“All the war-propaganda, all the screaming and lies and hatred, comes invariably from people who are not fighting.” – George Orwell
So a curious thing happened this Saturday. I dropped by the sea oat planting behind the Sirata to get some photos of locals planting sea oats, and I didn’t see any locals. I mean, I saw St. Pete Beach employees and volunteers from all over, but no locals. That’s not to say no locals attended, just that I saw none. After all, it takes a lot of people to plant 10,000 sea oats, and not all of them could have been volunteers from J.P. Morgan.
But the paucity of beach residents started me thinking about the difference between the number of local sea oat planters and the number of people who attend city commission meetings and screech about the awful things the city’s trying to do to them. Over the past few years, those “awful” things included allowing the public on a public sidewalk in Pass-a-Grille, building a sidewalk and slowing traffic on a residential street, and building transient boating docks to draw more boaters (and their money) to St. Pete Beach.
Notably present at these meetings but painfully absent from Saturday’s event (and pretty much every other city event) was CAVE. Never heard of CAVE? The commissioners refer to them as “Citizens Against Virtually Everything”; that may sound disrespectful, but come to a few meetings and you’ll quickly understand why that’s most likely the nicest name for these folks. They’re not a formal group, although often they share the same attorney, and they’re not members of the weekly press or any group that’s bound by any ethical or legal standards, which an impartial observer can quickly ascertain.
No, CAVE is a loose group of loose cannons who are so angry at the city – and, if I had to guess, I’d say the world – that the commission could listen to them and then say, “Hey, we’re going to do exactly what you suggested” and CAVE would jump up and down and scream that the city was too narrowly interpreting their request.
The commission can’t win. Which is fine. I mean, they were the ones crazy enough to run. But, uh, the rest of us? We’re getting pretty damn tired of hearing this load of digested bull nutrition. No commission can be all evil. They must do something right. What’s more, the people who don’t believe the commission to be evil aren’t evil themselves for wanting to work with, not against, the city they love.
Is the commission perfect? No. As much as I like some of them, I’m pretty sure they all talk outside chamber walls, and I know that we (the Gabber) will never have the following we have in Gulfport. I hold no illusions about how much this column or our reporting to matters to them (somewhere between “hmmm” and “not at all”) but that doesn’t mean I have to hate them. I believe in the direction they’re pointing St. Pete Beach.
I’m glad, too, that they’re led by the city manager, because despite some of their individual intelligences, collectively they’re too clueless to fight their way out of a paper bag. That’s OK, because St. Pete Beach has a city manager form of government, not mayoral (be glad for that – have you read about St. Petersburg politics lately?). That’s OK, too, because I also happen to believe that the city manager is eminently qualified and a relatively moral man. If you compare him to other career bureaucrats, he actually shoots to damn near top of the morality charts.
Now, some of you may not agree with me, and I respect your opinion. As for your actions? Well, if you want respect for those, here’s what I respect:
I respect people who work from within to try and change things. I respect people who volunteer to join a city board. I respect people who attempt to learn about the workings of city hall without prejudice. I respect people who show up for sea oat plantings and beach cleanups and board meetings, and I respect people who choose to listen instead of beat their chest and comment like a curly-haired ape in heat.
I respect people who see the commissioners and city staff as real people who must use facts, not emotion and selfish whims, to make decisions for the good of the city, not themselves and their two friends. I respect the doers, not the screechers. I respect people who prefer to live in the sunshine of cooperation and not the CAVE of negativity.
Of course, you have have to make your own choices. But I’ll ask you to do one thing: the next time you hear someone who you suspect may be a card-carrying CAVE member, ask them to tell you about the last time they planted a sea oat.
Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.