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Friday, May 25, 2018
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Otto: Blame the ‘Chicken’ for Channelside talks

My guess is the addition of my favorite piece of public art, “The Exploding Chicken,’’ to the Channelside area is the cause of what happened last week. The Chicken, now perched in the Channelside roundabout, has brought new life to a stagnating area. Or maybe not. But something caused negotiations between members of the Tampa Port Authority and potential leasers for the struggling retail and restaurant complex to get really nasty. I do not know the details, only the rumors that at one point one side accused the other of demanding too much and one man even suggested that in another country they could lose their hands for such a demand. I don’t know if that is accurate but there is no disputing the Port Authority fired off a letter demanding a return to civility after the other side lost its “decorum’’ and used foul language as well as making vague threats. I can live with that, as long as — if they become successful bidders — they don’t try to rip us off on parking.
A few blocks away from Channelside on May 11 they had the annual “Train Day’’ at Union Station. It’s a nice event with lots of people and just about everything except trains. As it has for years, Union Station stands empty most of the day; except for the one train connecting to the Miami-New York line. Despite the lack of travel options, ridership continues to increase, which makes you think Amtrak must be missing the boat – make that train – on this one. If you’re making Memorial weekend plans, you might consider the 17th annual “Scratch My Back’’ concert next Sunday at the fabulous Skipperdome behind Skipper’s Smokehouse. It will benefit Friends of Hillsborough County Animal Services. I mention it because I get to co-host it with “Party” Marti Ryan and because, with the start of summer, it is a great reminder to remember your pets, especially not to leave them in cars where they can die in minutes. The concert is the idea of my friend Pinetop Peterson in memory of his lab, Molly, who died when a friend accidentally left her in a vehicle’s back seat. By the way, the amazing Pinetop, who not only is recovering from heart surgery but also from a knee injury he sustained in our recent loss to the Lighthouse for the Blind in a charity “beepball’’ game, will be on drums with his “Quivering Rhythm Hounds.’’ The Rhythm Hounds, along with “The Lint Rollers’’ band, will take the stage at the concert beginning at 5 p.m. Finally, in the mailbag, commenting on a column last week about the proposed “Lens’’ pier in St. Petersburg, was this note from James Thompson, recalling a visit to the old Million Dollar Pier years before he went to law school. “The Tarpon Springs Sailing Club visited Captain Mac around 1950-52 at the pier. There was only one TV channel (38) but Mom and Dad watched at home to see their son scream bloody murder when the captain shoved a Tarnow hot dog at me with his building proboscis staring at me. At 8 years old, my entry into TV wasn’t the best, but that pier was. We don’t need the Lens.”

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