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Carlton: A Congresswoman to Cuba?

Is Tampa's own Kathy Castor soon to be Cuba-bound?

The Democratic congresswoman's people won't confirm, but word is Castor plans to head south in April. This follows her notable speech last week at Mise en Place restaurant kicking off a conference on rapprochement with Cuba — Good for Tampa, Good for Florida, Good for America, as it was billed — with Castor talking up an end to economic sanctions.

"She was the strongest I've ever heard her on Cuba," reports Patrick Manteiga, publisher of La Gaceta newspaper, who has been to Cuba five times himself. It's also a positive move. But remember, Congresswoman — no stogies for the staff.

• • •

If you recently blew off jury duty, Hillsborough Circuit Judge Gregory P. Holder would like a word.

After meetings to decide what to do about summoned citizens who don't show — and don't send in an excuse beforehand — Holder is currently sending more than a hundred letters to possible scofflaws.

"There could be any number of reasons you did not appear for jury duty," it says on scary official judicial stationery. "Your failure to appear for jury service will be excused without penalty this time, as long as you appear for jury service on the date and time detailed below." In other words, here's a second chance to do the right thing.

Because summonses are not sent by expensive certified mail, it's hard to tell who's ignoring them and who honestly didn't get them. But only about 25 percent of more than 2,000 Hillsborough citizens called in weekly actually come. This means judges (and everyone else in court) can sometimes wait hours for enough people to pick a panel, a waste of time and tax dollars.

Yes, jury duty is a pain. It's also one of the most important things a regular person can do, if you believe in concepts like a jury of your peers. And most judges are pretty generous about excusing those who send in good reasons beforehand — like a teacher scheduled to give the FCAT.

So what happens if someone ignores what's in the mail a second time?

"Pursuant to Florida Statute 38.22, you are hereby notified that civil contempt proceedings may be brought against you," it says. Which means even potential jail time. As the legal types say: Govern yourself accordingly.

• • •

Today is Friday. The weather is fine. And I bet some downtown Tampa workers like me still miss the chance to spend lunch at that bustling open-air Friday market, where you could eat and stroll and buy local honey, organic soap and fresh bread.

The popular market, where you saw politicians, office workers and downtown residents walking their dogs, was abruptly ended last fall for reasons never made completely clear.

A Sunday market got started — nice for residents but not workers. And why not both? Again: No good answers.

Downtown has progressed — the Mayor's Food Truck Fiesta, the Riverwalk. But our tendency to go backward too continues to amaze me.

In place of the Friday market came Lunch on the Lawn and the promise of tables, takeout, live music and, not making this up, Hula Hoops and Frisbees if downtown workers were so inclined. Guess not. Lunch on the Lawn has been canceled.

And for the record, I'm not glad. Just not surprised.

Carlton: A Congresswoman to Cuba? 03/28/13 [Last modified: Friday, March 29, 2013 1:02am]

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