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Political-sign snitching gets meaner

It has the makings of a classic mystery, full of rumor, innuendo and fingerpointing. It is a whodunit that might never be solved.

Let's call it The Case of the Missing and Trashed Campaign Signs in Safety Harbor.

Days before the March 8 election, this soap opera still is in full swing. Initially, the pranks were almost humorous. Supporters of Seat 3 candidates Fran Barnhisel and Sandy Huff would look out at their lawns only to find that the signs had been switched. Then it got ugly. Huff found some of her signs had been ripped in half _ no easy task since they all were laminated.

It wasn't so bad, Huff said, that somebody actually destroyed her signs. But the fact that the buzzards took the 50-cent stakes to put them in the ground, well, that's where she drew the line. In a desperate attempt to keep her name out there, Huff has only 112 signs left that she is rotating throughout the city.

Supporters of other candidates _ elderly women, no less _ say they have received threatening phone calls, telling them to get rid of a candidates' sign if they know what's good for them.

"I think it's pretty funny myself," Huff said. "I think we all need to just sit back and have a good laugh about it."

T-BACKS, TAKE 67: The goofiness surrounding Clearwater's ban on T-back bathing suits continues to roll in.

In the city mail last week was a letter from an Island Estates woman insisting that nudity ordinances not be gender-biased. Bare chests for men? Right out.

"I see large bare tummies and large bare breasts every day on the beach," the letter said. "I find them offensive on the beach and disgusting on the streets of our fair city."

The other notable item appeared on a message pad _ a man called for Commissioner Fred Thomas to ask for help. It seems a Pierre Cardin ad on television showed a bare bottom, and the caller wanted Thomas to do something about it.

PAYING OFF THOSE GAMBLING DEBTS: Were the folks in Clearwater City Hall trying to renege on a World Series bet with people in Dunedin?

Back when the Toronto Blue Jays, who train in Dunedin, and the Philadelphia Phillies, who train in Clearwater, made it to the World Series, officials at both city halls made bets that the mayor from the winning city would throw out the first pitch at the first home game of the losing city.

Well, when it got close to opening day and Leslie House, administrative assistant to the mayor in Dunedin, hadn't heard from anybody, she joked that she thought they had been forgotten about.

But, days before Sunday's home game against the Blue Jays at Jack Russell Stadium, Clearwater came through, sending tickets and parking passes for new mayor Tom Anderson and his wife, Alice. Clearwater Mayor Rita Garvey is expected to be on hand to greet Anderson and watch him sling the first pitch.

Although Anderson had no opponent in the election and had been the mayor-elect for almost two months, Denise Wilson, assistant to the city manager in Clearwater said, "We knew Dunedin had an election coming up and we were just trying to wait to see who the new mayor was going to be before making arrangements. But we didn't forget about them."

"Of course, not," piped House, a diehard Blue Jay fan. "We weren't going to let that happen."

. . . AND A WAFER-THIN MINT: Top Clearwater officials are dining tonight with Phillies officials in an annual dinner put on by the city and paid for by _ you guessed it _ taxpayers.

Mayor Rita Garvey and city commissioners head the invite list, along with Phillies President Bill Giles. Chamber of commerce types, including past chamber president R. Carlton Ward and president Phil Henderson, also made the list.

For the rest of us, here's the menu:

Chicken Cedar Key _ A sauteed boneless breast of chicken topped with a lump crab cake and a creole pemmery mustard sauce.

Grouper Almondine _ Fresh gulf grouper rolled in a crunchy almond crust napped with a lime beurre blanc.

Prime Rib of Beef _ A generous cut of choice prime rib with horseradish and au jus.

So how do elected officials get that lousy image that they've lost touch with the public, anyway?

QUOTABLE:

"We used to call it the SODDI defense _ Some Other Dude Did It."

_ State Attorney Bernie McCabe on the fact that Lorenzo Jenkins initially told detectives he had nothing to do with killing Belleair police Officer Jeffery Tackett.

_ Reported by Times staff writers Sabrina Miller, Ned Seaton and Craig Pittman.

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