Saturday, December 16, 2017
News Roundup

Les Miller's statements went too far

Through the course of her political career, I've often found myself on the opposite end of Ronda Storms' political views.

I'm still disappointed that as a Hillsborough County commissioner, she led an effort in 2005 to have the county ban any recognition of gay and lesbian pride month.

It was a slap at equality.

I disagreed when as a state senator she tried to get a bill passed to stop food stamp recipients from purchasing "junk food."

Punishing the poor.

And I wasn't happy when in 2000 she made a comment about Tampa's bid to become the home of the new Florida A&M law school. She opposed tax dollars being used for the historically black university's law school and added, "We can get them (minorities) through law school, but we can't get them … to pass the Bar."

Later, after drawing a flurry of criticism, Storms refused to back down, telling a reporter, "It's guilt money. This is so white people can pat themselves on the back."

The statements offended a lot of people, including FAMU alumni and me, a man whose parents devoted their entire lives to teaching at FAMU.

But in revisiting her choice of words, we have to be careful about drawing conclusions.

The FAMU law school controversy arose anew this week in a commentary that County Commissioner Les Miller, an African-American, wrote for the Tampa Tribune about Storms' campaign to become the next Hillsborough property appraiser.

In lending support to Storms' opponent, former state Rep. Bob Henriquez, Miller described Storms as "someone who is no friend of the African-American community." Miller also wrote that Storms "single-handedly scuttled the entire project by her words."

I appreciate Miller using his position to speak. But in this case, he went too far.

First of all, Storms' comments did not scuttle the county's efforts. Led by Mayor Dick Greco and Fred McClure, then a partner with the Holland & Knight law firm, the county eventually offered a bid package that included $1 million in seed money that came out of a tax surplus.

Storms opposed the allocation of those tax dollars. When asked at the time if her comments impacted Tampa's bid, FAMU spokesman Eddie Jackson said that while it wasn't a determining factor, "it certainly doesn't help."

However, Tampa's bid was ultimately ranked behind Orlando and Lakeland because of environmental concerns about the old Tampa Police Department building where the law school would have been initially housed. Orlando eventually won out.

Furthermore, Miller's characterization of Storms as no friend to the black community is far too broad of an attack. As a state senator, Storms worked to help solve problems for her constituents, including blacks and Hispanics.

I've seen it firsthand.

Some might argue that what I witnessed was mere lip service, but the truth is that she has done much of this work out of the spotlight.

I can't confess to know what's in Storms' heart when it comes to racial attitudes, but the suggestion she doesn't care about the black community struck me as unfair. We have to be careful about using racially charged statements.

When we're not judicious, we desensitize a public that is already starting to believe — wrongly — that we live in a postracial America. When we're not thoughtful, we risk drawing attention away from the issues that really matter.

Storms learned that lesson in 2000.

Miller may learn it now.

That's all I'm saying.

Comments

Bucs’ Gerald McCoy, Lavonte David out for Monday’s game vs. Falcons

TAMPA — As if containing All-Pro Julio Jones and the Falcons offense isn’t challenging enough, the Bucs will try to do so Monday night without perhaps their top defensive players, tackle Gerald McCoy and linebacker Lavonte David.On Saturday, Bucs coa...
Updated: 22 minutes ago
Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

Trump defends tax plan, proclaims economy set ‘to rock’

WASHINGTON — Closing in on the first major legislative achievement of his term, President Donald Trump on Saturday defended the Republican tax cut as a good deal for the middle class while boldly suggesting it could lead to explosive economic growth....
Updated: 1 hour ago
Aquarium reopens to divers

Aquarium reopens to divers

Florida Keys News BureauVisitors to Florida Keys Aquarium Encounters dive with among indigenous Keys fish Friday in Marathon. The attraction reopened Friday after closing just before Hurricane Irma hit the Florida Keys on Sept. 10. Although tourism f...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

Florida moves to control booming, invasive iguanas

MIAMI — With burrowing iguanas showing up in people’s toilets and damaging expensive sewer lines, Florida wildlife managers are stepping up efforts to control the state’s booming population of the wild, invasive reptiles. The Florida Fish and Wildlif...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Fan helps fund Miami Stadium’s historic marker

MIAMI — For thousands of kids who grew up in Miami, going to the old Miami Stadium in the Allapattah neighborhood was a part of coming of age. Opened on Aug. 31, 1949, with a game between the Miami Sun Sox and Havana Cubans, two Class B Florida Inter...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

Florida man sues for $2.8 million fishing tournament prize money

OCEAN CITY, Md. — Phil Heasley of Naples caught the fish of his life, but the $2.8 million in tournament prize money got away. Heasley reeled in a 6-foot white marlin last year off Maryland’s coast. But in a sign of how concerned some big money tour...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Romano: Some bullies survive beyond the schoolyard

Sometime soon, members of the Florida House will be asked to consider a solution for bullying in public schools. It’s a dubious idea based on the premise that students should flee their tormenters, and use voucher funds to attend a private school of ...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

Q&A with Syracuse coach Benoit Groulx about the Lightning’s next generation

DENVER — There might be one team in hockey hotter than the Lightning.It is Tampa Bay’s AHL affiliate, Syracuse.The Crunch has won 10 straight after Friday’s victory over Providence. Why is this important? While the AHL is a developmental league, the ...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning while battling a fire at a strip mall on W Waters Avenue, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the blaze started around 2:45 p.m. in the attic of L.A. Nail Supply, located at ...
Updated: 3 hours ago