse to
spend any more. state money for
what traditionally has been a local
issue. The two- or three-day ses-
sion ends with no agreement, or
only a token agreement to study
the problem further.
And that, said Republican state
Senator Jack Latvala, plays right
into the Democrats' hands. "I
think they're trying to set us up,
there's no doubt about it," said
Latvala, from Palm Harbor.
Chiles denies he is using the
special session to design campaign
strategy for his party next year.
He said he only wants to solve the
school crowding problem, al-
though he admitted that his par-
ty's leaders asked him to veto a bill
this past spring and force a session
in July to make a political point. He
concedes, however, that failure to
reach a consensus this fall would
have political ramifications in
"This could be a major issue in
the next election if we haven't
solved.it," Chiles said. "And we
would have the high ground."
One announced candidate,
Keith Arnold, said he intends to
make it an issue in the campaign.
Arnold, a Democratic House
member who is competing against
Lt. Gov. Buddy MacKay and Win-
ter Haven Sen. Rick Dantzler, said
he is the only. one committed to
making education his priority. '
"I don't think there's any way
education won't be talked about in
the governor's race," Arnold said.
The person squarely opposite
Chiles on the matter, though, said
he will not change his view just to
help his party's candidates. "Politi-
cal expediency has never been a
driving force in my life," said
House Speaker Dan Webster.
He said the question of school
crowding remains largely a local
problem, created by some local
governments' failure to manage
growth and some local school dis-
tricts' mismanagement of con-
struction money. He said forcing
every taxpayer in the state to pay
for the mistakes of only a few
school districts is not fair.
"I'm not going to reward peo-
ple who haven't done a good job
and punish those who have," he
More than anyone else, Web-
ster's intransigence could hurt his
counterpart in the Senate, fellow
Orlando Republican Toni Jen-
nings, who is.seriously consider-
ing a run for governor.
Jennings the Senate presi-
dent who this spring helped forged
compromises between Chiles and
Webster's House on such things
as election reform and teacher
tenure has already staked the
middle ground on the special ses-
Jennings pointedly repeats
that in the Senate, everything is
on the table. And it is that middle
ground that could swallow her up
if she can't create a successful
compromise in November, some
in her camp worry privately. Web-
ster hasn't hinted at a bid for a new
elected office next year and so has
nothing to lose by sticking to his
principles. And Chiles, in his final
term, could, perversely, give his
Democrats a powerful club against
GOP opponents also by refusing to
In that scenario, Jennings
would be remembered as one of
the Republicans who blocked a
solution, not as the one Republi-
can who tried to bring the two
sides together, her supporters
worry. That would make her fight
against Jeb Bush, the candidate
generally considered her party's
favorite to win the nomination,
even more difficult.
State GOP Chairman "Tom
Slade said Republicans simply
have to be ready to counter the
Democrats' ads with ads of their
own showing expensive schools
and administration buildings in
some districts, especially in South
"If they built Holiday Inns the
same way we built schools," Slade
said, "it would cost us $200 a night
to stay in a Iloliday Inn."