Wednesday, May 23, 2018
Politics

Carlton: The politician who didn't duck

Already, the story has brought phone calls from out-of-state friends who heard about longtime Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda and the ducks. This story will likely get him slapped on the back at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop and called the Duck Guy — or, you crazy (unprintable word questioning one's parentage) — into the next decade.

Sure, this is a city on the move, a backdrop for glitzy national events and all that. But it is also the sort of town in which a born-and-bred politician will valiantly protect the honor of its ducks.

This is a Tampa tale, so we are not talking storybook-pretty, Disney-esque ducks. We are talking less glamorous Muscovy ducks with their lumpy, red-wattled faces, scrappy black-and-white feathers and fat waggling behinds that seem to populate every canal, borrow pit and mud puddle. These are ducks that, as Miranda puts it, "couldn't win a beauty contest if they were by themselves."

But they are our own and noble in their way — reminding me of what I once heard a local say in a bar conversation about fancy dog breeds. His, he said proudly, was a purebred West Tampa Fence Climber.

Miranda's adventure began on a recent Sunday. As the Times' Richard Danielson reported, the 73-year-old was headed out with a friend for ice cream cones. Before the evening was over, he would say, "Do you mind if we forget the ice cream and follow those ducks?"

Agree or disagree with Miranda's everyman politics — the man wore all black to protest a football stadium bought on the taxpayers' backs — he is the real deal, raised in a Tampa housing project, a former restaurateur and current horse race official. He is the dapperest of dressers, owning more than one pair of two-tone shoes, which he sometimes wears driving his cherry-red Volks­wagen bug.

And he is an old-school truth teller, even if truth sometimes comes out as a Charlie-ism. In a recent red-light camera discussions, he opined that some drivers are "half loco in the cabeza."

Miranda saw something fishy in two guys near the Hillsborough River, mainly that they were throwing out a cast net on land. Further investigation revealed a pickup bed full of caged ducks and a fellow in flip-flops saying he planned to take them to St. Petersburg just for the eggs.

But we are a bird sanctuary, with a firm don't-mess-with-feathers policy. Chickens roam Ybor City. And Miranda suspected a nefarious end for those ducks.

The men then bolted east when St. Pete is west, a fact he pointed out when he pulled up next to them miles later. This is the part where you want to say: Don't do it, councilman, people get shot for all kinds of crazy reasons these days. "I'm just as crazy as they are, maybe," Miranda says, though he insists he stayed a safe distance and did not follow them into an apartment complex, lest he be trapped.

He got the green GMC Sonoma's tag, and Tampa police are on it.

The big question about Miranda — besides the duck-related one at the sandwich shop — is whether he will indeed run again, as is rumored. Truth is, the local landscape would not be as interesting without him. There's a platform even: Charlie Miranda saw something wrong in his city and, forgive the expression, did not duck.

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