Perhaps you think of this column as the voice of reason in the otherwise stagnant, mainstream media environment that permeates this city. Perhaps you think of this column as a snark fest that serves little purpose other than to make fun of people with good intentions. Perhaps, gasp, you don’t think of this column at all.
But you may be surprised to know that Happytown™ is really just like you. At the end of every passing year, we take stock of our accomplishments, good and bad, resolve to do better, then get really drunk and spend New Year’s Day in a grouchy haze of self-loathing. Then we have to go back to work, and pretty much nothing changes.
So in an effort to move the karmic football in a positive direction this year, we are going public with our resolutions so we can hold ourselves up to scrutiny at the end of ’08. That and there is nothing else going on this week to write about, despite the fact that Pakistan is about to become ground zero for World War III. We mean there is nothing going on here to write about.
Well, actually, some thing did happen this week. On Dec. 28, Florida’s Fifth Circuit District Court of Appeals reversed felony and misdemeanor convictions against state Sen Gary Siplin, who was convicted in 2006 of having a staffer campaign for him on the state’s dime, which is illegal. The three-judge panel ruled that the state hadn’t adequately proven that Siplin knew his staffer was campaigning illegally. “[A] criminal conviction for theft cannot stand based upon negligence in handling office paperwork or procedures,” the court ruled.
The state can retry Siplin on the misdemeanor charge if it so desires, the court ruled; that verdict was invalidated because of improper jury instructions. Meanwhile, Siplin can soldier on in the state senate, where he really doesn’t do anything anyway except push laws that would ban that scourge of society: baggy pants.
Guess what. It’s 2008 and we’re officially a real city! Do you feel the excitement in the air? No. Well, clearly then, you’re weren’t walking downtown streets on brisk late December afternoons.
The downtown ambassadors have landed. Riding black Segways and downtown-promoting helmets, beige shirts and shorts, the city’s $893,000 exhibit of goodwill is out in full force, bravely shuffling tourists from one downtown hotspot to another, or clustering rarely traveled intersections looking for something to do.
So the whole thing’s kind of silly, right? Right. But this is a new year, a fresh start and we’ve abandoned the jaded pessimism of yore. Happytown™ is all about solutions this year.
See, right now the downtown ambassadors look like hall monitors, and that makes us want to kick their asses and jack their lunch money. They need a gimmick. They need to be cool. They need capes. These are to be our ambassadors of goodwill, helping us find our cars, or dignity, so let’s costume them as the heroes they are. And maybe, for good measure, have the Segways blast the Ben-Hur theme music as they zip around. You know, chariots.
Only in Florida could a set of science curriculum standards spark such heated debate. According to the always-sensational Florida Baptist Witness, Baptists oppose the state’s proposed science standards, which would include evolution, but not creationism, “because they deny academic freedom.” The Florida Board of Education votes on the debacle in February.
Our favorite lefties, the American Civil Liberties Union, have jumped on the bandwagon too, warning the board about legal risks associated with adopting a curriculum that includes the religious beliefs of any particular group.
“People of faith differ in their beliefs about how the world began. And by their very nature, beliefs about an all-knowing creator or ‘intelligent designer’ are not subject to scientific proof,” says Becky Steele, director of the ACLU of Florida’s Religious Freedom Project.
Proof? This is Florida. Who needs proof?
This week’s report by Jeffrey C. Billman, Deanna Sheffield and Bob Whitby.email@example.com
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