Monday, September 1, 2008

Veeps And Goobers

"Well, Governor Crist can cancel his engagement now," is a sentiment I've heard more than once from Floridians viewing the selection of Sarah Palin to run for Vice President. Charlie Crist is what English newspapers would have called a "confirmed bachelor." He had been rumored to be in the running for Vice President in John McCain's candidacy, and though everyone announces loudly that women have broken the so called glass ceiling for the top job in the country, gay men certainly haven't and our governor was hedging his bets in the old fashioned way, by putting a woman on his arm. I was hoping he would not get selected because I think Crist is a good goobernor for the State of Florida. He was in Key West recently to congratulate us on surviving Fay, like we were really smart or something, and the odious Oosterhoudt pictured him on the cover of his weekly rag, along with two other stellar local leaders:
Crist is the slim boyish one in the middle wearing a rugged jacket. Unless the Florida Democratic party can come up with an outstanding candidate Crist gets my Democrat vote next time around. He has headed off the crazy anti government Cuban legislators from Miami led by Marco Rubio who wants to dismantle government single handed; he's held the line on home insurance rates making home ownership more affordable for lots of people here and he's secured an historic deal to preserve the Everglades by buying up US Sugar's holdings. He's moderate and thoughtful and inclusive. He negotiates and talks to people which is what politicians used to do, to create some sort of consensus instead of trashing every opponent at every opportunity. When this country is open to electing a gay President he would make an excellent choice, until then the poor man has to sit in a closet in Tallahassee. Not so the other two hardliners depicted above. On the left is Mario DiGennaro, Monroe County Mayor and his acolyte Morgan McPherson Key West City Mayor on the right. DiGennnaro recently lost his two plodding supporters on the County Commission so he has been temporarily defanged, happily. The two Mayors recently came up with a plan for a hotel at the Key West airport and the Citizen illustrated it thusly:
Where Crist seeks consensus, DiGennaro who was appointed to the county commission by Governor Jeb Bush, steamrollers the opposition. And for some reason "his boy" Morgan McPherson tags along. DiGennaro says leasing land at the airport, next to South Roosevelt, where the Boys and Girls Club and Driver's License Bureau sit, would earn the county money and eliminate the need to raise taxes. The 19 storey blob would go here:
In a state with no income tax and a rabidly anti-tax population the promise of "not increasing taxes" will usually get people to do the damnedest things, and indeed the population of quiescent Marathon hasn't objected to a similar plan there. Predictably enough the population of Key West went berserk at the notion of a 19 storey Hilton Hotel, in a city that passed a referendum to keep buildings under 35 feet in height. And the weird thing is Morgan McPherson went along with his buddy. McPherson is a decent family man, a former drug addict who says God put him straight, a Conch devoted to his city, his wife is a teacher and his is a well known family around town. What he was thinking only he and his God seems to know. This and the water park plan for the Truman Waterfront may have sunk his chance of reelection. He won his last campaign with a majority of 50 votes, in a city of 25,000 and that margin is a good deal slimmer than his own waistband. A lot of us would think that would be a mandate for consensus and compromise and moving with caution. Not McPherson apparently.I like McPherson; he has a similar personality to that ascribed to the last Governor of Southern Rhodesia, who was said to have a "bluff exterior masking a bluff interior," not a kind description for a diplomat, but not at all unkind for a small town Mayor. However he doesn't seem to get how to draw into his camp the people who didn't vote for him. I think his waterpark plan, roundly booed by the vocal in the city, was an offer to give youngsters something to do in a town that has lost a lot of youthful activities to developmental greed, activities that he and his buddies remember from their Conch childhoods. Bowling, miniature golf and go kart tracks take up a lot of land, and land is valuable in the Southernmost City. The problem is, when a Republican Mayor suggests a socialistic plan for creating a city-owned amusement arcade the local right wingers fall away from the ranks of his supporters. Conchs I've spoken too quietly like the idea but newer residents, childless, retired or Democrats announce loudly he's lost his mind, and McPherson lacks the desire or ability to speak to them. And then came the airport hotel, pushed by DiGennaro and inexplicably supported by McPherson, which everyone now repudiates, but it's too late. We all know a hotel of some sort will appear next to the airport and I am forced to wonder why the land couldn't be devoted by some developer to creating a Boys and Girls Club worthy of the name with a pool, a gym a bowling alley and putt putt golf to keep youngsters amused. Why didn't MacPherson seek consensus to have the city help some enterprising developer? Perhaps there's no money in it which is why our Mayor wants the city to do it on the Truman waterfront. the problem is McPherson won't talk to his critics...Duval Street in August is quiet enough you could play golf on it if you wanted to. This is a nice city to visit but a ghastly city to lead. My hat's off to anyone who wants to try, but in order to succeed in a town with too many opinions the Mayor needs to tread lightly. I think we may have an opening in the next election, and I wish Charlie Crist were available. Change is good I keep telling myself, wishing the mayor could learn some softly, softly, diplomacy before the next election. Sigh.