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Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers transportation, breaking news and features in Hillsborough County. She is a graduate of Indiana University, with her master's from the University of Maryland.

She's always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (813) 226-3401

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

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  1. Some aren't happy with Skipper's Smokehouse's free crab legs offer

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Social media commenters are attacking Skipper's Smokehouse for the seafood restaurant's plan to give Jameis Winston unlimited free crab legs if he's selected by the Tampa Bay Buccaneer's in Thursday's NFL draft.

    The former Florida State University quarterback was cited last year for stealing crab legs from a Tallahassee Publix, though he said last week it was a misunderstanding and he was "hooked up" with crab legs for free....

  2. Take Back the Night empowers survivors in Tampa

    News

    TAMPA

    As survivors of sexual assault led a march in Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to empower victims on Sunday evening, thoughts turned to what might happen in four days:

    Will the Tampa Bay Buccaneers select Jameis Winston — the Florida State University quarterback who was accused of rape in 2012, but never arrested or charged with a crime — with the No. 1 overall pick in Thursday's NFL Draft?...

    T-shirts with message about abuse ring Curtis Hixon Waterfont Park on Sunday night in support of sexual assault victims at the Take Back the Night event.
  3. Leaders in Hillsborough fret over public attendance in transportation push

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Some local leaders expressed concerns Wednesday that consultants haven't reached enough people after two months of meetings to build the consensus needed for a countywide transportation plan.

    About 1,400 people attended 26 meetings since February to weigh in on the future of transportation in Hillsborough County, Bob Clifford of consulting firm Parsons Brinckerhoff told a group of county and city leaders who have been discussing transportation for the past two years. The consulting firm will conduct 10 more meetings before composing a draft of a community transportation plan by May 26....

  4. Tampa firefighters reminded not to talk to media in wake of harassment allegations

    Fire

    TAMPA — Tampa firefighters are being reminded of a city policy prohibiting them from talking to the media after several female firefighters went public about privacy issues, outdated facilities, harassment and retaliation in the department.

    Fire Chief Tom Forward issued three memos last week after Mayor Bob Buckhorn announced changes "to accommodate all" at Tampa Fire Rescue, prompted largely by a series of recent reports in the Tampa Bay Times....

  5. Transit 'town hall' draws plenty of comments

    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....

    Bus passenger Delwin Cole, left, talks with city council member Mike Suarez as U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor chats with Kelvin Allen, right, during the Transit Town Hall sponsored by HART Thursday. They were traveling to north Tampa on a MetroRapid bus. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
  6. Mayor says Tampa Fire gender issues not systemic, but changes in the works

    Fire

    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....

    At an open dormitory at Tampa Fire Rescue’s Station 1 in downtown Tampa, male and female firefighters sleep next to each other with no separation for privacy. Personnel there can sleep in whatever clothing they want.
  7. HART board discusses transportation priorities, goals and budgets

    Transportation

    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....

  8. Women face multiple hurdles within Tampa Fire Rescue

    Fire

    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....

    Towels hang in a room next to the dormitory with showers that are available for men and women to use at Tampa Fire Rescue Station 1 in downtown Tampa. Female firefighters are able to use a separate bathroom, previously designated for officers.
  9. Women's Final Four draws enthusiastic crowd in Tampa

    News

    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."...

    Thousands of fans flocked to Tampa for the Women’s Final Four and its festivities, including Tourney Town, all at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
  10. Tampa Fire Rescue personnel chief retires amid sexual harassment investigation

    Fire

    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. ...

    Personnel chief David Solorzano retired last week amid a sexual harassment investigation. [Tampa Fire Rescue]
  11. Ceremony notes 50th anniversary of start of Vietnam War

    Veterans

    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....

    Rolling Thunder members, from left, Dave Braun, spokesman; Jimmy Linesberry, president; and Larry Caldwell participated in the 2014 Veterans Day event at Serenity Meadows.
  12. New southbound Interstate 275 lanes to open Saturday

    Roads

    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....

    The new southbound lanes, the empty ones on the left, are set to open Saturday after years of construction and traffic jams. The widening will smooth out curves, hills and dips in the road, and exits will move from the left to the right.
  13. Public input helps shape Hillsborough transportation plan

    Transportation

    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....

    The second phase of “Go Hillsborough” meetings started Tuesday. While previous sessions produced a broad wish list, this round asks participants to narrow the list and rank them.
  14. Tampa teenager killed in shooting during birthday party

    Crime

    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....

    Richard Newton, 14, was an eighth-grader at Van Buren Middle School in Tampa.
  15. Great-grandmother calls death of 2-year-old 'a tragic accident'

    Accidents

    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."...