Some Tigers not too happy with rude atmosphere at last week's Tiger Bay luncheon

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My good friend Alan Suskey is one of several members of Tiger Bay upset with the disrespectful and rude atmosphere at last week’s Tiger Bay luncheon, where several questioners violated the organization’s rules when asking questions of Rep. Jeff Brandes.

Again and again, Tigers made speeches rather than asked questions. Again and again, Tigers exceeded the time alloted to ask their questions. Again and again, Tigers attempted to ask follow-up questions. Again and again, as the rules of Tiger Bay were broken by members who are beyond old enough to know better, the leadership of the organization sat on their hands and did nothing.

Quite simply, last week’s luncheon was a disgrace. Yet, in the face of this rudeness, Rep. Jeff Brandes, whose campaign I worked on, comported himself with unwavering dignity, even when ol’ curmudgeons like Tom Dunn called Brandes a coward.

Um, Mr. Dunn, Jeff Brandes is an Army veteran. You should think twice about calling someone who served this country in uniform a coward just because you disagree with his political positions.

Worse behaved than Mr. Dunn was former Rep. Janet Long, who appeared and sounded as shrill and bitter as ever. A question which should have been asked of Janet Long was, if she’s so damn smart and so right about the issues, then why did she lose to a relative unknown, while Rep. Brandes was able to defeat an institution like Bill Heller?

Mr. Dunn’s and Rep. Long’s actions, as well as the actions of so many in the crowd, reminded me, of all things, a Tea Party rally. Rudeness, it seems, is certainly not limited by party affiliation.

This rudeness led one Tiger, Alan Suskey, to write the organization, informing him that he won’t be renewing his membership until Tiger Bay goes about rectifying its obviouspartisanship. Suskey’s letter is below. Pay special attention to Suskey’s point that Tiger Bay “has gone from an organization that promotes vigorous debate and accountability to one where the ??next your name means you are the enemy and should be treated as such.”

I am writing to let you know that I will not be renewing my membership to Tiger Bay. I? like to tell you whyo

I attended the luncheon last week that featured the WEDU panel to include Rep Jeff Brandes. Although the panel was interesting, I found the tone of the crowd and the questioning to be totally unacceptable. Jeff Brandes is not only a friend, but an elected leader in this community and war Veteran. To have his integrity called into question and to go so far as to directly refer to him as a ?raud?is shameful. Not one member of Tiger Bay? ?eadership?team stood to defend the honor of a man who gives his time in order to serve the community. You don? have to agree with Rep Brandes?policy views, in fact I would say that intelligent disagreement is at the very heart and soul of what makes this nation great. Unfortunately the room at Tiger Bay was absent of any such intelligent debate.

I have sat in the back of the room for many of these events and this seems to be a trend. From the treatment last year of U.S. Rep Bill Young, in his absence no less, to the treatment last week of Rep Brandes, Tiger Bay seems to have turned away from its principles. It has gone from an organization that promotes vigorous debate and accountability to one where the ??next your name means you are the enemy and should be treated as such. Tough questions should be rewarded and welcomed, but instead we had hurtful, spiteful comments that do not serve to promote an open dialogue between those on different ends of the political spectrum.

Again, it is my belief that in any organization blame must lie with the leadership. The absence of any comments from ANY leader in that room was just as shameful as the questions being asked.

I cannot, in good conscience, pay to be a member of an organization that allows our elected officials and community leaders to be treated in such a way.

Tiger Bay president Rick Edmonds responded to Suskey’s letter:

I largely agree with you. A number of the questions and the partisan whoops were inappropriate. I note that WEDU has not posted any of the Q & A, as had been discussed. If that’s a judgment about the level of civility, I would concur.

I do plan to address the issue — most likely at the start of the next meeting. While I respect your opinion, I don’t think intervening during the meeting would have been the better course. In fact, I think the set-up which made it hard for questioners to see either the timers or me was contributory to the poor quality of the Q & A portion.

Also, Jeff renewed the respect I felt after he parried some similar attacks from Bill Heller at our candidates forum last fall. He was composed and offered a number of on-point rejoinders, especially to the “woodshed” question.

Perhaps also the end of a polarizing session has left feelings especially raw. The clubreceivedRick Scott and the Republican A.G. candidatescordially last year. The Bill Young lunch last January was one of our best attended of last year. and I recall the reaction to his talk and Q & A as enthusiastic.

We hope to continue to welcome many Republican speakers in our mix.

Tiger Bay may continue to welcome Republican speakers, but how many Republican members it attracts is another question.

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.