I tried not to let Dr. Garrity‘s letter to the editor get to me. I wanted to cut him some slack after all he’s been through, but then I received a galling mass e-mail from Brian Blair, in which he uses Dr. Garrity’s letter to scold supporters of EPC‘s wetlands protections for “distortions and false statements” along with the “challenges and propaganda” Blair claims he’s had to face (poor him!) while he tried to eliminate our wetlands protections. Oh excuse me, there goes another “distortion” — he was only trying to make the process more efficient!
Blair is trying to paint a picture of a community divided into two sides:
1. the rational united Blair & Garrity side supporting efficiency (as if the issue was never elimination!)
2. the lying vandals
One of the “challenges” Blair obliquely refers to is a vandalism incident reported last month:
Blair said garbage was strewn around his yard and graffiti was sprayed on his sidewalk.
In his letter, Garrity explicity refers to the vandalism, saying it’s time for us all to stop being “contentious” and start “cooperating.”
I mention this [allegations that Blair violated Sunshine Laws] as an example of the mindset that we must begin to change. It is my hope that unfounded verbal attacks such as this, the vandalism of the commissioner’s home and the contentiousness of the past few months give way to cooperation among members of our community. Unless we work together, we will not be able to effectively deal with the certain growth that is coming our way.
What saved the wetlands division from the complete elimination which Blair originally voted for, was a huge public uprising led by a stellar group of community leaders too numerous to name, along with many broad-based organizations such as the League of Women Voters, Tampa City Council, Keystone Civic Association, Rural Lithia Area Neighborhood Defense, Ruskin Community Development Foundation, Seffner Community Alliance, Citizens for the Revitalization of Temple Terrace, Sierra Club, Audubon Society, Suncoast Native Plant Society, Gulf Restoration Network, Agency on Bay Management, Coalition for Responsible Growth, U-CAN, and several homeowners associations and other groups representing thousands of individuals. These people do not need to be told to put aside our differences to work together—we’ve all been doing that for many years on MANY issues.
It is somewhat insulting for these upstanding individuals and organizations to be told that they must stop being “contentious” and start “cooperating.” It goes far beyond insulting to lump us all in with whoever vandalized Blair’s yard.
Charlotte Butler-Nelson fired off this response printed in the Tribune under “We’re not vandals.”
How dare Richard Garrity insinuate that those of us who worked so hard to support retention of the EPC Wetlands division are responsible for ‘vandalizing’ Brian Blair’s property. Over the past few months, I spent many long hours sifting through documents, making phone calls, writing letters and attending the EPC meetings so that I would be well informed. These activities enabled me to speak to the EPC Commission’s concerns and honestly show my support for the division. Many other people in the community did the same.
For Garrity to openly suggest that any one of us who supported retention of the wetlands division is guilty of executing this vandalism is an egregious violation of respect.
Garrity owes us an apology.
After receiving Brian Blair’s campaign piece (sent during office hours when he’s supposed to be earning his $92,000 salary + hefty car allowance), I expressed the above (and more) directly to Dr. Garrity who says he only meant to send a healing message, inviting everyone to participate in the work ahead, and didn’t intend to imply anything about any specific individual or group regarding the vandalism.
Obviously Blair felt Garrity’s message was something to crow about, and it bothers me — a lot — to see the EPC Director used as a tool in Blair’s political propaganda.