01/23/13 - Tbo.com - O'Neill: Time to ease restrictions on TampaCuba flights
Back in September of 2011, much was made of the restarting of direct
flights from Tampa to Cuba. And for good reason. It had been more than
half a century since the last one. Tampa was reconnecting with its roots,
exile politics from hell notwithstanding. Currently there are five
TIA-Cuba flights a week.
But that changes next month. It will be three times weekly.
Officially, it's a function of market evolution. Adjustments in new routes
are not unexpected, especially with many other gateways to Cuba opening
around the country.
Unofficially, no one in the know is surprised with anything that is part
of the dysfunctional, frustrating dynamic that continues to be U.S.-Cuba
relations. While the Tampa Bay area has the third-largest Cuban-American
population in the country, approximately 80,000, that is still not nearly
enough to sustain five flights a week - notably during nonpeak periods -
from here to Cuba. Too few non-Cuban-Americans have been booking. That's
because most can't.
Tampa-to-Cuba is a microcosmic example of why it's imperative that
unacceptable restrictions on travel to Cuba for most Americans be lifted.
It's a blatant infringement on Americans' right to travel freely that has
countless subplots. This is one. And with our port, airport, geography and
history - before there was Miami there was Tampa - no city is more
economically/emotionally slighted by this Cold War-era, foreign-policy
relic than Tampa.
It's not enough that a local U.S. representative, Kathy Castor, or a city
council member, Mary Mulhern, or a World Trade Center Tampa Bay official,
Steve Michelini, see the need and market for more Cuban-American
interaction initiated out of Tampa. They are more than trumped by the
usual South Florida suspects. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the brothers
Diaz-Balart and cabal cohorts can still exercise inordinate,
counterproductive influence on U.S. foreign policy. Cuban generational
change is surely coming, but not fast enough. They still intimidate
Democrats with their politics and money.
Ever wonder why, for example, the otherwise outspoken Debbie Wasserman
Schultz, the classic Jewish liberal from Long Island who chairs the
Democratic National Committee, falls in line with hard-liners on Cuba?
Wonder no longer. It's not over conscience and ideology, or else she
wouldn't be on the wrong side of an issue rife with humanitarian,
geopolitical and economic concerns.
Would that President Barack Obama, although busy enough with the debt
ceiling, gun policy and immigration, could just do the overdue right thing
on this unconscionable anomaly and spend a little bully pulpit capital on
Cuba. Frankly, this could still be low-hanging, legacy fruit for a
president with no more elections to run in.
Why not finally call out those whose personal, pandering priorities are
not in the best interest of this country - and certainly not this (swing)
state? And as a consequence, no longer be the one answering for a foreign
policy that confoundingly features normal relations with blatant
non-democracies such as Vietnam, China and Saudi Arabia, but embargoes
unfettered trade and travel with Cuba? Why not formally stop, in effect,
replicating the George W. Bush policy on Cuba?
Meanwhile, let's hope that TIA, still international flights-challenged,
can at least hold on for now to thrice weekly nonstops to Cuba.
* * * * *
Our parade season is upon us. First up, last Saturday's Gasparilla
Children's Parade. Next up, this Saturday's Gasparilla Pirate Festival,
aka "the adult parade."
The former reminds us of what parades are like at their best - even with
six-figure crowds, logistical inconveniences and serious clean-up. It can
be done. When parents are with their kids. When the scene looks like
vintage Tampa: African-American, Anglo and Hispanic. When there's no need
for alcohol zones or safe houses.
The latter, the one that features alcohol zones and the need for a safe
house, has been cleaning up its act the past couple of years. I live near
ground zero, and I do notice - although I wasn't one of the neighborhood
video vigilantes who graphically captured Gasparilla and helped force the
helping hand of authorities. Gasparilla had become an annual paean to
excess: an ad hoc vomitorium, an exercise in alley sex and an outdoor rite
of pissage for too many teens.
But thanks to the Tampa Police Department taking it much more seriously,
it's been better policed and prepared for. Word is out: This isn't a day
without rules. This applies to teens - and their parents, the ones who
have to come get them if they're arrested. It's a shame it came to that,
but it beats those other shames.
* * * * *
Bass Pro Shops should want a mulligan for the past six months. First it
was the flap over incentives Hillsborough County was considering to lure
it here. As if Bass Pro would be bringing in the 21st century jobs the
county needs. As if Bass Pro shouldn't want to be in a retail market like
this anyway. As if Bass Pro deserved it.
Then Bass Pro alienates locals with its ill-advised trademark infringement
challenge - since dropped - against Simple Life Outfitters in Valrico.
Does Bass Pro not have a PR shop? The timing for an enterprise that
ostensibly wants this market and should want to orchestrate a positive
debut has been awful. In fact, it's been Bass Ackwards.
Original Source / Fuente Original:
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