Daystarter: Proposal aims to catch heart surgery problems; Lightning depth scoring comes up big; what becomes of WMNF without Rob Lorei?

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Everything you need to know to start your day is at
Everything you need to know to start your day is at
Published February 20
Updated February 20

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.

• The weather forecast in one word: Hot. It won’t be typical February weather as the bay area will see near record-breaking temperatures in the 80s, according to the National Weather Service. There will be a 20 percent chance of rain inland and come this evening lows could reach the 60s.

• If President Donald Trump goes through with an idea to create a new space-focused branch of the military, Gov. Ron DeSantis said it should be in Florida. What better place for a Space Force than the Space Coast?

• Rob Lorei was fired this week from community radio station WMNF, which he helped found. What will it be without him?. So with this week’s stunning news that Lorei, WMNF’s well-known news and public affairs director, had been fired from the station he helped start, the trick is to keep it from sounding like an obituary.

• Hillsborough County school superintendent Jeff Eakins on Tuesday unveiled a $17 million plan to recruit teachers into the district’s 50 most troubled schools. Superintendent Jeff Eakins is aiming to staff schools that have a history of low performance.

• Sarasota Deputy Chief of Police Pat Robinson provided the “heartbreaking update” that the remains of Jabez Spann, 14, last seen in September 2017, were found in a field west of I-75 on Saturday. According to Robinson, a worker who was repairing a fence found the remains in an area that will remain unspecified during the course of the investigation and called 911.

• A woman who was fatally shot at a party early Sunday was a Florida Atlantic University student with deep ties to Tampa. Now Tony Marrero reports that the parents of 18-year-old Takiya Fullwood are asking for the public’s help to identify her killer.

• Eleven people with varied backgrounds have applied to be the University of South Florida’s next president, records provided by the university show. But that’s less than half the resumes that USF leaders said they’ve received in their search for the university’s next leader. Megan Reeves reports on the 11 candidates and the university’s slow release of information about who has applied for the top job.

• The state intends to seek the death penalty for Shelby Nealy, the 25-year-old man accused of killing three people in Tarpon Springs to cover up another murder. McKenna Oxenden explains what authorities believe happened and why this is now a death penalty case.

• The chairwoman of a powerful Florida Senate committee has filed a bill to dramatically increase oversight of children’s heart surgery programs. The bill is designed to prevent problems like those at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, which the Tampa Bay Times found experienced a sharp rise in heart surgery deaths.

• The Times reporters who reported on the serious problems at the Heart Institute inside Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Kathleen McGrory and Neil Bedi, have won the George Polk Award for their work. Read the entire report here.

• For the latest in Florida politics, make sure to check The Buzz.

• Safety concerns have kept the public out of downtown Tampa’s historic Jackson House for three decades. But Paul Guzzo reports that researchers are using laser scanning technology to record every inch inside the historic two-story structure. That will allow the creation of a 3D replica for virtual tours — or perhaps even help preservationists save a building that housed such visitors as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and James Brown during segregation.

Gulfport voters face a stark choice in the mayoral election between untucked, part-time bartender incumbent Sam Henderson and buttoned-down, retired executive challenger Frank Kemnetz.

Investor Ben Mallah, who bought a gulfront mansion for $16.5 million, is selling two other waterfront houses he owns. The Clearwater house is one of 10 homes and one of just three on the water in the gated enclave of Spottis Woode.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay including a Sushi Battle among Tampa’s top chefs, Chinese legends told through dance and music in Shen Yun and ukulele master Jake Shimabukuro.

Tampa Bay Times food critic Laura Reiley reflects on her decade in the job, and she offers advice on how to be a better diner. And her editor also reflects on what she has learned from Laura on the law of diminishing returns and how to prepare for a party.

• If you have tickets to a show at Ruth Eckerd Hall anytime soon, check out our list of 10 places to find a good meal before the show in Clearwater. And in case you missed it, we did a similar list of 10 places within walking distance of the Straz Center to grab a meal beforehand.

• New York City wealth management firm Dynasty Financial Partners is relocating its headquarters to downtown St. Petersburg later this year. Malena Carollo reports that the Greater St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation spent nearly a year courting the firm, which will relocate to the 15th floor of Priatek Plaza.

• Check out the Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.

• Read the Tampa Bay Times online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports.

Tampa Bay’s lineup changes didn’t affect the 5-2 win over the Flyers. It’s all about the depth. Nikita Kucherov may be the top scorer in the league and Steven Stamkos may be about to set the franchise goal record. But the depth is key for the Lightning.

• Spring training is here. Plan your spring training trips by using the Times’ handy 2019 spring training guide for Grapefruit League schedules, maps and daily planners.

• When talks for a new stadium in Ybor City collapsed in December, the Rays and Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred blamed Hillsborough leaders. Now Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg says the team could have been more aggressive in pushing to complete a deal for the $900 million project before the Dec. 31 deadline. He tells Marc Topkin that he should have pushed those officials “a little bit harder sooner” to make a Ybor ballpark happen.

• Get the latest Rays’ spring training news from Marc Topkin and follow him throughout baseball season on @Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays .

• MLB’s commissioner says the Rays are an example showing that payroll disparity isn’t the best measure of how successful a team can be. But columnist John Romano begs to differ, pointing out that while a big payroll does not guarantee success it does give teams a much better chance — and if revenue wasn’t important, then why do the Rays need a new stadium again?

• For the latest on the Lightning’s quest for the Stanley Cup, click here throughout the season and follow beat writers Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Mari Faiello at @faiello_mari.

• The Bucs could have a new third-down back next season. The team announced the signing of former Cardinals running back Andre Ellington, who will join his former coach Bruce Arians in Tampa Bay. That could also be an indication that the team may be ready to move on from veteran Jacquizz Rodgers, who will be a free agent.

• The Bucs have a new head coach and the NFL draft is just weeks away. Keep up with the latest offseason changes by following the Times’ Bucs page which is just a click away at For the latest team news on @Twitter, follow Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD and fellow beat writer Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.

• For the latest education coverage, make sure to read The Gradebook. And check out the Gradebook podcast as education reporter Jeffrey Solochek leads a weekly discussion about Florida education.

• The Times online Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.

• Check out the Times photo and video channels for the most compelling visuals.