Best Of 2015

Best "Christian"

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.

Best "Screw You" You to Nature and The Will of The People

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.

Best Blog You Should Already Be Reading

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.

Best Can’t Believe This Is Finally Happening

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.

Best Champion for Disabled Drivers

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.

Best Chickenshit Display of Corporate Public Relations
wikimedia commons

“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.

Best City Councilmember

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.)

Dove Wimbish at Tampa Pride this past March.
Chip Weiner
Dove Wimbish at Tampa Pride this past March.

There was some doubt that Tampa Bay could muster up enough man and womanpower to sustain two big Pride celebrations, but this spring it turned out there was more than enough LGBT team spirit to go around. St. Pete Pride in June was particularly jubilant this year, occurring as it did the day after the Supreme Court decision on gay marriage, but Tampa Pride had a triumphant mood all its own. The first such event since Hillsborough’s 2005 countywide gay pride ban was repealed, it was not only a show of strength by the GaYbor community but also a chance to blow a nice big raspberry in the direction of Ms. Ronda Storms.

Best Community Group

Several years ago, Gulfport activist Margarete Tober gave up duties co-administrating an alt Facebook group, Gulfport Watchdog, and decided she could do more good for her hometown with Gulfport Neighbors, a charity that cleans the yards of the elderly, helps organize neighborhoods cleanups, and has been the lone voice working to unite St. Petersburg and Gulfport at its mutual border, 49th Street South. Since then, Gulfport Neighbors has cleaned the beach monthly, orchestrated police officer chats in neighborhoods, browbeat officials into co-mayoral cleanups and basically reinforced what it means to be part of a community.

Best Dead-End Oasis
Screen grab, Google Maps

In the historic community of Bayview, one of the first settlements in Pinellas County, a 4.5-acre verdant site intersecting hectic Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and the Bayside Bridge has been preserved as a public recreation park. If you drive down adjacent Bayview Avenue to the far end of the street, you will find the scenic little fishing spot that lives up to the street’s name. A Catholic retreat sits nearby with Stations of the Cross statues and lushly landscaped grounds, all adding to the enchanting beauty of this quiet little spot in busy Clearwater.