Thursday, April 19, 2018
Politics

Carlton: Government is where a nice little idea can go to die

So a guy on the Tampa City Council had this nice idea.

Hey, thought Guido Maniscalco, the council's newest and youngest member, why not let people who get parking tickets pay off part of their fines by feeding the hungry? Why not let parking scofflaws fork over canned goods instead of cash to help out over the holidays?

Tallahassee, Savannah, Albany, Cincinnati and Lexington, Ky., have all done some version of food for fines. So surely this proposal would fly through a City Council meeting with minimal discussion and a resoundingly unanimous yes, right?

Hungry people get helped! Ticket-getters feel good — or at least better — about paying up!

What could go wrong, right?

Maniscalco's nice idea on this week's City Council meeting agenda started off fine. Council members heard from the city attorney, who told them that yes, in fact, they could legally accomplish this proposal by amending an ordinance and adopting the program pursuant to a resolution process. (Uh, okay. Sure.) Smooth sailing from here, right?

"Actually," said council member Lisa Montelione, "I have a couple of questions." And, they were off.

Well, yes, a city administrator answered, there were concerns about collecting, storing and distributing all that food. (Apparently they do not have a vast empty warehouse nor staff sitting around doing sudokus.) Consider that Lexington's program took in 6,000 cans in a month, and Albany reportedly 27 tons. No time period was disclosed, but yes, they said tons.

"So that would be a logistical challenge for us once you start talking about tonnage," Ocea Lattimore of the city's logistics and asset management department diplomatically told the board.

Council member Charlie Miranda, known for his thrift, called the idea honorable but pointed out the parking department is not exactly "flourishing in money" but in fact scraps for every dollar.

Even allowing ticket-payers to substitute nonperishable food for $15 off their fines for a single month would cost.

How do you determine which charity gets the food, Montelione asked. Wouldn't they have to put the whole thing out for bid?

Alternatives were mulled: Why not let those ticketed write a check to a favored food bank? Why couldn't parking violators schlep those butter beans and canned corn there themselves and snap a cellphone selfie as evidence? Couldn't the city just have a bring-a-can-to-work day for its thousands of employees?

Suddenly the problematic possibilities seemed endless if you were listening to this. What if a Christian charity were chosen — would this raise religious-based objections? The mind reeled.

The nice little item stretched on into the lunch hour.

And they weren't even wrong.

Because what played out that day was the true nature of government and its inevitable bureaucracy, of elected officials who have to represent our interests within a tangle of regulation and reality, who must weigh cost and benefit no matter how good something sounds.

Yes, Maniscalco told me later, he was a little surprised at how it went. But he's determined to have more "clarification and details" at their June 23 meeting, when a nice idea comes up again.

Comments
Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

Everybody loses in a trade war, Canadian chamber CEO warns Tampa officials

TAMPA — President Donald Trump has tweeted "trade wars are good, and easy to win."Don’t believe it, the president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce told Tampa business and political leaders on Wednesday."We share more with you than with anybody els...
Published: 04/19/18
Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

Hernando clerk of the court announces resignation to run for judicial seat

BROOKSVILLE — Clerk of the Circuit Court and Comptroller Don Barbee this week submitted his resignation — effective Jan. 7 — to run for an open circuit judge seat.Barbee, who is in the middle of his second term, said he made the move "with a tremendo...
Published: 04/17/18
Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Poll: Democrats’ advantage in midterm election support is shrinking

Democrats hold an advantage ahead of the midterm elections, but a Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that edge has narrowed since January, a signal to party leaders and strategists that they could be premature in anticipating a huge wave of victorie...
Published: 04/16/18
Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

Spokesman: Former first lady Barbara Bush in failing health

HOUSTON — Former first lady Barbara Bush is in "failing health" and won’t seek additional medical treatment, a Bush family spokesman said Sunday. "Following a recent series of hospitalizations, and after consulting her family and doctors...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

Trump assails Comey in tweetstorm, calls for ex-FBI director to be imprisoned

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump attacked James Comey in a fusillade of tweets Sunday morning, calling for the former FBI director to be imprisoned as Trump served up a number of his favorite theories and alleged misdeeds without evidence.Trump’s ...
Published: 04/15/18
President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Trump’s approval rating is back near first-100-day levels

President Donald Trump’s approval rating stands at 40 percent in a new Washington Post-ABC News poll, slightly more than his 36 percent approval rating when last measured in January. It’s also the highest he’s enjoyed in Post-ABC polling since his fi...
Published: 04/15/18
Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

Gun rights advocates holding rallies at state capitols in US

DOVER, Del. — Gun rights supporters — many carrying rifles and ammunition — gathered at state capitols across the U.S. on Saturday to push back against efforts to pass stricter gun-control laws that they fear threaten their constitutional right to be...
Published: 04/15/18
Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

Trump, Abe to meet as U.S.-Japan relationship shows strains over N. Korea, trade

President Donald Trump will welcome Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to Mar-a-Lago this week in an effort to shore up their relationship amid strains in the U.S.-Japan alliance ahead of Trump’s potential summit with the leader of North Korea.Abe is...
Published: 04/14/18
Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

Haley warns that US forces ‘locked and loaded’ if Syria stages another chemical attack

The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations told the Security Council on Saturday that the United States is "locked and loaded," ready to launch another military strike if the Syrian government ever uses chemical weapons again."I spoke to the president...
Published: 04/14/18
Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

Trump uses phrase that haunted Bush: ‘Mission Accomplished!’

WASHINGTON — As he declares the U.S.-led airstrikes against Syria a success, President Donald Trump is adopting a phrase that a previous president came to regret — "mission accomplished." On Saturday, Trump tweeted: "A perfectly executed strike last ...
Published: 04/14/18