Monday, September 30, 2013

Fire at Rod & Reel hits home for many of us

The two years I lived on Pine Avenue in the City of Anna Maria, my dining destinations were fairly regular.
Duffy's for a burger and a beer.
Bistro at Island's End for dinner.
The Rod & Reel for breakfast.
This was back in 1999-2001.
Since then Duffy's moved from its funky digs opposite Manatee Beach to its present more modern location.
The Bistro closed.
And now the Rod & Reel is out of action after Monday morning's fire.
A one-alarm electrical fire caused an estimated $100,000 damage, according to the Bradenton Herald.
That's a serious chunk of change, especially for a "Mom & Pop" joint that's a throwback to Old Florida on the beach.
More than a decade ago, I'd usually ride my bike down to the Rod & Reel on Saturday or Sunday mornings.
It was close enough to the place I was renting, I could even walk.
Even during the season, I could always get a seat at one of its handful of tables in its cozy second-floor dining room.
Invariably, I'd linger after breakfast, too, enjoying another cup of coffee and read the newspaper.
I'd enjoy the view, too.
Or hang around the dock watching folks fishing on a lazy weekend morning.
No doubt there are countless folks who treasure and have treasured their time at the Rod & Reel all these years.
Pray those times will come back soon.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Ready or not, Obamacare arrives on Tuesday

One of my favorite tasks every year about this time is re-enrolling in the company health care plan.
Truly, I jest.
It’s necessary, I know, but it’s still a hassle.
Used to be you were renewed automatically if you weren’t changing anything year to year.
Not anymore.
Now you’ve got to go through the whole drill.
Hoo, boy.
That’s why I do not envy folks around town, who will attempt to start shopping for health insurance online Tuesday when they delve into the online marketplaces offered by the Affordable Care Act.
Obamacare is here, ready or not.

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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Just-for-fun 'AMI Day tripper' tags sprouting up

The brouhaha over “day trippers” on Anna Maria Island has certainly inspired the creative and entrepeneurial spirit in some folks.
First, there were pals Charmian Miller and Debbie Pinkley, who produced oblong stickers that read, “AMI Day Tripper.”
Now there’s Nick St. John, who owns Speed King Signs in Palmetto with brother James.
Coaxed by dad, Sandy, Nick printed up more than 100 3-inch by 4-inch green-and-white decals that say: “AMI Day Trip Parking Permit Manatee County Taxpayer.”
Finnegan Daniel McGarry is 2. Cheers from parents Jill and Josh, who are expecting the imminent arrival of the birthday boy’s baby sister.
 • The Manatee High School Class of 1963’s 50th reunion is Oct. 11-13. Visit www. to register. Or email for details.
Lynn Pierce is 39. Again. Cheers from Fred, Lauren, Kim, Sherri, Chris, Jim and Sue.
Steve Ross had a special guest in town to help him celebrate turning 44. It was daughter Sloane Lewis, Miss Kansas 2012 and former Miss America contestant
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Port Manatee's problems aren't going away

Under normal circumstances, news that a corporate communications manager had been let go would not merit more than a passing glance.
Not in the case of Julie Yeh.
Yeh happened to be the spokesperson for Port Manatee, which you may have noticed has been making headlines the last few months and not all of them good.
To revisit:
  • First there was the June 11 arrest of port employee Robert B. Armstrong, who was fired and charged with stealing thousands of dollars of port property.
  • Two weeks later, Robert J. Armstrong, his father and the port's No. 2 man, was fired and charged with a single count as an accessory after the fact after returning said stolen property to the port.
  • Then on Sept. 27 Carlos Buqueras, the port's executive director, was arrested on a domestic battery charge.
So when word got out that another port executive had been fired, Julie Yeh's name was not the one the public probably had in mind.
Her termination was a "performance-based decision," was the official reason rendered.
Given the roiling waters surrounding Port Manatee management these days, pardon me if I take that explanation with a dose of salt.
It just so happens Yeh alleged in a June letter to Buqueras she'd been "illegally bullied and intimidated" by the elder Armstrong,  when he was still port deputy executive director and chief financial officer.
That couldn't have something to do with her unceremonious exit, could it?
Can't have someone in her position making allegations about cover-ups and how the elder Armstrong bullied others into looking the other way when it came to junior's shenanigans.
Naturally, Armstrong denies it.
Well, it'd be one thing if this was the first time we've heard accusations about a "hostile work environment." improper behavior by superiors and so forth.
But it's not.
A woman named Jill VanderPol filed a similar complaint with port management last winter.
She eventually resigned.
Her job?
Port communications manager.
A coincidence?
I think not, especially viewed in the context of the series of events preceding it.
Sacking the messenger doesn't alleviate the growing perception something is wrong with the culture of Port Manatee's administration.
This just made it worse.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Board trifles with public comment at its peril

The issues and challenges facing the Manatee County School Board are many and have been well chronicled.
The budget.
Teacher's salaries.
Standardized test scores.
You name it.
But trying to change its policy regarding the public comment portion of its meetings?
Oh, yeah.
Serious enough to make it an item on a to-do list for not one but possibly two consulting firms the board is considering hiring to help it update board policies and procedures.
Our tax dollars at work.
That school board members feel an urgency to do something about the public comment portion at its meetings makes you continue to wonder about its priorities.
Good grief.
If this is truly that much of a concern, they've got way too much time on their hands.
Or they really don't get it when it comes to understanding why the community perceives them as really out of touch.
This is a non-issue.
Can the public comment portion use some tweaking?
The usual time limit for speakers is three minutes which is fair.
The digital clock overhead is there for a reason.
As for school board member Barbara Harvey's suggestion enabling senior staffers to address matters brought up by speakers, that  makes sense, though I thought they did it already.
But any move to severely limit or even eliminate public comment would be a huge mistake.
This whole business smacks of the school board trying to stifle its constituency.
School board attorney James Dye's statement that time spent on public comments is time not spent on other agenda items suggests the former is not as important as the latter.
Well, the public's right to speak is just as important, if not moreso.
"It is the opportunity to share concerns about education," said school board member Dave Miner, who used that platform regularly before being elected.
The school board works for the public and serves at its pleasure, not the other way around.
Does it really need to be reminded of that?
Wait until elections.

Friday, September 13, 2013

What's going on with Port Manatee leadership?

Port Manatee has always seemed to be its own little world, tucked away in the county’s northwest corner right off U.S. 41.
@BR BodyRR:Usually, the only time it’s in the news is when there’s a photo op with some visiting politicians.
Or the port just received another shipload of expansion money.
Or some unlucky stevedore is crushed by falling cargo.
Otherwise, the port carries on, what with tropical produce, forest and petroleum products, phosphate fertilizers, cement, steel and such coming and going.
Business as usual.
Until lately.
A series of disturbing events over the past four months makes you wonder, what in blue blazes has been going on with the top people who were supposed to be running that multi-billion dollar enterprise.
Where to begin?

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Thursday, September 12, 2013

F.E.L.T. golf helps feed homeless school kids

USF pitcher Steven Leasure with dad, Mark.
Remember F.E.L.T’s second annual Golf Classic to help feed empty little tummies of our homeless school children, Sept. 23 at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Club. Registration is 7:30 a.m. Call Jane Evers at 941-747-8804. Or email
David and Mary Ann Hardy, members of Southeast High’s first graduating class in 1963, are wed 50 years on Saturday.
Robert Boone expects to climb back in the saddle in a few days. The Manatee High German and English teacher has been battling a staph infection since August, but anticipates being back in the classroom Tuesday.
• After wrapping up a two-year stint as a University of South Florida relief pitcher, Steven Leasure is trying to put his USF marketing degree to work in Tampa.
His combined record with the Bulls was 5-1 with seven saves and a 2.24 ERA over 40.1 innings.
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Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Where were you the morning of 9/11?

It was getting toward 9 a.m. that Tuesday morning 12 years ago and I was at the Eye Center on Cortez Road waiting for new glasses on the way to work.
The reception area TV set was always tuned to BayNews 9.
The few people there that morning paid it no mind, until the TV anchor said they were switching to New York City for breaking news.
They showed a live shot of the World Trade Center, a column of smoke billowing from high on the North Tower.
All eyes were on that TV.
Probably a commuter plane crash, I said to myself.
Seven years earlier, I'd flown one from Newark to Cape Cod for a wedding.
We'd gone right over the lower Manhattan skyline, close enough to admire the WTC, before crossing over to Brooklyn, Queens and beyond.
A puddle jumper got too low, I figured.
I couldn't have been more wrong.
When I got to the office, everyone was huddled around the big TV in the Herald's sports department.
What's up? I asked.
Another plane had hit the WTC, someone said.
It was the South Tower this time.
The network replayed the terrifying scene we've all witnessed too many times, the second jet coming low, momentarily blocked from view, and in the next instant the upper portion of the building erupts in a horrific geyser of fire and smoke and debris.
It is only a few minutes after 9 a.m.
A day truly from hell had begun for America.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Years pass, but 9/11 anniversary still resonates

Bill Ruth's gravemarker permanent reminder of 9/11.
Providence Community School will dedicate a memorial with 2,977 American flags Tuesday at 8:46 a.m.
Manatee Technical Institute will host a remembrance at the same time Wednesday morning. A “Tribute to Heroes” will be held on Riverwalk 45 minutes later.
Then Lakewood Ranch Main Street will hold a commemoration at 11 a.m.
Undoubtedly there will be other ceremonies around our community to memorialize the somber 12th anniversary of a day that has been seared into America’s soul.
Forget 9/11?

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Thursday, September 5, 2013

New centenarian celebrates milestone in style

Mark Twain impersonator Rod Rawlings with birthday boy Donald Thompson

Sounds like Donald Thompson's 100th birthday was a big ol' time for the World War II veteran.
Meals on Wheels PLUS of Manatee celebrated the milestone in style for its Daybreak Adult Day Care Center client Wednesday at Renaissance on 9th.
The birthday boy received a Donald Thompson Day proclamation from County Commissioner Vanessa Baugh, a letter of congrats from Congressman Vern Buchanan’s special assistant Gary Tibbets, and a proclamation from the Florida House of Representatives arranged by state Rep. Jim Boyd.
Thompson is a Navy veteran who saw combat in the Pacific, enjoys card playing, western novels and has been a Meals on Wheels PLUS client since 2005.
• Lt. Michael Foust has been promoted to lieutenant commander at Naval Air Station Jacksonville. Wesley and Sharon are proud parents.
Andrea Teves Smith will be sworn in as a 10th Circuit Court judge in Lakeland on Sept. 12. She attended St. Joseph Catholic School and Manatee High School, where she was a Hurricane cheerleader.

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Tuesday, September 3, 2013

By 2017, we might be rowing experts (by osmosis)

Buildup begins at Benderson Park for 2017 World Rowing Championships.

Are you a rowing aficionado?
Join the club, although its membership will surely dwindle as the 2017 World Rowing Championships draw ever closer at Nathan Benderson Park.
Four years from now, we'll all probably understand the sport more than we do now.
Appreciate it more even.
Osmosis, you know.
We will not become know-it-alls about rowing, thank you
There will be enough of them as it is.
If you encounter one in the meantime, pop this question on them:
What is Vanuatu?
Bet they won't know.
It is not a newly discovered planet in our solar system.
It is not some exotic, wildly overpriced perfume.
It is, in fact, an island nation located in the South Pacific, an archipelago a little more than 1,000 miles east of northern Australia.
It was one of six new countries competing for the first time at the 2013 World Rowing Championships that just concluded in Chungju, South Korea.
The other newbies in the 75-nation field were Ghana, Ivory Coast, Libya, Namibia and Qatar.
Bound to be a bunch more when the main event takes place here.
Which is what has all the folks in our hotel/restaurant/tourist industry salivating.
They've already gotten a taste of what the sport does for business from the college rowing teams that come south in winter to train at Fort Hamer Park.
Ferraro's Italian Grille owner Frank LoGrande, who makes some of the best pizza around here, can vouch for it.
Although you should take the numbers with a grain of salt, the 2017 championships are projected to mean between $25 million and $100 million in business.
No matter how you slice it, that's a lot of pizza.
Pasta, too.