Make clear that no criminal or tortious activity will be tolerated (harassment, defamation, human trafficking, etc.) and prosecute violators. Invite the church to show it’s a good faith partner by filling downtown properties with businesses that cater to a diverse clientele. Impose vacancy fees on storefronts that remain empty beyond a certain date.
We have to abide by the Constitution first of all, which many citizens do not understand. I believe you have to treat them like any large entity within the city and create some level of accountability if they are not being a positive contributor. I did communicate with leaders when I was mayor previously so that I could understand what their intentions were going forward. I have been telling citizens that they need to come downtown because Scientology is not contagious and they need to support the businesses that have made an investment in downtown.
A. I propose to hold discussions with all community groups to determine the existence of common interests. Should there be joint agreement then all could proceed. If no joint agreement, then only take action that will benefit the entire city. B. All organizations in the city should be held accountable for acting responsibly including the city itself.
Transparency, but being able to talk with the Church of Scientology is of the utmost importance. With my background, which is unique to the mayoral race, I feel that I will make it possible to negotiate with the church. I truly am the only person that has family on both sides. I have nothing to gain or lose in this race as I have no affiliations or agendas except to make Clearwater better place for everyone.
We need to reset the relationship with this organization. The members aren't the problem. They are good, smart, dedicated people who believe they are saving the planet. The leadership of the group and the policies put in place by founder L. Ron Hubbard are the problem. I have long recommended that the city consult the former head of Scientology's Office of Special Affairs Mike Rinder for help understanding Scientology. They have refused so I am finally running myself because the city needs someone on the council who understands how Scientology operates and is not afraid to call them out. When I see politicians getting photographed at Scientology events, I know Scientology is using them to "safepoint" their business. (Police Chief Dan) Slaughter has already agreed not to let himself be put in that position again. None of our elected officials should. It's one thing for local officials to turn a blind eye to how Scientology operates. They should not allow themselves to be used to promote many of the abuses carried out within the very buildings where these events are held. The police used to have a training program for new recruits on how Scientology behaves. This should be reinstituted. Scientology has written policy that it is a high crime to report a member to the police department. The police need to know that. That's how crimes such as the sexual abuse of at least one young girl at the Clearwater Academy (alleged in a lawsuit) were covered up for years. Covering up PR flaps is more important to Scientology than justice. I'm not saying don't provide services to Scientology. Of course not. I'm saying don't pretend that Scientology's goals are the same as the city's. They are not. No meetings with city officials outside the Sunshine Act laws, everything must be on the record. If Miscavige wants to pitch a project, he should do it in public. We need transparency. If the group refuses to change their ways and stop being a drain on downtown, then the city should work with state and federal agencies to curb their abuses and strip them of their tax exempt status. Scientology didn't have full tax exemption until 1993. If it's taken away for just cause they will still do fine and the city can use the windfall of the back taxes to actually repair some of the damage done by the group.
I, along with many Clearwater citizens, find the city and (Church of Scientoloy) relationship built on a fragile foundation of mistrust, dishonesty and a lack of (transparency) and communication. It is frustrating and disheartening to see a 40-year relationship absent of honest dialogue or unity and the repercussions are evident throughout our entire community. Change can only happen at the speed of trust, and that has been eroding in the hearts and minds of our citizens for many years. Existing codes should be enforced. We as a city should ensure that (Scientology) businesses are operating as permitted and not as empty shells. All developers, including the (church) and its members, must follow proper protocols of communication and legal procedures with the city's economic development department and the planning and building department. Our city should enact overlay districts within our (Community Redevelopment Area) that ensures development plans are compatible with the city's strategic vision and master plan of downtown.
The city of Clearwater should do what is best for all of the citizens of Clearwater, with regard to revitalization of downtown or any other area of the city. Voters have expressed directly to me their concern that taxpayer money not be spent to benefit Scientology or any other private individual or institution. Clearwater residents have also expressed a strong desire that the city be careful not to waste taxpayer money and public resources in its approach to Scientology and that there are many other important issues facing Clearwater and the neighborhoods they live in. The city of Clearwater should should continue to engage in dialogue with Scientology about its plans for growth and use of the properties it owns or has influence over in Clearwater. This dialogue is important for the city of Clearwater to make decisions that are in the best for all of the citizens of Clearwater.
The same way that we are currently. Our city manager, assistant city manager and city attorney have all chosen to meet with church officials and discuss what would be best for our city and ALL its residents.
We need to have an open and transparent dialogue. We need to convince the church that their substantial real estate holdings make them a stakeholder where it is in their best interest to partner with the city.
As the city seeks to improve and revitalize the downtown community it should invite all property/business owners to participate in candid discussions about their visions/goals for downtown and the strategy to achieve them. I don’t think the (Church of Scientology) should be treated any differently than any other property owner. Simply, we are all stakeholders and the expectation is that participants will be honest, forthright and collaborative. I believe city management (city manager and city attorney) are within their bounds to ask church leaders directly why they purchased additional property and what their plans are. However, I don’t think it’s helpful to group companies and Scientology parishioners together with the church as the greater, “(Chutch of Scientology).” We simply do not have any evidence that demonstrates that the church and parishioners will necessarily operate as a monolith. With respect to separation of church and state, I don’t think it’s wise to assume because of someone’s religion they will behave in a certain way. Further, a person’s religious beliefs/practices are private and legally cannot be a consideration in business/real estate decisions/discussions. I believe initiating and participating in conversations with the (church) is a positive for the city. There must be a dialogue because the (church) has such a commanding presence in our downtown. The city should invite (Scientology) leaders to sit down for continued discussion. I think it is good practice that the city report to its residents a summary of each meeting held with the (church); perhaps a transcript of each meeting could be made available.
It's important to attempt to keep communication lines open with church leadership. Find common goals and work to meet those goals. The chairman has agreed to give us a campus map so we will know what real estate they plan to use for their church, and what will be developed for commercial use. That would be very helpful to the city. Church parishioners should be treated with respect and dignity. An atmosphere of cooperation is sought by city government and downtown businesses.
The church is not going away. The city needs to have an honest, trustworthy, transparent and open dialogue with the church leaders as well as the parishioners, and others, who are downtown property owners. We can no longer tolerate the blight of vacant storefronts which significantly impact the image and perception of downtown Clearwater. We can have only one vision for Clearwater. No wonder people do not want to go downtown. Much more enjoyable to go to Dunedin, St. Pete, Safety Harbor and Tampa.
The city has failed in it’s handling of the Church of Scientology. The city must take the leadership when meeting with church leaders. Failure to do so over the past three years have left city leaders unaware of the real estate transactions in our downtown.