Sunday, May 20, 2018
Politics

GaYbor Days in Ybor City and gay proclamation get little support from Hillsborough County commissioners

A proclamation in support of this year's GaYbor Days went unsigned by five Hillsborough County Commissioners.

But that wasn't unusual. In recent years, proclamations recognizing the five-day festival of events in Ybor City have been signed by only two or three commissioners on the seven-member board.

What some found unusual, disturbing even, was a separate letter that came this year from Commissioner Mark Sharpe.

Sharpe did not sign the proclamation — only Kevin Beckner and Les Miller did. Instead, he congratulated organizers on Board of County Commissioners letterhead. It was read as festivities wrapped up May 28. Official proclamations signed by Mayor Bob Buckhorn and another signed by all seven members of Tampa City Council were also read aloud.

"I wish you future success and will do all I can to help all our citizens enjoy a prosperous quality of life in Hillsborough County," Sharpe wrote.

What's so wrong with that?

Some are accusing Sharpe, a Republican, of having political motives, of dodging the official proclamation to avoid raising hackles among conservatives while crafting his own letter to curry quiet favor from gays and lesbians.

"I find it ironic," said Carrie West, president of the GaYbor District Coalition, which organized the celebration. "Then why wouldn't he sign the proclamation?"

Louis Rosario, who attended the Monday night event and listened to the letter, was suspicious: "Gays need to realize that Mark Sharpe is not our friend," he said. "He's anti-gay unless it's convenient."

When asked later about the proclamation and the letter, Sharpe told the Tampa Bay Times, he had no political motives at all.

"A person's sexual orientation is not the government's business," he said. "But at the same time, I wanted to send an all-inclusive letter recognizing them. I support anybody and all who want to support the local economy."

Sharpe has not signed a similar proclamation for GaYbor Days in past years and said he also doesn't sign proclamations that involve, for instance, a specific religion or Southern pride.

He said he decided not to sign such proclamations in 2008 after a request to acknowledge Southern heritage ended with members of the Sons of Confederate Veterans unfurling a 30- by 50-foot Confederate battle flag at the junction of Interstate 4 and Interstate 75. Sharpe did not sign that proclamation either.

West said he was surprised that some other commissioners did not support the proclamation for GaYbor Days after the flak raised when they didn't last year. Aside from Sharpe, signatures were also missing from Victor D. Crist, Al Higginbotham, Sandra Murman and Ken Hagan.

West said Hagan had recently complimented him, telling West he was doing a great job with the coalition, which formed in 2007 to promote gay-owned and gay-friendly businesses in Ybor.

Reached late last week, an aide for Hagan said the commissioner had not gotten a chance to sign the proclamation because of an oversight by his office staff.

Crist, Higginbotham and Murman could not be reached before press time.

West said the coalition boasts nearly 250 members, two-thirds of them straight. The group created the GaYbor Days celebration in 2008. The five-day event started May 24 this year and included a dog party, a Sunday gospel brunch, and a traveling drag show. DJs came from Chicago and New York City to preside over nighttime parties. Festivities ended Monday night with the world premiere of the docu-dramedy Frances: A Mother Divine.

"This is not a gay pride event," West said. "This is a showcase of businesses in this great landmark historic district.''

The festival brings in vacationing gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, he said.

But Hillsborough commissioners, he said, have long pulled back the reins of progress.

In 2005, then Commissioner Ronda Storms proposed a ban, which passed, on public library displays that promote Gay Pride and Lesbian Pride Month. Storms is no longer on the County Commission and most recently serves as a state senator.

However, support from county elected officials continues to wane, if the GaYbor Days proclamation is any indication.

"It's a statement," West said, "that there's no equal rights in the county."

Elisabeth Parker can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3431.

Comments
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18
Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

Gina Haspel, Trump’s pick to lead CIA, wins support of Senate Intelligence Committee

WASHINGTON - The Senate Intelligence Committee moved Wednesday to recommend Gina Haspel for CIA director, setting up a floor vote that her opponents say will signal to the world whether the United States condemns or condones torture.The committee vot...
Published: 05/16/18
Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

Carlton: Time for Hillsborough’s Uncle Tom Road to go — but artfully.

In Hillsborough County — where one of the world’s largest Confederate flags still flies near a busy interstate — you may not be surprised to learn there’s an Uncle Tom Road.The name is a flash point and a slur, shorthand for a black person who will d...
Published: 05/16/18
Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell drops out of Pinellas Commission race

With six months to go before the Nov. 6 election, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Caudell on Monday dropped her bid against Pinellas County Commissioner Pat Gerard for the at-large District 2 seat.Caudell said she decided she’d better be better suited f...
Published: 05/14/18
Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

Romano: Hey Gov. Scott, could you hire me, too?

To: The Honorable Gov. Rick ScottDear Governor,It has come to my attention that your administration has recently made some, dare I say, innovative hires for important government positions in the months before you leave office.At the risk of sounding ...
Published: 05/14/18
‘Not a racially motivated issue’: N.C. mayor defends violent arrest of black man at Waffle House

‘Not a racially motivated issue’: N.C. mayor defends violent arrest of black man at Waffle House

The mayor of the North Carolina town where a 22-year-old black man’s violent arrest in a Waffle House has drawn wide scrutiny and prompted an internal investigation defended the police in a video he posted Friday."This is not a racially motivated iss...
Published: 05/12/18
Pruitt’s dinner with cardinal accused of abuse was kept off public schedule

Pruitt’s dinner with cardinal accused of abuse was kept off public schedule

WASHINGTON — Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, dined last year in Rome with Cardinal George Pell, a prominent climate-science denialist and Vatican leader who was also facing sexual abuse allegations. The EPA lat...
Published: 05/11/18