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Mind if we steal your land? Too bad

I was fishing down by the Pinellas Bayway the other day when two scuba divers emerged from the water, like in a James Bond movie.

When they took off their masks, I saw they were the mayor of St. Petersburg, Rick Baker, and his loyal City Council chairman, James Bennett.

"Hey, what are you guys doing down there?" I asked.

They said they were annexing. Bennett pointed to a nearby flatbed truck loaded with "St. Petersburg City Limits" signs.

"You're installing city limits signs underwater?" I asked.

"Sure," Baker said. "This here is a vital part of the city limits of St. Petersburg."

I said it looked to me like a skinny stretch of sandy bottom, saltwater and a bridge.

"Nevertheless," the mayor said, "this is contiguous to the limits of St. Petersburg, and we are annexing it."

I said that I knew what "contiguous" meant, but I wasn't sure this qualified.

"Your city limits run all nice and compact along the northern shore over there," I said. "How come you're all of a sudden tacking on a little strip of water?"

"Well," Bennett said, "after this little strip of water is contiguous, that means that whatever it connects to on the other side is contiguous, and we can annex that, too."

All three of us looked in the direction of Tierra Verde, the unincorporated community that makes up the southern tip of Pinellas County.

"You're going to annex Tierra Verde?" I asked. "I don't think those folks are gonna like that."

"Not all, not all!" Baker quickly said. "Just a couple of teeny, tiny little parts of it."

Bennett pulled out a waterproof map of Tierra Verde with a red line drawn around about 18 acres' worth.

"Say, wait a minute," I said. "Aren't these the guys, the marina owner and that Sembler fellow, who want to be in your city because you're gonna let them build more stuff than they can now?"

"You make it sound so wrong," Baker said. "Think of it as improving St. Petersburg's tax base."

"I dunno, it seems kind of weird to me," I said. "You're running a snorkel across the water to benefit a couple of private developers, creating a wacky appendix to the city across a drawbridge, and permanently dividing an entire unincorporated community that might want to be a city itself some day."

They both stared blankly. "And your point is?" Bennett asked.

"I guess I was just thinking that might doesn't always make right."

More blank stares.

"Okay, let me ask you this," I tried. "Are we going to be running city services over there? Isn't money already tight?"

Baker bristled at this. "I have already proven with statistics that everything is perfectly fine in St. Petersburg," he said. He snapped his fingers at a guy in the truck.

"Show him, Chuck," Baker said. Chuck pulled out a pocket calculator, punched in a bunch of numbers and showed me the result. It said, "Great day in St. Petersburg."

"I can't believe," I said, "that the City Council is really going to go for this."

But Bennett pointed behind me. I looked, and seven more scuba divers were coming out of the water.

"Looks like we're gonna need more signs," Bennett said.

"By the way," the mayor added, pointing to my bucket, "I think those are my fish."

"You annexed the fish, too?"

"Just the ones I wanted," he said.

Mind if we steal your land? Too bad 11/10/08 [Last modified: Friday, November 14, 2008 8:43pm]

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