1. Florida Politics

Pride and politics, yet again

Published Mar. 13, 2015

Doling out those happy "proclamations" at public meetings has to be one of the least controversial things elected officials do. Or it should be, anyway.

Suitable for framing, the fancy gold-sealed documents peppered with ornate "whereases" and "therefores" ceremoniously acknowledge everything from retiring librarians to National Empowering Women Day. No, I did not make that up.

But around here, even ceremonial proclaiming can get political — and tell you a lot about the politicians involved.

Just ask former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who got attention every time he did not sign the proclamation for St. Pete Pride, his city's widely attended celebration of the gay and lesbian community. And, in the end, when he finally did.

Or ask the Hillsborough County Commission, which after years of sharp division finally came around to unanimously signing one for the GaYbor Days celebration in Ybor City. Such proclamations can be harbingers: This commission also unanimously voted in a domestic partner registry for couples both gay and straight.

Did I say unanimously? Because to presume we're past all this would be premature.

For the newly reconstituted Tampa Pride event March 28, the commission naturally issued a proclamation, as is routine for big celebrations like the recent Strawberry Festival. Except the Tampa Pride proclamation was signed by all but one commissioner, the newest: social conservative Stacy White. The absence of his name is as obvious as a missing tooth, given a list that includes some commissioners who are pretty conservative themselves.

Asked about the omission, White said via email that though he doesn't agree with the proclamation, he has "no interest in promoting hatred towards any person or group" and dissents "from a place of respect."

So it's a softer tone than we've heard from, say, former Commissioner Ronda Storms or Christian activist Terry Kemple — both of whom White supported, by the way — but the message is pretty much the same.

Hey, do you suppose someone was being funny when they decided the newly elected (make that largely re-elected) Tampa City Council members and mayor get sworn in on April Fool's Day?

Whither Tampa police Chief Jane Castor after she leaves the job in May?

One post-retirement gig could have her dabbling in other police departments — a rather hot topic at the moment — looking for ways to help fix what troubles them.

Castor already has been part of a forecasting group that has met in Washington, D.C., and focuses on troubled police departments across the nation — the idea being to find reform short of the sort of governmental intervention in the form of "consent decrees" we've seen in the past.

Selected retired police chiefs (like Castor) become police department mentors, getting to know the out-of-town shop top to bottom from policies and procedures to the relationship with the community it serves. They can even do ride-alongs with patrol cops.

"It's offered in a way that we're coming in here to assist you and offer advice," Castor says. "You can pick and choose what you want from it."

It's officially March when one day we're pulling on that rarely used fleece top against the chill, the next we're leaving a spring training game all sweaty and sunburned about the neck.

Verizon FiOS customers may have lost the Weather Channel, but weather's right on time in Florida.


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