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Joe Redner sets sights on office; Baby cakes

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By ERNEST HOOPER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published October 23, 2002

Minutes before picking up a ceremonial golden shovel and breaking ground on a new West Tampa park at Albany and Main, Joe Redner took a few digs at city officials Tuesday.

"The only time these areas get attention from our city leaders is when the developers who fill their campaign chests with money are ready to develop them," Redner said. "It's time the city did something for the people who live in these areas, instead of moving them out to make room for development."

With Redner's backing, the Voice Of Freedom Park/West Tampa Festival & Marketplace hopes to become a center for development in West Tampa. It also may be a cornerstone to another political bid for Redner, the famed entrepreneur whose businesses include Mons Venus and Extreme health and fitness gym.

Redner, who spent in the neighborhood of $100,000 to purchase the property, said he plans on running for the city council District 6, which includes West Tampa. The seat is up for election in March.

That seat is held by Mary Alvarez, and while no one has filed to run, Alvarez did pick up her packet from the Supervisor of Elections Office on Tuesday.

Redner, who garnered 25 percent of the vote in an unsuccessful bid for Bob Buckhorn's District 3 city council seat in 1999, hopes to "let people know who I really am" with the help of two enterprising young men. Adam Elend and Jeff Marks prepared the media release for the groundbreaking ceremony, and also have done some videos for public access on Redner.

His efforts with the West Tampa Business Alliance reflect a side of Redner the public may not be aware of, according to the business owner. While campaigning for the District 3 county commission seat in 2000, Redner attended an alliance meeting and learned the property owner was not going to allow them continue to hold events on the parcel.

So Redner bought the property and it has since hosted a number of events with no charge from the owner. He will now spend an additional $50,000 to $60,000 to make the property more attractive.

* * *

I may have a solution for the vacant Jacobson's building in Hyde Park Village, and it doesn't involve an investment from Redner.

A 20,000-square-foot ESPN SportsZone (the zone in Denver is 22,000 square feet) would fit. With interactive games, televisions in the bathrooms, live broadcasts (radio host Todd Wright lives in Tampa Bay) and reclining loungers known as "Zone Thrones," it's not just another sports bar. The upscale feel would mesh with the other restaurants, and let's face it, the old village needs a little vibrancy.

* * *

Seen on a bumper sticker in Brandon: Army Wife, The Toughest Job In The Army.

* * *

We celebrated my daughter's first birthday over the weekend, and in the process I discovered what I think is a new custom. Or at least new to me.

When you order a cake for a 1-year-old at Publix, you get a smaller, circular cake just for the infant. When everyone kept saying, "Madelyn has her own cake," I didn't know what they meant. But I got the idea after watching her smear frosting across her cheeks, in her mouth and up her nose. Nice.

According to the folks at Publix, they have been providing "baby's first birthday cake" to infants enrolled in the Publix Baby Club for several years.

* * *

Some people might have a moral objection to the West Tampa Business Alliance accepting money from Redner, who built his fortune with the help of his adult entertainment establishments. Yet alliance head Jimmie Gray said, "we take help from who we can get it from and do the best we can with that help."

Redner said he doesn't apologize for any of his businesses and argued morals are lying, cheating and stealing, not what consensual adults do behind close doors.

To those who object, I would suggest a simple approach: equal Redner's well-meaning intentions with money, time or both. Or just continue to stay on the sidelines.

That's all I'm saying.

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

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