In the spirit of the holiday, I've combed south Pinellas County in search of people, places and events worthy of cheer — and jeer — to honor with sugar plums and lumps of coal, Santa style.
There were plenty of worthy recipients.
Newly elected officials in Madeira Beach earned a bucket of coal for failing to unite the city after the March election. Upon taking office, Mayor Travis Palladeno and Commissioners Nancy Oakley and Robin Vander Velde alienated employees, opening the floodgates for a mass exodus of the city's top administrators. Fittingly, each departing official was quickly snatched up by neighboring cities.
At least the police are well fed
Kenneth City's Police Department earns a lump of coal for failing to serve and protect — within town limits. Computer data from the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office revealed that over a six-month period, on-duty officers were at Bob Evans restaurant near Tyrone Square Mall, with the chief. Other times they were in Clearwater or on the Howard Frankland Bridge. Hope the officers asked Santa for a Bob Evans at the station.
Spare us your assistance, Hilcrest
Back in May, a state agency closed Hilcrest Retirement Residence, an assisted living facility at 220 Fifth Ave. N in St. Petersburg, after bedbugs left bite marks and scabs on mentally ill residents. The 27 displaced residents lost most of their personal property. However, family Bibles, Christmas decorations and other personal belongings were found in a Dumpster behind the facility. For the Grinch-like practice of neglecting the most helpless among us, administrators of Hilcrest earn a lump of coal.
There's hope for BayWalk complex yet
Treasure Island entrepreneur Bill Edwards earns a sugar plum for his efforts at the Mahaffey Theater, but more so for buying the BayWalk entertainment complex, which has been a ghost town for three years. If Edwards' work at the Club at Treasure Island and the Mahaffey are indicators, there may be hope for the complex once considered the town square.
Booze ban's a boon for the beach
Treasure Island earns a sugar plum for its decision to ban alcohol on weekends on Sunset Beach during tourist season, thus ending mobs of misbehaving beachgoers who had raised the ire of residents.
A saga that builds and builds
A lump of coal goes to all parties in St. Pete Beach's sad, never-ending saga over land development regulations. Failure to solve the city's sharp divide has cost taxpayers more than $1 million in legal fees.
Fine way to reach a bridge
Sugar plums go to St. Pete Beach Mayor Steve McFarlin and City Manager Mike Bonfield for their efforts in persuading the state to schedule the start of construction of a new Pinellas Bayway Bridge early in 2012.
When there ought not to be a law
Some of the laws on the books in Largo are wacky. Kudos to Mayor Pat Gerard, who earlier this year asked city commissioners to lift a citywide ban on squirt guns. Gerard earns a sugar plum for allowing these toys back in the city.
In November, Largo police issued the driver of the Krazy Ice Cream van a $93 ticket for playing music. Yep, there's a city ordinance dating back to 1976 that bars trucks from using amplifiers to sell or advertise. So what's the ice cream man to do in Largo? Spoken word? City Manager Mac Craig said the law will not change. For this, the city earns two scoops of coal.
Mayor sets the fundraising bar high
St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster earns a sugar plum for setting a new standard by raising money for the Mayor's Mentors and More program, which was started by his predecessor, Rick Baker. The $51,000 check that was presented by the Kiwanis Club during the event will pay for 15 scholarships. However, the Martina McBride concert, which was part of the fundraiser, raised an additional $45,000, which provides for 13 to 14 additional scholarships.
Best wishes for a sweeter 2012.
Sandra J. Gadsden is an assistant metro editor, community news. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (727) 893-8874.