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Daniel Ruth, Times Columnist

Daniel Ruth

Daniel Ruth has been scribbling away for four decades as a reporter, film critic, television critic and columnist for the Tampa Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Tampa Bay Times. He also has worked as a radio talk show host as well as an adjunct professor for the University of South Florida, the University of Tampa and Columbia College in Chicago. Daniel is a Peter Lisagor Award recipient for his columns in Chicago and has been honored by the Pinellas County Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union with the Irene Miller Vigilance In Journalism Award.


  1. Ruth: NPA voters missing out on primary elections


    When campaign season rolls around, too often our electoral choices range between Mr. Ed and Sasquatch.

    It's not pretty. We frequently find ourselves voting for the lesser of two evils, or at least for the candidate who can chew his or her food without a bib. Even by that meager standard, the options are wanting.

    So it's understandable that we've seen a dramatic shift in voter affiliation over the past few years, with greater numbers of Floridians assigning themselves the designation "no party affiliation." As Tampa Bay Times Tallahassee bureau chief Steve Bousquet reported, 3.2 million voters, or 27 percent of all registered Florida voters, identify themselves as NPA....

  2. Ruth: Smart strategy shift by Tampa police


    Last year, the City Council of the North Florida metropolis of Waldo voted to excommunicate its own Police Department following a long-festering scandal involving a speeding ticket scam by officers that in one year alone produced 12,000 dubious citations and more than $400,000 in ill-gotten fines.

    Welcome to Waldo-on-the-Bay, where Tampa police officers took law enforcement-by-quota to an entirely new level. As the Tampa Bay Times Alexandra Zayas reported, since 2001 officers were under pressure to write more tickets if they want to look good on their annual performance reviews. ...

    Tampa police wrote more tickets last year than sheriff's offices in Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties combined; more per capita than cops in Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg and Orlando, the state's four other largest cities. And no other law enforcement agency in the state arrests more people than the Tampa Police Department. Once you understand how the department measures officer productivity, it's easy to see why. Each arrest, each ticket, feeds into a formula that calculates an officer's "productivity ratio" - number of hours worked divided by the number of tickets and arrests. [OCTAVIO JONES | Times]
  3. Ruth: It's un-American to reject Syrian refugees


    Oh, we do so love waving the flag. After all, we're patriots. It says so right there on the bumper sticker, the one with the eagle. We're brave, too. And the mere sight of the Statue of Liberty gets us all verklempt. We're Americans. We adore freedom, and that pursuit of happiness stuff is simply swell.

    We are really, really good at singing our praises as a strong yet compassionate nation — until, of course, we're actually called upon to demonstrate that empathy toward our fellow man. Then we go all Ted Cruzy crazy on everyone — especially if you are a Syrian refugee....

  4. Daniel Ruth: Bus routes mean change for Williams Park


    Throughout most of its history, Williams Park served as St. Petersburg's front lawn. In another time, presidents spoke in the park. Residents gathered to listen to concerts. Nice place. Very Norman Rockwell. But that was a while ago.

    Now, the park has become a worn day camp for the homeless, a situation that may change in February when the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority implements a new routing plan for buses that will eliminate a ring of passenger shelters around the park....

  5. Ruth: Raising lawmakers' salaries could pay off


    Let me save you some time. You're absolutely right; I can't believe I'm about to write this sentence. The Florida Legislature should get a pay raise. And yes, that was a pig flying through the air.

    At first blush, giving legislators a pay bump is like rewarding the captain of the Costa Concordia for his navigational skills.

    By any reasonable measure, the denizens of Tallahassee exhibit all the work ethic of Otis, Mayberry's town drunk. This year alone, the Florida House left the legislative session early because the job got too hard. The Legislature has repeatedly failed to figure out fair redistricting maps, while spending millions of dollars in special session funding to do … nothing....

  6. Ruth: Fantasy sports leagues are real gambling


    This is so very Talla-hack-ee. While other states like New York and Nevada are moving to curb fantasy sports betting, our centurions of the public trust got in bed faster with the likes of FanDuel and DraftKings than a Nebraska Avenue strumpet.

    There's an old saw — we all have a price, it's only a matter of negotiation.

    And now we know the going rate for Rep. Matt Gaetz-R, Shocked, Shocked, and Sen. Joe Negron, R-Three Card Monte, is $10,000 each. That's the amount of the legalized bribes the political committees operated by these two Florida Legislature pit bosses collected from the Fantasy Sports Trade Association....

    Fantasy sports fans demonstrate outside the offices of New York state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman on Friday. Schneiderman’s decision that daily fantasy sports betting sites FanDuel and DraftKings are illegal gambling operations in his state is a blow to the companies.
  7. Ruth: Council election a win for Kriseman


    That huge gust of air you felt sweeping across St. Petersburg a few days ago wasn't a weather system. It was Mayor Rick Kriseman breathing a sigh of relief.

    The mayor received a political gift in the election of Lisa Wheeler-Brown to the City Council. Wheeler-Brown may be a mere single member of the council, but she has pledged to deliver a much-coveted fifth vote to approve the proposal Kriseman forged with the Tampa Bay Rays to permit the team to begin to look outside the city for potential sites for a new ballpark....

  8. Ruth: Why my life story qualifies me to be president


    Apparently what's been missing from my campaign for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination is a bestselling tell-all inspirational memoir — Gifted Scams — detailing my struggles to overcome the emotional trauma of a benign, middle-class, uneventful childhood in Akron, Ohio, and rise above my circumstances to clinch the White House.

    Well, there was the incident when I was about 6. Collette Stallings pushed me down a hill on a runaway wagon, and I needed several stitches. But I got over it....

  9. Ruth: Lawmakers support police except when it comes to guns


    It certainly goes without saying that the members of the Florida Legislature love and adore law enforcement. The legislators are the cat's pajamas when it comes to respecting those who put their lives on the line every day to keep all of us safe — unless, of course, the badges get sideways with Tallahassee by suggesting law and order should take precedence over hysteria.

    Once again the effort to legalize the open carry of firearms, as well as a measure to permit concealed carry of weapons on the state's university campuses, is being taken up by state legislators....

  10. Ruth: Paying the price for speaking the truth


    Memo to Tampa Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Bob Rohrlack: You have absolutely nothing to worry about. Your loyal, supportive board chairman, Ronald Christaldi, has your back. Just don't pay any attention to that dagger sticking out of it.

    What Rohrlack has learned all too well is no good deed ever goes unpunished, especially when you find yourself reporting to a hand-wringing chairman more interested in sucking up to the Nosferatu of Tallahassee than standing tall for accountability....

    File photo
  11. Daniel Ruth: Time has come for ferry service


    Do you ever get the impression whenever the subject of ferry service in the Tampa Bay area arises, somebody gazed out a window and had one of those V8 moments?

    "Hey, wait just a minute here. Has anyone noticed all this water all over the place? Suppose we figured out a way to move people here and there on a water taxi? Whatta concept!"

    And so, perhaps by early February, passengers may be able to cruise between stops in Madeira Beach and Treasure Island. Of course, this voyage is not exactly Kon-Tikiesque in its grandeur, but in these parts, it is fairly historic. After all, it involves — egad! — progress. And if the voyages prove to be successful, service could be expanded to include St. Pete Beach, South Pasadena, Gulfport and St. Petersburg. Now, we're getting into some downright Magellan-like advances in exploring public transportation....

  12. Ruth: My new rules for presidential debates


    On the campaign trail, the Republican presidential candidates revel in their carefully crafted self-images as fighters — fighting for this, fighting for that, fighting for whatever and yeah, sure, fighting for you too.

    Fight, fight, fight. By their accounts, you risk a punch in the mouth by asking one of the anger-management-issue candidates to pass the salt. They make Mike Tyson look like Big Bird....

  13. Ruth: It's all theater, and Bush's acting skills need work


    By all accounts, former Gov. Jeb Bush is surrounded by any number of apparatchiks, apologists, enablers, factotums and sherpas dedicated to advancing his waning political ambitions. He should fire all of them, including the family members, who apparently still cling to the delusion he might one day reside in the White House.

    Stop laughing. Oh go ahead, everyone else is.

    Bush should seek the wise counsel of the one person who has the experience and insight he desperately needs at the moment: Arizona U.S. Sen. John McCain. Long ago and far away, back in 2007, McCain was all but written off as a Republican presidential contender. He had no money, barely any staff and imploding poll numbers....

  14. Ruth: An investment in bureaucracy over kids


    Money can't buy you love. But you can certainly load up on a buck- passing of bureaucrats.

    Perhaps you indulged in a bit of naivete in assuming that when the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation awarded a $100 million grant to the Hillsborough County School District in 2009, this unexpected windfall would do wonders in improving the education of our little darlings.

    It appears the wonders never ceased. Instead of pouring the Gates money into improving troubled schools, enhancing classroom teaching tools, underwriting reforms and teacher compensation, the moolah appears to have paid for one giant bacchanalia of paper-pushing....

  15. Daniel Ruth: From shadow mayor to Congress?


    Think of this as the 19th Hole Theory of Political Viability.

    This is the phenomenon of the politician-in-waiting sitting around the clubhouse bar after a round a golf where a bunch of other pals pat him on the back as they encourage the poor soul to run for office.

    Sometimes, they actually win. That is how we wound up with an ill-prepared Gov. Rick Scott, who admitted when he took office he had no idea that signing death warrants is part of the job....