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Will the rain keep falling until the election?

IT MUST BE THE SILLY SEASON: Perhaps you recall the emergency order issued by water regulators in June, the one that cut pumping at the well fields that supply Pinellas County from 121-million gallons per day to 116-million.

Perhaps you also recall that it started raining like a son-of-a-gun about that time.

Because of a court challenge by water suppliers, there has been some question about whether the order took effect. But all the rain rendered the question moot for now. Pumping dropped off as people no longer had to water their lawns as much.

But County Commissioner Charles Rainey says there's another reason why we haven't been hearing much about enforcement of the orders by the Southwest Florida Water Management District, or Swiftmud.

Rainey, a Republican, says the Democratic administration of Lawton Chiles has told officials at Swiftmud, a state-controlled agency, to cool it until Nov. 15.

That would be conveniently after the Nov. 8 general election, Rainey notes. Postponing the matter until then would prevent upsetting folks in Pinellas before they go to the polls.

Swiftmud spokesman Steven Haag says Rainey's notion doesn't make any sense.

Swiftmud did delay a decision originally scheduled for October until Nov. 15, but that deals with some rather arcane rules about the way Swiftmud issues permits, Haag said.

Guess we'll have to wait and see.

SPOKEN LIKE A TRUE GATOR: There was a brief discussion last week about new designs on PSTA buses that will begin appearing soon. There is one for the U.S. Post Office and one for the Florida Lottery.

Somebody raised the question: Should the board of directors even get involved in approving these relatively routine matters?

Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner and University of Florida alum Austin Campbell, who represents several beach cities on the bus board, quickly said yes, mindful of the recent results of a certain football game in Gainesville.

"If they come along and advertise Auburn University, I'm going to vote against it," Campbell said.

That argument carried the day.

THAT'S ADMIRAL VATIKIOTIS TO YOU: You might have thought a new monarch was being crowned, given the pomp and circumstance of last week's official swearing-in ceremony for new City Manager Costa Vatikiotis.

Mr. V, or Mr. Costa as he will be called _ Mayor Anita Protos declared that Vatikiotis is too difficult to pronounce _ was showered with municipal gifts, including a key to the city and a Tarpon Springs tie tack.

An official photographer posed dignitary after dignitary with Mr. Costa, whose last name is pronounced VAT-i-kee-O-tis.

During his speech to the masses, Vatikiotis joked about all the ceremony.

"I don't know whether I just got married again," he said, "or became an admiral in the Navy."

OUR WEEKLY UPDATE ON GRAMMAR: The matter of who will represent St. Petersburg on the board that controls the county bus system has been resolved, at least for now.

The City Council last week appointed Ned Allen, a retired high school teacher and longtime resident, to fill the city's second seat on the board.

Council members David Welch and Ernest Fillyau had been appointed to the seats until a stink was raised about the law that describes who is supposed to be on the board. The law said one of the city's representatives "may not be an elected official."

City attorneys took that to mean that the council could appoint two elected officials if it wanted to _ ""may not" was not the same as "shall not," they said. Then they changed their minds. Welch resigned, and Allen got the nod to fill the spot.

Bus watchdog John Royse, who pointed out the inconsistency of the city's original appointment, said last week: "If this is politics, it's even worse than the impression one gets reading the papers."

For the record, Allen, 64, says he will be an advocate for disabled riders. He has a degenerative nerve disorder that makes it difficult for him to walk. He also lives with a woman who regularly rides DART, the driving service for disabled people.

He says the agency has plenty of other problems.

"I don't know whether I need congratulations or commiseration," Allen said.

NAMES THAT MAKE A REPORTER LOOK TWICE:As befits this political season, some well-known political names have popped up on the court dockets this month in Pinellas criminal courts.

A certain John Kennedy was charged with violating his probation on a charge of driving under the influence. (Maybe he should have let Teddy take the wheel.)

One James Carter was charged with burglary to a vehicle and grand theft. (Don't worry, the ex-president has an alibi and a few reliable witnesses _ he was in Haiti at the time.)

And last but not least, a Robert Martinez _ presumably not the former governor and ex-drug czar _ faced a charge of possession of methamphetamines. Just say no!

_ Staff writers Ned Seaton, Ericka Duckworth, Craig Pittman and Sabrina Miller contributed to this report.

QUOTABLES

"We appreciate hearing your opinion. Unfortunately, we are not magical and God."

_ Clearwater Mayor Rita Garvey at a town meeting, responding to a resident's concerns about getting rid of drug dealers in North Greenwood.

"Basically, what I faced was sort of the Dream Team of 49th Street."

_ Attorney Frederic Zinober, complaining that he had to work alone in defending Oba Chandler against four experienced prosecutors: Executive State Attorney Doug Crow, Chief Assistant Attorney Bruce Bartlett, Assistant State Attorney James Hellickson and Assistant State Attorney Robert Lewis.

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