Carlton: Radio drama, taxpayers on the hook, good news on the water: The week so far

WMNF's general manager leaves an incendiary note on his way out. St. Pete taxpayers get to foot the bill. The ferry could get better. And it's only Wednesday!
Published April 17
Updated April 17

Anyone familiar with Tampa‘s little radio station that could, WMNF-88.5, probably saw this coming. Though maybe not the final shot fired on the way out the door.

Loyal listeners to left-leaning WMNF — with shows from Democracy Now to Thee Righteous Temple of Hip Hop to some seriously eclectic music — did not take it well when their popular news and public affairs director got the sack in February. Rob Lorei, a WMNF founder and a respected voice around here, was canned by general manager Craig Kopp, whose focus was on the station's survival into the future.

Which could be a daunting task, given the unique make-up and history of the place, its older fan base and the future of radio in general.

Both support for Lorei and blowback on Kopp were epic after the firing, including the withholding of donations on which this community station thrives. Lorei got reinstated last month. Kopp quit this week. No surprise there.

But his exit letter could have singed your fingertips.

Kopp says the station never grew beyond its original core listeners and became "such a closed system that even anti-Semitism can be tolerated." Which, yes, would make you sit up and take notice.

Kopp hoped to get a "Jewish show" on the air to balance out opinions about the Middle East and Palestine in a show called True Talk. His proposal was rejected as too one-sided. Lorei later pointed out the station has long aired a Jewish program called Sunday Simcha and that what Kopp had in mind was "pretty conservative" for WMNF.

Which, by the way, bills itself as "radio for the rest of us."

Nothing wrong with Kopp proposing an idea he thought would add balance and voices. And nothing wrong with WMNF deciding it wasn't right for them.

So it was disappointing that Kopp called the decision "unfair at the least, anti-Semitic at the worst" — an incendiary term if ever there was one, and a very loud slam of the door on his way out.

As if the news out of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority wasn't concerning enough — allegations of CEO Tony Love shouting at and belittling staffers and getting a nice raise anyway, among other troubling tales — there's this for taxpayers:

The authority plans to sue the city if Mayor Rick Kriseman, in attempting to right what appears to be a badly listing ship, makes good on removing three board members for lax oversight.

And guess who gets to pick up that legal bill? Taxpayers, that's who.

St. Pete, your fellow citizens across the bay feel your pain. After 57 percent of voters in Hillsborough County took the extraordinary step of taxing themselves an extra penny for badly needed transportation improvements, Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White sued, saying the measure usurps the commission's power and is inconsistent with state law. Legal bills were up to at least $158,000 as of last month, the Times' Caitlin Johnston reports — an amount sure to rise despite what voters clearly said they wanted.

Finally, better news for people who try to get around around here.

A plan just submitted to Hillsborough County would blend the already-successful-if-not-frequent-enough Cross-Bay Ferry rides between the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa with a proposed commuter route to MacDill Air Force base. By 2022, that service could be running seven days a week.

We may be slow, but we grow.

Contact Sue Carlton at [email protected]

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