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District shuffling; Wal-Mart bustling

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published August 16, 2002


While a lot of people are trying to figure out if County Commission candidate Ken Hagan missed a District 2 debate in Temple Terrace to go to a Bucs game, I'm just wondering if the next debate is going to be held where I live in Seffner.

I knew the commission's redistricting plan had stretched District 2 farther east and south, but not until I got my voter registration card did I realize the southern boundary encompasses my neighborhood.

District 2 is largely made up of the area we call North of Tampa (Carrollwood, Westchase, Citrus Park, Lutz, etc.). But it also includes Thonotosassa, Seffner, Mango and virtually everything else east of Interstate 75, north of Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and west of Plant City.

If you still don't understand the vastness of this district, consider this: In about the same time it takes for me to drive from the east side of the district (Seffner) to the west side (Citrus Park), I could drive from Seffner to Brooksville.

Most of us shop, drive and have kids attending schools in District 4, which is considered the East Hillsborough district. For months, we have seen campaign signs touting either incumbent Ronda Storms or challenger Arlene Waldron.

For us to be cut out of that district doesn't seem fair. I bet the people in the coastal sliver of South Hillsborough that has been redistricted into District 1 (South Tampa/Town 'N Country) feel the same way.

* * *

On a lighter East Hillsborough note, the new Wal-Mart Supercenter opened Wednesday on State Road 60, and let me tell you, you haven't lived until you've been to a Wal-Mart grand opening.

The pomp and circumstance included the Bloomingdale High band, the Durant High color guard and the Valrico Elementary chorus singing the national anthem. The associates (that's sales people to you and I) spelled out Wal-Mart, and when they got to the dash between the L and the M, they shook their hips and cheered "squiggly, squiggly, squiggly."

Now contrast that with the daunting looks on the faces of the shoppers waiting for the store to open. Lined up in rows with shopping carts, they looked like drivers in the starting grid of the Indianapolis 500 -- except they were more intense.

* * *

The first thing you noticed about Thursday's Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce meeting were the musicians sprinkled about the Wyndham Harbour Island Hotel.

There was a flutist at the garage entrance, a guy playing saxophone at valet parking and a classical guitarist at the basement entrance to the hotel. Near the ballroom was a jazz duo, and in the lobby were the Men of Note, an outstanding a capella singing quartet.

The luncheon was a celebration of the city's cultural arts, and while the entertainment continued during the meal, the biggest impression was left by a statistic that came courtesy of chamber cultural arts committee chair Joanne Rock: the economic impact of the arts in Tampa Bay last year was $402-million.

Maybe this new cultural arts district will prove to be an economic engine.

* * *

Correction: The name of local rock legend Johnny G. Lyon was misspelled in a recent column. Johnny also wanted me to know that if I think he's in the twilight of his career, I need to come to the Aug. 30 grand opening of A.J.'s Ale House, the restaurant he recently purchased. He's prepared to prove me wrong.

* * *

My lament about being lumped into District 2 (instead of District 4) is a day late and a dollar short since the redistricting was approved last year. The challenge now is to make our voices heard to the person who ends up being "our" commissioner, even if the person isn't intimately familiar with what it's like to live in East Hillsborough.

But I'm all for taking another run at redistricting.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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