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IN THIS CORNER, THE WORD 'GESTAPO'

Just when you were starting to miss those big Hillsborough County Commission battles over protecting local wetlands, wrestler-turned-commissioner Brian Blair demands a rematch.

Or at least gives us a glimpse of the commissioner we've come to know, and it involves the word "Gestapo."

If you think about it, that oft-contentious board sure has toned things down lately. A cynic might figure some of them are in keep-your-head-low mode so as not to attract big-name contenders in their upcoming bids for re-election.

The even more cynical might surmise they're on their best Sunday school behavior to avoid stirring up more support for the idea that what we could really use around here is a county mayor.

Or maybe they've just become happily complacent.

(And why not? After all, that whole property tax mess is, like, totally fixed, right? And the government wants to send us all a big fat check it insists we spend for the good of the economy. And Gov. Charlie's got plans for saving our state using gambling green. What's to worry about?)

Anyway, the noise has quieted down some about that attempt in the summer by some commissioners to gut the Environmental Protection Commission's wetlands division - a move that got voters justifiably whipped up and ultimately ended in compromise rather than all-out abolishment.

Then, last month, Blair goes and crashes a meeting between EPC employees and the owners of a company accused of not jumping over the proper hurdles to operate a yard-waste processing business.

At one point, Blair used the word "Gestapo."

The commissioner appeared to be upset at the idea that the company was facing fines, according to a draft summary report from the meeting. "Mr. Blair then thanked us, told us he was sick to his stomach, that we haven't heard the end of this and left the meeting," the report says.

For his part, Blair says he actually told them, "We'll talk more about this," that "Gestapo" was about how others describe the agency, and that he was just standing up for constituents.

Now that's the kind of behavior we've come to expect around here.

But "Gestapo?" Really?

Funny, folks didn't get quite that over-the-top even when people were plotting to kill off the agency's power to guard our wetlands.

- - -

The University of South Florida can file this one under "timing is everything."

Things got heated over reports that police ranks at the school's sprawling Tampa campus were looking mighty thin, the job's less competitive salaries and benefits being the culprits.

Finally, university officials announced what sounds like a good contract deal that includes upping officers' pay and giving them regular bonuses.

And the USF money news this week?

Jim Leavitt, coach of USF's football team, was offered a new contract that would mean at least $12.6-million over the next seven years.

Let's see: campus security, athletics. Campus security, athletics.

Sure, the two are funded differently.

But who needs even the question of whether football trumps student safety?

Up next:CRIME REPORT

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