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Sunday, June 23, 2024

The other day, Gov. Charlie Crist rubbed his magic funding bottle and a little legislative genie popped out and granted him one wish. Unfortunately, Charlie exchanged his other two wishes for visits to a tanning salon.

And what did Charlie wish for? How about increased funding for schools?

Nope.

A way to prevent budget cuts to public safety programs?

Not a chance.

Actually, Crist wished for what any patriotic governor would want: an improved venue for America's favorite pastime.

Though a little legislative, Dick Cheney-like genie would be fun to imagine, Crist doesn't have a magic-funding bottle. Though if he did, I'm sure it would be bronzed, like everything else in his life.

But Crist said Wednesday the state should find room in its budget-constrained heart to help the Tampa Bay Rays build a new stadium in St. Petersburg.

Florida voted Crist into office and gave him the keys to its money-deprived castle, and look what he does. He pledged to use its beautiful, albeit cheap, castle to watch a baseball team - a horrible one at that.

Instead of putting what little money we have toward programs truly in need, Crist decided a priority of the state should be to figure out how to contribute money to the Rays' ,450-million proposal to build a new waterfront, open-air, downtown stadium.

With a budget shortfall of ,1.5 billion next year, according to the St. Petersburg Times, the state would have to cut programs involving public education and human services in order to build the stadium.

Obviously our public universities are no match for a baseball team with one of the worst records in the major league.

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"I think the opportunity to create an ambiance right on the waterfront in St. Petersburg is brilliant, I really do," Crist said.

So, if we really look at the core of this issue, Crist potentially wants to throw away millions of dollars for "ambiance." But not just any ambiance. Only the type of ambiance waterfront property can offer.

I finally understand why Crist was so hesitant to help UF with its money problems - our university doesn't have waterfront potential!

Oh, man. If I only knew that beforehand, I would have never attended this university. We're at least an hour and a half away from the beach. The Swamp doesn't hold a candle to Tampa Bay. All our educational achievements mean nothing.

Crist, who once worked for Major League Baseball in the minor league office, was so eager to support this measure that he flew to New York earlier this year to state his pledge to baseball officials. Maybe if we offered him free tickets to every sporting event at UF, he would take that sort of initiative to show support for us. But that two-hour drive to Gainesville from Tallahassee must be a killer.

Is baseball really not the same if it's not on the waterfront? Is it really that much more important than education and public programs? I don't get it - must be a Seminole thing.

Yes, a stadium would create jobs. Sure, a stadium would be good for the economy. But such a measure comes at too great a price. We should not have to sacrifice our educational opportunities and human services essentially because our governor loves baseball.

You want waterfront ambiance combined with your favorite sport, Crist? Go to a Fantasy Baseball camp on the beach.

Until then, let's educate our population so people can get better jobs than those offered at a baseball stadium.

Stephanie Rosenberg is a junior majoring in journalism. Her column appears on Thursdays.

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