Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

You can buy a hot dog at night in St. Petersburg now, but be careful where you speak your mind

Good video, lousy fight. It reminded me of the Seinfeld episode where old guys kept saying to Jerry, "You think you're better than me?" and then they would act tough and strain something.

The Brawl at City Hall started Thursday with a St. Petersburg City Council member's brother telling another guy in the audience to leave town if he didn't like the council's decision. The other guy replied, and I hope I am not being too explicit here, with a rude dining suggestion.

So the council member's brother charged, putting a hold on the back of Guy No. 2's neck that may or may not have been Greco-Roman. But Guy No. 2 seemed to get the upper hand, or at least, the top position when they went to the floor. A few seconds later the whole thing was over, and they were both yelling about their ages and being elderly victims.

Well! I confess a whole new regard now for the St. Petersburg City Council (motto: "My Big Brother Can Beat You Up"). The idea of kinfolk out in the audience, willing to duke it out with opposing citizens, adds an exciting angle to the municipal democracy.

Unfortunately, the Brawl at City Hall detracted from the news of the day, the City Council's decision to reverse itself and turn over a downtown public sidewalk to BayWalk, that struggling retail, restaurant and movie complex.

Two weeks before, the council had deadlocked 4-4, a setback for Mayor Rick Baker. But the rules in St. Petersburg appear to be that you just keep voting until the right side wins.

The point of giving up the sidewalk is to shut down public protests. Over the years various groups, notably the Uhuru organization and St. Pete for Peace, had used the public access to protest. Although there are a lot of reasons for BayWalk's troubles, everybody seized on the protests as Problem No. 1, and decided the sidewalk had to be made private, to keep out the riff-raff and make customers feel better.

In my book (apparently a minority opinion), there is no way to gussy this up. We can rationalize that it's Just This One Time (although I doubt that seriously). We can say those protesters are still free to go Someplace Else, even across the street. We can say that Decent People ought to be able to go to the movies without unpleasantness. We can say that BayWalk is economically important.

But no matter what we say, this is still an American government shutting down public space in America for the specific purpose of blocking free speech by Americans.

Not that most people seemed to care — most of what I heard was Decent People saying, "Good riddance."

Here the protesters were mostly radical/liberal types, but I would think conservatives should be a little nervous, too. What happens if that next Obama-lovin' health-care forum is labeled as a "private" event? What happens if the government gets the same wise idea about TEA parties and 9/12 marches? How come the Citizens for Decency aren't worried about where they're going to get to protest the next Hollywood outrage?

Still, the news was not all bad. Later, settling another controversy that has, you know, dogged the city, the council agreed to allow street vendors to operate downtown after 9 p.m. The citizens of St. Petersburg may now freely purchase a hot dog on the public streets — they just have to be careful about where they speak their minds.

You can buy a hot dog at night in St. Petersburg now, but be careful where you speak your mind 10/16/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 17, 2009 6:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Review / photos: Sunset Music Festival brings Major Lazer, safety upgrades to Raymond James Stadium in Tampa


    Somewhere beyond the barricades and mountainous LED stages of the Sunset Music Festival, there had to be worry. There had to thousands of parents in parking lots and empty kitchens, anxiously distracting their minds, every now and then checking their phones.

    Major Lazer headlined the Sunset Music Festival on May 27, 2017 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
  2. 24-year-old man charged with murder in shooting at Andrea Cove Motel

    LARGO — Pinellas sheriff's officers arrested a 24-year-old transient man Saturday in connection with a homicide at the Andrea Cove Motel in unincorporated Largo.

  3. Photo gallery: Calvary Christian rolls to state title


    View a gallery of images from Calvary Christian's defeat of Pensacola Catholic 11-1 in six innings Saturday night at Hammond Stadium in Ft. Myers for the Class 4A title.

    Calvary Christian players circle up on the field before the FHSAA class 4A baseball championship against Pensacola Catholic on Friday May 27, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Calvary scored 6 runs in the first inning, and had 7 hits.
  4. Two girls found safe after being reported missing in New Port Richey

    UPDATE: Both girls were found safe Saturday night, police said.

  5. IT failure blamed for British Airways cancellations (w/video)


    LONDON — British Airways canceled all flights from London's Heathrow and Gatwick airports on Saturday as a global IT failure upended the travel plans of tens of thousands of people on a busy U.K. holiday weekend.

    Passengers wait at a British Airways check-in desk after the airport suffered an IT systems failure Saturday at London''s Gatwick Airport. [Associated Press]