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Outsider takes peek into GOP

By Times staff writers

© St. Petersburg Times, published July 31, 2000

Only days into his campaign for the at-large School Board seat, Dwight Chimurenga Waller is having all sorts of new experiences.

He's visiting parts of the county he usually doesn't, such as far north Pinellas. He's seeking financial support.

And he's -- gasp! -- been to his first Republican Club meeting.

Waller, an outspoken, controversial leader of the National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, is running against incumbent Jane Gallucci and St. Petersburg businessman Ken Fullerton. According to the Uhuru Web site, the movement is "led by the African working class to expose and defeat the brutal counterinsurgency war being waged against African people by the U.S. government."

Waller is neither a registered Republican nor a registered Democrat. He says he has no interest in either party. So, when he stood up in front of 100 die-hard GOPers at a forum in Tarpon Springs last week, he felt a little out of place.

"I've never been to a Republican Club before," he said, looking around.

"How does it feel?" shouted a member of the audience.

Thinking a moment, with a slight smile, he said, "It's not so bad."

NOT SO TAXING, FOR A MAN OF YOUR PROFESSION: St. Petersburg has historically charged "professionals" a higher occupational tax rate than other small businesses in town. The City Council has decided to change that over three years to make the rate equal regardless of someone's line of work.

For law offices, for instance, the city now charges a $200 base fee plus $150 for each additional lawyer in the office, plus $12 for each other employee. For the first phase of the new rate plan, law practices still will pay a base fee of $200, but then they will pay $60 for every other employee, whether a lawyer or not.

Council member Bill Foster, who practices trust and estate law with his father in a small office on Fourth Street N, began to question the plan Thursday.

"So the sole professional base charge is still 200 bucks an hour?" Foster asked, not noticing his slip of the tongue until everyone laughed and someone reminded him the base tax rate is $200 per year.

"So you know how much Bill charges!" laughed council member Rene Flowers.

"Yeah, Bill, you'll have to work an hour to pay" the tax, City Attorney John Wolfe cracked.

SMOKE ON THIS: Done sucking on that cigarette? Don't throw it out your car window. Or at least, don't let Clearwater resident John Wiser see you do it.

Wiser, who has spent many a weekend picking up litter on the sides of Pinellas County's roads, has asked the County Commission to pass a cigarette-littering ordinance. He suggested that litter bugs caught tossing their cigarette butts onto the ground be charged a $200 fine and face 20 hours of community service.

Commissioners said they would consider the idea.

"Let them spend 20 hours cleaning up," said Wiser, who, along with members of the Clearwater East Rotary, cleans Countryside Boulevard between U.S. 19 and State Road 580 under the adopt-a-mile program. "I'm sure they'd think a lot clearer about it."

- Times staff writers Kelly Ryan, Bryan Gilmer and Edie Gross contributed to this report.

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