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Hullabaloo over water is a devil of excess

Get a suitcase.

Get a briefcase.

Okay, but for heaven's sake, at least get a grip!

Life, I am sorry to inform you folks, is not a talk show.

Maybe the daytime television bucks are being generated by having dysfunctional people under the mentorship of incompetent hosts spill their guts about their miserable lives so that their performances can be evaluated, supported or taunted by ill-mannered boors who think anybody anywhere has even the slightest interest in their semi-, bellicosely moronic opinions.

But please try to keep the hype where it belongs _ interspersed between game shows pitched to the intellectual levels of kindergarten pupils with mediocre achievement levels.

A year or so back I watched one jut-jawed, red-faced, trembling-fingered speaker after another stride to a microphone at a public meeting in Citrus County, each to announce in affectedly sardonic tones what he or she apparently deemed a piece of crucial information _ that "manatees can't read."

It was cute the first time, even though the issue was the posting of signs to limit the areas in which humans, most of whom can read, could take their boats.

The issue wasn't manatee literacy, or even (and it is probably just as well) human literacy; it was a realigning of boundaries in an atmosphere of concern about the welfare of manatees and the rights of humans to use the same waterways.

The feelings on both sides of the issue were valid, and, as in the case I'm writing about today, water was involved.

Water covers more than three-fourths of the globe and makes up about 65 percent of the human body. People who ascribe human behavior to changes in moon phases have questioned whether the effect is tidal; Freudians hold that water has deep sexual significance; and range wars have been fought over water and access to it.

Too much of it, in flooding situations, can be an issue. Too little of it, in areas of drought or overpumping, can be an issue. And access to it _ even for the right just to look at it _ can make lawyers rich, judges exasperated and litigants florid.

And so it was a little upsetting, but not surprising, this week when I heard that some participants in a meeting of east Pasco residents, concerned about what they believe is overpumping from the county's well fields, referred to Pinellas County Commissioner Charles Rainey and, by implication, Pasco County Commissioner Ann Hildebrand as "the Devil."


Lighten up.

They're politicians; they both serve on (and Hildebrand is chairwoman of) the West Coast Regional Water Supply Authority; and they're Republicans.

But they aren't the Devil. If somebody was going to come up with gender-balanced duo to reign over the dominions of evil, it would probably be the Democrats, and they would have to have three months of meetings and hearings over whether Satan was a gender-neutral term and whether the terms "demon" and "demoness" had become politically incorrect.

And neither, as another participant in the meeting said, are those who lust for Pasco's water the "Powers of Darkness."

Don't get me wrong. People paying waterfront property taxes because they live on the banks of what used to be a lake before (a lot of experts agree) it got sucked south to make ice for a mediocre hockey team are justifiably upset and defensive about designs on the stuff that used to cover what are now unofficial dirt bike tracks.

And terms like running-dog lackeys of the development-crazed, urban-blighted robber barons may fall well within the boundaries of fair comment.

But invoking deities, or anti-deities, and the personification of evil in a regional political squabble is just the teeniest, tiniest bit of overstatement.

Now . . .if you're talking about Congress. . .