T he partly (but not entirely) fake Tampa Bay and Florida year in review, Part I: Highlights, lowlights and sound bites from the first half of 2012:
Love for the gov? Rick Scott pushes on with a gubernatorial charm offensive to fix his image as possibly the least liked governor in America, and also the guy who tried to kill Harry Potter.
The extreme makeover includes photo ops with him in casual polo shirts, flying kites with children and petting a dog, possibly his own.
Enthuses an early pollster: "The makeover's working!"
Holy severance check: Employees at the Children's Board of Hillsborough County are shocked to find holy oil spread on their desks following a "meeting from hell." A deeper look reveals a seriously dysfunctional organization, and when it comes to holding on to her job as its chief executive officer, Luanne Panacek turns out to have, pardon the expression, not a prayer.
Next on the agenda: Suspicious oxygen in our breathing air: Emboldened by their success in persuading the bulk of the Pinellas County Commission to stop adding proven cavity-fighting fluoride to the drinking water, some activists embark on their next cause: issuing every citizen concerned about governmental mind control their own aluminum foil-covered helmet.
The boys of Tampa and the boys of summer? In steamy sports gossip, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn continues to deny reports of dalliances with the still-technically-married-to-St. Pete Tampa Bay Rays, despite pictures posted on Facebook of him and the owners in the deepest, darkest dessert room at Bern's.
In related news, Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan is questioned by authorities after being found outside the Trop clutching a sweaty fistful of daisies and a Whitman's Sampler.
House? What house? Embattled incumbent state Sen. Jim Norman announces an abrupt exit from his race along with his plans to retire to a half-million-dollar lakefront vacation home in Arkansas, which he absolutely did not get from a millionaire political benefactor.
Norman also says his wife owns whatever house it is you're talking about, which by the way he could not find with a GPS if he tried.
Plus, there was no salami in evidence: In the fierce turf war over which Florida city truly owns the rights to the authentic Cuban sandwich, a Tampa City Council member is injured by being whacked across the shins with a loaf of Cuban bread.
According to Tampa police, the weapon was easily traced to Miami because it was "as hard and dry as an old tree limb," unlike the Tampa version, which is "softer than fairy's breath and lighter than wispy white clouds on a summer's day."
Gov. shows his colors: In fuzzy slippers and a cardigan sweater with gently worn elbow patches, Gov. Rick "Ricky" Scott supports efforts to tamp down on voting by "folks not like you and me, because who wouldn't want to be a Republican?"
This includes a stranglehold on voter registration drives and reducing early voting days, changes more likely to affect those who vote Democrat.
Says an unamused electorate: "The makeover's not working."
Next up: Times columnist John Romano on the second half of 2012.