Editor’s Note: As fate would have it, just as I’m finishing up my children’s book Uleyli: The Princess & Pirate about Tampa, Florida’s own Pocahontas– Ulele– the city goes and removes the statue of her erected by a local businessman. The statue was located in front of his restaurant, also named Ulele, on Tampa’s riverwalk. The stated reason for this removal was a code violation. Read the story below:
City owes Gonzmart and Princess Ulele more than a notice of code violation
By Daniel Ruth, Tampa Bay Times
This has to be height of bureaucratic pettiness, especially for a city whose track record in promoting quality public art falls somewhere between stick figures and finger puppets.
Richard Gonzmart is a community treasure. As the force behind a number of Tampa Bay eateries, most notably the Columbia Restaurant, Ulele, Goody-Goody and other terrific dining destinations, Gonzmart is also a generous philanthropist and developer.
Last year, Gonzmart paid for the creation and installation of an 1,800-pound, 8-by-8-by-6-foot bust of Ulele, a Native American princess and restaurant namesake just outside the business along Tampa’s Riverwalk. It is (or was) a beautiful piece of artwork honoring Tampa’s earliest history.
But the city ordered the bust to be removed on the dubious argument Ulele had been placed on public land without official government approval. Ah, the clipboard police have struck again.
Gonzmart told the Tampa Bay Times’ Paul Guzzo that Ulele’s eviction was the handiwork of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, which hizzoner denied.
If that’s the case, Buckhorn could have easily stepped into the fray and ordered Princess Ulele to be put back where she belongs. After all, where’s the fun in being mayor if you can’t throw your weight around from time to time? Then again, maybe the mayor already has.
It would seem the petulant attack on Gonzmart and his beloved statue is more than a little ridiculous. After all, for decades the city has been played for chumps by all manner of “artistes” who have foisted off some truly horrible, dreadful, bad, really bad so-called artwork from exploding chickens, to giant slinkies, to, well, “What the heck is that thing anyway?”
Princess Ulele is a lovely piece of work, both artistically and historically. You would think the city of Tampa would be overjoyed to have a piece of art honoring the area’s Native American contributions prominently displayed along the Riverwalk.
The mayor’s flack, Ashley Bauman, told the Times, “Alongside a Riverwalk that we have worked hard to keep free of clutter. The codes apply to everyone and nobody has the liberty of erecting structures on property that does not belong to them.”
Oh puleeze. Can Bauman spare us all the ripe phony indignation hooey?
Clutter? Really? A moving piece of art paying tribute to an early and important Tampa historical figure is regarded by City Hall as “clutter”?!?!