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Council should okay request for lit sign

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By JEFF WEBB, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times
published June 23, 2002

Still stinging from criticism about their initial decision to force Walgreens to tear down and rebuild a retaining wall that intruded on city property by 4 inches, the Inverness City Council stuck its neck out in the wrong direction again last week.

At Tuesday's meeting the council denied a taxpayer's request to place an internally illuminated sign in front of his business at 508 Main St. Attorney Brent Miller bought the historic house, which is almost 100 years old, and is setting up his law practice. He wants an internally lit sign to advertise his presence there. After all, he must compete with similar signs from two fast food restaurants, Wendy's and Checkers, for the attention of passers-by.

But the City Council, backing a recommendation by its Architectural/Aesthetic Review Committee, forbade the sign, saying Miller should erect a plastic or wooden sign and illuminate it with flood lights.

The advisory board's attempt to protect the historical integrity of the house is sincere, but they miss the mark in this instance.

The council should be thrilled every time someone wants to transform and maintain a historic structure, especially in an area of commercial zoning. The alternative is that the building falls into disrepair and rots to the ground, becoming a likely candidate for bulldozing and sale to business that will erect yet another modern (read boring and predictable) building. Accommodating Miller's request for signage similar to what already exists was reasonable.

Here's a thought: Maybe the council would change its mind if Miller agreed to serve food with his legal advice.

The attorney could seek permission from a famous Boston-area restaurant to call his practice Legal Seafood.

He could even dish up helpings of Mumbo-Jumbo-Gumbo with his legal advice.

How about weekly specials on Barrister Burgers? Pro T-Bono Steaks? Amicus Beefs?

Or, how about breakfast specials of Habeas Home Fries and Appeal-Cinnamon Pancakes?

Pardon the puns, but you get the idea. Let's hope the City Council members do, too.

And in this corner . . .

Anyone who has been involved in the process knows that partisan politics can be a rough-and-tumble undertaking. Being slapped in the face, stabbed in the back or smeared by an opponent are common occurrences in a campaign.

Of course, those terms are figurative, not literal, and they usually take place between opposing parties. But it appears some Citrus County Democratic Party operatives got mixed up at a meeting last month.

As members of the Democratic Executive Committee listened to candidates for this year's elections, former party chairman Mike Gudis singled out one of his old adversaries for questioning. Gudis had served on the Crystal River council with Alex Ilnyckyj and the two often butted heads in that forum.

Ilnyckyj, who switched his party registration from Republican to Democrat only a few months ago, is running for state House District 43. Gudis, among others, is wary of Ilnyckyj's party-hopping, calling it opportunistic.

At the May 15 meeting, current chairman Joe Cino determined that Gudis' questioning of Ilnyckyj had gone from inquisitive to inquisition. Cino ended the meeting and words were exchanged between Gudis and him. They wound up shouting in the parking lot of the Beverly Hills Community Center and, some feared, on the brink of a fistfight.

Gudis says Cino called him a "Jew Boy," and others say Cino repeatedly used a five-letter word that begins with "p" and means you're not the least bit masculine. Cino, whose wife, Cindy, is Jewish, says he can't recall specifically what he yelled at Gudis, though he admits it probably was offensive.

It's not hard to understand that someone would lose patience with Gudis. He has that effect on people. But he doesn't deserve to have his religious heritage attacked, especially by someone serving in a position of leadership and responsibility, as Cino does. If Cino said it, he should apologize personally to Gudis, as well as to other DEC members.

Meanwhile, perhaps the most surprising part of this juvenile tale is that Ilnyckyj was not in the middle of this confrontation. Ilnyckyj is a strong-willed and, well, expressive individual. He has been known to lose his cool a time or two himself. In fact, it has only been a couple of years since Ilnyckyj got in Gudis' face at a council meeting and later was censured by his colleagues for his bad behavior.

To his credit, Ilnyckyj reportedly was inside the community center when "Iron" Mike and "Joltin"' Joe squared off.

I'll have to get to more of these meetings. They beat the heck out of the summer reruns of those reality TV shows.

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