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Monday's Quick Hits: Rowden, the Trib sale, baseball and reading

Joe Piermatteo, who was a big shot in the mining industry back when mining was about the biggest thing going in Hernando County, sent me an email about my Sunday column on the claim that Democratic County Commission candidate Diane Rowden is anti-business.

"Do you remember Diane Rowden and the Florida law in the sunshine?" Piermatteo wrote. "You pick on (her opponent Jason) Sager, but you forget her record! You have a very selective memory!"

Okay, here it is: Rowden was removed from the Hernando County School Board after it was determined she had repeatedly violated state open meeting laws.

It was easily the best-documented, most flagrant case of disregarding the Sunshine Law during the time I've been in Hernando.

So, no, I didn't forget about it. The only reason that I might have is that quite a bit of time has passed. The violations took place more than 20 years ago, the removal just slightly less than that, in February 1993. (In fact, all five members of the School Board were indicted on Sunshine Law violations in 1992, but only Rowden was removed after she pleaded no contest to a charge that she had held private conversations with other board members.)

Fortunately, I have been reminded of it by our coverage of this issue during nearly every one of Rowden's campaigns. Doing a search of our electronic library with the terms "Rowden" and "Sunshine Law violation" I came up with 39 hits, which, Joe, I gotta say, is quite a few for an issue that the Times has supposedly ignored.

And just in case anyone did forget about these violations, we can be sure the helpful people with Sager's campaign or an outside political action committee will remind voters with some sensational advertisements. That's what happened when Rowden ran for office in 2008 and 2010.

Forget it? Not likely.

•••

We heard just this morning that investors from Los Angeles are buying the Tampa Tribune and related publications, including Hernando Today, for $9.5 million.

Nobody knows yet what this will mean, though the seemingly tiny sum and the fact that the Tribune's longtime parent company, Media General, has been so eager to unload it — and that the company that in July bought Media General's other newspapers passed on the Trib wouldn't appear to be good signs.

Maybe we at the Tampa Bay Times should be delighted. In a market that seems to have room for only one newspaper, we're looking more and like that one.

But every journalist knows that the public is better off with lots of competing voices and lots of reporters digging for dirt. We also know we do our jobs better when we fear waking up and finding we've had our journalistic backside handed to us.

So, no doubt about it. If this is one more sign that our competitor is withering away, it's a loss. And, even for us, it's kind of sad.

•••

I'm not sure the average American sports fan has been quite as purged of their interest in baseball as I have.

But I do know national television audiences don't tune in to baseball in nearly the numbers they do football.

And I know I watched every minute of a lackluster Cincinnati Bengals game on Sunday, while, later Sunday night, the Reds won the second game of their playoff series with the San Francisco Giants behind the shutout pitching of Hernando High School grad Bronson Arroyo.

A few decades ago, it would have been the highlight of my week — the revival of my underdog small-market team and a gem of a performance by a hometown hero,

Now? I didn't even know about it until I saw the SportsCenter highlights Monday morning.

•••

Reading Charles Dickens' Tale of Two Cities with my younger son, who has been assigned it for school, all I can say is — Wow! Things sure have changed since the 19th century.

Not the social inequity. Dickens, in this book, is writing about 18th century France rather than 19th century England, but it doesn't seem to matter. Unfortunately, it's a timeless issue.

No, all I'm thinking about is how much time people must have had on their hands back then to wade through the two or three pages it takes, for example, to describe Dr. Manette's house.

Oh, yeah, and it's not because the doctor has lots of money, but because his perfect daughter, Lucie, has turned her amazingly competent and tasteful hand to decorating it. You get the point after a couple of paragraphs. He goes on for a dozen or so.

I guess I appreciate it. I like the attention to the previously mentioned eternal themes. And I understand that if we all read the same designated great works, we'll all have the same cultural touchstones.

But what a bore! And I can't help thinking that if teachers found another classic that moved along a little faster, somewhere down the line kids might actually pick up books for fun.

Monday's Quick Hits: Rowden, the Trib sale, baseball and reading 10/08/12 [Last modified: Monday, October 8, 2012 1:52pm]
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