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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Otto: Strawberry Festival parade makes you feel good

Look, I know that it’s Monday and unless you’ve been sequestered out, you likely have to show up for work. But if you don’t and you’d like to slip back to another time, come on out to Plant City for the parade this afternoon and some strawberry shortcake later on. I’m mentioning this because the last few years I’ve fallen into a good thing, which is being a judge for the parade. It’s not like the parade ever really changes, but it has a spirit that just makes you feel good. It’s not fancy, but it is full of bands and gospel music, politicians pressing the flesh and my favorite float, the veterans of my Uncle John’s old WWII submarine, the Sea Poacher. Even better, the judges get to do their thing from Amy and Hugh Gramling’s front yard and then go inside for some of Hugh’s incredible gumbo, all surrounded by mountains of southern cooking. Yowza!
Last week’s incident that hobbled the entire city of Tampa water supply for almost two days is being blamed on a squirrel. Not everybody buys that, including reader Richard Longden, who writes: “In Feb. ’94 I was a substation operator for a utility company in northeast Ohio. I walked into a substation and made a switching error that caused a power disruption to the entire small city that the substation served. “The next day it was reported in the paper that a small animal, probably a raccoon, caused the outage. “I would believe that a squirrel caused the water department outage only if I could see the charred remains of the critter. Can you imagine the resulting lawsuits if someone admitted to human error? Love most of your work, especially when I agree with you, Rich.’’ Trib reporter Ted Jackovics wrote about a new release from the Brookings Institution suggesting we need a better national rail plan. No kidding. Jackovics spoke with a senior researcher who noted that ridership in Tampa has increased 368 percent in the last 15 years. This despite the fact that Amtrak only runs one train a day on a linear route from Miami to New York. There is a second train if you are willing to go down to Union Station and take a bus to Orlando to catch it. Amtrak, which was created in 1970, has steadily deteriorated. The last great intercontinental trail, the Sunset Limited, once ran from Miami to Los Angeles. You could take a train from Tampa to Jacksonville to link up. Following Hurricane Katrina, the link from New Orleans to Jacksonville was eliminated. Although the track has been repaired, so far Amtrak has not resumed service, saying it was losing money. Before that service was eliminated, there was discussion of linking a train called the City of New Orleans, which runs from Chicago to New Orleans, and running a route all the way to Tampa. Instead, if you live in Florida you have to go north to Washington or New York before making connections to Chicago if you want to head to the rest of the country. It’s bad enough the United States is dragging badly in rail transportation. It’s worse that Florida is at the tail end of the rest of the country.
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