St. Petersburg’s controversial condo car bell is finally silenced | Editorial
Also in this week’s highs and lows across Florida: Nasty bigotry and fewer hurricanes (maybe).
The (now-replaced) pedestrian warning system on the Ovation tower in downtown St. Petersburg.
The (now-replaced) pedestrian warning system on the Ovation tower in downtown St. Petersburg. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
This article represents the opinion of the Tampa Bay Times Editorial Board.
Published April 15

A little less noisy. The controversial bell that alerted pedestrians that cars were exiting one of St. Petersburg’s priciest downtown residential towers has been silenced. The bell clung to an outside wall of Ovation, a Beach Drive tower where residences often fetch millions of dollars. It rang every time a car or truck left the gated parking garage onto First Street North. The chime, which sounded day and night, caught the attention of at least a few nearby residents and office workers, chief among them Fred Sherman, who lived in a different tower a block south. He couldn’t stand the bell, which he described as noise pollution. Each time it rings, “it sounds like the inmates are escaping,” he told the Times in 2021. Sherman sued, 24 other people joined the suit, lots of money was spent on lawyers, and then recently workers installed a new warning system without the bell. Lawyers for Ovation said disabling the bell was just a routine upgrade and had nothing to do with Sherman or the lawsuit. Believe what you will. When the dispute arose in late 2021, this Editorial Board wrote that a 10-year-old could remedy the problem in a matter of minutes. That it took adults more than a year says something about adults, but at least the story has a happy ending.

Saying it aloud. There’s no need to describe Webster Barnaby’s comments because the ugliness behind his plain language speaks for itself. During a committee hearing Monday, the Republican House member from Deltona lashed out against several transgender speakers in a Capitol hearing, calling transgender Floridians “demons and imps” and likening them to “mutants from another planet.” The meltdown came during debate over HB 1521, which subjects criminal penalties to those who use bathrooms “designated for the opposite sex.” After several speakers spoke against the measure, Barnaby declared: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan, and all of your demons and all of your imps. That’s right, I called you demons and imps who come and parade before us and pretend that you are part of this world.” Barnaby later apologized, but this is the environment that Republicans have created with their persistent demagoguery against the LGBTQ+ community. As expected, the Republican-led committee approved the bill, sending it to the House floor — even despite a staff report that noted the legislation may violate the equal protection guarantees under the U.S. and Florida constitutions.

Let’s hope, anyway. Below average is good, at least when we’re talking hurricane season. The experts at Colorado State University unveiled their first projections of the 2023 hurricane season this week, and meteorologists are anticipating a slightly below-average season, which is great news for Floridians still reeling from Hurricane Ian, and everyone who’s anxious when hurricane season comes around. Researchers are predicting 13 named storms, of which six will become hurricanes and two will reach major hurricane strength (with sustained winds of 111 mph or higher). The team believes a strong El Niño could develop, and with it, an increase in vertical wind shear, a change in high-level winds that can tear hurricanes apart. Of course, there’s still plenty of time for this uncertain forecast to change; the university will update its projections each month between June and August. And it’s vital to remember that even a single storm can change life forever. But this is an encouraging, early sign, and a timely reminder to start thinking about hurricane preparations.

Editorials are the institutional voice of the Tampa Bay Times. The members of the Editorial Board are Editor of Editorials Graham Brink, Sherri Day, Sebastian Dortch, John Hill, Jim Verhulst and Chairman and CEO Conan Gallaty. Follow @TBTimes_Opinion on Twitter for more opinion news.