Off Key

| November 1, 2017

By Bob Frederickson

From Turning the Page to Respecting the Flag

Betts Sentenced in Aftermath of Bayfront Drama

After Donna Betts did her bayfront audition for the lead role in “Annie Get Your Gun” this past March, you had to wonder what the eventual consequences would be. The wife of legendary Allman Brothers Band co-founder Dickey Betts stood accused of aiming a rifle (later determined to be unloaded) at members of the Sarasota Crew rowing team as they readied for practice on the afternoon of March 27th. Betts was reportedly frustrated with the noise and distractions the daily rowing practices had brought to her formerly tranquil waterfront neighborhood across the bay from Siesta Key near Osprey. Other neighbors have expressed similar frustrations, albeit without the involvement of firearms.

Betts was eventually charged with 18 counts of aggravated assault stemming from the incident.

Up until as recently as last summer those charges could have resulted in a maximum sentence of up to 54 years in prison according to the letter of the law, as each individual count carried a minimum mandatory term of three years behind bars. Luckily for Betts, her passion play came after the Florida legislature struck the ‘mandatory’ and ‘minimum’ sentencing requirements from the statute in July of 2016.

With those provisions gone, most figured the final sentence would end up being relatively light, especially given that no shots were actually fired and that society generally seems inclined to expect such outbursts from celebrities and those close to them, as they sometimes seem to behave as if jumping up and down on the stupid button is an occupational requirement.

So it was no surprise when word came down that Betts, her attorney and local prosecutors had agreed to a plea deal on one count of aggravated assault without intent to harm, for which Betts was sentenced to 30 days in the county lock-up. She reported to Jail on October 3rd.

She was also required to write a letter of apology to the Sarasota Crew.

Oh, and maybe a voluntary ban on any future backyard Broadway revivals would be a good idea too…with the possible exception of a one time performance of “All’s Well that Ends Well,” as a humble tribute to the outcome here.

This might have ended so much worse…for everyone involved.

“If You Ever Decide to Motor West…”

Travel my way,

Take the highway that’s the best,

Get your kicks, on Route 66…

Don’t wait too long though.

The California legislature is considering phasing out gasoline powered vehicles by the year 2040.

So, as the song goes, you might want to…

Get hip to this timely tip,

And make that California trip…*

It just won’t be the same in a 2040  model year all electric Prius…

(*Route 66, by Bobby Troup. © 1946, 1973 Londontown Music).

Nice Work if you Can Get it…

Like so many trendy municipalities these days, the city of Sarasota employs a ‘sustainability’ manager.

But just what does a sustainability manager and requisite support staff actually do?

It’s all a bit fuzzy, purposely so I imagine. But I think it has something to do with ‘sustaining’ the free and steady flow of money from the pockets of taxpayers to the pockets of those so employed in the form of salaries and benefits.

And just how does one go about measuring the success of these folks? Well, it may take awhile, but you’ll know they did their jobs if nothing happens.

As Winston Churchill might have said: “Never have so many, paid so much to so few for so little.”

Otherworldly Excuse

Cops in Casper, Wyoming pulled over Bryant Johnson recently on suspicion of drunk driving.

But Johnson had an explanation, one that had even seasoned officers scratching their heads. He said he had been time traveling, returning from the year 2048 to warn us all here in 2017 of an impending alien invasion.

Johnson’s blood alcohol came in at .136, well over Wyoming’s limit of 080. But he had an explanation for that too, saying that in order to prepare him for time travel the aliens had to pump him full of alcohol.

I wish the cops had asked him why the Aliens would send him back to 2017 to warn us of their invasion, wouldn’t that ruin the surprise?

I’m sure his answer would have been as entertaining as the rest of his story.

More Comings and Goings on Local Media Front

            We reported on the departure of long-time local columnist Tom Lyons from the Herald Tribune in this space last month. Now another high profile news personality is moving on. Hayley Wielgus, co-anchor of the five, six and eleven o’clock news broadcasts at local ABC network affiliate WWSB, is leaving to co-anchor the weekday evening news broadcasts at Nashville’s ABC affiliate WKRN. According to information posted on Wielgus’ facebook page, the move has been made official by WKRN, though as of press-time, no similar announcement has been forthcoming from WWSB where as of press-time Wielgus is still prominently listed on the station’s website as an active employee; of late though she has been replaced as co-anchor by relative newcomer Jacqueline Matter.

The new position is a significant career move for Wielgus, as she will jump from the nation’s 62nd to 36th largest market. Such leaps are not uncommon for WWSB alumni: the station has proven to be a launching pad for the careers of many young journalists.

            Last year around this time WWSB’s morning co-anchor Rebecca Vargas tearfully signed off locally for the last time after accepting a position with FOX affiliate WSVN in Miami, a top 10 market. Will there be a similar on-air sign-off for Wielgus? Unknown. If not, chalk it up to the often-mercurial nature of the news business where folks you invite into your living room and grow fond of sometimes disappear without a trace…Remember WWSB’s Don Brennan? One day he’s here, the next…Poof! Gone…akin to those out of favor party members in the days of the former Soviet Union who would suddenly become “non-persons.”

By far the biggest winner in the WWSB career ‘Long Jump’ category though is Kevin Negandhi who was the station’s sports director for several years in the early part of the last decade (a position the station eliminated during the Great Recession and has yet to bring back).

Negandhi went from covering Fiday Night Lights games between the likes of Riverview, Venice and Manatee high schools to the national stage as an on-air personality covering collegiate and professional sports at ESPN. This fall the network promoted him, naming him host of their high profile weekend show “ESPN College Football on ABC.”

As for Wielgus, her career goals are no less lofty. In a ‘Women of WWSB” segment by long-time WWSB reporter Linda Carson a few years back, Wielgus was asked about her long term ambitions. She replied by pointing to a promo for “Good Morning America” and replied with characteristic confidence tempered by a wry smile to soften any hint of boastfulness: “a girl can dream can’t she?”

Wielgus has made many friends in the Sarasota, Bradenton and North Port area and we wish her and husband Max Winitz well as they leverage their experiences here in pursuit of their ambitions.

And even if she doesn’t make it all the way to New York, well, there’s a Broadway in Nashville too. And as many Sarasotans have discovered it’s not a bad place to land on a Friday or Saturday night if you’re looking to have a little fun.

OMG! Banned…For Life!

According to an Orange County Sheriff’s Department incident report, USA Olympic Women’s’ soccer star and former athlete of the year Alex Morgan was among a group of six soccer players asked to leave Disney World recently for being loud and belligerent to guests and staff. The report also stated Morgan appeared to be impaired.

Disney asked the group to leave and not come back. Ever.

Banned for life? From The Happiest Place on Earth?

I wonder how she’ll explain that to any kids she may have when she grows up.

Talk About Understating a Problem…

Calling disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein a sex addict is like saying Stalin had anger issues with those with whom he disagreed.

As Emma Thompson was quoted as saying last week when interviewed about Weinstein, “…he’s not a sex addict, he’s a sexual predator.”

Quote of the Day:

You stand in unison and respect (for the flag) not because the nation is perfect, but because it is imperfect and there’s still work to be done.”  – Condoleezza Rice

Yes, and that work needs to be done together.

You don’t inspire change by alienating the very group whose support you seek and whose opinions you are trying to shape.

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