Hundreds speak at Hillsborough budget hearing

07/17/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Last night in Tampa, an estimated 700 people crowded into the All People’s Life Center to plead for key programs or personnel that are currently on the chopping block in Hillsborough County.

The County government is staring at a $140 million dollar deficit, and is set to cut at least 500 jobs, and furlough many other employees.

Over 180 people signed up to speak for as long as 3 minutes. Randall Cruise said he didn’t want school and summer programs cut.

Joseph Faulk said his canoe business would be affected by the closing of Wilderness Park, scheduled to be closed two days a week.

Faulk was cut off by Commission Chair Ken Hagen, who told him his argument might not be in vain.

Lorraine Ellison called herself a ‘proud mother’ of a member of the Wilbur David Boys & girls club in the Belmont Heights section of Tampa.

Rachel Greenberg was one of many citizens who spoke up for the Bacchus Equestrian Center for the Handicapped.

Brenda Real spoke up for the Center for Independent Living.

Town & Country resident Jack Berlin said the budget cuts were too serious for a politics as usual mentality.

Gerald White said he was 100% behind recently embattled County Administrator Pat Bean.

Governor Charlie Crist’s selection of former Hillsborough County School Board head Earl Lennard as Supervisor of Elections means Lennard falls into the 'double-dip' category, where he will continue to enjoy his pension from his many years in the education, along with a new $132,000 annual contract – a fact noticed by citizen Gabe Phillips.

Numerous speakers, some Spanish speakers who spoke with a translator, pleaded with the Board not to cut the Hispanic Liason’s office to one part time employee.

But Marilyn Smith, a perennial speaker at County Commission meetings, said cultural liasons for any ethnic community in the County should not be supported.

Anne-Marie Kapusto’s husband has Alzheimer’s disease. They moved from Washington D.C. last summer. She said they moved to Hillsborough County to be near their son, soon to deploy to Afghanistan. She said she that the Ruskin Senior Center has been a ‘godsend’ for her family, and pleaded that it not be shut down.

There will be another public hearing on the budget on September 8th. The budget will be voted on September 17th.

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