Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Politics

Hiding Lady Justice, fencing a city

The state of political discourse in America has come to this:

Lady Justice, hidden away in a box, for the duration of the Republican National Convention.

She is a statue that greets anyone with business at the Hillsborough County courthouse in downtown Tampa, and, like politics itself, the subject of much conversation.

She stands 10 feet tall and weighs 2,000 pounds. She is coppery green with a spill of golden ringlets and a clingy toga, her slender arms outstretched in a quest for the balance that is justice — or, she's directing traffic, as courthouse comedians like to say. Anyway, she is hard to miss.

Except now, when the impending convention has put Lady Justice in the witness protection program.

I went to the courthouse this week to find a giant box had been built around her, shrouding her tacky splendor behind plywood and lidding her up tight so no one can lob anything scary in there.

And I am dismayed, even if I get it: This is where we are in the world right now.

Because what a symbolic target she would make for the extremists we have been told are on their way to disrupt the convention, the ones who do not see much justice in the current state of things and are very angry about it. The ones who would attack her with paint or worse.

Court Administrator Mike Bridenback agrees when I call.

"A shame," he says. "But it is the world we live in today." This week in particular.

It is disconcerting how my downtown has been transformed by tall, black, heavy metal fences, things out of a prison movie, there to protect Important Buildings that have windows whited-out to reinforce them should someone aim a brick.

"They fenced off my park," Pam Iorio, who was mayor back when Tampa won the RNC, told me this week when she was downtown.

She meant Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, transformed during her tenure into exactly the kind of city space Tampa badly needed, with fountains for kids to run in, a great sloping lawn and a view of the river. Our park will get good use during the RNC, but how jarring to see all that green blocked off by fences and barriers.

Downtown emptied Friday of many of its workers. People called out that they would see each other next week in far-flung satellite offices in Brandon or Plant City. It had the distinct feel of turning over the keys.

I meet Jonathan Kaplan, who works at the court clerk's office and is out with his camera capturing his city, the fences, the Box of Justice. "I'm taking pictures for my friends in California — they don't believe me," he says.

Didn't somebody say something about a party?

Before I start the morose humming of Bruce Spring­steen's My City of Ruins, I cruise over to Ybor City. Old brick and wrought iron are draped in patriotic bunting. Already it is coming alive with people dangling credentials from their necks.

I guess I hope these out-of-towners see our old churches and new restaurants, our mansions and our homeless, that they take a sweeping ride along the water down Bayshore Boulevard, preferably before a storm wipes away all that newly planted greenery.

I guess I hope they can see beyond those ugly fences to the city we are.

Comments
Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

Seniors support ‘grandchildren’ with gun-control rally in Sun City Center

SUN CITY CENTER — Millions of women marched on Washington. Thousands of teenagers rallied in Tallahassee and Tampa Bay.And in Sun City Center, nearly 150 seniors held a demonstration for gun control on April 21, offering a simple but poignant message...
Published: 04/25/18

Sean Hannity, a Trump defender, under scrutiny for real estate deals

Atlanta Journal-Constitution (TNS)ATLANTA — On his Fox News program last summer, Sean Hannity effused praise for his guest, U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson. "I know you have done a good job," Hannity said. "You are a good man."Carson’s presence gav...
Published: 04/23/18
Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

Having Cuba in the name of your company can be a financial risk and there is no solution

With the third largest Cuban American population, Cuba’s culture is celebrated throughout the Tampa Bay area and in a diversity of ways.Flags hang in homes, fashion is worn, music performed, food served.But be wary of honoring that heritage by puttin...
Published: 04/23/18
Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

Trump says he doesn’t think personal lawyer will ‘flip’

WEST PALM BEACH — President Donald Trump said Saturday that he doesn’t expect Michael Cohen, his longtime personal lawyer and fixer, to "flip" as the government investigates Cohen’s business dealings. Trump, in a series of tweets fired from Florida o...
Published: 04/21/18

Vive la France: Trump hosts glitzy White House state dinner

WASHINGTON — Now it’s President Donald Trump’s turn to pull off the ultimate charm offensive. Wined and dined on multiple state visits during his tour of Asia last year, Trump is paying it forward and celebrating nearly 250 years of U.S.-French relat...
Published: 04/21/18
Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

Romano: Okay, now who sounds like a hysterical teen talking about guns?

The writer of the letter sounds hysterical. Perhaps a little desperate. And maybe that’s just who Marion Hammer is these days.Most of the world knows her as the take-no-prisoners maven of the National Rifle Association who directs Florida politicians...
Published: 04/21/18
Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

Rick Scott’s term limits idea: Hugely popular and highly unrealistic

WASHINGTON — Gov. Rick Scott’s first policy idea as a U.S. Senate candidate won’t happen and most of his fellow Republicans don’t support it.But it’s a surefire applause line at political rallies.Scott wants term limits for members of Congress: 12 ye...
Published: 04/23/18
Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

Ex-FBI deputy director ‘disappointed’ in Comey comments

WASHINGTON — Andrew McCabe, the former FBI deputy director, is "very upset and disappointed" by comments made by his former boss James Comey that contradict his account of a disclosure to the news media, McCabe’s lawyer said Friday. "Andy has at all ...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

Carlton: Mayor’s race: plot twists, meteoric rises, candidate implosions. It’s what we do in Tampa.

The one thing you can say for sure about electing a mayor in Tampa is you can’t really say anything for sure.Historical proof: A couple of elections ago, Harvard-educated hometown-boy-gone-to-Washington Frank Sanchez was going to be our next mayor, h...
Published: 04/20/18
Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Carlton: Kids, want to make them listen? Vote

Today across America, high school students are expected to walk out of class in their latest show of solidarity against gun violence and elected officials unwilling to do much about it. It marks a grim anniversary — 19 years since Columbine bra...
Published: 04/20/18