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The trolley folly, the water queen, a pop-fly question

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By ERNEST HOOPER

© St. Petersburg Times,
published July 4, 2001


Folly (fol'e) n. -- A costly undertaking having an absurd or ruinous outcome.

That's folly, not trolley, but I can understand the confusion, given that the price of the city's new trolley has escalated from $23-million to $53-million.

So can civic activist Neil Cosentino, who has dubbed it "the Greco Folly Trolley."

"We think this is a classic case of misrepresentation, like a bad car salesman," Cosentino said of the initial low estimates. "We're not against the trolley, we just think it's premature. There's no money for this thing."

Cosentino's previous causes include turning the old Gandy Bridge span into a recreational trail and landing the Olympics in 2012 (which he now opposes because it's planned for hurricane season). He points out the annual ridership for the trolley is projected at 500,000 at $1 each, but if the annual premiums to cross CSX railroad tracks range between $500,000 and $2-million, the trolley's annual revenue would not cover that expense, as suggested Sunday in a story by Times staff writer Chris Goffard.

The idea of some kind of public transportation connecting downtown, Channelside and Ybor City is a good one, but like Cosentino, I just don't believe a $53-million folly that will take 22 minutes to go from Ybor to the Ice Palace is the right move.

* * *

Typically, I try to position items in this column so they coincide with upcoming events. I'm afraid, however, if I wait any longer to mention the Tampa Winebrats' next event it will be too late for anyone to join the festivities.

With more than 1,000 members, the Winebrats stage events that tend to reach capacity long before the actual day. Taylor Eason, director of product development for Creative Loafing Newspapers (which owns the Weekly Planet), started a Winebrats chapter in Tampa Bay in 1999 to help break the notion that wine is just for the upper crust.

"We want to make wine less scary," Eason said.

Its latest Build A Better Burger event, scheduled for July 19 at the Green Iguana in Ybor City, is a perfect example. The idea is to show that certain burgers pair nicely with certain wines. Admittedly, the idea of white zinfandel matching up better than a draft beer for my bacon cheeseburger deluxe is difficult to conceive, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

* * *

Kudos to City Council member Linda Saul-Sena for saying she's going to reduce water consumption at her Davis Islands home. After the Other Paper revealed recently that Saul-Sena used 305,000 gallons last year, she wrote a letter to the OP explaining she was surprised and embarrassed and would try to do better.

Of course, if she was embarrassed this year, she must have been mortified in March 2000 when the Times revealed she had used more than 465,500 gallons in 1999, again the highest among county officials.

* * *

Assistant city attorney and University of Florida graduate Andrea Zelman's dream was to have a banner airplane fly over Florida Field with her wedding proposal flapping in the wind. However, boyfriend and city planner Clay Phillips did not want to wait until football season.

So on June 22, Phillips took an unsuspecting Zelman to the Devil Rays-Yankees game. Between innings, he pulled an engagement ring out of his fanny pack as the jumbotron cameras zoomed in for her reaction and Rays mascot Rayman gave her a dozen roses.

"The fans were real cute," Zelman said. "They were clapping and saying, "What did she say? What did she say?' "

I didn't have the heart to tell her I'm one of those bums who always yell, "Tell him no. Tell him no" whenever I see a proposal at a game.

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

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