05/21/13 Human Interest
Thank you, Springstead High School.
Thanks for giving my boy a good education.
Thanks for being an institution that stacks up well against other schools in the state and the nation.
And thanks for making our county a little less of a hick county.
My son won't graduate for another two weeks, but he's done with classes and exams and has nothing more on his plate than sleeping until noon....
05/20/13 Local Government
The time has come to take back our streets, to take back our town.
They were snatched away from us — at least control of them was — at 8 o'clock one evening in March 1993, when the state Department of Transportation abruptly changed the traffic flow on Broad and Jefferson streets in downtown Brooksville from two-way to one-way.
By the time it happened, no locals liked the idea — not City Council members, not drivers, not business owners....
05/17/13 Human Interest
Not even Jimmy Batten claims that his father, Olan, was Hernando County's last Cracker. "Well, I'm a Cracker," Jimmy Batten said as we talked about his dad's legacy last week. So are the handful of other ranchers he named. So is anybody who grew up in Florida and works outside or hunts and fishes, or just likes to wear camo and Wranglers. At least that's what many of them call themselves....
05/14/13 Economic Development
It's a lot of money for a bike trail — $50 million.
That's true even for a trail with an impressive name, the Coast-to-Coast Connector, and an impressive goal: building 72 miles of trail that would join 200 more miles of trail that have already been built or funded.
It's especially true now that the Times' John Woodrow Cox has reported that the claim supporting this whopper of an investment — that the trail "will realize an annual economic benefit of $120 million" — appears to be a whopper itself....
They ought to be ashamed.
I'm talking about county commissioners Jim Adkins, Wayne Dukes, and Nick Nicholson.
I mean the new Republican constitutional officers, the ones I thought knew better: Tax Collector Sally Daniel, Property Appraiser John Emerson, Clerk of Circuit Court Don Barbee.
I'm referring, especially, to commission Chairman David Russell, who lent his hard-earned credibility to a candidate with a severe shortage of it, Blaise Ingoglia....
Which version do you believe?
Which one of Rep. Rob Schenck's different statements about his cousin's duties do you think is true?
Answer that and you answer this: Did Schenck, a Spring Hill Republican, commit a civil violation of Florida election law?
In case you've forgotten last week's column on committees of continuous existence, or CCEs, Schenck controlled one called Conservatives for a Better Tomorrow — at least he did until January, when he took his name off it....
I wasn't a total sucker.
I didn't lock myself into a crazy mortgage or buy a bunch of spec homes I couldn't flip.
But it was the boom and my wife and I got caught up in it in our own way: We bought too much house.
Don't do it, I'd like to tell anyone who might be about to make the same mistake — and, amazingly, a lot of people are.
They — we, really — haven't learned that size has little to do with happiness. ...
Rep. Rob Schenck, cleaning up the state's filthy campaign finance system.
Rob Schenck, reformer.
Stunning, absurd, a flat-out joke — but, on its face, true.
Schenck's bill on this issue, HB 569, passed the House of Representatives in March and the Senate last week.
You might have figured that this has to be sham — Tallahassee money addicts making a show of cutting off their supply — which it pretty much is....
I learned about a fascinating and notoriously lethal form of military service from a true authority, Roland "Bobo" Richardson, who had served as a pilot in World War I.
I heard him tell about safely landing a crippled biplane "with all the gliding capacity of a brick." He told this story modestly and only because he'd been asked. So I also got a lesson in grace.
As a bonus, he was a master handyman, the patient, generous kind who didn't mind sharing his expertise and time. I saw him fire up a chain saw when he was well into his 70s and drop a towering, dead pine tree in a neighbor's narrow back yard....
When we came upon the true Hernando County Teacher of the Year, we were told, we would know it.
We would experience the "wow" factor. One great teacher would clearly emerge from a field of very good ones.
Sure enough, as soon as Bethann Brooks came before the four of us on the selection committee, the Teacher of the Year contest didn't seem like a contest at all.
Brooks, 48, is a former full-time nurse who still works part time at her old job so she can bring up-to-date information to her new one — nursing instructor at Central High School....
You probably think it's too early to contemplate the 2014 election, and it is — except that we already know one result.
And very possibly nothing that we find out 19 months from now will be quite this dramatic:
David Russell will not be re-elected to the Hernando County Commission. We can be sure of that because he said last week that he will not run. And there is no chance that he will change his mind, he said....
Head Start is a lousy name, because at best the program just makes up lost ground — gives needy preschoolers some of the things other kids get by being born into middle-class families.
Things like access to books and computers, dental care, decent meals, organized play time. It gives kids a chance to learn numbers and letters, and screenings to check their sight and hearing.
They need this help everywhere, these Head Start families, which are eligible only if they fall below the federal poverty line. In Hernando County, you can be sure, they really need help. There's a waiting list of 125 children, which would be longer if not for the families that find the number so discouraging that they decide it's useless to add their child's name....
A Land Remembered is one of those great books that might not seem all that great at first; you just keep turning the pages.
In case you haven't heard of it, and I'm embarrassed to say that I hadn't until a few days ago, it's by a Mississippi transplant named Patrick D. Smith and it's about a fictional family named the MacIveys. More specifically, it's about this family's life in Florida over the course of more than a century....
Since Margaret Thatcher's death last week, you've no doubt heard how great she was.
"Great lady," is the specific phrase favored by my English father-in-law, High Point resident Bernard Booth.
My wife, Laura, on the other hand, remembers Thatcher from even before she was prime minister, and that as a cabinet member in the early 1970s she helped cut the free milk allotment for some schoolchildren....
LaVerne Kalafor — suspended school psychologist — has lots of excuses, lots of reasons she got a raw deal.
There should have been signs posted at Eastside Elementary School reminding staffers to report suspected child abuse to the state hotline. And on Feb. 13, when a second-grader told Kalafor that she'd been raped by her stepfather, no such signs were in sight.
Kalafor tried to tell assistant principal Heather McCarty about the girl's report before leaving for the day, but McCarty was nowhere to be found....