I Hear You

I hear you.

Remember when you pulled me aside at the mullet toss last year and confided that you were disgusted with the city? I listened.

That time you called me up and asked just who was making the calls on council, anyway? Maybe I didn’t chime in and agree, but every word made an impact.

Last month, when you grabbed my shirt sleeve and said, “Hey, can I talk to you for a minute? What’s this nonsense about ‘boys against the girls’ on council?” I know I just nodded, but that night, on my couch, I turned the earful you gave me over and over in my mind.

When you sent me an e-mail in December and told me you didn’t want to stay in Gulfport if the incumbents won re-election? That made me think a lot about what Gulfport looks like to newcomers.

When you told me I wasn’t any good for the city just right then because I was listening too closely to a small group of unhappy people? I didn’t agree at all, but I respected you for telling me to my face, and the fact that you did so made me look closely at my own behavior.

When you gave me an earful about the vice mayorship and asked why some people hated Sam Henderson? When you asked me why no one was standing up to what you called “a small group of angry birds”? When I saw you at an ArtWalk and you railed against the people you said pulled the strings for the sake of doing so? When you had tears in your eyes because you didn’t understand why no one seemed willing to speak up anymore as you watched what you, too, identified as a “small, loud group” use city council meetings and Facebook to lambast the Vice Mayor, the Mayor and the newest councilman? When you wondered why the paper didn’t do anything when someone called one of our readers a “homophobe” when you know he isn’t? When you asked me why I didn’t do something about what you were certain were Sunshine Law violations? When you asked me after city council what happened to the “live and let live” mentality you valued so much in Gulfport? When you shook your head and told me you didn’t want anyone to know you felt this way, but the city had changed and you didn’t want to be a part of it anymore?

When you thanked me for standing up for you, even though I didn’t know I was?

I heard you. I heard all of you. It’s simply taken me a bit to process everything.

Your words, not mine, wrote this column. Everything I just mentioned has happened. You asked that I maintain your confidences, and I will never betray that, but my heart breaks for so many of you who seem beaten down, disgusted, and alone. I want you to see that you are not the only one with these fears who came to me and told me, in different words, the same story. Many of you think I’m speaking directly to you, and I am. I'm just not speaking only to you.

You whispered to me the fears of Everyman. Some of you live in the Yacht and Country Club; some of you rent. Still others own small cottages north of Gulfport Boulevard. You are gay. You are straight. You have children. You never want children. You love your city. You want to be left alone. You fish. You hate to fish. You grew up here. You moved here five years ago. Yours is the voice that guides me. You are the reason I love this little city on the bay. You are angry.

You are scared.

You are not alone.

We are still Gulfport. YOU are still Gulfport. This is our city. Speak up. Stand together. An army of like-minded Gulfportians stands with you.

At least, that’s what I hear.

Contact Cathy Salustri at CathySalustri@theGabber.com.

Read more from: Hard Candy
Member Opinions:
By: JuanHappicampa on 5/11/12
Wow, nailed it!
It really makes me think of your job, well perhaps every small town reporter's job, from a different perspective. I certainly can understand where you make the point about some people not wanting to speak publicly, and in fear of speaking in Council when there is so much animosity and clapping or booing. The fear of some giving out their address or even their names has been brought to my attention. I think a Councilman has already made the point clear. I'm receiving a growing number of messages, email, phone calls and surprisingly people that I barely know asking me if I'm Juan.. admittedly I concede only to hear them thank me for writing something they agree with, or just making them laugh or reminding them of some lost music and showing them where to find in on YouTube, but it was the conversation and perspective that brought them to contact me.

Your not always right, especially on old perspectives of 49th street that seemed to have evolved through careful observation (as Obama carefully stated) and of course I can become uneasy when folks compare any issue with Hitler or Nazi's having been in a virtual editors position in online communities where thousands added their 2¢ every day. I've seen crossing guards compared to Nazi's, or some innocent Lubener accused of being Hitler incarnate. But by and large I have to say you have served this City very well. Thank You

So, until we cross swords again..
Happy Trails

By: CathySalustri on 5/11/12
Thank you, Mark/Juan. We will probably not always agree – we haven't in the past – and I know I'm wrong many times. I've often said that I don't need people to agree with me; my hope instead is that what I write makes them think.

I'm glad to know that people are reaching out to one another, too. Gulfport is, at its core, a caring, giving community.

By: RobFowler on 5/17/12
When I first read this, I felt a need to back you up. I feared for your safety.
Wow, the courage to speak up against a cruelly mean and aggressive group! Although so many of us wanted to voice our outrage, who could stand to endure the potential abuse! The pack mentality was intimidating, to say the least.

And then, immediately, on the streets, an overwhelming support of the Gabber's position was evident!! Even from those who I thought were on the small but influential group who had been attacking those who disagree. Some of the attackers were suddenly disassociated! When did that happen? I've been busy with work and missed a lot of drama! (Whew, I am glad...)
At first, I figured you had talked with the same people I talked with.

But you know what, it is possible we never spoke with the same citizens. I now realize that so much of our population is on the same page, that even if 50 people had walked around with ears open, the hundreds of opinions that all of us would have heard, would resonate with your column.

Now since I have friends who are possibly in that "mean" group, in fairness to those unpopular radicals who have a goal that sincerely works for all of us (property value, curb appeal, etc.), I want to make a point. It is clear, and by now should be evident for the next several years, Gulfport as a whole, with the open hearts and generally loving atmosphere of our population, any meanness, cruelty, personal attacks, or any other public abuse will probably not be tolerated. We, the Gulfport people, are very tolerant to anything but hate and meanness.

I am one of Gulfport's strongest supporters of freedom of speech. I will speak up while cringing for the right of someone to speak their minds, even when I am appalled or shocked at what they say or believe. It has to be that way. BUT, when we as a community do not agree with what is being said or promoted, we do have the right to speak or respond.

The irony is that when looking at the end results, we all have a common vision...
Better property values; lower crime rates; safer neighborhoods; lower taxes; better self-esteem, and so on.

So why this crazy division and passionate disagreeing? I have my thoughts, but then we are getting into social philosophy and political theory that will never be solved. In the mean time, we "could" make a plan and move forward to solve a problem. Why don't we?

Just sayin'...

By: mtober on 6/2/12
I was saddened, maddened and perplexed by the Hard Candy (HC) article that has un-named people accusing un-named people of doing things that simply don’t seem to me to be true. I agree that there are people that have spoken harshly at council meetings. However, it is not people that are associated with one group or another or an entire group of people. More and more of a variety of people are attending Council meeting. Yes, people post things on social media that can be viewed as inappropriate. However, I have seen that by a variety of people and they are not necessarily part of the same social circle or group of politically oriented people. Essentially, HC (and its interviewees) is gloping (general labeling of people) a variety of people for what a few, from various areas may be doing.

One of the letters to the editor states that the unnamed group of people is a "pack" as if it is a herd of animals--how is that helpful? Is that also not just a bit like the pot calling the kettle black by calling the very people you accuse of name calling, names? One of the letters states that "the group" intimidates people and wants to run "their" agenda through City channels. What agenda? I presume based on comments made in one of the letters that I am considered part of the "pack". I've never tried to run any agenda through City Hall nor do I know of anyone else that has done so. All I want is what most people want- a safe, clean and pretty city that charges a reasonable amount of money for services and treats all people fairly from a personal and business perspective.

I must ask also, if this bad group of people has so much influence then why was the major portion of what was done by the last Council agreed to by all members of the council, the majority of the time? Why is it being assumed that only a portion of the Council was or wasn’t involved with this small, loud, nasty pack?

The people quoted in the article say that they didn't want the incumbents re-elected because of what they did and that they didn’t want to stay in Gulfport. What did just the incumbents do? Circle back to my earlier comment--most votes were unanimous. Someone said Gulfport has lost its “live and let live” attitude. How so? Nothing has deteriorated, nothing has changed. The Gabber's reporting led people to believe that all kinds of terrible new ordinances were being put in place, and that simply was not so. Some ordinances were enhanced / tweaked to include safety provisions and clarify language. The Council asked the City Manager to start enforcing the ordinances proactively as in the past they were not. Every community including the County has "Community Standards"--why is that so wrong? They are simple basic rules and most people that respect themselves, their neighbors and their community don't have issues with them. I think most people understand and agree with that concept.

I can appreciate that perhaps people felt their civil rights were being infringed upon by the no- smoking ordinance. Frankly, I never spoke in favor of it because I didn't think it would get enforced. The former Vice Mayor brought that legislation forward and everyone blamed him for it being passed, yet it passed 5-0 -- he didn't pass it by himself. Why was all the blame put on him? And truth be known, no one from the community spoke against it-until after the fact. Why is that?
Take a look at the votes for red light cameras, increased littering fines, the ordinance enhancements and the Special Magistrate. Most all were 5-0 or 4-1.

Some people got upset that the millage rate was raised beyond the roll forward rate last year to 4.0. Interestingly this year the millage is proposed to be 4.012 and Vice Mayor Henderson suggested he would be ok with 4.1 and that the city needs to gradually get back to 4.3. It will be interesting to see if the reaction to his pronouncement is as ugly as the reaction was to last year's 4.0. Bottom line, it is basic economics--gotta pay to play. I totally support that as sound fiscal reasoning and supported it last year and in fact thought it was long overdue in coming forward. I commend Vice Mayor Henderson for having the fortitude to make such bold fiscal statements.

HC said that people wondered why so many people hate Sam Henderson. Really? I don't know anybody that "hates" him. Just because people disagree doesn't mean they hate each other. I could care less who is VM and I think Sam will do fine. The selection of Vice Mayor was not pretty and frankly the Mayor's handling of that with his little job interviews only made it worse. As to a boys vs. girls thing - how did that get all blown out of proportion? I heard one person make that observation at a Council meeting.

I'm sure I'll now be accused of being defensive too and that is fine. All I ask is look at the facts and how they came to be. There was no agenda, no ram rodding of legislation and no intimidation and no examples to support any of it.

Cathy Salustri said people questioned her judgment and thought she was getting too close to “certain” people. What I've witnessed over the years is that she ingratiates herself to whoever provides the "attention du jour". In hindsight, I think it is probably not a good idea for reporters and elected officials and their supporters to become quite so close. To be fair, personally I like Cathy, and there is none better than The Gabber when it comes to giving back to the community, however, neither is not and should not be the final source for news in Gulfport and St. Pete Beach. People should watch the council meetings or view the videos and come to a conclusion on their own. I can cite instance after instance of inaccurate or incomplete reporting and I have to believe that is what led some people to the conclusion that terrible things were and /or are going on in Gulfport.
The Gabber’s coverage of the ordinance changes was such that many people told me they thought all kinds of new ordinances were being written—wasn’t the case. Rather as already mentioned, existing ordinances were being tweaked, mainly for health/safety reasons. That lack of credible reporting on this issue created a raucous in the town that was totally unnecessary. Interesting also is that Councilwoman Salmon wants to bring back the RV ordinance and make it less restrictive yet Vice Mayor Henderson doesn't want to do so till later in the year, if ever. Where's the outrage over that? Was it reported in The Gabber? The Gabber wrote a big splash article about the Mayor's seven step plan to clean up the City which he acknowledged was a mess. Where is the follow - up article on that? Why was there no outrage with the Mayor? He said the same thing the "pack" said. ;-). Let's step forward to the election....was there ever an article in The Gabber that reported that Dan Liedtke threatened to sue the City while he was running for office? Did The Gabber climb into the family tree on the campaign finance reports for Liedtke, Perry and Salmon like they did Hastings? Why didn't they report the name of Jim Perry's campaign treasurer? Why didn't they report that one of Dan Liedtke’s donors was the mother-in-law of a council member or that one of Jim Perry’s donors was the domestic partner of a politically active police sergeant or explain the donations from other "Salmons"? Oversight was the Gabber's claim. To be clear, I’m not advocating that most of those people should have been identified-rather just report one way or another for everyone.
Part of the last election did not turn out as I wanted but we must move on. People that run for and accept public office know they are open to scrutiny and criticism along with the accolades - it’s all part of the job and should be. That being said, I just watched the video of the last Council Workshop regarding the budget. The work the City Manager did to put the budget together was great and the entire Council did a great job in bringing forth their ideas and they are good ideas!! We have bright minds on the council. We may not always agree with all of them but that's ok as long as they continue to evolve. So, one seat on the Council has changed yet it appears so far that the basic fiscal philosophies set forth by the previous council will continue and that’s a good thing – for all of us.

To be fair there are also some good articles in The Gabber but not as relates to the political and governmental goings on in Gulfport. Cathy knows that I and others are not running through the streets trying to divide and conquer through intimidation and cruel and inhumane gestures. So that being said, why wouldn’t the response, by Ms. Salustri, to the unnamed concerned persons have been— “I know most all of those people in that group and I know that most all of them are not like that.” If she is truly concerned about the well-being of Gulfport she had the perfect opportunity to try to help create unity and apparently chose to do otherwise. I would be delighted to know and to speak to any of these unnamed people that are so weary of the other unnamed group of people and assure them that life in Gulfport hasn't changed for the worse but for the better and will continue to get better. One letter writer suggested there be a plan to move forward and solve the problem. I agreed and extended my hand to help, however, I have not gotten a response. I requested to meet with Ms. Salustri and received no response. If indeed there is a desire to fix a perceived problem then all parties need to communicate…just sayin’.

M. Tober