SAFETY HARBOR – The public discussion portion of last week’s Safety Harbor City Commission meeting, where citizens have an open mic to speak on miscellaneous subjects and needs, began with an audio recording of ear-piercing, screeching angry birds, played by a resident upset with a neighbor.
After telling commissioners how the annoying, around-the-clock cawing of next-door pet macaws and parrots were disrupting her family’s life, the woman asked for the city’s help, then returned to her seat.
A few minutes later came the night’s real squawking and shrieking.
In one of Safety Harbor’s strangest, off-the-rails commission meetings since, well, probably last election season, the community’s status-quo, zero-growth segment went before the commission to address Mayor Joe Ayoub and complain, rant and allege bad behavior by his supporters … THREE YEARS AGO during a campaign against then-candidate Janet Hooper.
Sherman, set up the Wayback Machine. OK, Mr. Peabody!
Less than four weeks before Safety Harbor voters go to the polls to re-elect Ayoub or trust political newcomer Tanja Vidovic to lead them into a new decade, the status-quo side came to the commission meeting and handed out inch-thick binders, alleging (but without proof or documentation) mean behavior by Ayoub supporters during the 2017 election.
Can there be a greater confirmation that this is a group living in Safety Harbor’s past?
Maybe for a good reason.
To continue the bird analogy, you could say they are supporting a candidate whose campaign is a wounded duck.
Vidovic, a Tampa Fire Fighter with a controversial career resume’, has no previous political leadership experience at any level, no record of involvement in government volunteer boards or money management.
Her work career is a long string of conflict and controversy, spotlighted by research done the by public-records gathering website InformedSafetyHarbor.com, which shows two firings, multiple law suits against multiple past employers, complaints of bullying co-workers and neighbors and a run-in with sheriff deputies at Philippe Park and subsequent removal and banning from the property.
All of which goes a long way toward explaining Vidovic supporters preferring to focus on the past rather than prepare for the future.
If a community is not moving forward, it is going backward. The status-quos do not simply desire to halt the greatest run Safety Harbor has ever enjoyed, they want to turn back time.
Safety Harbor has become exactly what the majority of Safety Harbor residents want it to be: Without tumbleweeds rolling down Main Street.
So, as predictable as a toll-booth arm, Vidovic supporter Chris Kent stepped to the microphone with the Wayback Machine set for 2017 and attempted to relive “The Hitler Video,” which appeared three years ago on a satirical Facebook page during the mayor’s race between Ayoub and Janet Hooper.
The “video” is actually a short segment pulled from the 2004 movie “Downfall,” set during the final days of World War II and demise of Hitler. It is also one of social media’s all-time most-popular memes, used with endless and various sub-titles to poke fun at just about any topic.
Case in point, Hooper, who called the post “disgraceful,” had “Liked” the exact same meme years earlier when it was used in the Michigan-Michigan State football rivalry.
Kent, with a computer thumb drive as part of the inch-thick binder, requested the video be played before as part of last week’s commission meeting.
Nostalgia Night at City Hall – bring the family … the kids … the dog. Popcorn for everyone.
“I understand some of Ayoub’s supporters call it satire,” Kent said. “Let’s show it and let everybody decide.”
Answered Ayoub: “Let me get this straight. You’re complaining about a video from three years ago that I have spoken out against, that has been handled and dealt with, and you are so outraged and offended by it you want to watch it again tonight?”
A few moments later, Ayoub had another question for another status-quo supporter looking for a safe space.
“Are you upset about both sides, or just one side?”
It was a rich exchange, especially considering Shelly Schellenberg, the Big Bird of Safety Harbor political hate and gamesmanship, is the loudest voice of status-quo and zero-growth proponent.