tampabay.com

It just won't be the same anymore

By SUE CARLTON
Published February 26, 2007


Azaleas are about to bloom. Baseball players are warming up for spring training. A Republican governor is talking nice about restoring felons' rights.

Feel it? That's change in the air.

Really big change: Largo City Manager Steve Stanton disclosed his intention to undergo a sex-change operation and become Susan.

He also means to stick with his $140,234-a-year job as the city's chief executive.

Interesting to note that if Stanton had been born a woman, he could expect to be earning 77 cents for every dollar paid to a man right now. That's $32,254 less, if you're doing the math.

Don't worry - given the solid support Stanton got from the mayor and others on the heels of his sensitive announcement, a pay cut seems unlikely.

* * *

Change for the better: After last year's pummeling on national TV, who would have predicted the most interesting question on changes to the Hillsborough school calendar would be whether to get rid of Fair Day?

You probably remember those predictions of moral collapse and Satanic symbols sure to be burned onto school football fields should students lose religious holidays as days off. Last year's proposed secular calendar - which works just fine in Pinellas, by the way - would have removed Good Friday, Yom Kippur and not-really-a-holiday Easter Monday.

But after two county commissioners took up the cause with no less than Bill O'Reilly, a chastened School Board tucked its tail between its legs and backed away.

Hue and cry this time? Not so much. The board appears ready to make those same sensible changes tomorrow.

"I hope that we matured," board member Jack Lamb said last week, remembering the controversy that went national last year. "In the United States, we shouldn't be pointing fingers and calling names."

Also on the block is the day off for kids to attend the Florida State Fair. Looks like that's going to happen, too.

I know, I know. It's outdated, not to mention inconvenient for parents whose employers aren't inclined to let them loose for a day on the midway. Still, it's sad to see a weekday off to cruise the cows and ride the rides go the way of Ms. Pac-Man.

* * *

And finally, the more things change...The Hillsborough County Commission swatted away new member Al Higginbotham's attempt at a ban on accepting gifts beyond the small and symbolic, like a flat of strawberries, coffee mug or lapel pin.

Higginbotham was careful to say he wasn't addressing an actual problem but fulfilling a campaign pledge about public perception.

But the board wrung hands over the definition of "gift" - would they have to return that Christmas scarf knitted by a neighbor? - and instead agreed to explore no gifts from paid, registered lobbyists.

Because none of them have taken anything from a paid, registered lobbyist since at least 2002, this would be what you'd call symbolic.

Oh, and those gratis Bucs tickets some board members seem fond of? Because the Tampa Sports Authority that provides them isn't a paid, registered lobbyist, no need to look for a change there.