Can a long, boring government meeting signal a city's future?
Is a packed agenda indicative of Tampa's economic zeitgeist?
Like a lot of us, Harry Cohen, now a Tampa city councilman, saw those bobbing cranes that built sleek residential towers such as SkyPoint and Element during the city's downtown renaissance slow down and then disappear in the stranglehold of a bad economy.
So the monthly land use meetings to decide zoning issues became briefer affairs, since, well, nobody was doing a whole lot of building.
But last month's meeting, notes councilman Cohen, went to half-past midnight. There are plans for restaurants and bars, for expanding everything from church and synagogue schools to car dealerships.
"There's nothing that is more of an indicator of what's happening," he says.
Just this week, his to-do list included both the ground-breaking for the conversion of the beautiful 108-year-old federal courthouse downtown into a fancy hotel, and for apartments on Bayshore Boulevard.
There's also talk of holding not one but two land use meetings a month, like in the good old days.
Says Mayor Bob Buckhorn: "If it were up to me, the state bird would be the tower crane."
As long as we're being boosterish: Could local-color restaurant offerings that help make Tampa International one of the best airports around — the Mise en Place wine bar, Green Iguana, Cigar City Brewing, Shula's, the Columbia — someday have tourists sipping creamy Guinness pints via another beloved Tampa institution — Four Green Fields Irish pub, a favorite of lawyers and other downtown types?
About lawyers and bars.
Local attorneys disgusted by allegations that some among them would sink so low as to send a good-looking employee to a bar to seduce opposing counsel (think shock jock trial) are circulating a tongue-in-cheek list of "30 ethical tips" for attorneys: Tip #5: If you do let her buy your drinks, keep count. … Tip #18: Don't call your son's godfather at the police department and ask him to set up a police DUI sting just to catch your opponent.
Lawyer C. Philip Campbell is charged with drunken driving. Three attorneys from the other side's firm, Adams & Diaco, are under investigation by the Florida Bar. At a recent meeting of a professional organization of lawyers and judges, this talk-of-the-town prompted Circuit Judge Gregory Holder to give a toast on civility.
Holder read some of the oath taken by Florida lawyers, the part about treating the other side with "fairness, integrity and civility." I'm told around here this is sometimes referred to as the Miami Clause, since some down south are considered harder-edged than our own.
So would the judge call the local case Miami-esque? No, he said. "I wouldn't want to malign the good people of Miami."
Speaking of which: Tampa's mayor recently took Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez to the University Club for lunch. Gimenez promptly ordered a Cuban, the sandwich that nourished many a Tampa cigar worker and for which the two cities recently battled for historic bragging rights. (But we won.)
"He was complimentary," reports Buckhorn, but "still said Miami's was better." We'll let that go, in the interest of civility.