Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Opinion

Daniel Ruth: Fighting poverty with flowers for Democrats

Jerry Lewis will be along to sing "You'll Never Grift Alone" in a few minutes. But in the meantime, won't you pick up the phone now and make a contribution to assist those poor, pathetic beleaguered souls who barely have two bus tokens to rub together — the Pinellas County Democratic Party?

How tough are things over at the Pinellas Democrats' office in St. Petersburg? They recently had to disconnect the espresso machine. Oh, the Joad family hardship of it all.

And that probably explains why county Pinellas Democratic chairwoman Susan McGrath applied for $531 in public money to improve landscaping at the party's First Avenue N headquarters.

We know those Obamacare premiums have gone up quite a bit. But really now, Democrats couldn't come up with $531 to buy some petunias without panhandling the taxpayers to pick up the tab?

When the compost hit the fan over the optics of Mayor Rick Kriseman sending his political party public money for a few philodendrons, the Democrats declined the money. But not without a bit of a whining from McGrath, who sniffed to the Tampa Bay Times' Adam C. Smith that all the Democrats were doing was "... simply asking to be treated the same as any other taxpayer."

Not quite. If the Democrats had received the $531 grant request the funds would have come out of a Community Redevelopment Area's pie of money. CRA funds are supposed to be dedicated to reducing poverty. Now the Pinellas County Democratic Party may not have the deep pockets of its Republican counterpart, but it still ought to be able to handle its landscaping needs without help from the public.

But McGrath wasn't done. She attacked Ed Montanari, the lone Republican on the St. Petersburg City Council, who had opposed the gardenia grant. McGrath tarred Montanari as a Donald Trumpesque bully, pushing "crazy ideas." Hardly; opposing forking over $531 in public money for landscaping for a local political party was actually a profile in common sense.

There were other applicants for the CRA money that might have raised an eyebrow or two. The Sons of Italy received $8,508 for landscaping and building improvements. And the happy workers over at Happy Workers, a day-care facility, have to be especially happy after getting $11,042 to install new flooring and a kitchen.

Though a very modest sum, the $531 the Pinellas County Democratic Party sought stands out precisely because it is so modest.

It never occurred to the Pinellas County Democratic Party and the mayor how it would look to canoodle $531 in taxpayer largess to pay for plants and justify the expense as an example of fighting poverty?

Apparently not.

Thank you for all your help here at the Daffodils For Democrats Telethon. Because of you and your generosity the Pinellas County Democratic Party now will be able to afford its very own Chia Pet.

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