“The Church of Scientology can assist the city in a number of ways. One is to continue to provide input to the city concerning the revised downtown redevelopment plan.In addition, the church needs to communicate what its plans are for future expansion. By providing this type of information to the city, the church would help remove a great deal of uncertainty and speculation about the future of downtown.”
“Of course, partnership and trust building cannot happen all at once. It must start with the largest and most influential players, who must find in themselves the courage to lead. Specifically, this means the city of Clearwater and the Church of Scientology. They are the two largest landowners in the study area; they command the largest budgets; and they have the most influence over public opinion.
These two organizations must become partners in the future of the city. If they cannot, no one else will.”
—AULI Advisory Services Panel Report, Clearwater FL, June 15-20th, 2014
Freedom Magazine has yet another article with facts twisted just enough to paint Scientology as the poor, beleaguered church suffering in innocence at the hands of the Clearwater City Council.
Reading between the lines in A Unified Vision the message is clear; if the City Council had just let Miscavige have his own way without interference, everything would have been fine.
Quoting carefully and selectively from a 2014 analysis done by the Urban Land Institute the writer opens with “In 2014 the Urban Land Institute (ULI) completed a thorough analysis of downtown Clearwater and stated emphatically that the city and the Church of Scientology must become partners in a downtown renaissance. Otherwise nothing would happen.”
The renaissance will happen regardless.
The referenced statement, found above, is not an emphatic endorsement of Scientology but rather a resigned acknowledgement that this entity, as the second largest landholder, is there to stay like it or not. The study points out the similarity to any other institution commanding control over major real estate such as medical facilities or university campuses. Just like these other entities Scientology pays real estate taxes commensurate with the amount of property owned. In the end, this is not an act of community service or support but one of legal compliance that would be expected of any property owner. Unlike university or medical campuses that provide ongoing, direct benefit to the citizens Scientology, for the most part, is insular and focused on its own agenda which is what is best for Scientology.
It is clear that while COS wants to hold the City to the idea of partnership, that desire does not flow both ways. For Miscavige the ideal partnership is defined as giving in to his every demand and then expressing gratitude for whatever he wishes to bestow in acknowledgment of that obedience.
There is no partnership where Scientology is involved unless it’s on the cult’s terms.
Mayor George Cretekos told us in a statement that “Previously, it has been reported that the Church of Scientology did not wish to work with the current city council and will wait until after the elections of 2020. Others recently have seemed to be repeating that sentiment; yet, they also want the city, as the ‘Freedom’ article stresses, to follow the ULI report’s emphasis on being partners. In my opinion, a partnership is not much of a partnership if one side does not want to meet or discuss redevelopment of a common area that both have interests. Fortunately, the chairman of the Church of Scientology has now met with members of the city administration, and it is anticipated that there will be future meetings to discuss not only the city’s Imagine Clearwater plan, but also the church’s plans for the property it and its parishioners have been purchasing.”
Expressing a cautious optimism in moving forward, the Mayor’s statement shows a willingness to consider Scientology’s proposals, something that the Freedom Magazine article neglects to mention.
What the Mayor and Council express is a desire for what’s best for the city as a whole, this is not the ultimate goal for Scientology and these conflicting attitudes must be kept in mind.
Scientology already has control of a “Public Park”, reserving the right to have people removed simply because the church doesn’t like them. This pleasant space is shadowed by the fact that it is closely monitored by security cameras.
David Miscavige acknowledged the significance of the Fort Harrison Hotel to Clearwater at the grand reopening, saying “When she originally opened in 1926, they called her ‘the aristocrat of southern Florida hotels’ and described her as a ‘picturesque edifice’ known all up and down the coast, as the toast of this city and an ever-bustling hub of wedding receptions, fashion shows, bridge teas and Rotary Club functions.
She additionally saw no inconsiderable parade of luminaries. In the ’60s and ’70s the Phillies used to stay here during spring training and Duke Ellington, Count Basie and Buddy Rich all performed in our ballroom…”
In his closing remarks he promised “The bottom line is the same bottom line for the last 80-plus years: this Fort Harrison is and will always remain a landmark and home for all of Clearwater.”
Yet this has not turned out to be true.
Scientology may hold the occasional event for the public, however it is no longer available in the same way it had been for the “last 80-plus years”. It is now a religious retreat center for the use of Scientologists first and foremost.
Further, one cannot forget the Scientology boycott of local businesses urged by Miscavige when he was denied the purchase of the Clearwater Aquarium lot.
Given this history of bait and switch and angry retaliation, that the City Council is cautious and concerned about the ultimate destiny of such a vital location is understandable and should be appreciated by Clearwater citizens.
Under the complete control of Scientology it is not outside the realm of possibility that the City could eventually lose access and enjoyment of the property except at the discretion of COB Miscavige and his ever vigilant OSA.
In spite of Mayor Cretekos’ expressed willingness to meet halfway, Freedom Magazine pouts that “…For its part, the Church simply asked the city not to interfere with its decade-long desire to purchase a vacant lot of underutilized land that directly adjoins one of its retreats.”
Is this a partnership?
Further the article claims “…the Mayor, every member of the City Council, the City Manager—as well as 75 business and civic leaders—witnessed extensive documents and a 10-minute video that in words and graphic presentations made clear what the Church envisioned.”
What the Church envisioned.
Does this mean that just because a presentation was made it should unilaterally be accepted? Is not the Mayor and the City Council charged with ultimately doing what is best for the CITY? Just because Scientology has a vision does not make it compatible with Clearwater’s needs as a growing, vibrant city.
The AULI Report comments that “Clearwater must begin to actively tell its own story. To date, the city has been defined passively—and, to a large extent, negatively—from the outside. Clearwater must fill the vacuum with its own voice, creating a brand identity that is strong, positive, unapologetic, and inclusive.”
Scientology is the second largest landowner in Clearwater and it is also one of the largest contributors to that negative image.
Litigious, possessive, secretive and with a propensity for lashing out in rage, Scientology has forced, bullied and bought its way into the position it now holds.
What is Clearwater’s own story? Is it responsible or productive to figure Scientology into this creation of a Clearwater Brand? Certainly Scientology wishes to fill the vacuum with ITS own voice. Creating a Scientology Mecca from the foundations of Clearwater has been a stated goal for decades.
COS seems outraged and offended that the Mayor and Council do not simply step aside, close their eyes, open their arms and give the church carte blanch whenever they demand it.
“The video Mr. Miscavige presented to the political and civic leaders depicted the ‘before’ and ‘after’ of a sweeping downtown renovation. The facades of both sides of four blocks would be stylishly renovated.”
How many stylishly renovated Scientology buildings currently sit empty and echoing in cities all over this country? Buildings, nightclubs, parks and theaters are only as productive as the people who patronize them. How vital and vibrant is downtown Clearwater right now?
A Unified Vision paints a picture of anything but unification or partnership. It is, as usual, all about Scientology and what it wants.
“For its part, the Church simply asked the city not to interfere with its decade-long desire to purchase a vacant lot…”
“That would complete the Church’s downtown campus,”
“…what the Church envisioned.”
David Miscavige has offered the city blackmail wrapped in velvet with his offer of footing the bill for Imagine Clearwater.
If he gets what he wants, he’ll spend the additional money. If he doesn’t he’ll walk. Here too, there is real reason to suspect the motivations of the COB.
“Having spent $30 million just to get the multifaceted program underway, the Church was willing to underwrite the renovation of six downtown city blocks. The Church insisted it did not desire to manage or direct the commercial ventures but simply provide the wherewithal for a revitalized downtown.”
What then, was the purpose of “The Church stepped forward with both plans and funding that would transform downtown Clearwater and create a true City-Church partnership the ULI mandated in their analysis.
Some Clearwater city officials have feigned concern that they have not been privy to the plans by the Church of Scientology for downtown revitalization, which the Church offered in partnership. Yet, the Mayor, every member of the City Council, the City Manager—as well as 75 business and civic leaders—witnessed extensive documents and a 10-minute video that in words and graphic presentations made clear what the Church envisioned.
By their own admission Scientology wants the whole enchilada. They want complete control and they want to remake Imagine Clearwater into Reality Scientology.
It is obvious that there is no willingness to form any workable partnership except for compliance on the part of the City.
The real question here is will Imagine Clearwater become the vital, flourishing space for all of it’s citizens, or will it too become another guarded, monitored, controlled Scientology property?