11/27/14 Local Government
Cynthia Moore may be the closest thing to a saint you can find in the Hernando County school system.
She works at least eight hours every school day for no pay, arriving at Eastside Elementary School before the first bell and never leaving her post at the front desk until she is sure every student has safe transportation home.
She is fiercely protective of the children, questioning each visitor to make sure they have a legitimate reason to come on campus....
11/26/14 Human Interest
Thanksgivings were supposed to be getting quieter for Pat and Linda Hoins.
They decided last spring to be "selfish" and stop taking in foster kids nearly every time they were asked, Pat Hoins said. They stuck a "For Sale" sign in front of their big house south of Brooksville and sold their 12-piece Broyhill dining room set on Craigslist.
"Like fools," Linda said, because since then almost nothing has worked out as planned....
11/20/14 Local Government
When it comes to seeking racial justice in Hernando County, Jerry Bell Jr. is ambitious enough to aim high, practical enough to accept a modest victory.
Bell, 37, a 1995 Hernando High School graduate, has written to the federal Department of Justice asking for an investigation into the racial violence in his home county, which had the highest per-capita rate of lynchings of any county in the country between 1900 and 1931, according to the most reliable statistics available....
Hernando County is the mean old man on the block.
His house is neglected, dank and dingy. You don't visit unless you have to, and you don't hang around long. If a ball is hit in his yard, nobody retrieves it because he's got a reputation for hating kids.
We could have changed this last week, put a little money into our place to make it more welcoming to investors and home buyers with children. We could have made it a place that the most talented and ambitious of these children are not so eager to leave....
BROOKSVILLE — All former Hernando assistant school superintendent Ken Pritz asked for was an acknowledgment that his former boss was wrong when she sent out an email in his name last year — an email incorrectly saying he was "excited" to be taking on his new duties as district warehouse manager.
Pritz got that acknowledgement on Monday from outgoing School Board member Dianne Bonfield, but not from a majority of the board....
11/08/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — Barbara Kight, eating lunch at the Deli World restaurant in Brooksville last week, didn't buy the argument that one computerized tablet could replace an entire backpack of textbooks.
She wasn't swayed when told that this new technology is required by the state. She didn't want to hear any other arguments in favor of the Penny for Projects sales tax that would have raised $170 million over 10 years for the tablets and a long list of infrastructure improvements....
11/06/14 Human Interest
When I arrived in Brooksville 25 years ago, a fellow reporter explained how easy it was to reach the city's mayor, Joe Bernardini.
He works for the phone company, she said; if you page him, he'll climb to the top of the nearest telephone pole, hook into a wire and return your call.
Sure enough, I ended up having many such conversations with Bernardini, his voice sometimes drowned out by whipping wind and whizzing traffic....
Nature Coast Technical High School football players sprinted onto the field from beneath a giant, inflatable light blue-and-black helmet to the sound of the University of Oklahoma's fight song, Boomer Sooner.
Cheerleaders launched tumbling runs near the 50-yard line.
A typical high school football game on a clear, cool Friday night — except for one detail:...
11/05/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County's newest county commissioner, software consultant Jeff Holcomb, found himself preparing to switch gears in the aftermath of Tuesday's general election.
After more than a year of pouring himself into the race for the District 4 seat on the commission, he said that it was time to actually get ready to take office. He will be sworn in later this month, along with commission Chairman Wayne Dukes, who won re-election....
BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County voters gave District 2 County Commissioner Wayne Dukes a second term in a hard-fought race against challenger Jimmy Lodato on Tuesday.
In his campaign, Dukes, a Republican, focused on his fiscal conservatism and attacked Lodato for statements he made favoring a tax increase. Both Dukes and Lodato supported the failed sales tax initiative on Tuesday's ballot, and Dukes voted for the most recent increase in the property tax....
Republican incumbent Rep. Rich Nugent cruised to an easy victory Tuesday over Democratic challenger David Koller in the race for the District 11 seat of the U.S. House of Representatives.
It will be the third term for Nugent, of Spring Hill, in the heavily Republican district, which includes Hernando, Citrus and Sumter counties, and part of Marion.
Koller said he ran against Nugent out of disgust over last year's shutdown of the federal government. Nugent voted with the Republican minority that opposed ending the shutdown and later opposed a widely praised budget compromise....
BROOKSVILLE — In August, Circuit Judge Daniel B. Merritt Jr. lectured a courtroom full of no-show jurors in Hernando County about their patriotic duty.
"Act like an American," he told them.
On Monday, Merritt said, it was time for more serious measures to address the chronic problem of residents not appearing for jury duty.
"I've been there, and done that," he said of his previous lecture, "and it did not have the desired effect."...
11/03/14 Local Government
BROOKSVILLE — Siding with the city of Brooksville, a Hernando County judge has struck down a referendum that would have allowed voters to ban the city's red-light cameras.
The measure sought to change the city's charter to prohibit current and future city councils from installing red-light cameras, which was one of the reasons for Circuit Judge Thomas Eineman's ruling.
It was too broad, he ruled, because the changes to the charter would have eliminated the city's power of self-rule that is guaranteed by state law and therefore "violates the Municipal Home Powers Act," Eineman wrote....
10/30/14 Local Government
Brooksville City Council member Lara Bradburn was at her best and worst at a big meeting last week.
She was defensive almost to the point of tears while pushing her preferred route for a link in the statewide Coast to Coast Connector bike trail.
She exaggerated the dire consequences if things didn't go her way.
And, when I talked to her after the Oct. 21 meeting of the Hernando Citrus Metropolitan Planning Organization, it wasn't completely clear she even had her facts straight....
Anyone who doubts the changing perception of bike trails in Florida needs only to look at the Coast to Coast Connector.
With the backing of the Legislature and Gov. Rick Scott, the state Department of Transportation has set aside $18.8 million this year for the project, which would link existing trails to create a 275-mile cycling path from St. Petersburg to Titusville.
The money includes $5.4 million to help close gaps in Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando counties....