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Off-Key

By Bob Frederickson

From Garden Views to Stats Misused

Squaring the Circle at Selby Gardens?

I wonder how the late Marie Selby would react to the controversy surrounding plans by her namesake Selby Botanical Gardens to add a parking garage and restaurant on the bayfront property where she once lived. Neighbors see the plans as out of synch with the residential character of the area; they are especially concerned with the added traffic they fear the expansion will add to an already congested area.

The irony here is that if Selby was living today a strong case can be made she might very well stand with the protestors, not the board that manages her former property.

Selby was an environmentalist before being an environmentalist was considered cool. She famously planted a stand of fast growing bamboo along her bay frontage to block her view of what she considered the abomination of the Arvida Corporation’s work dredging and filling the section of Sarasota Bay that would expand Bird Key to its current size. That was back in 1959. A project like that would never be approved today, thanks in part to the efforts of folks like Marie Selby.

I feel for the good folks at the gardens trying to square this circle: it can’t be easy when the very folks you hope to draw to the peace and tranquility of Selby’s former estate are among those you’d naturally expect to be most sympathetic to concerns about treading lightly on the place she loved so much and cared for so well.

More Parking Plan Woes in Store for Sarasota?

A co-worker of my wife at The Herald Tribune downtown got a parking ticket last week for exceeding Sarasota’s two hour limit for non-metered spaces…done in by the city’s scooter powered ‘chalk’ patrol that dutifully marks the tires of parked cars and trucks every two hours to make sure they don’t linger too long.

Most of us just grin and bear it, paying up when we find a parking ticket stuck to our windshield…you can’t fight city hall, right? Well, Alison Taylor of Michigan would disagree. She had received more than a dozen tickets for running afoul of parking rules almost identical to Sarasota’s in her hometown of Saginaw.

So she hired a lawyer. A pretty good one, it seems. He argued the city’s parking officer had violated Taylor’s Fourth amendment right against unreasonable searches when he marked her tires with chalk without her permission or any form of legal warrant.

And guess what? A Federal appeals court agreed. An Associated Press story recently reported that according to the court “marking tires to enforce parking rules is like entering property without a search warrant; it declared the practice unconstitutional in Michigan and three other states.”

Sadly for my wife’s co-worker, Florida isn’t one of those states.

But could a class action suit be in the works? After all, a Federal court precedent has now been set.

See Dick Run, Run Dick Run!

Remember the names of the characters in the once ubiquitous McGuffey’s readers of yore? Dick, Jane, Peter and Nancy….

The Social Security Administration has released its annual list of the most popular names given to children last year and Dick and Jane are nowhere to be found. Instead, Liam and Emma are now at the top of the list…

Noah, William, James and Oliver round out the top five for boys, and Olivia, Ava, Isabella and Sophia for the girls.

Would-be Comedian Needs to Work on Material…

They say timing is key when it comes to comedy.

Just witness the case of the Sarasota man who debuted his latest comedy routine at a North Washington Boulevard pawn shop recently when he walked up to the counter with his toddler and told the clerk he wanted to pawn the baby.

The clerk and later the Sarasota Police Department were not amused.

The man later explained to WFLA news that the whole thing was just a prank. He simply wanted to post the bit on social media to get a few laughs, he said.

But of course the joke ended up backfiring on him. After checking on the welfare of the child, SPD detectives contacted the Department of Children and Families, meaning they will likely be dropping by shortly. And when they do, perhaps the role of father, not comedian, should be on the top of his mind.

Praising the Lord at 100 MPH

Leonard Olsen Jr. said he was just “praising God” when he set the cruise control on his late model Cadillac, opened his sunroof, hoisted himself up so his backside rested on the top of his head rest and with his upper torso above the car’s roof line and his feet on the wheel to steer he then spread his arms apart and tilted his head back in prayer, or perhaps in  living tribute to the famous Jimi Hendrix lyric “Excuse me while I kiss the sky…” all while hurtling along always busy I-4. But before long a Hillsborough County deputy caught the rolling prayer session on camera, memorializing it for posterity before Olsen was taken to jail for reckless driving.

…Which was just fine with Olsen who told troopers he’d rather go to jail than return home to his wife.

More Fun and Games on the Highway

Tampa resident, Mathew Joseph Erris, 26, pulled over a driver in Hillsborough County recently. Trouble is, Mathew Joseph Erris isn’t a cop. But the trouble for Erris got worse: turns out the driver he pulled over was a cop.

I bet he hates it when that happens.

He was arrested and charged with impersonating a law enforcement officer.

Peak Oil Redux

General David Petraeus (Ret.) speaking at a Johnny Mac Soldiers Fund event in Houston recently cited a statistic that shines a light on the dangers of reflexively buying into the conventional wisdom of the day.

He was talking about the point a decade ago when we were told the nation had reached ‘peak oil,” meaning the high-water mark (to mix metaphors) of oil production had been reached. It would be all-downhill from there.

It wasn’t.

To Quote Petraeus: “Remember back when all the respected energy economists said we had reached peak oil production, and it was six million barrels per day? We are now over 12 million barrels per day. So really, quite extraordinarily, there are some punsters (pointing out) that the (Arab) Gulf States no longer have us over a barrel.”

Remember this anecdote the next time some mis-educated millennial drops a ‘checkmate’ statistic on you to shut down any further discussion on a point of contention.