04/16/15 Local Government
As a resident of Seffner, a suburban enclave halfway between Tampa and Plant City and just north of Brandon, I hold one certainty.
We can be more.
We can be — a place.
We can be a place where we ask the county government to do more than just fill potholes, collect trash and provide public safety.
We can be a place where we gather to bond and share fellowship. We can be a place that holds character and possesses a defining quality. We can be a place where we do more than just let the days go by....
BRANDON — The Walmart Superstore at 1208 E Brandon Blvd closed Monday because of plumbing issues and is not expected to reopen for six months.
"As part of an effort to ensure all of our stores are fully serving the needs of our customers, we regularly assess the conditions of our stores," Walmart spokeswoman Amanda Henneberg said in a statement. "Due to ongoing plumbing issues that will require extensive repairs, we are temporarily closing the Valrico/Brandon store." It will reopen as soon as all of the plumbing issues are resolved, she said....
04/12/15 Human Interest
The Hillsborough County school district says it has identified 3,400 students — or the equivalent of two average-sized high schools — grappling with homelessness.
The problem is that the actual number may be as high as 11,000 and those students are going without available services.
That was one of the more interesting facts revealed during a WEDU community discussion last week after the screening of the PBS documentary, Homestretch, which airs at 10 p.m. tonight....
04/09/15 Human Interest
Queena Vuong, known for surviving a brutal attack at the Bloomingdale Library, was filled with nerves as she waited in line to meet one of her idols.
Her sister, Anna, said Queena didn't know what to expect from the star. But really, she had no reason to worry. After all, it was just one princess meeting another.
"The first thing Cinderella said when we introduced them, she touched her wheelchair and said, 'I love your carriage,' " Anna said. "Queena just lit up like: This is awesome. She was just so excited."...
04/09/15 Human Interest
One of the members of the prestigious Athena Society, an organization of business and professional women, came up to the me at the conclusion of the group's latest meeting and asked, "So what are you doing with your life?"
Rooted in a mix of sarcasm, admiration and humility, the question epitomized the awe that 10 high school juniors inspired at the society's Dr. Sylvia Richardson Young Women of Promise luncheon April 2....
04/05/15 Human Interest
Someone needs to tell the state House Appropriations chairman his name is Richard Corcoran, not Rick Flair.
Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, spouted off like a WWE wrestler about the $4 billion budget divide between the state House and Senate last week by inviting fellow House members to, "Come to war with health care on us."
War? Ask a veteran if haggling over the state budget in air-conditioned chambers is war....
03/31/15 Public Safety
Blood poured from Lyfe Coleman's body as he lay in the front yard of his home near Robles Park. An unknown assailant had shot the 18-year-old. His father, Life Malcolm, looked on, knowing he had to help his son.
That moment held a chance for Malcolm's strained relationship with the Tampa Police Department to change.
Malcolm had never shied from publicly challenging Chief Jane Castor about how he believes her department has mishandled incidents in the African-American community....
03/29/15 Human Interest
When it comes to the Rays stadium situation and the St. Petersburg pier, it's time for opponents to offer solutions — compromising, consensus-building solutions.
City Council members can't keep rejecting Mayor Rick Kriseman's Rays deal proposals without offering counter plans. Residents who favor an upgraded or renovated pier need to lead an effort to combine the best of the proposals, instead of forcing everyone to go back to the drawing board for a third time....
University of Tampa professor Jennifer Whelihan allowed me to serve on a panel of journalism professionals who addressed her media writing class Tuesday night.
But I have to confess, my thoughts focused more on completing this column than sharing any brilliant insight with the students.
Then it dawned on me. Let the students guide the column and kill two birds with one stone. Heck, they're already more interesting than me....
03/22/15 Human Interest
Visitors to the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Tampa can find Beatles memorabilia adorning the walls. The Florida Legislature can find a solution to its impasse with the tribe in the lyrics of a classic Beatles song.
Over the last five years, the state has yielded $1 billion from the gambling compact it has with the Seminole Tribe of Florida. Although other well-monied gambling interests are seeking to gain a foothold with a change in the regulations, the state should play it safe instead of betting on a new deal that could yield unintended consequences....
03/20/15 Human Interest
Wes Moore, a Johns Hopkins graduate, Rhodes Scholar, Army combat veteran and best-selling author, stood before a small group of teens at the A La Carte Pavilion Thursday evening, ready to offer remarks and field questions.
I knew he would start by sharing with the kids the keys to his success. I knew he would tell them how he rose from a troubled childhood in a hard-scrabble neighborhood to work as a White House fellow....
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz asked baristas at his popular coffee shops to engage customers by marking their cups with the phrase "#RaceTogether."
He wants to spark a dialogue about racial tensions and racial inequality, but the early indication is that the initiative only sparked backlash against his company.
It's too bad, because Schultz says his goal is to create a dialogue that can be a catalyst for empathy....
03/15/15 Human Interest
Bob Abberger says more than one person has queried him about Jeff Vinik's grand vision for the 40-acre plan surrounding Amalie Arena, asking, "are you for real?"
Abberger, senior managing partner for Vinik's Strategic Property Partners, always assures the plans will be as spectacular as they appear in renderings. He delivered that message again at last week's Downtown Partnership forum, fueling greater excitement....
When you run a nonprofit called Fulfilling Your Destiny, you need to fulfill your own.
Karen Mertes emphatically says she's living up to the promise of the moniker — and not just because of achievements like being named a Woman of Distinction by the Girl Scouts of West Central Florida on Tuesday.
Mertes points to her website — fulfillyourdestiny.org — which details the triumphant and courageous stories of people she has helped....
03/08/15 Human Interest
The American Dance Orchestra regaled a Florida Strawberry Festival crowd Wednesday with a concert draped in patriotism.
The star of the night, however, proved to be Ted Keiser, a 96-year-old veteran and former World War II B-17 bomber pilot who was saluted by the band. The crowd gave Keiser and his wife, Ann, a standing ovation after learning of his heroics, which included earning a Purple Heart and the Distinguished Flying Cross....