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    Three little pigs go whole hog for conserving water


    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 16, 2000

    Just about everyone knows the story of the Three Little Pigs and the substandard construction practices (houses of straw and sticks!) that caused them so much angst when the Big Bad Wolf came knocking. But little has been known about the porker brothers' water conservation efforts -- until now.

    The Pinellas County Commission is contributing $5,000 to bring the sordid tale to light. The money will help the Pinellas County Arts Council, in conjunction with the county Utilities Department and Southwest Florida Water Management District, present a musical to elementary students on the merits of conserving water. Students in kindergarten through fifth grades at about 20 local schools will see the show, titled Water Pigs.

    "After the well-known problems with housing, the pigs work together to construct a brick house, and armed with the knowledge of sustainability, they create an environment where everyone can live happily ever after," Kay Campbell, director of education and special projects for the arts council, says in a letter to the Utilities Department. "Even the Big Bad Wolf turns out not to be so bad in a surprise ending that teaches everyone the importance of water conservation."

    LET'S GO TO MAKE-BELIEVE LAND: While Tampa was planning Gasparilla and Clearwater was setting up a series of concerts, St. Petersburg officials planned an art trolley tour as the city's official Super Bowl XXXV companion event. People on the street groaned.

    But there still may be time to recover.

    The city marketing staff has sent letters to 43 television shows, asking them to broadcast from the top deck of The Pier in the week before the big game in January, just like Dick Vitale and ESPN's SportsCenter did for the Final Four in 1999.

    Maybe it'll be Don Imus. Or David Letterman. Oprah Winfrey has done her show here before.

    Anita Treiser, the city's director of marketing, said most of the personalities will be here anyway for the big game at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, and all she has to do is lure them across the bay for the pregame hype.

    "We will cater to your every whim to ensure that you and your crew are comfortably accommodated here in Sunsational St. Petersburg," Treiser wrote in a Sept. 29 letter to Pop-Up Video, which airs on VH-1. (We wonder what interesting facts that show's staff might attach to landmarks around the city and city officials.)

    There is some bad news. Some big names on the list, like Rosie O'Donnell and Jay Leno, already have turned the city down. But several shows Treiser declined to name have called with more questions and others have scheduled site visits.

    So it seems the jury is still out on The Jim Rome Show, The Early Show, The Late Show, The Late, Late Show and a show called The Fabulous Sports Babe.

    Fine, but the Insider can't help but notice that there's one trolley fanatic the city forgot to invite to be its neighbor: Mr. Fred Rogers.

    TOASTING DOTTIE: Dorothy Walker Ruggles died of breast cancer in May. On Wednesday, elected officials, family and friends packed into Banquet Masters to honor the late Pinellas County election supervisor's memory and raise money for a scholarship in her name.

    Speakers joked about Ruggles' penchant for calling everyone "Sweetie" and her adventurous exploits -- mountain climbing, skiing, hot air ballooning, pretty much anything that would later require a bandage.

    Her powers of persuasion, helped along by a sweet Southern accent, earned a few laughs. Lewis Bennett introduced himself to the crowd as Dot's older brother despite being four years her junior.

    "When I came to Florida, I was Dot's younger brother," he said. "Dot's pretty persuasive."

    The room was packed, but just about everyone there could have claimed to be one of Ruggles' closest friends, Bennett said.

    "If you were her friend, she assumed you wanted to be part of her family. If you were part of her family and you needed something, she would be there for you," he said. "If she were here tonight -- and I'm really not sure that she's not -- she wouldn't think she'd done anything special. If you came up to her with thanks and all the tributes, she'd just say, "That's what families are for' and give you a smile."

    Elections supervisors from Hillsborough, Pasco, Hernando and Citrus attended the dinner and toasted Ruggles, who rose from an impoverished Tennessee childhood to become president of the Florida State Association of Supervisors of Elections.

    "She represented the very best of what America is all about," said Hillsborough Supervisor Pam Iorio. "That a person born in unremarkable circumstances could live a remarkable life."

    Tiger Bay organized the dinner and sponsors the Tiger Bay/Dorothy "Dottie" Walker Ruggles Democracy Scholarship for graduating high school seniors interested in public service. The dinner raised more than $10,000 for the scholarship, including $5,000 donated by state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Palm Harbor, and County Commissioner-elect Susan Latvala.

    A fierce supporter of the right to vote, Ruggles observed elections in 1997 in Bosnia, Serbia and Albania, where rival factions traded gunfire just outside her tent.

    She brought back a picture of voters lined up outside a schoolhouse, where a teacher instructed a group of students in a classroom that had its roof blown off. She showed the picture to Jade Moore, executive director of the Pinellas Classroom Teachers Association, and teased him that his teachers had nothing to complain about.

    "Whatever important things I accomplish in my life, it'll never be as important as the things she accomplished in her life," Moore said Wednesday evening. "Imagine what a tribute it would be if on your tombstone it said, "She made people free.' "

    - Staff writers Edie Gross, Leonora LaPeter and Bryan Gilmer contributed to this report.

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