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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. In Tampa Bay, this is what child poverty looks like

    Health

    Nearly 1 million Florida children were living in poverty in 2013.

    Ashley Corbett is a single mother raising one of those kids, Jayden, 3. Soon she will have two. The 29-year-old is seven months pregnant with her second child.

    When things get tight, she reaches out to social services. They helped her find two part-time jobs, one at McDonald's, the other at a day care center.

    There, she got 50 percent off. It still wasn't enough....

    Cafeteria assistant Donna Daniel, 45, prepares more pizza for campers in the Student Cultural Program at Rampello Downtown Partnership School in Tampa on Thursday.
  2. HART looks at what bus service would be like with — and without — half-cent tax

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority board members got a glimpse Monday of what life could be like with — and without — the estimated $30 million in extra revenue that a proposed half-cent sales tax would bring to the county's bus system.

    If the new tax is approved next fall, HART would create six new local bus routes, improve service to MacDill Air Force Base and add nine express routes that would make commuting a more realistic option for those looking to ditch their cars....

  3. Hillsborough regulators ask judge to shut down Uber

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Rideshare company Uber could be forced to stop operating in Hillsborough County if a judge sides with local regulators after a hearing Friday.

    Regulators quarreled with Uber representatives about background checks, insurance, safety and vehicle inspections. The arguments made in the temporary injunction hearing were the same issues that have dominated the discussion since the rideshare company started operating here in April 2014....

  4. Hillsborough's transportation plan to hold 100 more public meetings to get voter input

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Hillsborough leaders said Thursday that they won't put the proposed half-cent transportation sales tax on the 2016 ballot without getting more public input on what kind of roadway and transit projects voters actually want.

    Does 100 public meetings over two months sound like enough voter input?

    The policy leadership group, a collection of county and city officials, has already spent two years trying to craft a transportation plan that they hope will entice voters. They've spent $1 million on consultants and conducted 36 public meetings this spring, in addition to a poll and online outreach....

  5. Hillsborough gets $28.5 million from BP settlement

    Politics

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County became the latest Tampa Bay government to prosper from a BP settlement, as commissioners agreed Wednesday to a $28.5 million deal stemming from the disastrous 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

    On Tuesday, Pasco commissioners accepted a $7.4 million settlement. A day earlier, Pinellas commissioners voted unanimously to accept a settlement, but won't say for how much. The county was seeking $9.3 million. ...

  6. Lyft to appeal decision that it is a taxi company

    Transportation

    TAMPA — An attorney for rideshare company Lyft said he plans to appeal a decision that says the company functions like a taxi service and is subject to local cab regulations.

    The ruling Tuesday was part of an ongoing appeals process for tickets that Hillsborough inspectors issued to the company for operating a for-hire service without proper permitting. A hearing officer ruled in May that Lyft is a taxi company and was violating Hillsborough County rules by operating without proper permits....

  7. Defense attorneys ask for jury to not know of victim's well-known drag identity

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Defense attorneys are trying to prevent a jury from hearing that a murder victim was a well-known drag queen in Tampa and South Beach.

    In a trial scheduled to start this morning, attorneys for Deandre Tolliver, accused of murder, will ask that no mention be made of Anthony Jerome Lee's performances at Hamburger Mary's as a drag queen named Wanda.

    Lee, 44, was a regular at the Ybor City restaurant, often appearing on the small stage decked out in a blonde wig and glittery gowns to lip-synch to Whitney Houston....

    Anthony Jerome Lee, 44, was shot and killed at a friend’s house May 28, 2013.
  8. Tampa Bay Sierra Club, Tea Party both skeptical of Hillsborough's transportation sales tax plan

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Skepticism about a proposed half-cent sales tax for transportation has members of two polar-opposite groups — the Tampa Bay Sierra Club and Hillsborough County tea party — agreeing with each other.

    Though their reasons might be different, both groups have voiced concerns with the plan, which would ask voters to approve a half-cent sales tax next fall to fund roads and transit....

    TP_339415_WALL_Lee_17 (06/02/2011 Tampa) Hillsborough County Commissioner for district 5, Ken Hagan. [DANIEL WALLACE, Times]
  9. United Airlines computer glitch resolved, but flight delays linger

    Airlines

    TAMPA — All United Airlines flights nationwide were grounded briefly Wednesday morning as the airline dealt with computer issues.

    The stop was lifted by late morning, according to the Federal Aviation Administration, but delays lingered around the country and locally.

    "We're recovering from a network connectivity issue & restoring flight ops," United Airlines said in a tweet. "We'll have a waiver on united.com to change flights."...

    Passengers check in at the United Airlines ticket counter Wednesday morning at Tampa International Airport. Computer glitches grounded many of the airline's flights nationwide. [JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times]
  10. Top Tampa Fire Rescue official retires after quarrelling over evaluation, saying money was missing

    Fire

    TAMPA — A Tampa Fire Rescue assistant chief retired last week after quarreling with Chief Tom Forward about a performance evaluation and a cash fund the assistant chief said was missing thousands of dollars.

    Forward issued a special order on Friday announcing that Assistant Fire Chief for Administration Michael M. Gonzalez had retired after 30 years with the department.

    The executive aide who oversaw the cash fund, Maureen Patricio, retired Tuesday. Patricio was first hired by the department in 1975. ...

    Michael M. Gonzalez retired last week from his position as Tampa assistant fire chief.
  11. Half-cent tax would get Hillsborough transit plan rolling

    Transportation

    TAMPA — If county officials have their way, a successful half-cent sales tax referendum in 2016 will bring in $117 million annually for transportation improvements.

    But for those with much grander transportation ambitions, that revenue is only the beginning.

    If the experiences of other cities are any indication, this potential referendum could be the kick-start needed to slowly build and fund a full-fledged transportation network over the coming decades....

  12. Photo gallery: Fans welcome Lightning players home (w/video)

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA

    Neal Lewis waited patiently, Lightning trading cards clutched in his hands, to welcome the team back on Tuesday after Tampa Bay's thrilling run in the Stanley Cup final came to a disheartening halt.

    As Victor Hedman made his way down the line of selfie-snapping fans, Lewis, 36, extended the card with the defenseman's statistics on it and made small talk with the Swede.

    "Thank you, Victor," Lewis said. "I absolutely love watching you play."...

     Alli Innes takes a photo with Steven Stamkos. [LUIS SANTANA  |   Times]
  13. Fans nearly fill Amalie Arena for final Lightning watch party

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA

    With each Stanley Cup final away game they came, the watch party crowds swelling as the Tampa Bay Lightning advanced. That was until the rain washed out the last one entirely.

    So the Lightning opened up the doors to the cool, comfortable Amalie Arena for one last gathering Monday night. And 17,000 people showed to cheer on the team against the Chicago Blackhawks.

    As the pipe organ led the crowd in a "Let's Go Bolts!" chant and the pump-up videos played on the giant screen, it was almost possible to forget that a game wasn't actually being played there....

    The view from aboard the Zamboni moments before the Stanley Cup final Game 6 watch party at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Monday. [Luis Santana | Times]
  14. Hillsborough transportation plan leaves room for light rail

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The dream is still alive for those clamoring for light rail.

    Hillsborough County officials have recommended a transportation plan built around a half-cent sales tax projected to generate $3.5 billion over 30 years. Though consultants suggest nearly two-thirds of that would be spent on building and maintaining roads, they've also given the city of Tampa the go-ahead to use its share of the funds as it sees fit....

    “You have to build a starter line, for lack of a better term, that people can see and touch and ride and appreciate,” Tampa Mayor Buckhorn said of light rail. “And what has happened in other jurisdictions, be it Denver or Phoenix, is that once they see it and they ride it and they realize the value of it, that communities start to clamor for it to come to their neighborhoods.”
  15. Hillsborough hopes 10-year slate of transportation projects will entice voters in 2016

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Voters in Hillsborough County should have a much stronger sense of what transportation projects will be built than they had in 2010 if they approve a 30-year sales tax for road and transit projects.

    County Administrator Mike Merrill presented a new transportation plan to city and county officials on Thursday based on a half-cent sales tax that would generate $117.5 million for transportation projects annually....

    Hillsborough County staff presented a transportation plan to county and city officials on June 11 that, if passed, would bring in more funding for transit options, such as MetroRapid buses. The plan calls for a half-cent sales tax referendum to be on the ballot in fall 2016.