by Steve Otto

Tampa Bay Online

July 10, 2009

You know, it was bad enough a couple of weeks ago when we were denied All-America City status, losing out to some towns that had never even held a Super Bowl, much less a Gasparilla.

What made it worse was that we were the host city for the event. Those people had a week of running up expense accounts at the Marriott Waterside downtown and still didn’t put us in their top 10.

But I just put it down to jealousy and moved on until this week, when I saw two surveys that didn’t do much to polish up our tarnished image.

The first came from a non-profit group in Wisconsin called Noise Free America. The idea of the group is to combat what it sees – or hears – as noise pollution in our cities.

The group handed Tampa one of its “Noisy Dozen” awards, which apparently are passed out monthly.

The award was given, according to a news release, for “refusing to take action against the avalanche of noise from boom cars.”

Boom town

The release goes on about Tampa, saying, “the humid subtropical climate allows noise makers to blast away year-round.” It notes that last month the “Tampa City Council decided not to pass a proposed noise ordinance intended to crack down on cars with booming stereos.”

The release criticizes the council and the Tampa Police Department for an apparent lack of interest in the matter.

To tell you the truth, once in a while those things bother me, but not often. I’m more concerned about those people who meander around or drive with those devices attached to their ears. Not only are they creepy, but if they are driving I suspect they are tuned in to another planet.

We’re No. 152

Which gets me to another survey. This one is from an insurance company, so you can make of it what you will. It is the annual All America’s Best Drivers Report, which ranks 199 cities according to their safe drivers. It measures things such as the likelihood of having a collision while driving in a particular town.

So, according to the survey, the safest town in America is Sioux Falls, S.D. Well, there’s a surprise. There aren’t any cars in Sioux Falls. I’ll bet if they measured the likelihood of tractor collisions, then Sioux Falls’ numbers would go sky-high.

Anyhow, Tampa came in at No. 152, which isn’t all that impressive. It might have been even worse if the survey takers had taken State Road 60 from Kennedy Boulevard toward the airport, where six or seven major arteries come together so quickly you’re never quite sure if you’re going to end up at the airport, in Clearwater or, more likely, at Tampa General Hospital.

They did correctly place Washington, D.C., at 199. Boston could have challenged but the survey, for some reason, did not include cities in Massachusetts.

For the record, St. Petersburg came in at 80. But my guess is, if you get rammed over here, it is just as likely to be someone from Pinellas County who is lost.