Forty-eight hours after Tampa Police Officer Lois Marrero was machine-gunned down by a lowlife, the media finally began reporting what was obvious: The heroic cop was gay.
The St. Petersburg Times commendably broke the ice, in a story about who would receive Marrero's survivor benefits. Normally, a spouse would get lifetime payments of 65 percent of a slain officer's salary. Marrero had been with her companion, TPD Detective Mickie Mashburn, for a decade. To them it was clearly a marriage.
By all accounts, Marrero was a loving person, and a dedicated and (when it came to dealing with the brass) feisty cop. Together, the couple might not reflect the fantasy of what Americans would like to believe is a family, but in every way that counts they were an admirable couple.
In the Times story, city officials did little more than waffle about Marrero's benefits. Mayor Dick Greco tried to put the burden on Marrero herself, saying the city would do what her will stated. But, that the city makes no provision for unmarried companions, which by state law is all that Marrero and Mashburn could be.
Moreover, Greco's fence straddling begged the question. The simple fact is that the city discriminates against gays. And officials try to obscure this shame by avoiding the issue. Greco, who claims he is a friend to everyone, was out to lunch during previous fights involving human rights ordinances. Even a gay City Council member won't risk contributions from the far right by peeking from the closet door and proclaiming, "It's time to do what's honorable and fair, and legally ensure that gays don't face bias."
In Florida, Marrero undoubtedly was not the first gay cop killed in the line of duty.
But Marrero was the first female Tampa cop to be cut down doing her job. That she happened to be a lesbian — and that her death occurred on a day when gays were parading in Tampa during PrideFest — is poignant and ironic testimony to the fact that she was, in the eyes of the law and as far as the city cares, a second-class citizen.
Our institutions tacitly, sometimes explicitly, endorse the venom against gays. Cities, counties and most businesses don't give the same rights to gay partners as they do to legal spouses. Some public voices barely conceal their virulent homophobia. The Tampa Tribune, for example, in one of its more positive eruptions on homosexuality, described the lifestyle as "objectionable." Objectionable to bigots, not to fair-minded Americans.
Marrero couldn't have a legal bond equivalent to marriage with her partner. She wouldn't have been able to provide spouse health insurance if her companion wasn't working. She couldn't adopt a child without committing perjury.
The righteous gay-haters at the Tribune have editorialized in favor of prohibiting homosexual unions, pontificating: "As a nation, we are in the midst of an ongoing public debate about how homosexuals and lesbians fit into the fabric of society. Whether further change is warranted is debatable."
Marrero's death should answer that. She was good enough to die for society. She was good enough to enjoy all of society's benefits. No debate necessary.
Maximus Dickus II
Who will succeed Dick Greco as mayor? Forget Charlie and Rose. They believe abject loyalty to Greco would ensure their inheriting his mantle. It won't happen.
Bucky? Too scary for many people.
Pam? Really great public servant. But the last thing Tampa's old, creaky establishment wants is 1. a woman and 2. one who is aggressively ethical, competent and honest.
Some of the people who should run won't. Tax Collector Doug Belden, for example, would make a fine, frugal, farsighted mayor. But personal obligations as a single father deter him now.
Who's left? Try Francisco "Frank" Sanchez. Who's that? Sanchez was a Clintonista assistant secretary of transportation. He was born in Tampa but hasn't been around much for years. Yet, he's making the rounds and looking very much like a candidate.
Among those quietly pushing Sanchez is none other than Greco. There's no doubt that Sanchez is bright, personable and urbane. Or that he could be a big asset in dealing with Washington.
Is that why Greco is smiling Sanchez's way? Not likely. The mayor's agenda won't be completed before he leaves office. He needs someone he can, well, control.
Trolley's Next Stop: Bankruptcy
So, Tampa has again been taken for a ride by con men. This time, the citizens were lulled into thinking they could have a stylish trolley that would run from downtown to Ybor City — for a mere $23-million. Pocket change in the world of big-spending bureaucrats.
The first smoke that the numbers were a lie was when the price soared due to "upgrades." These improvements include air-conditioning. It seems the transit morons hadn't figured out that not many people would take a 20-minute ride (which will probably be more like 30 or 40 minutes when veracity strikes HARTline) in sweltering August heat.
Then, in what should be subject matter for a grand jury investigation, HARTline added $7-million to the cost of the trolley in a downtown land swap — a deal predicated on protecting the Marriott Waterside from competition, not on providing any public benefit.
Then taxpayers found out they'd have to fork over $1-million a year for insurance.
So, now we have a $53-million trolley. To make the profit-loss numbers more palatable, the transit gurus suddenly discovered that ridership would double to 500,000. Why? No reason.
And the folks who gave us this Christ-mas-in-July surprise are quite serious when they say, "Trust us. We want to build you a commuter rail."
Editor John Sugg, who swears that he is not running for Tampa mayor, can be reached at 813-248-8888, ext. 109, or at [email protected].