Tuesday, January 23, 2018
Politics

Sue Carlton: Could you have named the mayor better? And other news

If you know anything about Tampa's not-exactly-shy Mayor Bob Buckhorn, it will not surprise you that he had dreams of being a fighter pilot.

In fact, after college, Buckhorn was picked for Navy flight school, only to be diagnosed with degeneration of his cornea. It was a misdiagnosis, as it turned out, but it sent him off to Tampa and politics instead of to the skies.

If you know Buckhorn, it also will not surprise you that he never lost his fascination with pilots. So on a recent visit to MacDill Air Force Base, he was tickled when a squadron at the 6th Air Mobility Wing held a ceremony to give him his own fighter pilot "call sign." Yes, just like in Top Gun.

A call sign is what they call you on the radio, and Buckhorn says they are never self-selected and "can be very insulting."

Sure, you have your Maverick, as in Tom Cruise, but how about Curly, if you're bald?

Sobs. Rat. Wrong Way.

At the ceremony, "they had a great deal of fun poking fun at me," he says, with a list of possible names posted on a board. (Irish was one of the nice ones.) Then they went out and voted, and the mayor is officially, it will not surprise you to know:

Swagger.

Ours is a mayor who likes to dress up — on occasion in pants so plaid they could stop traffic. So of course he has a flight suit, with the Swagger patch being made.

And when he went swaggering home in it?

He reports, "Even my 7-year-old rolled her eyes."

• • •

It's just a piece of paper with names on it. I mean, how much could a Hillsborough County Commission proclamation, a ceremonial recognition members hand out all the time, really mean?

When you're talking about a board with a reputation for not exactly welcoming everyone — a lot.

Most commissioners have traditionally not deigned to sign a proclamation heralding GaYBOR Days, the celebratory event put on by the GaYBOR District Coalition of more than 270 business folks, both gay and straight.

But this year, Republican Commissioner Mark Sharpe added his name. And, wonder of wonders, Commissioner Ken Hagan did, too, in the name of "job creation and economic development." And just as you were picking yourself up off the floor, they were joined by fellow Republicans Sandy Murman, Victor Crist and Al Higginbotham.

What a small and pleasant surprise. So maybe they aren't ready to let go of that ridiculous ban on recognizing gay pride just yet, but could a domestic partner registry for unmarried couples start making sense?

• • •

Finally, what fun, adding a white sand beach volleyball court to downtown Tampa's sprawling Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park through the summer. Let those northerners have their ice skating. (Oh, wait, our park has that too, in winter. We just skate in cargos and tank tops.)

Speaking of Mayor Swagger, when asked about the new park addition, he evoked the image of a sweaty, shirtless Tom Cruise and Val Kilmer playing volleyball:

"When folks drive past and see that beach volleyball," says the mayor, "I want them to think of me in that scene in Top Gun."

Times staff writer Richard Danielson contributed to this column.

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