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5 things I think about today’s St. Petersburg Times

in Peter/The Bay and the 'Burg by

I enjoyed a dirty martini at St. Pete Brasserie late last night and had the opportunity to speak with George Rahdert, the St. Petersburg Times lawyer on 1st Amendment issues.  Talking about the City of St. Petersburg ban on street-side solicitations, I told him, “Give ’em hell, George!”

Well, reading today’s Declaration of War by Times Publishing Co. on the City of St. Petersburg, Hell may seem like a pleasant alternative to where this case will end up.

As I’ve said before, in a dispute between the St. Petersburg Times and Bill Foster’s City Hall, the only winner is…me.  Like a Rays fan who roots for the stadium to collapse when the Red Sox play the Yankees, I hope that on Thursday when Judge Richard A. Lazzara will consider a motion to impose a restraining order on the City that would stop enforcement until the legal challenge is resolved that the whole damn courtroom gets swallowed up by a sinkhole (although I hope George Rahdert escapes unscathed).

I really don’t know about the Times lawsuit.  The liberal inside me says that there should be no law against Freedom of Speech.  Then again, if something isn’t done about the panhandling problem, I fear that, eventually, someone is going to go all Patrick Bateman on one of these poor bastards.

Of course, the worst aspect of this article is Mayor Foster’s smug response who said he was confident the city would defend the ordinance successfully. “We’re ready,” he said Friday.

I’m not the only one who doesn’t care for Foster’s smug response on this issue — or the Mayor’s attitude on several issues.  Howard Troxler breaks up the slump he’s been on by laying the wood to Bill Foster’s City Hall.  My favorite line comes when Troxler echoes my criticism of Foster’s sanctimonious presence at the raid on the Bottom to the Top club:

(Or the mayor rushing out at night to catch a police raid on a “bikini club,” because it is, you know, essential for the mayor to be on hand for such things, to cluck his tongue at how disgusting it all is.)

Of course, Troxler taking the company line reinforces my point that the next Times‘ employee who writes anything positive about the solicitation ban will be the first.

Another first would come if Joe DeLuca, the new publisher of TampaBay.com, actually listens to any of the reader feedback he is asking for via Karen McAlister’s post about DeLuca’s promotion.  First of all, the layout of TampaBay.com looks like a dog’s breakfast.  Other folks in the newspaper industry may tell you it looks nice, but people in the newspaper industry seem to know the least about online news sites.  There are so many glaring issues on TampaBay.com — the complete disorganization of articles on Food & Dining  is just one — that I think the Times will never have the courage to make the leap to a boldly designed site. Instead, it will build a hospital…one wing here, another floor there until one day no one knows how to ride the elevator anymore.

But you do have to love DeLuca’s ‘stache!

Following up on my comments yesterday about whether the Times even needs a food critic anymore, Laura Reiley, in what can only be descirbed as an ignominious end to her tenure as food critic, reviews Leverock’s, home of the twofer onion-crusted salmon.  Reiley actually describes Leverock’s menu as “progressive” and then proceeds to detail how this seafood shack dares to serve:

Tuna sashimi ($8.99) with wasabi and ginger or Dynamite shrimp ($7.49), fried shrimp tossed in sweet-hot Thai chili mayo, like Bonefish’s Bang Bang. The Maryland-style crab cake ($11.95 for one, $17.95 for two) is one of the best crab cakes I’ve eaten in I don’t know how long. Absolutely no filler, it is big lumps bound miraculously together and given a delicate pan fry until golden edged: moist centered, sweet crab flavor without a big Old Bay or seasoning wallop to distract.  One of the best deals around is the wedge salad…

Tuna sashimi, like what they serve in the cold counter at Publix? A wedge salad? Noooo. How innovative!

Of course, Reiley doles out, surprise, two-and-a-half stars, to Leverock’s.  2.5 stars to Leverock’s?!?  That is an insult, not only to any other restaurant that has earned two-and-a-half stars, but it’s an insult to the stars themselves.  2.5 stars to a place housed in an Old Ponderosa and serves more frozen seafood than a grade school cafeteria on fish sticks day.

I am embarrassed.  Embarrassed for the entire profession of food criticism.  I am especially embarrassed for Reiley.   This is how she is going to go out?  By reviewing Leverock’s.  You think your loyal readers will pine for you in your absence, saying, ‘don’t you remember that exquisite write-up of Leverock’s?’

The only person I feel worse for than Laura is whoever the poor schmuck was that had to accompany you on this review.  Laura called them, asked them if they wanted to go out with her to review a restaurant.  They got all excited thinking they would feast at Ocean Prime or Seasons 52 and then Laura asks them to meet her at Leverock’s.

Laura, it’s time for you to take a sabbatical.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.

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