The slap that wasn't, killing off electric carts and snakes, saving the law library and other weird news of the week

Between baby rattlesnakes, budget cuts and the slap heard 'round the world (or at least 'round the right-wing radio dial), this has been an instructive week.

Some headlines:

When a downtown trying to get people to actually live there does something really neat and innovative involving transportation, you must HURRY HURRY CRUSH IT LIKE A BUG! In its continuing effort to be at least a fraction as cool and lively as downtown St. Petersburg, Tampa had these little electric carts to zoom around and ferry folks to and fro. Hop a cart to a concert, hotel, restaurant, wine bar, hockey game, movie at Channelside — very downtown, right?

Not so fast. This week county transportation officials ruled these are "vehicles for hire," despite the fact that they don't charge and instead take tips and sell ads. The designation means cart companies will need permits to keep going. At least one cart business owner already says he'll likely move to St. Petersburg.

To which Tampa says: Ouch.

Sometimes a slap is just a well, you know, a standard diversionary anti-spittle maneuver. Despite Internet ravings about a literal slap in the face of democracy, turns out a heated encounter between attendees at that infamous Tampa town hall meeting on health care reform was neither a slap nor a violent attempt to silence a brave naysayer.

And, darn it. That was such a better story.

The truth of the matter was really more like a conundrum you would pose to Miss Manners: What to do when, in the course of lively debate, one's opponent appears ready to let loose with a bit of spittle. Bob and weave? Duck?

The woman who delivered the alleged "slap" at the raucous meeting says she more like moved the man's face to the side to avoid some heat-of-the-moment saliva she feared was headed her way.

The "victim" confirmed he suffered no slap and in fact, didn't even remember that part of the encounter.

So, plenty of outrage to come out of that meeting, but sorry, no slap.

Sometimes it's hard to tell which one's the snake. In other news, a trapper admitted he faked the capture of a scary 14-foot python in a Manatee County drainpipe, having, well, put the snake there himself and soaked up the ensuing publicity.

Justin Matthews apologized and said, "I did it for wildlife education," apparently with a straight face.

Speaking of snakes, this year's Tillie Tooter Award For Octogenarian Feistiness goes to … 87-year-old Ester Orrino, who, when she found a baby pygmy rattler that bit her finger, took the snake out with her cane.

Finally, lawyers in love … with the library. Hillsborough Commissioner Al Higginbotham got plenty of feedback when people heard he was eyeing the downtown law library in the name of budget cuts — maybe even an all-out shut-down, as one rumor erroneously had it.

News about the library, particularly popular with lawyers who don't work in silk stocking firms and regular folk who can't afford high-end legal help, got them riled.

At a workshop this week, the commissioner's attempt was soundly stymied. But the most fun moment was an observation that the county legal staff that the commissioner asked to do research on the issue did some of it … at the law library.

The slap that wasn't, killing off electric carts and snakes, saving the law library and other weird news of the week 08/14/09 [Last modified: Friday, August 14, 2009 7:42pm]

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