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Morning Watch: Florida professors working to block Trump's pick; Buckhorn helps restore Tampa's oldest burial ground; the 10 best college games ever played in Tampa; Eric Paslay talks music's best athletes

Here's what's new around the bay area this morning.

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BUCKHORN JOINS PUSH FOR OAKLAWN CEMETERY RESTORATION

At nearly 170 years old, Oaklawn Cemetery looks its age. Still, Tampa's first burial ground is in better shape today than it was a few months ago, thanks in part to the interest of Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

FLORIDA PROFESSORS JOIN EFFORT TO BLOCK JEFF SESSIONS AS ATTORNEY GENERAL

More than 30 law professors in Florida have joined a national effort opposing Sen. Jeff Sessions as Donald Trump's pick for attorney general, contending racial issues make him unqualified to lead the Justice Department. 

CHARLESTON SHOOTING SENTENCING BEGINS WITH ROOF ACTING AS OWN ATTORNEY

The same jury that last month unanimously found Dylan Roof guilty in the slayings of nine black parishioners at a South Carolina church is returning to court to contemplate his punishment. Dylan Roof is facing the death penalty, and serving as his own lawyer, though he has no plans to call any witnesses to the stand. 

OFFICIALS: CHARLES MANSON IS ALIVE

Amid reports that Charles Manson has been taken from his California prison cell to a hospital, a state corrections official would confirm only that the 82-year-old killer and cult leader was still alive.

SEMI DRIVES OFF I-75 IN TAMPA

[Hillsborough County Fire Rescue]

Westbound lanes on E Fowler Avenue were closed Wednesday morning after a semi ran off the roadway. According to Hillsborough County Fire Rescue, the roadway was closed after the semi ran off the northbound I-75 overpass and onto E Fowler Avenue.

MUSICIAN'S MOTORCYCLE DEATH HIGHLIGHTS FIGHT OVER U.S. 19 INTERSECTION

After a member of a local band died in a motorcycle wreck on U.S. 19 near Beach Boulevard in November, a petition seeking a traffic light at the intersection garnered more than 1,000 signatures. It was the second fatal crash at the intersection since 2015, and since the Florida Department of Transportation reconfigured the intersection to prevent left turns onto U.S. 19 in 2013, according to state records.

SARASOTA SENATOR WANTS TO BAR SHORT-TERM RENTAL RESTRICTIONS

City and county governments would no longer be able to stop homeowners from renting their homes for less than a month or even just a week, under legislation a Sarasota Republican has filed. Currently cities and counties have varying rules statewide on rental properties, particularly on beachfront communities.

THE TOP 10 COLLEGE GAMES EVER PLAYED IN TAMPA

We're happy to give the occasion all the deference it deserves. When the third College Football Playoff National Championship Game is staged Monday night at Raymond James Stadium, we'll douse it with watershed-moment status. After all, how often has the bay area served as college football's epicenter? Locally, the contest will be groundbreaking, grand, even glitzy. But the greatest? Here are some other games that could take that title.

MADEIRA BEACH FERRY STRUGGLES IN EARLY GOING

Last fall a ferry service began at Madeira Beach amid much fanfare. The goal was to offer residents and visitors a new way of reaching restaurants, attractions and other destinations along the Intracoastal Waterway, but the Tampa Bay Ferry & Taxi, based at John's Pass Village, has yet to attract many riders. Ridership is averaging about a half-dozen people a day. Some days, there are no riders.

IMPACT FEES WOULD LET GOOD TIMES KEEP ROLLING IN HERNANDO

If your Realtor friends in Hernando County served anything less than top-shelf booze at their holiday parties, they were holding out on you. Chances are, they had a very good year. The volume of home sales in November in Hernando County, the most recent month for which figures are available, was up a whopping 19 percent from 12 months earlier. The median price for homes jumped 17.2 percent from the same time in 2015, to $140,500. 

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS FOR TV WATCHERS

[iStockphoto]

This year we'd really like to change some of our TV habits. No, we don't mean watching less and going outside and socializing more. Let's be realistic here. It's the era of Peak TV, and we'd like 2017 to be the year of TV productivity. So before a bunch of new stuff drops, here are our TV resolutions for 2017.

ERIC PASLAY TALKS FOOTBALL AND COUNTRY MUSIC'S BEST ATHLETES

Eric Paslay never played high school football. "They said I was too mean," the country singer and songwriter said with a laugh from his home in Nashville. "I wish I did sometimes, but then my knees don't feel too bad right now, so I'm glad I didn't in that sense. But I always love watching it." He'll have a front row seat this weekend in Tampa.

Oaklawn Cemetery was Tampa's first public burial ground. Efforts to restore it have drawn support from John McKay, member of a pioneer Tampa Bay family. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]

Oaklawn Cemetery was Tampa's first public burial ground. Efforts to restore it have drawn support from John McKay, member of a pioneer Tampa Bay family. [MONICA HERNDON | Times]

Morning Watch: Florida professors working to block Trump's pick; Buckhorn helps restore Tampa's oldest burial ground; the 10 best college games ever played in Tampa; Eric Paslay talks music's best athletes 01/04/17 [Last modified: Wednesday, January 4, 2017 9:26am]
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  1. Hillsborough and Pinellas officials can't even agree that they agreed to meet

    Local Government

    Tampa Bay political leaders often tout taking a regional approach to solve the region's most pressing issues. But the challenge has been getting Hillsborough and Pinellas County leaders together on the same page.

    Or in this case, in the same room.

    This month Hillsborough County administrator Mike Merrill (above) nixed a joint meeting of the Hillsborough and Pinellas County Commissions. But Pinellas County Commission chair Janet Long said her Hillsborough counterpart, Stacy White, had already agreed to two meetings. [DANIEL WALLACE   |   Times]
  2. Ex-sheriff's official says sheriff intentionally hid federal inmate revenue from county

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The former third-in-command at the Hernando County Sheriff's Office has filed a complaint, alleging that Sheriff Al Nienhuis intentionally hid from the County Commission $1.3 million in revenue he collected from housing federal inmates last year.

    OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times  Hernando County Sheriff Al Nienhuis said he was "extremely disappointed'' to hear of James Terry's allegations about the sheriff's handling of federal inmate dollars and noted that Terry was "offered the opportunity to resign from his position at the Sheriff's Office when numerous complaints as to his unprofessional conduct began flowing into the front office.''
  3. Fewer minions make things better in 'Despicable Me 3'

    Movies

    Despicable Me 3 doubles down on Steve Carell's silly way with words, a smart idea after too much Minions gibberish spoiled part 2. They're still here, in smaller doses and somewhat funnier for it.

     voiced by Trey Parker, in a scene from "Despicable Me 3."  (Illumination and Universal Pictures via AP)
  4. After Rick Scott veto, Tarpon Springs renews push for money to dredge Anclote River

    Local Government

    In a pocket formed at the end of a branch of the Anclote River, Kevin Meisman has seen the size of the boats coming by his family's business get smaller.

    Kevin Meisman, 37, looks out from the dock of his family’s business, Quality T-Tops & Boat Accessories, in Tarpon Springs. Meisman says that, without dredging along the Anclote River, the number of boats he can service is limited.
  5. Senator Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa