Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers transportation, breaking news and features in eastern 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) 661-2443

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

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  1. Scott talks transportation at campaign stop in Brandon

    Gubernatorial

    BRANDON — Gov. Rick Scott discussed statewide transportation policies during a campaign stop Wednesday morning, but made no mention of the ongoing debates on both sides of Tampa Bay over potential sales taxes to help pay for local transportation projects including rail.

    The stop at the Brandon Chamber of Commerce was part of Scott's "Let's Keep Florida Moving" tour, which highlights transportation policies, including investments in Florida's airports, seaports, road networks and space industry....

  2. State House, District 61

    Politics

    State House | District 61

    Four Democrats are vying for the District 61 state House seat opening created now that Rep. Betty Reed has reached her term limit. Candidates include a lawyer, an AT&T sales manager, a managed health care consultant and a construction project manager. They range from lifelong residents to a recent transplant. Two have previously run for office, one in this district and another in Tallahassee. Caitlin Johnston, Times staff writer...

    Sharon Carter
  3. Hillsborough's try at Uber and Lyft compromise sets $30 minimum fare

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The agency that regulates cabs and limos in Hillsborough County made its first attempt Wednesday to compromise with ride-sharing companies Lyft and Uber, which have been operating illegally for months as they expand here.

    The Public Transportation Commission proposed two changes in hopes of accommodating the companies. But the changes still force Lyft and Uber to charge customers at least $30 and make them order the service at least a half-hour in advance....

    Ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft have been operating illegally in Hillsborough County for months.
  4. Hillsborough elected officials divided on timing of potential transit tax

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Expected to bring clarity to when voters will be asked to approve a sales tax for transportation projects, elected officials from throughout Hillsborough County instead made it more murky Tuesday — differing over when a referendum has the best chance of passing.

    The policy group, which includes the seven county commissioners and mayors of the three cities, listened to a proposal from County Administrator Mike Merrill to elicit feedback from the public on a list of hundreds of transportation projects including light rail that could be helped by a 1-cent sales tax....

  5. Tax for rail likely to unlock new sources of campaign cash for politicians

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Serving on the board that oversees Hillsborough County's bus system is not the most glamorous or even most coveted assignment for local politicians.

    That could change in a most lucrative way if powerful voices persuade voters to approve a tax raising billions of dollars and put the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority in charge of it.

    The 10 politicians serving on such a board likely would be catapulted into a campaign cash raising realm not seen here before....

  6. Betty Reed endorses Ed Narain

    Blog

    State Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, has endorsed Ed Narain as her successor in House District 61.

    Narain, an area manager for AT&T and former student body president at the University of South Florida, is running against three other candidates in the Democratic primary.

    “I’m supporting Ed Narain to replace me because our concerns for the community are the same,” Reed said in a press release. “Ed has the community roots, the servant heart, and the fighting spirit to carry the torch for Tampa.”...

  7. Founder of Ben's Family Restaurant remembered as taskmaster, softie

    Obituaries

    BRANDON — Ben Crisler was one of the lucky ones.

    Unlike most people, the former owner of Ben's Family Restaurant learned what people thought of him before he died.

    Lying in his hospital bed, Mr. Crisler, 76, read through the messages his former employees had written in a private Facebook group. The account had existed for a couple of years, but his daughter, Lori Faria, had only recently discovered it....

    Ben Crisler poses with his daughter, Lori Faria, during a Seattle vacation. She said her father changed teens’ lives.
  8. HART board unsure how — or whether — to transform into super transportation agency

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Two months have passed since a recommendation to greatly expand the role of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit to oversee all sorts of transportation initiatives beyond bus service, and it still is unclear what its new board will look like and just what it will oversee.

    At a meeting Monday, the directors of HART were unable to agree on how or even whether to change the board's composition....

  9. Two District 61 House candidates emerge as front-runners

    Local

    TAMPA — Four Democrats are vying for the state House District 61 seat open because of term limits, but two appear to be the clear front-runners.

    Sean Shaw, a Tallahassee-backed lawyer who came to Tampa four years ago, and Ed Narain, a hometown candidate keyed into many Hillsborough County organizations, have big advantages in fundraising and endorsements. The other two candidates — Sharon Carter and Tatiana Denson — lag behind considerably in those categories....

    Sean Shaw has name recognition and leads in fundraising.
  10. Tampa Police end Sunday morning standoff

    Crime

    TAMPA — A seven-hour SWAT standoff that prompted police to block streets and evacuate neighbors early Sunday morning ended peacefully in the afternoon with a man's arrest.

    Alex Ray Crouse, 41, barricaded himself in a home in the 1300 block of 18th Avenue, according to Tampa police, in a standoff stemming from a domestic abuse report.

    His girlfriend left the home and ran to a neighbor's to call the police early Sunday. Officers were dispatched at 6:46 a.m. The woman was transported to an undisclosed hospital and treated for minor injuries....

    Tampa police officers gather outside a home in the 1300 block of 18th Avenue on Sunday where police say a man barricaded himself in after a domestic abuse report from his girlfriend.
  11. Tampa bridal show focuses on LGBT market

    Human Interest

    TAMPA

    As the couple walked past the vendors at the wedding planning showcase at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk on Sunday, they couldn't help but envision what their special day would look like in December.

    When it comes to the style of their commitment ceremony and reception, the two women are traditional, they say.

    "I haven't seen her dress," Jessica Marquez, 32, said. "I haven't seen her in it, nor do I want to. It's traditional."...

    Sisters Stephanie, left, and Angelica Cuevas, center browse and chat with vendors at the Equal Plan Bridal Show at the Sheraton Tampa Riverwalk Hotel on Sunday. Angelica is planning her wedding to her fiancee, Ellie, set for next summer. The event was put on by Diana Marie Events to showcase LGBT-friendly businesses. Stephanie attended the show with her sister because, she said, “She helped me plan my wedding, which was last September.” Angelica’s wedding is scheduled to be held next Fourth of July to her fiancee, Ellie. While the sisters attended the bridal show, Angelica won two raffle prizes, which included a cupcake prize from Sweet Tweets Cakery and a free night’s stay at the Sheraton. 
  12. Riverview boy mauled by dogs remembered for independent spirit

    Public Safety

    RIVERVIEW — Not expecting 4-year-old Logan Shepard to later wander outside the Riverview home he was visiting Saturday night, the boy's uncle let two pit bull terriers out of their cages to roam the yard. Moments later, they mauled the boy to death, Logan's father said Monday.

    The screams of Logan's mother, who discovered the gruesome scene, attracted the attention of deputies who happened to be nearby....

    Logan Shepard [Facebook]
  13. Tampa teen beaten by Israeli police tells his story (w/video)

    News

    TAMPA — At times, it doesn't feel real. But then Tariq Khdeir looks at the marks on his wrists from where the zip ties cut into his flesh and he remembers.

    The reminders are everywhere: the ache in his ribs, his face on the news, the viral video that shows the police kicking him repeatedly. Now that he's home, it's almost surreal, the Palestinian-American teen says. Occasionally, he has to remind himself the boy in the video is him....

     Tariq Khdeir, the 15-year-old Palestinian-American who has gained international attention after being brutally beaten by Israeli police and held in jail earlier this month, sits in his living room in Tampa, Florida, Sunday afternoon, July 20, 2014. Most of Khdeir's physical wounds have healed, but there are still visible marks from the zip tie handcuffs that were put on both of his wrists when he was taken into custody. He and his family recently returned home to Tampa this past Wednesday, July 16, after being released.
  14. Tampa teen beaten by Israeli police tells his story (w/video)

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — At times, it doesn't feel real. But then Tariq Khdeir looks at the marks on his wrists from where the zip ties cut into his flesh and he remembers.

    The reminders are everywhere: the ache in his ribs, his face on the news, the viral video that shows the police kicking him repeatedly. Now that he's home, it's almost surreal, the Palestinian-American teen says. Occasionally, he has to remind himself the boy in the video is him....

    Suha Khdeir, left, and her son, Tariq Khdeir, 15, sit in their living room in Tampa during an interview Sunday when Tariq recounted being beaten by Israeli police and held in jail earlier this month.
  15. Four-year-old mauled to death by uncle's pit bulls in Riverview

    Accidents

    RIVERVIEW — The deputies rushed to where they heard the boy's screams, but by the time they arrived the two pit bull terriers were standing over his body, and his ice cream bowl lay by his side.

    The dog's owner quickly crated the animals, deputies said, just as he'd done before 4-year-old Logan Shepard and his mother came to visit.

    The child was dead before the ambulance arrived....

    It’s not known how Logan Shepard, 4, came into direct contact with the pit bulls.