Friday, February 23, 2018
News Roundup

Can the spirit of Occupy Tampa survive?

In the best spirit of healthy public dissent, Occupy Tampa was once a daily irritant, a force of devoted protesters waving signs and Fighting The Man on a busy downtown street.

Given the polarized state of our nation, we needed a good protest, even one derided as unfocused, ineffective and unwashed. They were willing to brave police, hard sidewalks and cold rain to say things aren't right.

Seven months later on the eve of the Republican National Convention — their biggest reason to protest yet — Occupy occupies an out-of-sight, out-of-mind patch of hardscrabble West Tampa. Only 2 miles from former center stage, it might as well be Montana. You can almost hear the collective fist-bumping of those who prefer downtown to stay just so with important company coming.

But even in new digs, there is trouble. Neighbors worried about cleanliness and safety signed a petition saying it had devolved into a homeless camp. Among the comments: "Dirty bums." "Eye sore." "Smells."

A clerk at a nearby store told the Times' Justin George: "They're not real active, so I don't know why they call themselves activists." Slack‑you‑py Tampa, someone joked the other day.

The question, then: Can the spirit of Occupy survive?

It seems fitting that, weary of clashes with police downtown, occupiers found shelter in Voice of Freedom Park, which is owned by strip club king Joe Redner — a one-time major migraine for city officials, who was once arrested after he declined to go to an official "protest zone" at a political event himself.

(Disappointing RNC program note: Redner won't be here for the biggest chance yet to thumb his nose at the powers that be. He's scheduled to speak at a gentlemen's club expo in Vegas. Hey, do you hear that fist-bumping again?)

This week at the park I found a rag-tag cluster of six tents flanked by an old school bus and a small garden, occupied only by a nice couple planning on moving soon, plus a cat and her kittens. The brutal heat, I'm told, has driven people to libraries and friends' homes.

The matter of the unhappy neighbors goes to the City Council July 19. But here is evidence of the spirit of Occupy: The group cleaned up and pushed tents back so half the park is not occupied. They reached out to the neighborhood to ask how to make things better.

Inroads are acknowledged, though residents still worry about an influx of occupiers for the RNC, and what happens after. They do not want a permanent tent city in their midst.

"I don't care what all their political stuff is," Mike Vannetta, president of the Old West Tampa Neighborhood Association and crime watch told me. "We've just been trying to clean up the neighborhood."

Once more: Can the spirit of Occupy survive?

Activist Tristan Lear acknowledges criticism about a lack of focus but also says it's a fledgling movement. And here's something: They've been talking about focusing on Tampa housing problems, foreclosures in particular. Sounds like a promising purpose.

For now, Occupy Tampa perseveres like a weed stubbornly poking through a crack in a city sidewalk. But without real change, a movement against what's wrong in the world looks to have about as much chance for survival as that citified weed.

Comments
Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

Former Florida congressmen say gun control measures need to go much further

TAMPA — A bipartisan pair of former congressmen spoke Friday about gun safety measures that are more drastic than those being considered following the Parkland school shootings, and about hopes for a national youth movement comparable to the 1960s an...
Updated: 29 minutes ago
Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

Indiana man killed, two hurt as boats collide on Little Manatee River

RUSKIN — Arthur D. Showley, 75, went fishing early morning Friday morning, something he did two or three times a week, friends said. When they saw his car and trailer still parked near a community boat ramp at 2 p.m., they thought that was strange."H...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

Restricting bullets rather than guns might cut toll of school shootings, some experts say

This is the sad new math in the age of school slaughter.If one student comes to school with a firearm and 10 ammunition magazines filled with 30 bullets each, and another comes with a firearm and 30 magazines filled with 10 bullets each, who can crea...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

Epilogue: Lee Davis, businessman and adventurer, survived many a scrape

TAMPA — Friends and family have a saying about Lee Thornton Davis Jr. Once you met him, even for just a moment, you knew him forever."He was the most outgoing person I’d ever met," Dick Greco said, which is something coming from Tampa’s gregarious, 8...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

Edward Peachey demands severance from CareerSource before stepping down

The head of the Pinellas and Hillsborough career centers under multiple investigations into the way they report job placement figures says he has no intention of stepping down.That’s unless he is paid five months severance.In a letter from his attorn...
Updated: 2 hours ago
She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

She’s taught at the Parkland high school for 14 years. Can she go back?

PARKLAND — She was afraid of what it would feel like, but she needed to know, so Melissa Falkowski pulled into the faculty parking lot. She took a deep breath in through her nose and climbed out of her car. She was back, in front of Marjory Stoneman ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
The real Jefferson Memorial has a statue, but this one has a jukebox

The real Jefferson Memorial has a statue, but this one has a jukebox

The building was in its infancy when a vintage Cadillac Eldorado rumbled up the construction path. Getting out, the driver demanded to know what the finished structure was intended for.Told that it would be a private home, the driver scoffed. The uni...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Editorial: Improve school security plans with gun controls

Gov. Rick Scott and key members of the Florida Legislature offered ambitious proposals Friday that would plug some holes in the state’s safety net, strengthen school security and spend up to a half-billion dollars in response to last week’s massacre ...
Updated: 3 hours ago

Updated: 3 hours ago
Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

Terminally ill Valrico man dies a month after marrying junior high sweetheart

VALRICO — During his final few days, 19-year-old Dustin Snyder moved to a hospice house, surrounded himself with belongings from home, swam in a pool and visited the beach in Ruskin.Wherever he went, the terminally ill Valrico man had family beside h...
Updated: 3 hours ago