The Airing of Grievances

It's time to deck the halls with disappointment.

click to enlarge FOR THE REST OF US: If Kramer celebrated - Festivus with the Garcias... - KARBER.NET/SEINFELD/FESTIVUS
FOR THE REST OF US: If Kramer celebrated Festivus with the Garcias...

Happy Festivus! If you already consume Dinky Donuts, work at Vandelay Industries, strain to hear low-talkers or wear puffy shirts, you know of what holiday I speak.

For the rest of you, Festivus is the angst-filled fictional Dec. 23 holiday created by Frank Costanza (played by Jerry Stiller) on Seinfeld. The celebration includes three parts: the barren aluminum Festivus Pole (because Frank "finds tinsel distracting"); Feats of Strength, physically pitting the head of a household against the person of his/her choosing; and, of course, the Airing of Grievances. Gathered around the sumptuous Festivus table, you tell your friends and family all the ways they have disappointed you during the year.

So, as I ready my own Festivus table, here are a few political grievances I'd like to air.

I'm disappointed in the choices we were given in this year's presidential election. As in, no choice. Major party, minor party, it made no difference. If George W. Bush and John Kerry are the best two leaders we can come up with as a nation, we're in some serious trouble.

I'm disappointed in exit polls. Actually, let me be a bit more specific. I'm disappointed in the fact that networks, bloggers and political parties still think these wastes of time are necessary or reliable. The only people who find any use for them are the same kind of folks who want to jump ahead to the end of a book because they can't wait to find out how it ends. I say we outlaw exit polling. In the alternative, let's all keep lying to exit pollsters.

I'm disappointed (but not surprised) that Florida's system of legislative redistricting has finally proven to be so monopolistic that we do not have a two-party system except in a handful of legislative districts. The few remaining Democrat-held seats are safe, as are the vast majority of Republican-dominated districts. The result: party primaries (and their tendency to select only the most extreme right and extreme left candidates) have effectively disenfranchised voters throughout Florida. I'm a free market kind of guy, especially when it comes to having lots of political choices to make.

I'm disappointed that efforts to reform legislative redistricting are doomed to fail.

I'm disappointed that every campaign I saw this year was driven by pollsters. Candidates had no opinions of their own; their "views" were instead carefully crafted mirrors of whatever a majority of voters in the race believed. This is nothing new, but it has become so pervasive that even at local government now we have issue matrixes rather than heartfelt expressions of what a candidate believes (I know, I know, that assumes candidates actually have hearts…).

I'm disappointed that David Karp, the St. Pete Times' most aggressive Hillsborough reporter and thorn-in-the-side over at City Hall, has been bumped upstairs to cover another beat, leaving us poorer for information.

I'm disappointed that, despite Mayor Pam Iorio's commitment to the arts as an economic force, we don't see more outdoor concerts and shows in downtown Tampa. I loved going to the Florida Orchestra's city-funded concert in Plant Park, but have seen precious little beyond that.

I'm disappointed in Ybor City. As a political consultant, I worked on the deal to get Centro Ybor built and loved its potential to transform Ybor City as a destination for everyone in Tampa Bay and beyond. But the fear of crime, an entrenched teen club scene and an economic downturn since 9/11 have largely stunted Centro's potential (and Ybor City's as a whole, for that matter). Instead, we're stuck arguing over wet zoning and teen curfews while an amazing natural and historic resource is squandered.

I'm disappointed that Democratic Hillsborough County Commission candidate Ed Austin chose/was convinced to stay in a suicide mission against Bob Buckhorn. He would have been a much stronger candidate in the other open district, against Mark Sharpe. I'm disappointed that the widening rift in local Democrats apparently caused the D's to put their best two county commission candidates into the same race. Stoooopid.

But Festivus, as Frank Costanza would say, is "for the rest of us." In that spirit, got any political grievances you'd like to air?

Pat Frank hires fired Port Counsel: Hillsborough County's new Clerk of the Courts is filling out her new administrative team. Harry Cohen has been appointed chief of staff, and former Democratic political consultant Clay Phillips will do special projects for the clerk. Tampa CPA Anthony Sanchez will advise Frank on financial matters (he was her campaign treasurer).

But it is Frank's hiring of former Tampa Port counsel Dale Bohner that will likely raise the most eyebrows. Bohner was fired in October by interim Port director Zelko Kirincich in the midst of complaints about the authority's performance. Frank said she believes Kirincich made a mistake and she is glad to have Bohner on board. "I have a great deal of confidence in Dale," Frank said.

537 Club Christmas: About 100 members of the pro-Kerry 537 Club gathered last week at Viva La Frida restaurant in Tampa to celebrate/commiserate after this year's unsuccessful elections. One bit of good news, compliments of their computer statistician: in the 30 precincts that 537 targeted, Democrat turnout ran 4 percent higher than average and Kerry beat Bush by a 3 percent margin. The club, which took its name from the margin of defeat for Gore in Florida in 2000, now faces an uncertain future. Perhaps it could change its name to the 380,978 Club, the margin of defeat for Kerry this year?

The Political Whore says Festivus doesn't end until his son, Brian, can pin him in a wrestling match. You can reach Political Whore at 813-832-6427 or by e-mail at [email protected].

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