I wasn’t going to say anything about the lawsuits on St. Pete Beach this week, but at this week’s commission meeting I watched the vice mayor wave a red flag under the nose of the beast and, well, it irritated me.
Let me back up for those of you playing the home game: in the most recent installment of “As the Lawsuits Turn,” the city and plaintiff attorney Ken Weiss (and whatever plaintiffs he can cobble together) attended a hearing Tuesday. The judge didn’t make a ruling, but so pleased were some of the commissioners with the way attorney Susan Churuti spoke that one of them felt the need to call me, brag and ask me to write about it.
Since nothing happened, I declined. There was no ruling; there’s no news to report. Plus – and tell me if I’m wrong – I wonder if our readers are getting a little weary of reading about the micro-drama of lawsuits that’s held the city hostage for the past few years. I’d rather write about something else – anything else – because the only thing that irks me more than local politicians at election time are lawyers at any time. So I wasn’t going to say a word, honest.
But then the vice mayor spoke about it at the commission meeting. We were at the end of the meeting – the finish line was in the distance and I could see people waving us in – when we got to the “commission reports” portion of the agenda. In my experience, this portion of the agenda can take half as long again as the entire meeting up to that point.
Tuesday night was no exception. The vice mayor repeated the attorney’s words that the lawsuits were the result of “tyranny of the few.” She gave the names of the people suing the city and reiterated that they had lost elections for office. She then name the people sitting in the audience behind the plaintiff, grouped them together with the people suing the city, and told the judge, in essence, they were suing the city because they were poor losers.
Last I checked, though, hearings aren’t wedding ceremonies and people don’t necessarily sit on “sides.” Also, Ms. Vice Mayor, what the hell were you thinking?
I think the lawsuits are ridiculous, but what you did was in poor taste, Ms. Vice Mayor. I never have, do not now, and never will endorse any elected official making fun of private citizens in a public forum. You’re supposed to be better than that. Yes, I know they’re mean to you, but this is not a sandbox at a preschool. You’re supposed to be the bigger person. Even if a private citizen stands there and treats you like dirt for their three minutes of the public session, you are supposed to take the high road. Why? Because you have all the power. Because you’re representing one-fourth of the city, and when you make fun of people or insult residents from the dais, you’re doing so on behalf of those residents. Because serving the residents is a privilege reserved for people who can handle the pressures of office with dignity.
And, just to make sure we’re clear that I’m not picking on the vice mayor, this is the third time in two meetings I’ve watched you do this. At the last meeting you picked at two others – check the “Overheard at St. Pete Beach” section of the paper if you don’t remember.
At one end of the dais we have two commissioners who try to talk to people suing the city and get them to settle, but when you sit at your end and berate those people or laugh at them, you are not helping. Hell, it makes me want to see you taken down a peg, and I generally support your ideas!
As a resident, I’m begging you to stop the nastiness on the dais. It makes us all look bad and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t make people want to sue us less. Yes, us. They’re not just doing this to you, or the commission: they’re doing it to all of us. Please don’t give them any more reasons to hate the city.
Vice Mayor, I know you care tremendously about St. Pete Beach. I know you don’t want to turn us into a string of high rise condos and pavement. I know that you’re passionate about keeping the beach a wonderful place to live and play. Finally, I understand that in your passion it’s possible to forget that you are the bigger person and not on the same level as the people punishing an entire city because they didn’t get what they wanted.
I am begging you to remember that.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.