A parochial divide
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster never hesitates to say his city is not a suburb of Tampa. When he was on WFLA-AM 970 last week, the radio hosts asked about a recent Tampa Bay Times story detailing the uptick in homeless people in downtown St. Petersburg.
Foster became parochial, saying: "I'm sure the numbers are the same in Tampa if the Times wanted to actually write an article about Tampa."
That attitude has apparently saturated City Hall.
Robert Danielson, St. Petersburg's marketing manager and a Tampa resident, thinks the media is more critical of the Sunshine City than the place where he hangs his toothbrush.
After Tampa went under a boil alert last weekend for 48 hours, Danielson vented to pals on Facebook.
"Apparently, a buck-toothed rodent chewed through a power line causing a major power outage at the water plant and compromising the water quality for an entire weekend," he wrote. "Something tells me that if this occurred in St. Pete, our local beat reporters would be waving public records requests and screaming 'malfeasance'!"
In Tampa, however, there's general "ho-hum — no toothbrushing for two days, a couple of closed restaurants, and grocery stores barren of bottled water. Does this bother anyone besides me?"
Buzz hopes he didn't break a sweat — unless he had a bottle of water — while ranting on social media.
Parsing a loaded phrase
Guns, unlike roads or parks, are not something Pinellas County has much control over. So Sheriff Bob Gualtieri tried to apply a light touch to the subject last week, proposing to a room full of the county's elected officials that the phrase "background check" was a little deceptive. When someone buys a gun, the only check that's done looks at whether the person is a felon, has had a domestic injunction taken out against them, or meets a few other criteria.
"There is no background check," Gualtieri, a Republican, said, suggesting that maybe a new name was in order.
Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala, right, ignited.
"Maybe something has happened since I wrote all that literature for your campaign where we talked about the crime rates, but have we had an explosion of gun violence in Pinellas County?" he said.
Gualtieri responded: "No, the only reason I raise it is it's about what the citizens believe is being done … people are lulled into this sense that there's an actual vetting."
Dipping his toe into an already boiling discussion, Commissioner Ken Welch said he thought the commission should have the right to regulate guns in its own parks and facilities.
Latvala went off again.
"I think some of this is political, and we're not used to having that in these meetings, you know," he chided.
"I thought maybe the fluoride thing taught us something about that. We need to be concentrating on building roads and maintaining roads and parks instead of getting into collateral issues."