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Sarasota News Leader September 6, 2013 OPINION then printed as needed (and only as needed). Any documents provided to the county by outsiders would immediately be scanned and converted to digital form for storage and easy retrieval. If the county had begun this policy a decade ago, Ramirez could potentially have spent her day at a public-access terminal, locating documents that she needed and downloading them to a flash drive she brought with her for portable data storage. It is the county's antediluvian attachment to 19th century records storage that is costing taxpayers money unnecessarily, not the free exercise by citizens of their right to inspect government records. But there is another, sinister subtext to Barbetta's vitriol. Public officials who gain election with a preset, personal agenda are among those term limits were intended to eliminate. That intent is diminished when such a public official, when unable to realize said agenda, seeks a like-minded person to succeed him in office for the purpose of continuing his initiatives. Most courthouse observers expect Ramirez to run for Commissioner Patterson's seat in 2014. And just as many likely know Barbetta has endorsed Alan Maio, an individual whose professional experience might lead one to believe he will be as cozy with developers as Barbetta has been. Ramirez has openly challenged Barbetta's plans to eviscerate the county's 2050 Plan, Page 83 which imposes more control over development east of Interstate 75. Barbetta obviously would be happier with Maio, who could not reasonably have received Barbetta's endorsement without similarly wanting drastic changes in the 2050 Plan. Barbetta uses the unequal application of fees for public records access as cover for his more likely intent: to publicly criticize a potential opponent for his handpicked candidate to succeed Patterson. This sort of "back room" machination is a far more egregious affront to the county taxpayers than a few dollars in staff time. It is an attempt to fray the very fabric of democracy in our county. Let us hope the voters do not buy it. % LETTERS TO THE EDITOR The Sarasota News Leader welcomes letters to the editor from its readers. Letters should be no more than 300 words in length, and include the name, street address and telephone number of the writer. Letters should be emailed to, with "Letter to the Editor" in the subject line. Letters actually printed will be selected based on space available, subject matter and other factors. We reserve the right to edit any letters submitted for length, grammar, spelling, etc. All letters submitted become the property of The Sarasota News Leader.

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