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Doris writes a weekly column for LaGaceta, the nation's only trilingual newspaper, which has pages in English, Spanish, and Italian.  Begun in 1922 for Tampa's immigrant community, it continues to thrive more than a century later.  Her column is titled "In Context," as it aims to put contemporary issues in the context of the past.

A Plea for Historic Preservation

Willie Robinson died last week, his life's goal unachieved.  He was born in 1948, after African Americans had demonstrated great patriotism in World War II, but while his native Tampa still was very much the segregated South.  Because no hotel would rent a room to a black person, Willie's mother ran a boarding house at 851 Zach Street, conveniently near the train depot.  His grandmother, Sarah Jackson, had begun it early in the 20th century, and it was the only place in town where blacks were welcome to spend the night.  This was true even though some Jackson House guests were celebrities:  among them were musicians Ella Fitzgerald, Cab Calloway, and James Brown; the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. stayed there when he came to Tampa in 1961.


Willie graduated from the then-segregated Middleton High School and won a track scholarship to a historic black college in Texas.  After earning both bachelor's and master's degrees, he worked with young Texans who had physical and mental challenges, but when his father died, he returned to help his mother with the Jackson House.  Although he continued to work in education and athletics, the boardinghouse was his chief priority until his death at age 71.


The oldest parts of the Jackson House date to 1901.  That is the day before yesterday in places like Boston and Philadelphia, where there are countless buildings that are more than a century old.  I worked briefly on a committee with Bracken Engineering, which has expertise in historic preservation and was eager to save the Jackson House.  Despite this and other efforts, it has been under constant threat of demolition ever since the development of Water Street (or Channelside or Vinikville or whatever you chose to call the area) began several years ago.  City code enforcement boarded up the historic house and allowed no entrance, but no one from government came forward with even a suggestion of a preservation plan.


This is not only the right thing to do, but also a big potential moneymaker.  Many Southern cities -- especially Atlanta, Birmingham, and Alexandria, Virginia -- have shown that black history attracts millions of dollars in visitor spending, and Tampa should take a clue from that.  Willie's daughter lives on, and I'm sure she'd answer your call.


The Guy to Go After


Some pundits are demanding the impeachment of Attorney General William Barr, as well as the current occupant at 1600 Pennsylvania, but the guy I'd most like to see gone immediately is Treasure Secretary Steve Mnuchin.  A New Yorker in the mold of another New Yorker we all know, he has been using a pen to rob people all of his life.  In addition, he has refused the House's legal subpoena of the president's tax returns and has cancelled the department's promise to put Harriet Tubman's image on the twenty-dollar bill by 2020.  No woman ever has been depicted on our paper money, and her courage as an African American who liberated other slaves is absolutely singular.  No one of any color or gender was braver than she, and the only reason to overturn the commitment is racism and sexism.


But that is not the biggest reason why he should not head the Treasury.  Like the guy who appointed him, Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager, has made a career out of destroying true businesses and their workers.  The latest was Sears, once the nation's most trusted catalogue and retailer.  Mnuchin joined the Sears board and helped his college roommate, the CEO, drive the company into bankruptcy.  Under the "leadership" of these thieves, Sears closed more than 3,500 stores, sold its most valuable assets, and of course, laid off hundreds of thousands of employees.  Because Sears was the anchor store in many malls, this led to further business disruption, as well as the end of community gathering places.


Even more immorally, these guys raided their employees' pensions, reducing the retirement fund that workers had paid into to zero.  Not only did the board not pay pensions that were due, it also did not pay the company's bills:  a lawsuit filed by creditors says that Sears' board instead transferred as much as $2 billion to their greedy selves.  These are crimes, white-collar crimes.  If William Barr's Justice Department won't investigate – and it won't -- Congress should.  If the allegations made by stockholders and creditors prove true, we must make sure that Mnuchin is no longer anywhere near our money.


Besides, since Alexander Hamilton first held the office in 1789, no woman ever has headed the Treasury Department.  Don't you think it's about time?


Quick Thoughts


·      I hear that some county commissioners oppose the cross-bay ferry because they think that, except for MacDill employees, no one in East Hillsborough wants it.  I do, even though I likely will not use it.  That's because it would get thousands of cars headed to South Tampa off of our roads, and we really need that traffic reduction.  Because they can't go across the bay, these folks drive something like thirty miles around it, chocking I-4 and the Selmon Expressway.

·      While we're at it, let's track down the engineers who "improved" Malfunction Junction and make sure they never get another dollar from taxpayers.  Big trucks from the port now enter I-4 from the Crosstown Link on the left, which is bad enough – but if they want to go north on I-275, they have to move from the left lane to the right lane, crossing three middle lanes in less than a mile.  Traffic stops every day, and it is not unusual to take ten minutes to get through the junction.  What were the designers thinking?

·      More re MacDill:  If county commissioners don't want to implement the ferry, then they should work to revive the area near the Air Force base.  This will involve cooperation with the school board, as most MacDill families live far from the base because they believe suburban schools are better.  That isn't necessarily true, but it's up to elected officials to convince parents otherwise.

·      On a different topic, I'm sure you've gotten those e-mails from people allegedly in foreign countries who will give you millions if you just respond.  Maybe their misuse of language is because the writers want us to think that the proposer could easily be exploited, but the most telling clue that these offers are not genuine is their excessive use of honorifics.  The messages always come from "Mr." or "Mrs." (never "Ms.).  Except for teachers and physicians – and not even all of them these days -- almost no one in America refers to themselves that way.  Others may address us by an honorific, but when we introduce ourselves, we use our first name.  The senders apparently think that referring to themselves with an honorific induces respect, but we interpret it as baseless arrogance.


Even Quicker Thoughts


·      Expect food prices to soar this fall, as flooding continues in the Midwest in June – much too late to replant.  The administration will make sure that farmers get subsidies, and consumers will pay.

·      Prices also will rise because of the Trump tariffs on China and Mexico.  Tariffs inherently raise prices for the consumer at the end of the line, and again we all will pay for Trump's stubborn stupidity.

·      Another loss for farmers:  the Cuban trade that was becoming so successful under Obama already has ended:  among other things, southern states lost a market for rice, the only grain that grows in flooded waters.  (And yes, I agree that farmers generally brought this on themselves by voting Republican.)

·      Whatever happened to the Organization of American States?  Founded in 1948 under Democrat Harry Truman, the OAS was intended to solve problems in the Western Hemisphere.  This is the perfect time for it, as the US and Mexico both deal with massive numbers of refugees from Central America.  Why are these families fleeing and what can be done about it and where is the OAS?

·      Whether the census should count residents or citizens has a clear answer:  residents.  This is demonstrated by the Founding Fathers' debate on how to count slaves.  Southern states wanted to include them because doing so would give them more seats in Congress, but Northerners argued that slaves were not citizens.  It ended in a compromise:  slaves were counted as 3/5 of a person.  Ponder that.



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