07/19/17 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections Craig Latimer has been named to a national task force that will look at cyber security threats to voting systems.
The task force was formed by The Election Center, a non-profit group that is comprised of election officials from across the United States.
It comes in the wake of news reports of hacking attempts during last year's presidential election that some election officials fear is lowering the public's confidence in the integrity of voting systems....
TAMPA — Low-income families and renters should already be calling the Tempo at Encore home.
Instead, the troubled $26.5 million apartment tower scheduled to open last fall is still a construction site. And now it's embroiled in a bitter legal dispute over unpaid work, missing workers and who is to blame for damage from water intrusion.
The dispute turned even uglier last week when the insurance company recently fired from the project asked a federal judge to award it $9.3 million for unpaid work and other expenses. Berkley Surety also filed a $1.6 million lien on the property, which is being developed by the Tampa Housing Authority along with Banc of America Community Development Corp., the development arm of Bank of America....
TAMPA — Verified cases of Florida children forced into the sex trade rose by more than a third from 2015 to 2016, a new state study has found.
Florida law enforcement agencies reported 356 cases where children were the victims of commercial sexual exploitation, including 52 in the Tampa Bay region.
The majority of victims were white, female and between 14 and 17 years of age.
The report by Office of Program Policy Analysis and Government Accountability questions whether state agencies are doing enough to identify and help victims. Florida faces a severe shortage of safe houses and other sites offering specialized counseling and care for child victims, it states....
TAMPA — After several years with barely a dent in the number of people living on the street, the homeless count in Hillsborough County fell by 15 percent in a single year, reports the Tampa Hillsborough Homeless Initiative.
The count, conducted in February, identified roughly 1,550 people living either on the street or in temporary shelters, down from 1,817 the previous year.
The biggest drop, some 26 percent, was in the number of unsheltered people, a group that includes those battling poor mental health and substance abuse who often refuse help. Homelessness was also down 5 percent among veterans....
TAMPA — The state gives out millions in tax credits every year to encourage developers to build much-needed affordable housing.
The result has been a cut-throat competitive process that sees developers in larger counties vying for awards worth as much as $21 million over 10 years.
Now, the Tampa Housing Authority and a developer backed by the Hillsborough County Commission are in direct competition for a similar award, a situation that strained relations between the two government agencies....
07/06/17 Local Government
TAMPA — Some of the longest lines at this year's St. Patrick's Day festivities at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park were for the corned beef and cabbage.
Soon, it will be a year-round offering at the park.
City officials announced Wednesday that Four Green Fields has won the bid to build a restaurant in Curtis Hixon.
With its thatched roof, white-washed walls and Irish memorabilia, the pub on W Platt Street has long been a popular watering hole for downtown drinkers....
06/30/17 Public Safety
APOLLO BEACH — It was the kind of job that workers at the Big Bend power plant do routinely, and one done countless times in the nearly 35 years that senior plant operator Michael McCort had worked at Tampa Electric.
But company executives said something went tragically wrong Thursday as McCort, 60, and at least five employees working for outside contractors tried to unplug a tank containing molten slag that can reach temperatures of more than 1,000 degrees....
TAMPA — Sitting in the cab of a backhoe, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn on Thursday morning clawed a first chunk out of North Boulevard Homes, a dilapidated public housing complex.
The demolition will make room for the ambitious West River project, a $200 million mixed-income community of offices, stores and 2,178 homes, many with views of the downtown skyline.
But clearing away concrete may be easier than dealing with a mess that lies below the surface: a sludgy plume of toxic groundwater that has been spreading for decades, according to state records....
TAMPA — Buoyed by the award of an additional $3.7 million in state funding, Eckerd Kids plans to hire more social workers to ease the strain on Hillsborough County's overburdened child welfare system.
The agency, which runs foster care throughout Tampa Bay, will hire 31 workers including 16 case managers plus additional supervisors and family support workers in Hillsborough, said Jody Grutza, an executive director with the agency. The additional funding is for the 2018 fiscal year, which begins Thursday....
TAMPA — For many teens still reeling from being taken into foster care, a cellphone is a lifeline, child advocates say.
It's their one connection to the world they left behind, a link to friends, romantic interests and reassuring emojis.
Yet many group foster homes confiscate or heavily restrict access to cellphones. In some cases, it is to prevent unauthorized contact by their parents, but it is also to protect the privacy of other foster children....
06/21/17 Real Estate
TAMPA — Federal authorities may be investigating the Related Group, but the South Florida company remains the developer of choice for the Tampa Housing Authority as it moves ahead with a major West River urban renewal project.
Just days after the Miami Herald reported that federal agents are scrutinizing the finances of a Related affordable housing project in South Florida, the Housing Authority's governing board voted unanimously Wednesday to partner with the Miami-based firm on the renovation of Mary Bethune High Rise Apartments, an eight-story senior residential tower just west of downtown Tampa....
06/20/17 Human Interest
CLEARWATER — The Nazis came for Betty Goldberg's father when she was just 9.
They took him from Paris to Auschwitz, the largest World War II death camp, where 1.1 million people died. She survived thanks to a railroad stationmaster who hid her for three years with his family in an apartment above a small station.
Now 85, the memories of that horrific time are undimmed.
Her fear of capture was so great that she was sure the Nazis could hear her breathe. She was separated from her mother and had no idea of her father's fate....
TAMPA — Jean Roy Jr. didn't look like father material to social workers.
The 48-year-old had a long criminal history and was struggling with substance abuse. His infatuation with the mother of his twin children was an even more damaging addiction.
Seventeen years his junior, she was an addict who used crystal meth and heroin, said Wanda Lamar, Roy's case manger.
"My first impression was (the twins) wouldn't be unified with mom and dad," Lamar said. "Mom was still in the home. Dad was still engaged with mom and shouldn't have been."...
TAMPA — Leaders of the International Longshoremen's Association have appointed a trustee to take over Local 1402 amid claims that "ghost" workers were regularly paid for work they didn't do at Port Tampa Bay.
The union's national executive council voted Wednesday night to impose a trustee on the union, said Jim McNamara, the national union's spokesman. Wilbert Rowell, a general vice president with the union, will now oversee the local's pension and health care funds....
Florida's state-run mental hospitals are understaffed, some are unlicensed and they are failing to keep track of pharmaceuticals and seized contraband, according to a new state audit.
At one North Florida hospital, more than 2,800 anti-psychotic drugs and 350 HIV antiviral drugs were misplaced, the report states. Bookkeeping at two other hospitals was so lax that auditors could not determine whether drugs were missing....