Wednesday, April 25, 2018
News Roundup

Romano: He’s willing to risk his career rather than stay silent on guns

Everyone is talking. Loudly, brashly and with misguided certitude.

The gun debate has elicited opinions from teenagers in South Florida, all the way to the Oval Office, and into every dark corner of the internet.

Yet in Tampa Bay, only one voice has been willing to risk his career to voice his conviction. Such a loud statement from such a soft-spoken man.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller is asking his colleagues to vote this week to ban assault-style weapons in the county.

He offered the proposal after talking with the county administrator, the county attorney and his family. He offered it after being advised he could be removed from office and fined $5,000 under a state law that forbids local gun legislation. He offered it after being told that if fellow commissioners agreed with him, the ban would still carry no weight since it would be superseded by state law.

Even so, he does not believe his gambit is without meaning.

"Maybe if we can start a conversation,’’ Miller said Friday, "we’ll finally see some action.’’

Miller is not the only one with a proposal. City commissioners in Coral Gables have advanced a local ban that could be voted on and enacted this week. Some mayors around the state also are talking about a constitutional amendment that could overrule state statutes.

Meanwhile, state leaders in Tallahassee have spent two weeks bickering in weary and predictable ways. Their willingness to listen is directly proportional to the demographics of their primaries.

Miller understands the dynamics. He was a legislator in the state House and Senate for 14 years. He also understands the local leaders who support his views but are wary of enlisting in the fight.

They do not have the perspective of a father who spent 18 days and nights in a Tallahassee hospital as his son recovered from multiple gunshot wounds.

Trey Miller was at a Florida A&M graduation party at a bar and grill in 1997 when a dispute from an unrelated group of men led to gunfire. Five people were shot. Trey took a bullet just below his heart.

"You can’t imagine how gut-wrenching it is to hear your child has a 50/50 chance of making it through the night," Miller said. "I’ve reflected on the pain and agony of that night, and I’ve thought about the parents who sent their children to school expecting them to be safe. And the people who went to a nightclub in Orlando to have a little fun and were never seen alive again.

"I’m not saying we shouldn’t have the right to bear arms. I’m saying the right to bear arms should not include assault weapons.’’

This is not a new position for Miller. Years before the incident with Trey — who is now a Tampa police officer — Miller introduced legislation in the House to ban assault weapons.

Predictably, it went nowhere.

We’ve been having the same debates for more than 20 years. Do you solve crime and violence with more guns, or fewer? Does a weapon with greater firepower make us safer, or more vulnerable? Should the Second Amendment be all-encompassing, or reasonably tempered?

The problem is there are no absolute answers, only differing shades of acceptable.

Where we lose is when we stop listening. Or, worse, when voices are silenced.

That’s what makes Miller’s stance important. Prodded by the political clout of the NRA, the state Legislature made it illegal for locally elected officials to advocate on this issue.

They became so beholden to the Second Amendment that they, more or less, trampled on the First Amendment.

Polls say more Floridians agree with Miller than disagree. And yet, he is facing fines and removal from office for doing his job as a public servant. No matter where you stand on gun issues, that should give you pause.

"I don’t know how my fellow county commissioners will vote. I don’t know if the governor will come after me,’’ Miller said. "What I do know is that something has to be done.’’

Comments
A religious group has settled in a big pink house in Clearwater. Neighbors aren’t happy.

A religious group has settled in a big pink house in Clearwater. Neighbors aren’t happy.

CLEARWATER — The first thing John Trevena noticed about his new neighbors was the color of their house: Pepto-Bismol pink.It didn’t worry Trevena, a criminal defense lawyer who moved into the three-bedroom rental home next door in 2015."I knew it was...
Updated: 4 minutes ago
Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

Sprouts Farmers Market to open new store in Pasco County

TRINITY — Pasco County will be getting its first Sprouts Farmers Market, the organic grocery chain announced Wednesday. The new store will open at the Village at Mitchell Ranch on State Road 54 and Little Road. Officials with the speciality store did...
Updated: 6 minutes ago
Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

Duke Energy announces new Florida leadership

The head of Duke Energy Florida is leaving the post to take a new role with the parent company of the electric utility.Harry Sideris was appointed this week to serve as vice president and chief distribution officer overseeing Duke Energy’s six-state ...
Updated: 17 minutes ago
Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

Circle K launching own gas at eight Hillsborough locations

TAMPA — Circle K is converting the gas station portion of eight of its Hillsborough locations to Circle K fuel. Previously, the fuel was provided by other brands, such as Shell. The new Circle K branding also brings with it the Canadian-owned conveni...
Updated: 18 minutes ago
DNA linked former police officer to serial killings

DNA linked former police officer to serial killings

SACRAMENTO — A DNA match in the past six days tied a former police officer to some of the crimes committed by a California serial killer behind at least 12 homicides and 45 rapes throughout the state in the 1970s and ‘80s, police officials announced ...
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Rays bring Jonny Venters back to majors

Rays bring Jonny Venters back to majors

The Rays have called up LHP Jonny Venters, the former Braves star reliever who has not pitched in the majors since 2012.Venters, 33, had been at Triple-A Durham, posting a 1.59 ERA in 5 games, after a strong showing this spring for the Rays.He has re...
Updated: 30 minutes ago
For starters: Rays at Orioles, weather permitting (again)

For starters: Rays at Orioles, weather permitting (again)

The Rays and Orioles are going to try again to play tonight, though the tarp was on the field this afternoon and a light rain falling with heavier precipitation expected later.The Rays, who called up veteran reliever Jonny Venters this afternoon, are...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Sheriff: Sunlake SRO who took down student ‘did what he had to do’

Sheriff: Sunlake SRO who took down student ‘did what he had to do’

At a news conference on Wednesday, Nocco identified the officer as Richard Stackon, who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1994. Stackon has spent "several years" as an SRO, Nocco said, and he had nothing in his file "that stands out." Around 1 p.m., Noc...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State Road 54 closed after state trooper injured in crash

State Road 54 closed after state trooper injured in crash

WESLEY CHAPEL — A motorist suffered a medical emergency and crashed into six cars at a Wesley Chapel traffic light Wednesday, injuring a trooper, the Florida Highway Patrol said.The trooper, whose injuries were not life threatening, was airlifted to ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

Yelp search results reflect racist stereotype that Asian restaurants serve cat and dog

A strange thing happened when typing "dog menu" into the restaurant ratings website and app Yelp. It automatically generated suggested searches. There were dog massage, hot dogs, pet groomers. Also: "dog meat." But it got more disturbing. Take Yelp...
Updated: 1 hour ago