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Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017
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Jackson column: In Pasco, Texas wins after all

OK, we get that the Texas delegation was not initially delighted with its bivouac assignment for the Republican National Convention. For all its admirable qualities — and they are, indeed, admirable — Saddlebrook Resort lacks A-list propinquity. That is, it's nowhere near what anyone would mistake for the coming week's hotspots. And Texas, not only home to a couple of recent presidents but also to a GOP Senate candidate who may eclipse Marco Rubio's star power and a governor who is the envy of, well, of Florida's governor, anyway, is accustomed to A-list status. Listen, it's not like Saddlebrook is the Kathy Griffin of Florida destinations. Under most circumstances, it's a little slice of Sunshine State heaven. But, alas, the garden spot Tom Dempsey built lacks that certain real estate quality: location, location, location.
It's not across the street from the Forum and a quick ride to Curtis Hixon Park, nor is it snuggled up against one of the area's world-famous beaches. Well, fine. That's the same parochial pushback certain members of King High School graduating classes from the early 1970s get when they recommend Saddlebrook for reunions. But Texans (then "Texians") didn't whine when events tilted against them during their 1836 revolution, the occasionally pouty — rightly so — passages of Col. William B. Travis' dispatches from the Alamo to the provisional government notwithstanding. We trust whining isn't what we're hearing now. Maybe Texas GOP Chairman Steve Munisteri hadn't seen the brochures when he told the Washington Times, "We're trying to figure out why we're being punished." Listen, I've heard Saddlebrook called lots of things (especially in the muckish rough on the original No. 18 hole), but punishment was never among them. Given the possibility of inhospitable conditions growling up the Gulf shore Monday, Saddlebrook is looking better all the time. Depending on (presumed as this is written) Hurricane Isaac's track, visitors assigned to coveted beach digs may learn first-hand why nobody but an insurance company underwritten by taxpayers will write policies for property west of U.S. 41. Indeed, ensconced at Innisbrook in Palm Harbor, the Florida delegation could get an reminder of why only Citizens is writing business, as well as why that urgently needs changing. If Isaac follows one of the easterly spaghetti tracks, modern Texans are going to have a stark meteorological reminder of why help never arrived in San Antonio de Bexar from Goliad. (The roads were impassable.) In a lousy-case scenario (nobody, yet, projects a worst-case blowup), the preferred locations, also known as "mandatory evacuation zones," would become as desirable as a leaky fan boat in the heart of the Everglades. Better by far to be up the road in Wesley Chapel, well-drained by natural wetlands enhanced by manmade retention ponds and a storm sewer system younger than the GOP's vice presidential nominee. Bill Bunting, the newly reelected Pasco Republican state committeeman, is, for one, delighted to have the Texans. "I don't know if I'll go downtown at all," Bunting said a few weeks back. "Those Texans know how to throw a party." And that was before he'd learned Louisiana drew the Saddlebrook straw, too. "No shi — uh, no kiddin'?" (Bunting has promised to work on his personal communications skills.) But, yup. No shi-kiddin'. Texans and Louisianans — think Sam Houston and Jim Bowie — together again, hoisting glasses of brown liquor to Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal, buckskins and coonskin caps, and the New Orleans Greys, whose sacrifice at the Alamo is legendary along the western Gulf coast. That's the image I conjured months ago when Pasco and Saddlebrook won, in a landslide, the delegate housing sweepstakes. Given the Almighty's act-of-himself churning in our direction, Texans may yet share our point of view.

tjackson@tampatrib.com (813) 371-1851 https://www.facebook.com/TomJacksonTribune Twitter: @tjacksonTrib
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