You would think the Church of Scientology had a bulletproof reputation, considering how it railed against a relatively modest, family-friendly attraction. The Church flagrantly called out the Clearwater Marine Aquarium during its proposed expansion and move to downtown Clearwater, also Scientology’s spiritual world headquarters, earlier this year — a move that the public voted to support in a referendum and the city leaders unanimously advocated. Unfazed, the Church sought to harpoon the finny project with the same searing exactitude that a Bible Belt town would wield toward a whorehouse. It brought in an accountant, an economist and an investigative reporter to investigate the nonprofit aquarium’s financial projections and its animal-care history, according to the accounts of aquarium supporters provided to the Tampa Bay Times. Lobbying against bed-tax funding happened, too. The church’s side: They wanted to point out facts, problems that might arise from having the CMA downtown. Regardless of their intentions, the Church has once again reinforced its reputation as exclusionary bullies to be feared and mistrusted. Slow clap, Scientology.
Speaking of Larry Ahern, we think he deserves mention for his attempt to convince the St. Pete City Council to fly a “pro-life” flag during whatever time the far right celebrates its hatred of female autonomy. He voiced that assertion at a meeting in which the council was passing a proclamation in honor of Pride Week, a time during which the Pride flag flies outside City Hall to honor equality and signify that bigotry isn’t welcome in St. Pete. His request, naturally, went unheeded. Hear that? That’s the sound of the impotent rage of knuckle draggers.
Few things are more depressing than watching dozens of people pleading with an ambivalent group of officials bent on causing untold suffering. But here we are, weeks out from a weeklong free-for-all black bear hunt in Florida’s most remote areas because some bears wandered into exurban subdivisions looking for food. They say the hunt will be limited to 320 bears (wonder if they’ll enforce that), or some 10 percent of the estimated population (though they won’t have an accurate estimate until a year from now). But, hey, we’re sure everyone who hunts those bears is doing so out of concern for sustainability and will use every part of the animal they kill, at least every part they can use as décor for their dens.
Runners-Up: Pass-A-Grille, Anna Maria Island
Naming her blog after “a rare flower found in the South that lives in the sand,” progressive writer Marth Jackovics really goes for the throat on the state’s hypocrisy, and does so with excellent wit and insight. She’s also fun to follow on Twitter.
It’s rare that St. Pete moves quickly on anything. Things drag out much longer than they need to, largely due to how divided the city can get on matters of development and preservation. So it’s kind of hard to fathom that the inverted pyramid is actually being dismantled. Granted, the Pier has been an ongoing issue for years (the 2013 Lens vote, anyone?). But still, it’ll be strange and sad to see it go to make way for Pier Park. We feel for those that worked hard to preserve the 1973 structure, and did so tirelessly more than once.
When the Nuance Galleries owner began noticing a recurring pattern of illegal handicapped parking at the South Tampa Starbucks (at Dale Mabry and Azeele), he started asking non-permitted customers to move their cars. A customer complained to the coffee shop’s manager, who told Rowen to stop harassing customers, and when Rowen contacted the Starbucks regional office, the district manager banned him from visiting all Starbucks locations. Local and national media seized on Rowen’s story, and a few days later, Rowen was notified that the ban was revoked.
“I’m a little disappointed,” disabled parking activist Rob Rowen told WTSP Ch. 10 of his meeting with Starbucks Vice President and General Manager Pablo Arizmendi-Kalb. According to WTSP, when Rowen suggested in-store signs encouraging friendlier parking practices for the disabled and a national awareness campaign, the Starbucks rep chose to flee the scene rather than give an answer on camera. The South Tampa store has complied, but Rowen says the battle will be won when all Starbucks stores are on board.
From her wage theft ordinance to her outspokenness on environmental issues, Rice is someone who’s not only perpetually on the right side of history, but is often leading the way on issues that will define St. Pete for generations. She’s thorough and thoughtful on issues like the Rays’ stadium debate and always well-spoken. We do sometimes worry she’ll leave her seat before she terms out to run for higher office, though, which she certainly has the ambition and talent to do, as we would miss her. (We must note there were quite a few runners-up for this award among her colleagues, including Councilmembers Karl Nurse, Amy Foster and Steve Kornell.)
Runners-Up: Tampa, Clearwater