04/09/15 Mass Transit
TAMPA — As the bus rumbled down Nebraska Avenue on Thursday, Kelvin Allen told U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor that he switches buses three times to get home from school most days.
Castor, D-Tampa, asked Allen, 25, to detail just how long and complicated the routes could get.
"He said it was a two- or three-hour trip to MacDill each day," Castor told Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority chief executive Katharine Eagan....
TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn does not believe there are systemic gender issues within his city's fire department, but he said Tuesday he has instructed the fire chief to look into changes that would give female firefighters more privacy.
Meanwhile, Tampa Fire Rescue Chief Tom Forward has issued a memo saying firefighters need to wear gym shorts and proper undergarments when in the department's open dorms, where both male and female firefighters sleep during their 24-hour shifts....
TAMPA — The county's transit agency began a three-month process Monday of reshaping its goals and budget for the upcoming fiscal year, including placing more emphasis on collaboration with other agencies.
Board members for the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority discussed its vision and core values as part of crafting a new strategic plan. While CEO Katharine Eagan presented a comprehensive view of the organization's current objectives — continuing to be an employer of choice, transportation agency of choice, and change agent for the area — board members chimed in with other objectives they'd like to see highlighted....
TAMPA — Nearly 40 years after the first female firefighter began working at Tampa Fire Rescue, a majority of the city's fire stations still lack designated women's bathrooms and private changing areas.
Many male firefighters wear boxers when they sleep in the open dorms at firehouses. But some female firefighters who sleep in T-shirts and underwear have become targets for vulgar and sexist insults....
TAMPA — As thousands gathered on the Amalie Arena plaza on Sunday, Jamie Shonk dribbled past cut-out guards and sank two lay-ups in a simulated game.
"We were surprised to see all of this activity and all of the people out here already," said Shonk, 40, of St. Petersburg, a former Division III college basketball player. "It's very cool to see women's basketball getting so much attention. It's come a long, long way."...
TAMPA — A Tampa Fire Rescue personnel chief retired with full benefits this month amid a sexual harassment investigation, and the woman who made the allegations is now facing a backlash on social media.
The fire department opened a formal investigation of David Solorzano, 55, when sworn firefighter Hannah Gray, now also retired with an on-the-job disability, told a lieutenant about the chief's actions. The lieutenant then filed a complaint. ...
TAMPA — People will have the chance to say "thank you" on Saturday to Vietnam veterans who never got a proper welcome home reception, unlike troops today who return to fanfare and gracious communities.
The Veterans Council of Hillsborough County in partnership with local leaders will honor these veterans, and the more than 58,000 troops killed during the conflict, on Saturday at Veterans Memorial Park. The ceremony is in conjunction with the Department of Defense's commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War....
TAMPA — The nightmarish commute between downtown Tampa and the Westshore area should finally improve this weekend as three spanking new lanes open on southbound Interstate 275.
Motorists on the 4.2-mile stretch will navigate fewer construction cones and have better sight lines. Two exits that were moved to the left will be shifted back to the right. The result, officials say, should be a less stressful drive....
TAMPA — If it wasn't clear before that people in different parts of Hillsborough County have different transportation needs, it is now.
Ruskin and Sun City Center residents bemoan the state of their intersections. Those in Lutz say better multiuse trails are good for families and allow more options for bicyclists and pedestrians. And over in West Tampa, attendees clamor for light rail....
TAMPA — Family members and friends gathered Sunday night to remember a 14-year-old boy who was shot and killed late Saturday during a birthday party in Sulphur Springs.
Richard Newton, 14, was at the outdoor birthday party, at 8105 Ninth St., when a fight broke out that escalated to gunfire around 10:30 p.m., according to Tampa police.
Newton was struck and died at the scene. Another person was shot and taken to the hospital, Lt. Richard Blasioli said....
PLANT CITY — The woman who was driving the minivan that ran over and killed her 2-year-old great-granddaughter shook with grief Thursday as she asked a judge to be reunited with the two other children in her care who call her "Mama."
Alice Barber, 69, struggled to tell the court the terrible details of how Izbella Bronson fell through the open door of the van.
"I would die in Izbella's place if I could," Barber told the judge, gasping through tears. "I have to live with what I did. I didn't know. I didn't mean to … I would give my life for her if I could."...
TAMPA — A federal judge has ruled in favor of the Church of Scientology, saying two former members must go through the church's internal arbitration process if they want a refund of more than $1.3 million in donations.
U.S. District Judge James D. Whittemore issued a 21-page order Friday stating that plaintiffs Luis and Rocio Garcia are bound by contracts they signed during their 28 years with the church that require them to use the arbitration process to get their money back....
03/01/15 Human Interest
By the barest of margins — a quarter of a hot dog, bun included — Nathan "Nasty Nate" Biller won the Nathan's Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest qualifying event Sunday night at the Florida Strawberry Festival.
Biller downed 23 dogs in 10 minutes. As he was declared the winner, the runner-up marched off the stage while the others cheered. To the audience, it looked like anger. But it was a more involuntary reaction than that....
TAMPA — Ride-share companies Uber and Lyft could operate legally in Florida if legislation filed Wednesday by Sen. Jeff Brandes passes this session, bringing an end to nearly a year of feuding with regulators in Tampa, Orlando and Miami.
Uber and Lyft have quarreled with regulators over whether they meet requirements for insurance, background checks and other safety issues. The Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission ordered a cease and desist and sought a court injunction against the two companies. Authorities in Miami-Dade impounded vehicles belonging to Lyft drivers, and Orlando passed regulation calling for a vehicle registration fee and a higher minimum fare for Uber and Lyft....
BRANDON — In the darkness at the end of a straight, tree-lined road, Apryl Foster's car passed through an open metal gate, flashed its turn signal and turned right.
That was how two of Foster's friends described the moments before the car slid down a boat ramp into the waters of Mango Lake, as recorded on a surveillance video from a nearby home.
The video, which sheriff's officials showed to Foster's family and friends after her body was found Sunday, convinced them that the 33-year-old's death was nothing other than an accident. ...