Best Of 2005

Maybe it was because Planet reporter Max Linsky was near the kiddies’ playground. He’d also been in the mall for two hours without buying anything. Whatever the reason, the International Plaza security guard who tapped Max on the shoulder that day did not want him taking notes. It seemed understandable enough. At first. “I’ll just show him a business card,” Max thought. “After all, I am here doing research for the Planet gift guide. You can’t buy this kind of free press.” But the business card didn’t work. Neither did a look at Max’s notebook, which was filled with information on sensitive data like book prices and massage chair features. With a hand placed squarely on the small of Max’s back, the guard showed him to the exit. “What if I stop taking notes?” Max asked. “Can I still shop?” “I can’t let you do that,” the guard answered, pushing Max toward the door. Buyer beware: Next time you’re heading to the mall, leave your firearms, your nuclear devices, and by all means your notebook at home.

People & Politics

Cub reporter HOWARD TROXLER with CL3000, who through the years has frequently whispered column ideas to Troxler via a secret transmitter in the columnist's bow tie." (Photo courtesy Howard Troxler)

People, Places & Politics 2011

It’s been a rough year for Tampa Museum of Art supporters. They raised millions of private dollars for a long-desired new home, designed by internationally recognized architect Rafael Viñoly. Then, at the 11th hour, Mayor Pam Iorio squashed the plan begun during the administration of her predecessor, Dick Greco. Iorio then turned her sights on putting the collection-challenged museum into the former federal courthouse. But when the museum board (and many in the public) turned ugly on that notion, Iorio was forced to retreat and seek Plan C. One small problem: there was no Plan C.

For a collective four decades, Rob Williams and Alice Aitken-Kloss have been slinging beers at St. Pete Beach’s Swigwam bar. They nail down the weekend shift, when the place overflows and swells out onto the sand. Their Bloody Mary on Sunday morning is sublime — spicy, peppery, and enough hair of the dog to take the edge off your headache and the blur out of your eyes. The frozen rumrunner also packs a wallop but goes down easy. Williams and Aitken-Kloss’ style is no-style: low-key, friendly, efficient and able to juggle tourists, bikers, regulars and beach newbies without breaking too much of a sweat. 6300 Gulf Blvd., St. Pete Beach, 727-360-0889 (behind the Travelodge; parking is available on weekends at the Shells lot next door).

Anyone who’s lived in the Bay area for any length of time, and who has a tendency to watch TV in the afternoon or late evening, long ago fell in love with Orlando-based law firm Morgan, Colling & Gilbert via its ubiquitous low-budget commercials. When they said they were “for the people,” man, you could believe it. Which is why we were shocked this year by the new Morgan & Morgan ads. What happened? Where were Colling & Gilbert? Were they no longer “for the people”? Maybe some photos of Morgan and Morgan strolling hand in hand on a foreign beach surfaced — the TV spots weren’t saying. But a little piece of our hearts died along with the legal union we once thought of as eternal as forever itself. www.forthepeople.com.

This year’s convoluted black-box best involves our own Political Whore, Wayne Garcia. He was dissected on the Free Republic conservative website by those fighting to intervene in Terri Schiavo’s death, linking him to a vast conspiracy to kill her that also involved: his former political consulting firm, the St. Petersburg Times, the Tampa Tribune, the Gainesville Sun, the Church of Scientology, former Sheriff Everett Rice, his former partner Mary Repper, her husband William Repper, Judge George Greer (one of Garcia’s former clients and the judge in Terri’s case), Martha Lenderman, her brother Judge John Lenderman, Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, Tom Cruise and “the weakley planet,” which is — according to conspiracy theorists — “a worthless communist rag not worthy for bird cage lining.” www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1400868/posts.

The trouble with dogs, quite frankly, is that they smell, they poop everywhere and they tend to bark a lot. Or at least, that’s what some uppity folks in the neighborhood around the city of Tampa’s Palma Ceia Dog Park said when the off-leash canine area opened. What ensued was an ugly fight between dog lovers who took their pooches to the park and some neighbors who didn’t like the intrusion into their quiet neighborhood. The opponents asked the city to shut it down, and when it refused, the angry neighbors sued. Roll up a newspaper, hit them on the nose and say, “Bad neighbors, bad neighbors.” 2904 W. San Miguel St., Tampa.

They say you can’t fight City Hall. And Wal-Mart sure as hell is a lot bigger than City Hall. So fighting against the world’s largest company’s plans to open a 150,000-square-foot super center on Gandy Boulevard in St. Petersburg might at first blush seem foolish or a waste of time. A group of committed neighbors, environmentalists and other activists didn’t think so, and they took up the cause. Brighton Bay homeowners hired a lawyer (one told them they had only a 10 percent chance of success) and a traffic consultant to plead their case at a scheduled showdown with America’s retailer at a St. Petersburg City Council meeting in August. It never happened; Wal-Mart backed down before the meeting, pulling the plug on its center after failing to resolve sticky traffic issues.

Nine members of the Florida Senate. Nine in the Florida House of Representatives. Five in the U.S. House. Those are the numbers of Republican lawmakers who stood on principle against their own party and smear attacks from the wingnuts fighting to keep Terri Schiavo alive against her will. Those with courage from the Bay area included U.S. Congresswoman Ginny Browne-Waite; state Sens. Nancy Argenziano of Dunnellon and Dennis Jones of Treasure Island; and state Reps. Everett Rice of Treasure Island, Charlie Dean of Inverness, David Russell of Spring Hill, Tom Anderson of Dunedin and Leslie Waters of Seminole.

First, one of its piers sunk into the ground, causing a raised highway section to buckle. That put the expansion of the Lee Roy Selmon Crosstown Expressway months behind schedule as all of its piers were tested, while engineers pointed fingers and the Expressway’s director quit. Now, motorists who drive the older at-grade section of the Expressway are finding their cars splashed by sealant and their tires flattened by errant nails. All for only a $2.25 cash toll!