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Date of Issue: June 16, 2005

The night before an Island Christmas
Islander Hooters
Rick Catlin Islander Photo: Bonner Joy

Islander reporter Rick Catlin looks over the Florida Press Association 2004 Better Weekly Newspaper Awards tabloid and The Islander's three awards. Catlin earned a first-place award for his humorous column, "The night before an Island Christmas," and an honorable mention in the category for in-depth news reporting. The newspaper also captured a third-place award for its 2004 hurricane section.

Having had the opportunity - some would say the penalty - of covering public meetings in all three Island cities, I've been asked on occasion by various Island elected officials to compare how each city conducts its business.

Fortunately for me, it would not be appropriate to give my opinion of any particular Island city's government. Each is unique in its own right.

The argument that Anna Maria owns the Island, Holmes Beach runs the Island and Bradenton Beach does all the work on the Island is, obviously, an inappropriate and untrue metaphor.

However, with malice toward no city and no Islander, with my opinions kept to myself, and with apologies to Clement Clarke Moore, I offer my own version of "The Night Before an Island Christmas."

"It was the night before Christmas and all through the Island, Bradenton Beach was looking for more tourists, Holmes Beach was wondering where to put the tourists and Anna Maria questioned why the Island even needed more tourists.

"The stockings were hung by the chimney with care, and Bradenton Beach decided to pay for a study to tell them why the stockings had to go by the chimney, Holmes Beach quickly wrote a check for the stockings, and Anna Maria asked why they were putting up holiday stockings in the first place.

"While visions of sugar plums danced in their heads, Bradenton Beach paid for a study to tell them that the original study on the stockings said put the sugar plums in the stockings, Holmes Beach was concerned that if the sugar plums were contaminated, the city could be sued, and Anna Maria said the sugar plums were non-native vegetation and should be removed from the city.

"When out on the lawn, there arose such a clatter, Bradenton Beach called the police, Holmes Beach passed a noise ordinance and Anna Maria blamed the noise on mainlanders from Manatee County.

But the noise was "a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer, with a little old driver so lively and quick, I knew in a moment, it must be St. Nick.

"Bradenton Beach then charged him $50,000 for a permit to park on the roof, Holmes Beach told him to park at the public beach, and Anna Maria said parking on a roof was illegal and held a series of meetings to discuss establishing a committee to study the parking problem.

"Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound, a bundle of toys he had flung on his back, and he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

"Bradenton Beach decided he used an improper entry and fined him another $50,000, Holmes Beach asked if the toys contained any hazardous materials that could lead to another lawsuit, and Anna Maria said no peddlers were allowed in the city.

"The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth, and the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath. That did it. All three Island cities concluded Santa was damaging the environment with his pipe smoke.

"He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work, and filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk, at which point Bradenton Beach asked if his work included building more condominiums, Holmes Beach read the site plan for filling the stockings and paid for a legal opinion, while Anna Maria waited until the stockings were filled, then called for an ordinance to ban such activity.

"And laying his finger aside of his nose, and giving a nod, up the chimney he rose; he sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle, and away they all flew like the down of a thistle.

"But I heard him exclaim, as he drove out of sight, "Merry Christmas to all, and to all stop the fight - amongst yourselves, so you can save Islanders a lot of money on taxes, services and infrastructure."