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News, events and weird stuff happening around Tampa Bay

Local Bands Make Good

Since local rock act Second Day Broadcast made the trek up to New York City as semi-finalists for the Coke/CMJ Magazine/ American Music Awards' New Music Award, we've received word that a couple of other Tampa Bay area bands also made a splash on the national music-competition scene.Sarasota heavy-pop outfit Code Sunshine made it to the finals in the Jim Beam Rock Band Search's "Band of the Year" competition, on the strength of some hefty online-voting numbers and the endorsements of several websites geared toward unsigned bands.

The quartet was edged out in the contest's closing days, but still carries the definite distinction of being the only Florida band to make the top 10. Code Sunshine's full-length CD, Happy, is available now, and an astounding amount of CS merchandise can be purchased at www.cafeshops.com/codesunshine.

In other Jim Beam/local band-related news, Tampa rock act Emmett Brown was recently awarded a $3,000 grant by Jim Beam Music. The trio, whose sound is big on collegiate hooks and tight vocal harmonies, will use the grant to purchase equipment, and to promote their upcoming sophomore full-length. Interested parties can check out some Emmett Brown tracks at http://artists.mp3s.com/artists/26/ emmett_brown.html.—Scott Harrell

Affirmative ReactionThe St. Petersburg Times added a much-needed dash of color to the group of men and women charged with directing the newspaper's parent company, Times Publishing Co.The Times announced Dec. 11 that its board of directors unanimously elected Karen Brown Dunlap to join the suits huddled around the corporate table.

The first African-American appointed to the board, Dunlap is a former Times reporter and current dean of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies, a nonprofit journalism think tank that owns the Times. The nonprofit Poynter Institute owns the majority shares in and receives dividends from the for-profit Times.

"Karen is an experienced journalist and administrator who knows the Times well through her Poynter responsibilities," Times Publishing Chairman and Chief Executive Andy Barnes said in a statement.

Although Dunlap is a welcome addition to the board, her appointment was not without controversy.

For years, the African-American community in St. Petersburg has criticized the Times for the pale complexion of its corporate board. In 1994, African-American leaders unsuccessfully pushed for the appointment of Peggy Peterman, a well-regarded reporter and editorial writer who has since retired from the Times.

This summer, the St. Petersburg branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, led by hard-charging President Darryl Rouson, urged the Times to appoint an African-American by February, which is Black History Month.

"Our community has slept all too often and, like Rip Van Winkle, we have sometimes slept through and missed the opportunity to direct change," Rouson said of the NAACP's pressure on the Times.

In response, Barnes promised the NAACP that a black would sit on the board before he retires in May 2004. He also cited his company's tradition of promoting within as a reason a black appointment had taken so long.

While it would seem that renewed pressure from the NAACP led to the sudden appointment, Dunlap downplayed the association's role. "The NAACP's voice was one of many factors," said Dunlap, who added that she disagreed with Rouson's belief that diversity at the Times should come from the top down.

The Times isn't the only local media outlet slow to appoint an African-American board member.

Virginia-based Media General Inc., which owns The Tampa Tribune, WFLA-Ch. 8 and tbo.com, appointed its first African-American board member just last year.

Weekly Planet owner Creative Loafing Inc. still does not have an African-American on its board.

Which to say, any stones we might like to sling at the Times would come from a glasshouse run by a bunch of whites.—Trevor Aaronson

The Price of (Academic) Freedom

The state might be strapped for cash, but the University of South Florida appears to be pretty flush.USF has already spent in excess of $80,000 to dodge responsibility for firing computer engineering professor Sami Al-Arian by looking to the courts for cover. U.S. District Judge Susan Bucklew declined the opportunity to save USF President Judy Genshaft's ass by telling her it was all right with the federal courts if she wanted to fire a tenured professor for what seems to amount to doing nothing more than exercising his right to free speech.

USF officials can still appeal the decision rather than go ahead and make a move on their own. Or they could muster up the backbone to either fire the professor and go through arbitration or return him to the classroom. But right now they're not talking about their next move.—Rochelle Renford

Late Again

The USF trustees are very busy people.Busy, busy, busy.

John Ramil is running Tampa Electric.

Dick Beard's trying to convince his political party's flunkies in Washington that George W. Bush should give his re-nomination acceptance speech in Tampa two years hence.

Rhea Law is schmoozing politicians for her law firm.

Outback Steakhouse's Chris Sullivan is trying to decide if wrapping barbecue chicken in Ethiopian injera bread will be the next big casual-dining concept.

But can't the members of this dandy little group of white Republican fundraisers manage their calendars better?

For the second consecutive year, the trustees waited until the holiday season to get around to making an important, albeit controversial, decision. The trustees chose Dec. 18 to sign off on Judy Genshaft's new five-year, $1.6-million contract.

Genshaft's reward, for doing just about every stupid-ass little thing that the trustees told her to do during the past two years, was met with universal...well, not everybody was down with that 37 percent pay raise.

That would include USF students, whose families are facing sizeable tuition increases soon, and USF faculty, whose ranks are being thinned as the state begins to grapple with a budget crisis.

Oddly enough, there weren't many representatives from either of those groups around the Tampa campus by the time that the trustees gave Genshaft her expensive pat on the back.

Most students and professors were away on holiday break. That's a good way to keep the demonstrations and president's office sit-ins to a minimum.

The place was pretty much deserted last December, too, when the trustees held an "emergency" meeting to recommend that Genshaft fire Sami Al-Arian.

Genshaft still hasn't done that. But another five years on the public dole, plus all kinds of nice perks? Maybe that's enough to persuade the 54-year-old Genshaft that it's worth trashing her academic career to please the trustees once again, even as her university gets censured.

Nobody protests at Drive-Thru U, you say?

That may be true, now. But let's wait and see what the trustees have up their sleeves for next holiday season.

How about requiring all USF students to make a soft-money donation of $5,000, through the Florida Republican Party, to Jeb Bush's 2008 presidential exploratory committee?

In exchange for their generosity, students will receive a free Bloomin' Onion from Sullivan with their degree at commencement.

Hold the dip sauce.—Francis X. Gilpin

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