The other day, a slick, expensive political mailer arrived from a group called Progressive Choice Florida.
The message caught my attention.
Here's what it said (sort of):
Mr. Hooper: We believe you are a dumb African-American voter who can easily be manipulated with misleading facts about gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist.
As you can see on this flier, we've twisted some statistics and skewed some information to trick you into believing that the former governor is the sole reason why African-Americans make up only 16 percent of Florida's population but 48 percent of Florida's prison inmates....
07/20/14 Human Interest
Hillsborough County schools superintendent MaryEllen Elia deserves kudos for convening parents concerned about the new Florida Standards.
According to a report by Tampa Bay Times staff writer Marlene Sokol, Elia helped ease the worry of those at a recent meeting in Ruskin.
The superintendent is not without her critics and the district is not without its flaws, but in a competitive world of charter and private schools and the legislature's wrong-headed attempt to expand vouchers, I'm glad Elia recognizes the need to promote the system's positives and assuage concerns. The competitive market requires no less....
07/18/14 Human Interest
If a little boy sat in class, shy of supplies, Mandy Van Brunt found a way to quietly provide pencils or paper.
If a little girl arrived at school, shaken and sad because authorities had taken her parents to jail the night before, the Frost Elementary teacher found a way to lend comfort without drawing attention to herself.
In her 15 years as a teacher, Van Brunt always gravitated toward Title I schools, putting herself in a position to provide for some of the school district's neediest children. Until her final days, she always found a way to help her students....
07/13/14 Human Interest
Orlando's WFTV-Ch. 9 reported over the weekend that two police officers in the Central Florida town of Fruitland Park are off the job after FBI and Florida Department of Law Enforcement reports that they were members of a local Ku Klux Klan chapter.
Yes, this is 2014, but even now Florida is near the top when it comes to being home to hate groups. Despite all our progress, we still have work to do....
07/10/14 Human Interest
Sometimes, I worry about Florida.
As a native, certain icons, standards and institutions frame my appreciation for living here. It's difficult to envision Florida without them, but sometimes I get a nagging feeling I'll wake up one day and the things that help define my love of the state will be gone.
I can't imagine a Florida without homegrown oranges and orange juice. From my earliest childhood days — when my mom mixed frozen concentrate and two cans of water in the blender — to now, when I spare no expense to buy the premium stuff in the bottle, I've started most days with a glass of orange juice squeezed from oranges grown just down the road....
07/06/14 Human Interest
Using shadowy write-in candidates to close otherwise open primaries to a single party's voters is unethical.
With independent and third-party voters surging, the state needs to eliminate a loophole and end this act of suppression.
For example, more than 60 percent of the registered votes won't have any real voice in choosing the next District 4 commissioner representing eastern Hillsborough County. Some want to debate the issue along partisan lines. It's not about registering in the "right" party or getting the other side to field candidates....
07/03/14 Human Interest
Whenever I hear Nelly's Hot In Herre (yes, with two Rs), I'm taken back to my first and only visit to Chicago's Wrigley Field in the summer of 2002.
The Cubs won an extra-inning afternoon thriller, the postgame bar scene sizzled with Nelly's infectious hook and the DJ invited girls — and only girls — to take the stage. When a legendary Cubs fan joined them, I waited for the bouncers to pull him down, but they never did. The girls hugged him and the guys applauded. ...
06/29/14 Human Interest
The board that oversees San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge voted last week to install a steel safety net to help prevent suicides on the iconic structure.
According to a Yahoo News report, supporters say similar suicide prevention barriers have served as deterrents at other bridges such as the Harbour Bridge in Sydney, Australia.
Environmental and financial concerns have been cited for not installing a similar barrier on our Sunshine Skyway Bridge, but the four children of a mother who jumped from the bridge earlier this year might say cost shouldn't be a factor. …...
They won't have a voice in the decision.
On Aug. 26, the Supervisor of Elections Office will tally the votes in the Republican primary race for Hillsborough County Commission District 4. The winner will be all but assured of taking control of the position for the next four years.
But more than 60 percent of the registered voters in that district won't have the chance to influence the outcome....
06/22/14 Human Interest
The list of ideas grows again for the St. Petersburg pier as the city seeks public input for the fourth time.
We'll see all kinds of intriguing ideas before it's said and done, but practicality can't be ignored.
The city must ensure this doesn't become a project that becomes a drain on taxpayers. Remember, that's how we got here. That should mean less retail, easy access and a sound structure that won't require high-priced maintenance....
Local entrepreneur Vinny Tafuro soon plans to launch a T-shirt business with the help of Kickstarter, and he expects one of his most popular shirts to bear the phrase If corporations are people, shouldn't they act like adults?
If Tafuro already had some shirts printed, he might have sold quite a few at the 2014 Sustainable Business Awards luncheon last week. The event at the University of Tampa's Vaughn Center honored companies that undoubtedly are behaving like adults, and embracing one of the tenets of his 2013 book Corporate Empathy....
06/15/14 Human Interest
Editor's note: the Hooper sons have again filled in for Dad so he could take Father's Day weekend off. Mat, a senior at Florida State University, and Ethan, a junior at the University of Central Florida, offer these five tips for surviving college.
Live on campus your freshman year. This is where you'll meet your core group of friends.
If you live in a community-style residence hall, your room might be smaller than your room at home and showering in the stall down the hall will be a complete wild card. ...
Ask Democrats about the importance of the black vote in the midterm elections and you might get a two-word response.
It's a sad commentary, but it has only a degree of truth. Nationally and in Florida, black turnout was up in 2010 when compared with the turnout for the 2008 presidential election. It remains to be seen what this year will yield, but it's clear they will be pivotal in the gubernatorial race — if they turn out....
06/08/14 Human Interest
Like Don Quixote, Richard Gonzmart never shies away from heroic challenges, if not impossible dreams.
Over the years, he has raised money for a variety of entities, not the least being Moffitt Cancer Center. Now the chivalrous Columbia Restaurant president, in his own battle against prostate cancer, wants men to get tested and engage in frank discussions about their health.
Gonzmart hosts Richard's Father's Day Family Walk/Jog at 8 a.m. Sunday at his new Tampa restaurant, Ulele, at 1810 N Highland Ave. Legendary marathoner Bill Rodgers will be on hand, a post-race breakfast will be served and all proceeds go to APCC, the Advanced Prostate Cancer Collaboration at Moffitt. Register and get the details at richardsrunforlife.org....
06/01/14 Human Interest
When Gov. Rick Scott filed suit against the Department of Veterans Affairs for not allowing state inspectors into VA hospitals in Florida, he said the VA was "stonewalling."
He should know. The former Columbia/HCA head once exercised his Fifth Amendment right 75 times in a civil court deposition.
Observers routinely criticize Scott's gubernatorial tenure for operating outside the "sunshine," but now he's criticizing the VA for a lack of transparency?...