Carlton: A week of tin-eared politics

Republicans meddle in Amendment 4, Stacy White ducks blame, David Straz plays Thurston Howell III. The week that was.
Published March 23
Updated March 25

What a week for tin-eared politics.

Up in Tallahassee, Republicans set their sights on Amendment 4, the citizen-supported mandate that gives felons who have completed their sentences the right to vote again. It's a concept so basic and fair — allowing people who have done their time a chance to participate in a meaningful way — that 65 percent of us voted yes.

Who cares? Cynical and surgical attempts to dismantle the will of the people are underway.

What constitutes "completing" a sentence sounds simple enough to most of us: you've done your time, finished your probation. Some lawmakers think it should also mean paying all court fees, which are different from restitution and fines. Fees can go to everything from Crime Stoppers to the cost of prosecution. And some people won't have the money.

That requirement could shut the door on anyone who hoped to vote but is too poor to pay. Which, speaking of basic and fair, should concern everyone.

Here's another creative way you might limit how many people are eligible to get their rights restored, particularly if you think it's a population that would tend to vote with the other political party:

Amendment 4 doesn't apply to anyone convicted of murder or felony sex offenses. But this week came talk of attempted murder and of anything remotely related to a sex offense, like prostitution and, I'm not making this up, placing an adult entertainment store within 2,500 feet of a school.

What, you were expecting a good faith effort to make the will of the people happen?

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White’s lawsuit challenging the penny sales tax for transportation — approved by 57 percent of voters in November — has thus far cost taxpayers $158,000 and counting. So much for White saving voters from themselves.

But the commissioner told the Times' Caitlin Johnston that those costs are the defendants' fault. He says he thought he would get a quick ruling from a judge, but the defense is scheduling depositions and requesting discovery. “It’s some of the things that the defense is doing that is running these legal bills way up,” White said.

So if I have this right: White sued despite what the people wanted, and now it's the fault of the entities he's suing — the county and City of Tampa among them — for having the audacity to defend it?

Did millionaire Tampa mayoral candidate David Straz just go after his opponent, former police chief Jane Castor, on the subject of money?

A Straz ad accused Castor of double-dipping if she takes the $113,000 pension she earned over her career as a cop and the $160,742 a year she would make as mayor. He said if he's elected, he won't take a paycheck.

That's nice. But he can afford it.

Here's the thing: What got Straz in the runoff with Castor — the millions he's willing to spend — also has the potential to make him look as out of touch with the average Tampa voter as Scrooge McDuck. In this Democrat-leaning town, his campaign crew must still be kicking themselves over his admission early-on that he voted for Trump.

His unfortunate ad paved the way for the Castor campaign to come back righteous, to say she's worked for her money and doesn't own planes or an art collection worth millions, nor does she ride around town in a Bentley like Thurston Howell III with Lovey at his side. (Okay, I added that last part.)

For the record, Straz says he regrets his Trump vote. He also responded that he prefers tooling around in his Cadillac or his Charger over the Bentley, and that he almost never stops to ask other motorists if they have any Grey Poupon. (Okay, that was me, too.)

Contact Sue Carlton at