Scientology should discuss Clearwater plans in public - 2017-03-08
The Church of Scientology appears determined to complete the hostile takeover of downtown Clearwater it launched four decades ago. It's latest effort has all of the familiar characteristics: Disguised property purchases, secret meetings and intimidation. Mayor George Cretekos and other City Council members should stand up to these strong-arm tactics, force the discussions into the open and not allow downtown to become a wholly owned Scientology subsidiary.
It turns out City Manager Bill Horne and Community Redevelopment Agency director Seth Taylor have known for months that Scientology is intent on gaining control of every bit of downtown. The Times' Tracey McManus reported this week they were shown renderings by Scientology leader David Miscavige in October and later briefed about the church's concept to control every parcel and every aspect of a new retail district. While the city officials were not given copies, those discussions should have been promptly disclosed. The best antiseptic for fighting a spreading infection is openness.
Yet Miscavige will be in Clearwater next week to meet privately with each City Council member at Scientology's Fort Harrison Hotel and brief them on the grand plan. These conversations should not be secret, and at least one City Council member has had second thoughts and declined the invitation. Anyone bidding to become downtown's master developer should be willing to meet with city officials in public at City Hall, so residents and property owners can hear the pitch and decide for themselves whether this vision is best for their city.