Cleaning It Up

Not-so-cute Place Names

State Sen. Steve Geller (D-Hallandale Beach) has struck a small blow for justice with his bill to wipe out place names containing racial, ethnic, or religious slurs. Spurred by a news story last year citing the "Nigger Jim Hammock Bridge" in Hendry County as a leftover from the state's Jim Crow past, Geller wanted state and local mapping officials to stamp out offensive names like that. The legislature passed the measure in May.

Besides that delightfully named span, Geller and his staff sniffed out three other spots in the Sunshine State with the same kind of pre-Civil Rights Movement baggage. Judging by this soot-stained tube's Internet search of existing place names, there are more. Though Geller's four examples have all officially acquired new awkward-sounding, politically correct appellations, they are still occasionally referred to in maps and guides by names with that infamous n word.

But starting July 1, you should no longer have to stumble across the old, insulting variants when you go to the United States Geological Survey website, www.usgs.gov, or elsewhere. Rather than that nasty N word, you'll find much more politically correct lingo, like Negrotown Knoll and Negrotown Marsh in Highlands County, and Negro Head Point in St. Lucie County. The bridge in question is now solely, exclusively, and satisfyingly Negro Jim Hammock Bridge. Take that, Huckleberry Whatsyername.

Not limiting themselves to insults to one ethnic group, Geller's staff also looked for Florida locales that were insulting to non-blacks. They came up with Jap Rock in Delray Beach.

"We're don't want to rewrite history," said Geller's legislative assistant John Reid, noting that the bill was supported by the Sons of Confederate Veterans. "These are names that are relics of a darker past."

Of course, Geller's bill doesn't address the sticky issue of the officially sanctioned "Negro" nomenclature. That word has long been excoriated by many black people as condescending and associated with Uncle Tomism (the 2000 Census showed that only about 3 percent of black Americans still prefer that term to identify themselves).

There's a down side to Geller's law. Florida will probably no longer be featured on racist road trip itineraries, as bigots forsake Negrotown Knoll to celebrate atop, say, Darky Knob in Kentucky. (On their way out, a clunk to the scalp from Tailpipe's crusty pipe.)

Not that Florida ever took great advantage of the bigot travel industry. What do we have to compare to the inviting waters of Gook Creek in Michigan? Delray's Jap Rock is a pebble next to New York's Polack Mountain and California's Pickaninny Buttes. Tennessee boasts both Darky Tom Hollow and Whitey Hollow, but you have to go to Montana if you want to hang out in Dagotown and to Ohio to cross Kraut Creek.

Off With His Head

Rodney Mayo versus Mayor Lois Frankel, update:

When last we checked, at a May 27 city commission meeting, West Palm Beach Mayor Frankel was exploding in frustration at bar owner Mayo, who was griping about the city's crackdown on underage drinkers on Clematis Street. Frankel delivered the famous I-don't-like-you-I-want-you-out-of-my-city speech. There followed, on June 19 and 26, disruptive visits to Mayo's two clubs, Respectable Street and the Lounge, by teams of code enforcement officers.

Mayo (in an alarmed email): My worst fears have come true! [Why all the inspectors?] The only answer I had was that Mayor Frankel, for some reason, has a personal grudge against me and/or my businesses.

Frankel (laughing in comments to Tailpipe): A figment of his imagination.

Mayo (snorting sarcastically, in comments of his own): Very unusual that these state and local agencies were able to work so well together.

Frankel: He's bringing way too much attention to himself. He's imagining something with me that just doesn't exist.

West Palm Beach Assistant Police Chief Guillermo Perez: His places aren't really that much of a problem. We're not targeting anybody -- we're just doing more inspections.

Frankel: I told him he serves cold hamburgers at his restaurant, all right? He's an insignificant person in my life. He's so taken by his own self-importance that he has no concept of what Ideal with every day. I've got 10,000 businesses in this city. I don't even know this guy from -- I'm gonna be honest with you -- if you gave me a lineup, I could not pick him out.

Frankel(on second thought): Maybe I should have just ignored him. I usually ignore most trash that comes my way.

Geek Tax

This rusty cylinder would never admit to being a geek. But, let's face it, he does have the equipment. Desktop computer. Laptop. Wireless Internet. PDA. MP3 player. Hell, the 'Pipe's got it all.

But maybe not for long, thanks to the money-grubbing tax man in Tallahassee. On June 22, officials from the Florida Department of Revenue recommended to Gov. Jeb Bushthat our cash-strapped state tax private citizens about 7.5 percent annually on the value of their home computers and networks. The beauty of it is that Bush and his boys don't even need legislative approval, because the law allowing for the tax is -- technically -- already on the books.

That's right. In 2001, the Legislature expanded the substitute communications systems tax to include "any system capable of providing communications services."

Lawmakers didn't intend for the law to be used to tax home computers, insists Chris Hart, spokesman for ITFlorida, which represents the state's technology workers.

Everybody knows how much Jeb cares about making the state comfy for high tech innovation. When last the 'Pipe heard, the bill for the proposed new Scripps Research Institute campus in Palm Beach County had already raced past $1 billion.

"On the one hand, we're promoting innovation and claiming to be a partner of high-tech," Hart says. "On the other hand, we're taking actions like this."

Missing: One Hot Movie

Fahrenheit 9/11 was number one at the box office nationally its first weekend, and around here it drew around-the-block lines, not only at indie-oriented Sunrise Cinemas but also at national theater chains AMC and Regal.

But at the poshly appointed megaplexes of Muvico, the Fort Lauderdale-based company that is among the most profitable in the industry, Fahrenheit was nowhere to be found.

Blue-collar filmmaker Michael Moore's opus has drawn the apoplectic opposition of the far right, most notably from a California-based organization called "Move America Forward," and some theatergoers wondered whether Muvico had succumbed to those conservative machinations. But the company says the absence of the hottest film around is due to something else. Muvico spokesman Jim Lee says the company would love to show the proven money-maker, but that it can't reach a deal with Lion's Gate, the film's U.S. distributor.

"We negotiated the week before the film opened, we're negotiating this week, and we'll negotiate next week," Lee said.

Exactly what the hold-up is, Lee declined to say.

Dick Westerling of Knoxville-based Regal says his company had no problems getting the film. "It was handled in the usual manner," Westerling said.

Moore, a fellow emissions-clearing pipe if Tailpipe ever met one, will come around soon. That is, if Muvico really wants him to.

-- As told to Edmund Newton

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