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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. Tim Tebow Week: 12 stories from his Tampa Bay tour

    Minors

    Alas, Tim Tebow Week — eight baseball games in eight nights that reunited Tebow with his Tampa Bay friends and admirers — is over. The fun ended Thursday night.

    St. Lucie Mets outfielder Tim Tebow meets fans and signs autographs before the beginning of the Mets at Threshers game at Spectrum Field on Thursday, Aug. 17, 2017 in Clearwater. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times

  2. Democrat Philip Levine won't attack Trump. Can he be Florida governor?

    Perspective

    If he decides to run, Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine will be the most enigmatic and unpredictable candidate for Florida governor in 2018.

    Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is introduced before speaking at a Tampa Tiger Bay Club meeting at the Ferguson Law Center in Tampa on May 19. (LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times)
  3. What you need to know for Friday, Aug. 18

    News

    Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what you need to know today.

    Read 'Hellfire from Above,' inside the Tampa Electric Co. power plant accident that left five people dead. [LUIS SANTANA | Times]
  4. Tampa is training ground for Team USA inline skating

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — The United States once dominated the sport known as international outdoor inline speed skating.

    Cotton Yarborough is one of five people from the Tampa Bay area on the national inline speed skating team. The team is competing in the world championships Aug. 27 in China. [Courtesy of Frank Holland]
  5. Grocery and hotel deals in reach for Tampa Encore project

    Economic Development

    TAMPA — After failing to land both Publix and Walmart, the Tampa Housing Authority says it is close to a deal to bring another well-known grocer to its Encore project.

    The Tampa Housing Authority's Encore project has housing like The Reed, pictured, but no retail. It is in talks to bring a grocer and two hotels to the site on the west side of Nebraska Avenue close to downtown Tampa.