Saturday, April 21, 2018
Politics

Bass Pro deal comes with sweeteners for Hillsborough commissioners

The Hillsborough County Commission's we-changed-our-mind moment this week, putting taxpayers on the hook for millions to bring Bass Pro Shops to town, showed some serious sausagemaking.

The deal to pay for roads around the planned Brandon development — described by one citizen as Commission Chairman Ken Hagan's "crown jewel" — looked to have a little something for everyone.

Commissioner Les Miller, who had expressed concerns about the company's minority hiring, got what appears to be an unenforceable promise of 10 percent of construction jobs to minority contractors. Recent Bass convert Sandy Murman got to look like she was the reason the taxpayer price tag was reduced to a mere $6.25 million.

During Hagan's hard-sell speech at Wednesday's meeting, he mentioned an item fellow Commissioner Mark Sharpe had next on the agenda: $2 million to grow different kinds of jobs in tech-savvy businesses. Sharpe had the votes — it was unanimous — but why do you suppose Hagan said he was looking forward to "approving" it?

The lone no-vote, Kevin Beckner, briefly mentioned a previous issue, a domestic partner registry that would have given some basic rights to unmarried couples and was voted down by this same board anyway. If you ask me, that registry would have done as much for our image as a good place to live and open a business as, say, a wide selection of hip waders. Put me in the Beckner camp of: Happy to have Bass, but not on our dime.

And from those other yes-votes, Al Higginbotham and Victor Crist — both expected to run again soon in what could be grueling races? Nothing. Not a word. Crickets.

Too bad we don't have a rule that says when an elected official votes on a controversial issue that brings people out in full force and costs taxpayers big, that official owes voters at least a word or two on why.

• • •

Speaking of business, sorry, no, Joe Redner is not adding a second story to his world-famous Mons Venus strip club, even if it looks like it.

But there is much ado at the Mons off busy Dale Mabry Highway, with construction workers atop the building and a fancy-schmancy new rock exterior in place. Workers are busy hiding air conditioning equipment Redner says "was unsightly" and dressing the place up with about $100,000 in remodeling.

Redner sounds like his feisty self, feeling good since his cancer treatment. Like other businesses, he says, his got no uptick from last fall's Republican National Convention despite predictions of politicos gone wild. But for some reason, business is notably good this week. Spring in the air?

• • •

Ybor's City's La Gaceta newspaper is a proud local tradition, as much for editor and publisher Patrick Manteiga's in-the-know political column as the fact that it's trilingual — English, Espanol, Italiano.

Might it go briefly quadrilingual, given that Manteiga and wife Angie are off to China, where he plans to write the column from afar? ("I heard they're having to pay for a Bass Pro Shops over there, too," he said before he left.)

Manteiga's travels have included Cuba and NASCAR races — which would seem to make him a true citizen of Tampa and also the South.

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