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Tuesday, Sep 30, 2014
Steve Otto Columns

Otto: Potty parity in Florida didn't happen overnight

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Commenting on Monday's column on Helen Gordon Davis, who is being honored this evening, Kathy Betancourt wanted to ensure you had the right information on how potty parity came to be.

Betancourt was the longtime lobbyist for the University of South Florida and our local governments in Tallahassee. She writes:

"Thank you for calling attention to Helen Gordon Davis' wonderful contributions to improving the quality of life for Floridians. While her impressive record includes many statutory changes, the so-called 'potty-parity' bill seems to capture the most attention and is sometimes confused with another backward law, one requiring women to pay a tax to use the ladies room.

"Senator Davis' potty-parity bill, passed in the early '90s, required that new public venues would provide adequate facilities for women and girls. Long lines at publicly financed stadiums and performing arts halls were intolerable. The waits for the men's rooms were just fine. It was not unusual for frustrated women to take over a men's room in order to make the second half of a performance or sporting event. I happily confess to taking part in such a revolutionary act more than once.

"I believe that our fantastic Straz Center was one of the first venues in Florida which was designed in accordance with the law. We can be proud that unlike others, the decision-makers on that world-class complex did not fight modernity.

"The nasty dime-in-the-door ladies room requirement at the old Tampa International Airport was a whole different source of resentment. ... Unlike Senator Davis' amendment to state law, the elimination of the ladies room tax was a local change. It is appropriate to give credit where credit is due. The strategy which led to its repeal was enabled by the good efforts of another public servant, former County Commissioner Fran Davin.

"The ladies room tax was eliminated in 1972. It is hard to believe it was twenty years later when potty parity became state law."

v vAn email zipped in from a reader following the Tampa City Council's vote to allow chickens in the city limits: "Do the city council persons who voted for chickens in backyards expect to open a 'Rent a Rooster' business? The Tampa citizens who expect to get eggs from their chickens have a rude awakening coming. HELLOOO!" The writer didn't want her name used, probably fearing her house would get egged.

v vFinally, D.E. Hobbs weighed in on the new grading scheme the Florida Board of Education has come up with. "It is the height of hypocrisy,'' he wrote. "If I, as a teacher, had changed or given a grade that was not deserved, I would have been challenged or fired. ... When I taught school and Jeb Bush started the school grading system my school received an 'F' the first year. Did they whitewash the grade? No they did not and we vastly improved the next year.

"Years later we have a grading fiasco in Florida. They don't give actual grades but what makes them feel better."

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