Saturday, January 20, 2018
Politics

Sue Carlton: Biscayne Bay has a lesson for Tampa Bay

The other day, when I was away, I walked across Biscayne Bay.

The Rickenbacker Causeway between Miami proper and Key Biscayne turns out to have, to my great delight, a wide pedestrian walkway for runners and walkers. A bike lane, too.

So you get this charming experience of walking across the water and up the bridge's span, with amazing cityscape views of skyscrapers, jets banking from the airport, beaches and an utterly beautiful bay. Sound familiar?

Sadly, with each day the idea of finding the money to reopen our own Friendship Trail Bridge — the old Gandy between Tampa and St. Pete used by thousands until it got too old to be safe — seems more remote. You can admire the enthusiasm of those who talk of saving it still, but we haven't seen much in terms of results.

Take heart. At least we're finally figuring out people like to be outside around here, and all that water is pretty nice, too.

Next year, a 12-foot-wide multiuse trail for cyclists, walkers and runners opens, running parallel to the Courtney Campbell Parkway from Ben T. Davis Beach to the Pinellas County line. The Hillsborough side of this $14.6 million, federally funded project is expected to open this fall.

Florida Department of Transportation spokeswoman Kris Carson says it's part of a safety effort in a state with twice the national average of pedestrian fatalities.

And the part about being high up over the water between two cities is nice, too.

• • •

It is fair to say that when Tampa Police took Al Fox to jail on a DUI charge last February, they arrested the wrong man. In more ways than one.

Fox, 69, is a vocal advocate for normalizing relations with Cuba and not afraid of saying what he thinks. He was pulled over on N Dale Mabry that night for speeding.

Fox believes the officers — one who referred to him as "that Cuba guy" — knew who he was and that he was given extraordinary treatment because of it.

They said he was glassy-eyed and smelled of alcohol. He was arrested and handcuffed and booked, transferred from one jail to another, strip searched twice.

He also blew 0.00 on alcohol breath tests twice and had a clean urine test. It was no surprise the State Attorney's Office didn't prosecute. And, no surprise, Fox has served notice that he plans to sue.

It will also be no surprise if the city settles before debate over whether it was an honest police mistake, a targeting of Fox, or a case of a police culture of overenthusiastic DUI officers gets going.

Stay tuned.

• • •

While the Tampa City Council just voted to make it harder to be homeless here, Hillsborough's tax collector is making it a little bit easier to get off the streets.

A driver's license or state ID card is a basic step toward getting a job, an apartment, a chance. And if renewing is a headache for you, imagine it without transportation or a phone.

On July 30 (a Tuesday) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., tax collector Doug Belden makes good on a plan to bring the state mobile driver's license van to Metropolitan Ministries for ID cards, which are free for the homeless. The plan is to have ID services available every other month — a small step toward a leg up.

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