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Make Some Airwaves

When WMNF-88.5 FM DJ Diane Dill-Peterson began her Alternative Edge show on Friday mornings, she politely refused to play the Bob Dylan and Byrds songs so loved by the community radio station's almighty aging-hippie contingent.She won over a new and younger fan base during the 9 to 11 a.m. slot by carving out a nice little niche of up-to-date indie rock, classic old wave and other eclectic styles that didn't involve guys with acoustic guitars singing about a pond.

Now WMNF is gearing up for another round of programming changes, set to kick in Jan. 21. Dill-Peterson is moving to Flee's 2 to 4 p.m. spot on Saturdays, in place of his Moods for Moderns. Flee will host the Tuesday afternoon Traffic Jam.

The volunteer jocks, however, are not pessimistic about the changes.

In addition to Dill-Peterson's new Saturday show, alternative music will be heard intermittently throughout the day and during evening shows, such as the "New" Underground Circus running Sundays through Thursdays from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

Of the station's younger listeners, Dill-Peterson implored: "Make your voices heard!" She stressed that more involvement from WMNF's under-40 fans could result in more alternative music programming.

Those interested could start with Dill-Peterson's soon-to-be-old radio time. Replacing her Friday show will be Live Music Showcase, hosted by acoustic aficionado Bill Dudley. If you miss Dill-Peterson's Edge at that time on Fridays, call 813-239-9663 and urge Dudley to rough things up a bit.

There are a number of talented local bands on the vanguard tip that could use the exposure.—Julie Garisto

Fairly Painful

A Jan. 2 Hillsborough County report seems to confirm the worst about the potential for an outdoor amphitheater putting a dent in the St. Pete Times Forum's precarious finances.Clear Channel Communications Inc. is negotiating to build an amphitheater at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. (See "No Fair" at weeklyplanet.com/current/ news_feature2.html.) Back downtown, county and business leaders are fretting that music shows now staged at the forum would migrate to the new amphitheater, scheduled to open next year.

Any attendance drop at the forum requires the county to dig deeper into a tourist tax fund to help repay bondholders who financed the arena. A ticket surcharge has usually covered less than a third of the $1.5-million annual debt payments since the 1996 opening of the then-Ice Palace.

In the report, county staffers assumed all music acts that performed in 2001 at both the Ice Palace and Clear Channel's West Palm Beach amphitheater would have played outside on their Tampa stop at a fairgrounds amphitheater. The caravan of stars ranged from the Ice Palace's poorest 2001 concert draw, Counting Crows, to the best, Dave Matthews.

If the fairgrounds amphitheater had been blasting in 2001, the county folks estimated the Ice Palace would have lost $75,771 of the $286,359 collected in surcharges. That's 26 percent of 2001 surcharge collections.

As it was, Palace Sports & Entertainment Inc., which owns the Tampa Bay Lightning and leases the St. Pete Times Forum, lost a combined $21-million on the hockey team and the arena in 2001, according to a county consultant.

While county and downtown leaders sweat, Palace Sports may view the amphitheater threat less ominously.

The Lightning owner has an option to partner with Clear Channel on the fairgrounds amphitheater. That option could be used as leverage.

Almost since buying the Lightning in 1999, Palace Sports has tried to get Hillsborough officials to eliminate ticket surcharges. National Hockey League Commissioner Gary Bettman took a break from last year's Stanley Cup playoffs to fly here for some gentle arm-twisting.

But county commissioners have instead discussed hiking the surcharge to cover a bigger chunk of the arena debt.

Perhaps Palace Sports would be willing to pass on the amphitheater and try to stick it out in the concert business downtown against giant Clear Channel — if the city and county forget about that annoying little surcharge.—Francis X. Gilpin

All Along the Watchtowers

Welcome to the neighborhood, Pinellas County.As part of a community outreach program championed by County Administrator Steve Spratt, the Pinellas government will open three offices known as "county connection centers."

The centers will address questions and problems about such issues as code enforcement and land use as well as help residents to navigate the county government's complicated bureaucracy.

The county modeled the connection centers after a similar program in Miami-Dade County, where Spratt was formerly assistant county manager. In fact, Spratt's first job out of college was answering phones at such a center in Miami.

"He's seen it work in Miami-Dade," said Spratt spokeswoman Maggie Hall. "It can work here."

But the centers surely have an alternate purpose, though you'll be hard-pressed to hear county bureaucrats admit to it.

St. Petersburg, Seminole and Pinellas Park have begun annexing unincorporated areas. Neighborhoods within those areas are debating whether to form their own cities. Spratt has been forced to consider what further annexation and incorporation could do to his government's power and tax base.

Conveniently, Pinellas placed each of the centers in areas that could soon leave the county: Lealman, Feather Sound and Palm Harbor. That makes the new centers watchtowers as much as community- outreach offices.

In Lealman, a low-income area where commercial properties have been cherry-picked by neighboring Seminole and Pinellas Park, community association President Ray Neri and his group are studying the feasibility of incorporating as a city. Neri hopes to present the results to the Legislature.—Trevor Aaronson

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