Off Key

| April 1, 2016

By Bob Frederickson

From Recycled Parking Plan to Happy Chickens

If at First you don’t Succeed…

After striking out several years back in its effort to bring paid parking to downtown streets, the city of Sarasota is stepping up to the plate again…this time considering a similar proposal for Saint Armands.

Following its first whiff at bat, the city ended up mothballing its considerable inventory of ‘smart’ meters after only a few months in use; blowback from merchants, residents and would be shoppers alike doomed the city’s parking revenue plan back then.

Commissioners tried to return the meters to the vendor that had convinced them to fork over $600,000 for the high-tech devices in the first place; but after what we imagine was a good chuckle, there was probably an awkward pause, followed by the vendor saying something along the lines of “Oh…you’re serious…”

In the end only 10 cents on the dollar was offered to take them back. Shocking, no?

So into storage they went.

Next, the city had the brilliant idea of using the meters to solicit donations from downtown pedestrians to help the homeless. That idea went over about as well as the original parking plan.

Now it looks like it may be Lido Key’s turn to deal the city’s ‘never say die’ attitude when it comes to paid parking. We just wonder if the moth-balled meters will be part of the solution.

Recycling is in most cases a laudable public pursuit, but not when it comes to mistakes.

American Optimism vs. European Realism, Circa 1917

President Woodrow Wilson once asked Georges Clemenceau, Prime Minister of France from 1914-1918, the following: “Don’t you believe all men are brothers?”

Clemenceau replied: “Yes…Caine and Abel, Caine and Abel…”

Is This Any Way to Run a Party?

How successful do you imagine a retailer or other service provider would be if it consistently insulted its customers? But that seems to be the marketing strategy of the Republican Party these days with the likes of John Boehner calling Donald Trump ‘Lucifer’ last week and Lindsey Graham saying “choosing between Trump and Cruz is like having to choose between being shot and being poisoned.” Don’t these geniuses realize that by insulting the two candidates leading in the race for their Party’s presidential nomination, they are insulting the 30 million-plus members of their own party that support them?

It’s as if you walked into a Wal-Mart and the greeter said: “Welcome to Wal-Mart. Please leave!’

There’s a Reason it’s known as ‘Whole Paychecks’

Speaking of retailers, Whole Foods recently announced it will be switching to slower grown chickens for sale in its stores, saying the ‘laid-back’ poultry will taste better than traditional fast-track varieties, presumably because – as the company says – they will ‘live better lives.’

Okay, but what about the cost? No word on that yet, but it’s clear the ‘Whole Paychecks’ tag the chain has been saddled with is in no danger of disappearing anytime soon.

The announcement reminds us of a recent episode of the IFC series ‘Portlandia’ where the show’s main characters, played by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein, go to a hip new Portland, Oregon restaurant and ask about the free range chicken they see on the menu. The waiter pulls out dossiers on the very chickens they are considering for their meal and proceeds to recount their full biographies with highlights of the wonderful lives they lived growing up surrounded by fresh air, sunshine and wonderful families…

“Okay, we’ll have those!” says Armisen’s character.

Yeah. And the meal probably cost them $500 for portions smaller than an order of McNuggets at Mickey-Ds.

A Different Sort of ‘Observation’

A naked woman dancing atop a semi parked alongside I-290 near Houston caused quite the traffic jam during the morning commute one recent morning. Police first tried talking the woman down from her trailer-top dance platform, but finally had to physically remove her. She was taken to a nearby hospital where she finished her day as she began it…under observation.

Fines for Texting While Walking?

It’s interesting to note recent social trends reflected in our changing legal system as new laws are passed and others fall by the wayside or are amended to the point of meaninglessness.

In New Jersey an assembly woman in the state legislature has introduced a law that would impose a fine of $50 or 15 days in jail for “texting-while-walking.” Sarasota County has passed new rules banning the sale of puppies in stores like Pet Land that buy their animals from so-called ‘puppy-mills.’ But the definition of ‘puppy-mill’ is so broad some complain it includes many small family run commercial breeders that raise litters using high standards of care.

Meantime, on the other end of the socioeconomic scale, school’s out for summer (or perhaps ‘forever’ as Alice Cooper would say). In the city of Sarasota, anti-panhandling laws have been thrown out after being deemed ‘unfair’ to the homeless. Up the road in Tampa, possession of small amounts of marijuana has been decriminalized, here again in the interest of ‘fairness’ to those who might ignore the law and as a result end up with a criminal record because of a ‘youthful indiscretion.’

In California, as a result of Proposition 47, passed in 2014, first offenders are now given a second chance, also in the name of fairness. The Washington Post called it an experiment in ‘mass forgiveness.’ The new rules reclassify ‘minor’ property crimes and ‘simple’ drug offenses from felonies to misdemeanors.

The idea behind the measure: to save the expense of incarcerating ‘low-level’ criminals and thereby free up money to help prevent citizens from turning to crime in the first place. Woodrow Wilson would be impressed. Clemenceau? Probably not so much.

Since the proposal was adopted, crime has steadily risen in the state, in some cases dramatically. “In the past year-and-a-half we’ve seen an increase in theft related crimes, including robbery, burglary and identity theft,’ said Tasha Decosta of the Hayward California Police Department as part of a recent news report by Claudia Cowan.

At the Tampa City Council meeting where that body adopted the new ‘progressive’ policy toward marijuana possession, one woman, Ellen Snelling, spoke out emotionally against the proposed change, explaining how being arrested for possession actually helped her daughter finally decide to turn her life around by dealing with a drug problem that had started with marijuana. 

What a concept: someone actually taking responsibility for his or her actions because of social constraints set on behavior.

But now… Life as a street beggar, petty thief or clueless stoner? Just three more lifestyle choices.

Who are we to judge?

 

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