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Tampa Bay and Florida stories to watch in 2011

Though there will be plenty of news we don't expect in 2011, here are some stories that already bear watching for sure. Times staff

Will we get to work?

Jobs are still the biggest thing on the minds of Florida residents. With Gov.-elect Rick Scott making bold promises, but the private sector not doing much hiring, watch to see how many jobs are created each month and what happens to the unemployment rate. Will we still be above 10 percent locally a year from now? Many experts say yes.

What will public education look like a year from now?

With the revival of an effort in the Legislature to kill teacher tenure and enact other changes, and with Scott's administration looking at voucher-like plans for all, the public school system could see big transformations.

Who will be the next Tampa mayor?

A large field is running for the region's most powerful political post in March — some political newcomers, some veterans like Rose Ferlita, Bob Buckhorn, Ed Turanchik and Tom Scott, and some real veterans like two-time Mayor Dick Greco. The winner will have the most visible bully pulpit in the bay area.

Where will the Rays call home?

The battle lines have been drawn: Owner Stu Sternberg wants to look around the region for a new stadium spot. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster wants the team to stay in St. Petersburg or close by. It will likely be a slow process, but will 2011 see the pendulum swing to one side or the other?

Will Florida embrace trains?

Courtesy of the federal government, the money is there for a high-speed rail line from Orlando to Tampa. But will Scott accept it? And will the bay area come up with another plan for light rail after a tax defeat in Hillsborough in 2010? Perhaps it's Pinellas' turn to take the lead as communities around the country beef up their rail options.

Will there be progress on homeless issues?

A new-concept homeless shelter opens this month at the Pinellas County Jail under the watch of Sheriff Jim Coats — a place to keep homeless people arrested for public nuisance violations out of the criminal system. In the eyes of Mayor Bill Foster, it's also a way to get more homeless off St. Petersburg's streets. Will the experiment succeed or founder?

Will the most shocking crime of 2010 come to a courtroom?

Tampa police Officers Jeffrey Kocab and David Curtis were gunned down in June. After a lengthy manhunt, Dontae Morris was captured and charged with their murders. Will 2011 see a trial in the case? These things move slowly; the case of Humberto Delgado, accused of killing Tampa police Officer Mike Roberts in 2009, is still awaiting trial.

Will "fair districts" be a game changer?

The once-a-decade process of redrawing legislative and congressional districts will take on a new look in Florida, thanks to a pair of constitutional amendments voters passed in November. The "fair districts" amendments call for drawing seats without regard to protecting incumbents or favoring political parties. Will they work, or get mired in court battles?

What happens to Jim Norman?

Federal officials launched an investigation into now-state Sen. Jim Norman in 2010 after revelations that political backer Ralph Hughes gave Norman's wife $500,000 for an Arkansas home in an investment Norman did not disclose. Will the investigation result in charges, or will it clear the former county commissioner?

What will jurors say to John Kalisz?

In one deadly day last January, the roofer is accused of gunning down his sister and her co-worker near Brooksville and wounding two others, then driving north to Dixie County and killing a sheriff's captain. The first of his murder trials is slated for March in Cross City, though prosecutors there hope to delay until after his trial in Brooksville, as yet unscheduled.

Is it safe to cycle again?

2010 was a deadly year for bicyclists on bay area roads. The spate of fatal crashes led activists to call for better bike lanes and more awareness. Will it do any good?

Will our houses sell?

The local housing market has been among the worst in the country. Many are predicting no better in 2011. Key indicators: how many mortgages become delinquent and how many go into foreclosure. Even if both measures hold steady rather than go up, it could signal good news. But the number of mortgages beyond 90 days past due are exploding. Not a positive sign.

Tampa Bay and Florida stories to watch in 2011 01/01/11 [Last modified: Saturday, January 1, 2011 11:13pm]
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