The St. Pete Beach commission can’t catch a break. Not that I care about them – those lunatics knew what they were in for when they threw their hat in the ring – but I do empathize with the sense of frustration that comes with the “damned if I do, damned if I don’t” situations that abound on our sandbar.
Last week at the commission meeting Mayor Steve McFarlin expressed concern about the Corey Market. No, not that Corey Market – the other Corey Market. The one not on Corey anymore. See, the original Corey Market – the one that used to be on Corey – now takes place in Horan Park. Think of it as the “Horan Corey Market.” You with me so far? Good. The new Corey Market – the one that doesn’t actually go by the name “Corey Sunday Market” – takes place on Corey. Think of that one as the “Corey Corey Market.”
Why the two markets? I have my suspicions that people couldn’t play nicely with one another, but that’s unsubstantiated. All I know for sure is that the city now has two Corey Markets (I know they have slightly different names, but who do they think they’re kidding?) and the mayor has a bee in his bonnet about one of them.
I think Steve’s a decent enough guy. We disagree on things – really, what the hell was he thinking when he reversed the vote on red light cameras? – but I believe he’s sincere in his desire to serve St. Pete Beach.
Sometimes misguided, but sincere. He’s also empathetic – mostly. He empathized with Best Buddies when code enforcement told them to take down the inflatable dog. Best Buddies loves him now. The other ninety-nine places who didn’t get a Mayoral Puppy Pardon when code enforcement came around? They don’t understand why one business gets special treatment.
See? Damned if you do.
Then, there’s the issue of the couplet, or this wacky idea that we can slow down traffic on Gulf Boulevard, make it safer for residents and tourists, and get people to notice the businesses instead of flying by at 40 miles per hour – if we make a portion of the street one way. As a resident who must regularly navigate the Dog Leg From Hell (not to be confused with the inflatable puppy; see above), I love the idea. The businesses on Corey? Not so much, initially. Then the mayor spent an afternoon on Corey – an area he admitted he initially didn’t think too much of – and explained the plan and heard concerns.
What strikes me as odd is that, after spending some time on Corey, it seems that Mayor Steve has an issue with the Horan Corey Market – the one that left Corey for greener pastures. Last week the mayor seemed pretty damn down on one of the best things I’ve seen on the beach in while, calling the Suntan-sponsored market a “flea market” and insisting that they should pay the city more money than they already do. He did not suggest the city collect more money from other markets, festivals and bazaars on other pieces of public property.
Now, I haven’t visited the Wagon Wheel in quite some time, but I fail to see the resemblance. The Horan Corey Market is a huge improvement over last year’s Corey Market. I’m sorry, guys, I love your shops and understand why you want the market on Corey, but the Horan Corey market rocks. There’s more space, better parking, and a wider variety of vendors. For what it’s worth, when I finish at the Horan Corey Market, I invariably stroll over to the Corey Corey Market, and I see plenty other people doing the same thing. I would even say that the Horan Corey Market drives more business to the Corey Corey Market than the market saw last year when it was the only game in town.
Clearly, Corey merchants do not agree. It seems some businesses think the city could treat them better. Which is funny, because it seems to me that the crux of the lawsuits that have rained down on the commission’s head like a plague of frogs is that the city treats businesses too well. One group sues because they say the city panders to businesses and another group thinks the city needs to help businesses more. I can point to several recent decisions that have helped local businesses, and I can point to just as many that have helped residents. In some places that’s called “trying to strike a balance;” here, the city’s damned if they do, damned if they don’t.
We are, sadly, not known for sitting down and working out our differences. We are, however, known for suing. It’s like we’re the city of brotherly hate.
Look, I’m the first person to point out the faults, like the glut of annoying signs, empty lots and buildings and full-combat-crosswalks. I choose to live here, however, because, while there’s change I’d like to see, think there’s still some paradise left out here. That means I accept dueling markets, resorts, and adult entertainment venues.
I would also like to point out that the people who come here to visit the markets, beach or shops don’t give a baboon’s behind who hates who, who has an agenda, and how much anyone pays for the privilege of selling them artisan cheese or locally-harvested honey. They care that we’re a neat place to visit, we have nifty things, and, oh, yes, we have a kick-ass beach. They visit, which is our end goal, right?
So maybe, just maybe, we can all pretend to like each other for a while and get something done? I know it’s a wacky thought, this “trying to settle things maturely, without causing harm to other people.”
But given all the other stuff we’ve tried, I think it’s crazy enough that it just might work.