Sunday, May 20, 2018
Opinion

Ruth: In supporting Pride, Buckhorn shows he's mayor of Tampa Bay

He would probably never admit this publicly or privately, but you have to suspect Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn relished the opportunity to engage in a bit of Irish mischief.

Saturday is the city's gay pride parade, so it was only natural an elected official like Buckhorn would be more than happy to participate in the festivities.

After all, when you came out of the womb shaking hands with the doctors and nurses and kissing all the other babies, as Buckhorn likely did, the chance to press some flesh and wave to admiring crowds is as irresistible to hizzoner as asking John Daly if he would mind being locked up in a Jack Daniel's distillery overnight.

So, of course, Bob Buckhorn will be more than delighted to ride in a fancy convertible along the parade route to honor the city's gay rights community.

Oh, there's just one thing. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will be the highest-ranking official big shot participating in St. Petersburg's Pride Carnivale parade.

And yes, that was a thumb nicely jabbed into the eye of St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster. Well played, sir!

To be sure, for public consumption Buckhorn and Foster always present the appearance of hail fellow well met comity in their dealings with each other.

But let's not be Pollyannaish here. Buckhorn would dragoon the Tampa Bay Rays across Tampa Bay to the Big Guava in a heartbeat if he thought he could pull it off without having more lawyers than the U.S. Justice Department getting in the way.

So sure, Buckhorn venturing across Tampa Bay to be the honored dignitary in St. Pete Pride's Carnivale is a not-too-gentle dig at Foster.

Until now, no Tampa mayor has ever accepted an invitation to ride in the St. Petersburg Pride event out of an unspoken diplomatic courtesy not to intrude upon a fellow mayor's turf.

But then, no St. Petersburg mayor has ever participated. Former Mayor Rick Baker, fearing perhaps he might be turned into a pillar of salt, refused to even sign a proclamation recognizing the parade. Foster at least signed a proclamation, but he has declined to be seen anywhere near gays on parade.

Buckhorn won't be the only public official on hand. St. Petersburg City Council members Jeff Danner and Steve Kornell will participate, along with Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner and several other Pinellas County officials.

For his part, Buckhorn noted his participation simply sends a message that "... not only are we open for business but that we honor and celebrate the accomplishments and the value of everybody." Cue We Are the World.

Still, Buckhorn's use of the word "we" is more significant than a mere pronoun.

Since José Martí was in knickers, both sides of Tampa Bay have blathered on incessantly about the critical need to engage in robust regionalism to advance the area's economic interests — unless, of course, either end of the Howard Frankland Bridge could finagle a better deal for itself.

This may well be a delightful St. Pete Pride Carnivale parade to the organizers and participants. But it is more, too. It is a marketing effort by Buckhorn to promote his city's welcoming tolerance of the LBGT community.

More subtly, it is Bob Buckhorn serving notice he is for all practical purposes the de facto mayor of Tampa Bay. And don't think for a moment that isn't something Buckhorn doesn't take a great deal of pride in demonstrating.

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