Wednesday, January 17, 2018
News Roundup

Hooper: Fix a fatal stretch of Hillsborough Avenue now

The news wrenched Owen Young's gut.

It always does.

Whenever the Middleton High principal learns that a car has struck one of his students trying to cross Hillsborough Avenue, it shakes his soul.

"It's like, not again," said Young, still grappling with the death of 15-year-old Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, who was hit by a car March 18 along with her 14-year-old sister, Victoria, still in Tampa General.

"You're hoping that the child is okay, but you almost know the severity when you hear it's an accident — understanding the speed of the cars, the inability of students to size up getting across the road. It almost puts you in a position of holding your breath.

"You want to hear the good news, that everyone is safe, but you know there's a strong possibility of a fatality arising out of any call coming from Hillsborough Avenue."

Cars have struck four students in the last 2 1/2 years trying to cross the busy thoroughfare between 22nd and 30th streets. It's a problematic stretch on a road that is deceptively dangerous for both drivers and pedestrians. Not only do students dart into traffic instead of using the crosswalks, but there's a flurry of cars switching lanes or entering the road from retail outlets and side streets.

Young will not wait for another fatality. He's counseling his students — even bringing in a speaker from the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation Research. He's acquiring reflective strips and blinking lights students can attach to their backpacks. He's on the public address system every day preaching safety.

But Young really wants action instead of words, community solutions instead of cautionary tales.

"It's at a point where we have to come up with some kind of strategic plan for that area," Young said. "There's a culture and a situation that's going to produce the same results if we don't act quickly.

"If there's already been two deaths, what's it going to take, four or five more lives, to meet a price that's suitable to put a safe pathway over or across Hillsborough Avenue?

"They say it would cost a million dollars to build a (pedestrian) overpass. My question is, What is a life worth?"

The Florida Department of Transportation oversees Hillsborough Avenue, also known as U.S. 92 and State Road 600. It has promised to pull crash data on the area, as it did in 2011 after a pickup truck struck and killed Middleton student Shenika Davis, 15, in the vicinity of last week's accident.

However, the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization released a "congestion management, crash mitigation" report chock-full of ideas that can help calm traffic in the stretch of Hillsborough that runs from Interstate 275 to 50th Street. With yet another death, the report seems the perfect starting point to crafting real solutions instead of talking about more data.

On April 5, Young will lead the school's fifth annual "Ride For Education," an event expected to draw hundreds of motorcyclists. Given the timing, this year's ride will focus on raising funds for the Velasquez-Cabrera family.

"The community has to help in the process of making it known that it is unacceptable for children to be killed crossing a street," Young said.

I hope the community comes out for the ride and subsequent "TigerFest" at the school seeking solutions.

The solutions are apparent, but the commitment is lacking. The memories of Shenika Davis and Norma Velasquez-Cabrera should change all of that.

That's all I'm saying.

Comments
The Daystarter: Freeze watch is in effect; accused Seminole Heights killer in court today; examining Tampa Bay’s grad rates; local crabber’s ‘lucky’ life

The Daystarter: Freeze watch is in effect; accused Seminole Heights killer in court today; examining Tampa Bay’s grad rates; local crabber’s ‘lucky’ life

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.• The cold is back Tampa Bay. Wednesday will see highs in the 60s and then it gets worse from there, dropping down to the 20s and 30s overnight. The region is under a free watc...
Updated: 25 minutes ago
Man accused in Seminole Heights killings in court today

Man accused in Seminole Heights killings in court today

TAMPA — The man accused in a string of killings in Seminole Heights homicides will be in court Wednesday morning for a status hearing.Howell Emanuel Donaldson III was arrested Nov. 30, hours after he gave a bag that held a gun to a fellow employee of...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Meteor? Bright light, loud noise rattle Michigan residents (w/video)

Meteor? Bright light, loud noise rattle Michigan residents (w/video)

DETROIT — The National Weather Service says the bright light and what sounded like thunder in the sky across the Detroit metropolitan area may have been a meteor. Meteorologist Jordan Dale says the weather service hasn’t been able to confirm that it ...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Deputies conducting homicide investigation in Tampa

Hillsborough County deputies are conducting a homicide investigation after a man was found dead in the Grant Park area of Tampa early Wednesday morning.Deputies say the man was found at 3703 Carroway Street.The circumstances surrounding the death are...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Navy files criminal charges in connection with deadly ship collisions, including negligent homicide

Navy files criminal charges in connection with deadly ship collisions, including negligent homicide

Washington PostFive Navy officers involved in ship collisions that killed a combined 17 sailors last year will face a variety of criminal charges, including negligent homicide, the service announced Tuesday night.The individuals include Cmdr. Bryce B...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Local crabber feels like it’s a ‘lucky’ life

Local crabber feels like it’s a ‘lucky’ life

A fading gray-and-white float bobs in the river on a recent morning, and Gus Muench moves toward it, navigating his flat-bottomed boat in the shallow water. After he stops the engine, he uses a hooked pole to pull the float closer and grabs the line ...
Published: 01/17/18
Pinellas sheriff, feds to announce changes to immigration detention policies

Pinellas sheriff, feds to announce changes to immigration detention policies

Law enforcement and federal immigration officials will announce today new efforts around the use of immigration detainers.The detainers, or requests from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement that local jails hold onto people suspected of being in...
Published: 01/17/18
Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

Steve Martin and Martin Short talk touring together and ‘newfangled old-fashioned’ variety show

It’s barely been a year since Steve Martin and Martin Short last brought their roadshow to town. But there was never a doubt in their minds they’d be back."We thought — and I seriously mean this — we’ve got to play Florida more." Martin said in a pho...
Published: 01/17/18
With help from neighbors, Dunedin  food pantry is moving to bigger digs

With help from neighbors, Dunedin food pantry is moving to bigger digs

BY PIPER CASTILLOTimes Staff WriterDUNEDIN — It has been only two years since the board of directors began operating Dunedin Cares from Faith Lutheran Church, inside a 600-square-foot community room. Already volunteers have handed out upwards of 100,...
Published: 01/17/18
We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought

We tried eating the recommended serving of fruit and vegetables for a week, and it was harder than we thought

I sat at my desk eating chunked pineapple straight out of the can, reading about how much fruit and vegetables we should all be eating every day: 1 1/2 to two cups of fruit, 2 1/2 to three cups of vegetables, at a minimum, per the United States Depar...
Published: 01/17/18