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Missed chance for bipartisanship; musings on Masters for ladies

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published September 2, 2002


Tampa's black community is staring at a window of opportunity. But after Thursday's political forum sponsored by the Tampa Organization of Black Affairs (TOBA), I'm wondering if the community is ready to take advantage.

The forum featured debates between candidates from County Commission districts 3, 5 and 7 and state House District 57, but candidates for other races also made appearances. Frankly, it would be easier for me to name the candidates who didn't show than those who did.

Not many of the candidates lingered, however. There simply weren't enough people in the audience to merit their attention.

Part of the problem was that TOBA listed the Tampa Bay Black Republicans as co-sponsor of the event, drawing the ire of Democrats. Eric Brown, president of the Tampa Bay Black Republicans, said he could have drummed up a bipartisan audience for the event, but quit trying when Democrats objected to his club's participation.

He notes there are only 25 members in his group and 3,500 registered black Republicans in all of Hillsborough County. Even if he had wanted to fill the room with partisan Republicans, he said, it would have been difficult.

TOBA officials said another forum will be staged before the mayoral and City Council races in March. Brown deserves a chance to prove he can deliver an audience. And Democrats should seize the same opportunity.

* * *

The new Stonewood Tavern and Grill in New Tampa will generate money for a good cause today before staging its grand opening on Tuesday. From 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., guests can make a $25 donation to the University of South Florida College of Visual & Performing Arts and sample some of the restaurant's offerings, including crab cakes, smoked salmon and sirloin.

* * *

U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, who spoke to the media after casting an early ballot for the Sept. 10 primary last week, addressed questions about a war against Iraq. Davis said he's not convinced Saddam Hussein poses a security threat great enough to justify substantial military action. He also thinks Congress should get a chance to debate military action before we start dropping bombs.

* * *

Although Augusta National Country Club, host of golf's famed Masters tournament, has a history of slow inclusion when it comes to women and minorities, I think the National Council of Women's Organizations is making a mistake by putting pressure on the club to accept its first female member.

It reminds me of when Ye Mystic Krewe admitted its first black member after much public protest. The move was overdue and necessary, but a decade later the issue has all but faded from public view. Can you name the black members of Ye Mystic Crew?

Augusta National is so prickly about the issue it announced last week The Masters telecast will be commercial-free in 2003 so sponsors won't face a boycott. But with the club already allowing wives and female guests to play, adding female members would resonate for a day, maybe two.

A more meaningful and long-lasting change would be to create an annual LPGA event at Augusta National, a female Masters if you will. The club always has contended it doesn't have enough volunteers to stage two annual tournaments, but I'm not buying it. Find the right sponsor and such a tourney would be a real achievement for women's rights.

And I got just the guy. Don't you think LPGA players such as rising star Beth Bauer of Valrico would enjoy playing in the Tiger Woods Invitational at Augusta National? After all, Tiger is a member.

That's all I'm saying.

-- Ernest Hooper can be reached at (813) 226-3406 or Hooper@sptimes.com.

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