Saturday, January 24, 2009

Land of Confusion

Ah, Sarasota; the city of contradictions. Self-proclaimed 'Cultural Capital of Florida's West Coast," home to the wealthy, the powerful, the famous. Opera, ballet, theater, orchestras, world-class dining; the joint just oozes class, know what I mean?

Then, there's the rest of us..........

And, as much as the Chamber of Commerce, realtors and developers would like to deny it, this is one helluva town when it comes to loonies. LA and NYC ain't got nuthin' on us.

Today's Sarasota Herald-Tribune (known 'affectionately' as SHT--please be sure to note the absence of an 'i', thank you) has stories that pretty much run the gamut of our craziness.

To wit:
  1. Famed financier and philanthopist, Art Nadel, is still on the lam. The latest twist is that his accountant (maybe that should be "accountant" in quotation marks) is not much of an accountant. Of course, after what went on at Nadel's financial house of cards (without his knowledge, naturally), that would be an understatement, wouldn't it?
  2. The alleged accountant, Michael (rhymes with "sucker") Zucker, hasn't been licensed in the state of FLA since 1990 and was once busted for claiming to be a CPA. True, he was billed as a CPA in a 2003 prospectus for Nadel's company, but, considering that Nadel was a disbarred attorney in his previous life, we'll call that a wash.
  3. Zucker's wife is chairwoman of the Sarasota County School Board. This is a small town, after all, run by a chosen few and they tend to glom together. There was a story a while back about the million-dollar remodel of the auditorium where the School Board holds its meetings, but, this was Sarasota, after all, and excess is pretty much the norm, so it wasn't much of a story.
  4. Darrell Stinger, head of the Sarasota County lock-up, has resigned (read: "left before they made him a resident in his own establishment." Seems he was less than diligent about when his 'guests' departed the premises--some were let out early, some were let out late. Hey, it should all work out in the end, right; you get out earlier than your sentence calls for, BONUS!--you get out later, you still get your three hots and a cot, so what's the bitch?
  5. A Manatee County judge threw out a handful of DUI arrests made at a checkpoint in Palmetto. Seems that the deputies manning the checkpoint allowed about 20 cars to go through the stop when traffic backed up. "Selective enforcement" cried the defense attornies, since the plan filed by the Sheriff's Dept. said they would stop all cars. Attornies for 14 defendants in Sarasota DUI checkpoint stops are licking their chops in anticipation of their turn up to bat.
  6. North Port school bus driver, 40-year old Charles Billa, was arrested on charges that he molested a 10-year old girl on his bus. A fellow driver said, "she felt uncomfortable working with Billa, saying he would tickle the children and carry them from their seats to the door, more often the little girls." Yeah, that might be a red flag for me, too. This was not his first go around with trouble--a 5-year old girl wouldn't board his bus in January, 2008, telling a teacher that Billa touched her inappropriately. North Port police investigated, but the state declined to prosecute because "no one else corroborated the girl's story." Billa was once again in the driver's seat because, as one official said, "Since he was cleared, our position is always innocent until proven guilty." I think I would err on the side of caution when it comes to situations like this, but, then again, what do I know?
  7. Another North Port resident was arrested following a run-in with minors. Kind of. 32-year old, 6'5, 280-lbs, Scott Chapman, drove to a street corner and confronted a group of teenagers who were hanging out. Said Chapman, "I run this neighborhood. I'm the baddest redneck you have ever seen," then punched one of the teenagers in the face and threw the teenager's bicycle for good measure. At last report, he was still in the Sarasota County jail on charges of aggravated assault, child abuse and disorderly intoxication. "Intoxication?" I can hardly believe it!
  8. And, finally, to end on an upnote, SunTrust bank's, Gregory Miller, has divined that the local economy has hit bottom and should recover by April. Of all the crazy stories in today's news, THIS HAS TO BE THE CRAZIEST!! Granted, I'm no economist, but when the lead story today is that unemployment for our three-county area is 8.9%, while Florida's is 8.1% and nationally, it's only 7.2, it would seem to me that that predicting an April recovery is just a tad bit optimistic. Just a tad.

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