Ernest Hooper, Times Columnist/East Hillsborough Bureau Chief

Ernest Hooper

Ernest Hooper is the East Hillsborough Bureau chief and columnist at the Tampa Bay Times. Hooper joined the Times in 1992 and has worked as a prep sports writer and editor, TV/radio sports columnist, NFL writer, news columnist and unofficial ambassador, representing the Times as an emcee, judge or keynote speaker at hundreds of nonprofit events and civic functions. Hooper added the role of East Hillsborough Bureau chief in 2012. He oversees news content for the Times' regional edition east of Tampa, the SouthShore & Brandon Times, and writes two columns a week. His commentaries about family, community issues and political perspectives have helped Hooper connect with readers over the years, but he's probably best known for his signature tagline: That's all I'm saying.

Phone: (813) 661-2440


  1. Some drivers seem to be scraping change from ashtray to pay for gas

    Human Interest

    Call it a new economic indicator.

    On Friday, I glanced around a local gas station to see how much people paid on various pumps. It didn't look good, with numbers bottoming out at $8.19, $5.43 and $4. It looked like they scraped change out of the ashtray just to get down the road.

    The highest amount: $18.

    Maybe people filled up gas cans to mow the lawn. Or maybe they're still struggling to make it with the cost of gas and groceries continuing to rise …...

  2. New Brandon and SouthShore Times debuts May 2


    To our readers:

    Beginning May 2, the Tampa Bay Times will introduce a re­imagined SouthShore & Brandon Times section to bring you the most interesting and important news and information about your community every Friday.

    It will be a robust, community-focused weekly "newspaper within a newspaper" with news, entertainment, sports, business and real estate. It will serve as a complement to our daily paper, where we will provide even more local news and sports that matter to East Hillsborough residents, and to our website,, a 24/7 source of breaking news and information....

  3. ECC's screening program a story worth hearing

    Human Interest

    My mom used to tell everyone I didn't really talk as a toddler.

    Me? Not talking? Yeah, I also struggled to believe it.

    Naturally, she worried about my reluctance to utter words and took me to the doctor more than once. He insisted, however, I just didn't have much to say.

    Erika Lindsey received similar advice about her son two years ago. Cooper, who is 2 1/2, didn't say much and even though some said he would talk when he was ready, she and her husband, Robert, grew concerned....

    Erika Lindsey said she didn’t realize her son, Cooper, suffered from a severe hearing loss until she had him screened through a program supported by the Early Childhood Council of Hillsborough County.
  4. Chiaramonte sings Sinatra when not planning in Hillsborough

    Local Government

    When the gelato lady in Sicily put her towel down, stepped from her shop and applauded, Ray Chiaramonte knew his singing could be more than just a passing interest. • Chiaramonte, the executive director of both the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission and the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization, rediscovered his gift 10 years ago when he went to Sicily with his cousin Jim Callan and Jim's wife Rosanna Esalino, a Sicilian native. • Sure, he spent time singing in church choirs and during his teens, did some rock 'n' roll singing with a garage band. But he had never had an audience quite like this. • Esalino was scheduled to give a concert in the town square and she asked Chiaramonte if he would sing. With a little prodding, he fashioned a version of Frank Sinatra's My Way. When the gelato lady, not known for generous compliments, gave her approval, Chiaramonte became planning policy wonk by day, song stylist by night. • Chiaramonte, who performed at the county's monthly food truck rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square on April 11, recently shared his thoughts about singing and planning with Tampa Bay Times columnist Ernest Hooper....

    He’s executive director of both the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission and the county’s Metropolitan Planning Organization — but Ray Chiaramonte also sings Sinatra, here at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square in downtown Tampa on April 11.
  5. Layla's House adds warmth to a cold world

    Human Interest

    Alaska-themed streets dot the landscape in Sulphur Springs.

    A ride around the Tampa neighborhood will take you past Arctic, Brooks, Fairbanks, Juneau, Klondike, Nome, Seward, Sitka and Yukon streets.

    And, truth be told, sometimes life can be pretty cold in the impoverished neighborhood that once served as a Tampa tourist destination in the early 20th century.

    Yet nothing but warmth radiates at the corner of 15th Street and Eskimo Avenue. Fathers and grandfathers, mamas and nanas, new moms and expectant mothers flock to Layla's House to lay the foundation for a better life....

  6. Athena Society cultivates sisterhood among young women of promise


    In the summer before her sixth-grade year, doctors diagnosed Konner Brewer with Type 1 diabetes and told the active 11-year-old she needed to curb her foray into athletics. • "They told me I could no longer participate at such a high level in sports, that it was no longer safe for me," said Brewer, now a junior at the Academy of the Holy Names. "In my mind, I thought, 'Can't do something? Hmm. Challenge accepted.' "...

  7. Promise of new horizons and second chances

    Human Interest

    One student in Hillsborough Community College's Hope Scholars program longs to be an engineer. Another strives to obtain an audio engineering degree and work as a DJ.

    But the most moving words from my meeting with the group last week came from a student with a 3.5 grade point average dealing with the stigma of being a felon. He has applied to Florida International University but has run into challenges because of his record. In a nation built on second chances, he deserves one. …...

  8. Hooper: Schools are burning, with most kids left behind


    The schoolhouse has begun to burn, slowly but steadily.

    The kids wonder what will happen to them.

    And then a man steps into the classroom. He points to little Johnny and asks him to stand up.

    "Johnny, your parents want the choice to send you to a different school," the man says. "They have filled out the paperwork, so you can leave and go to the private school on the other side of town....

  9. Could Derby Lane site become Rays stadium?

    Human Interest

    Legislators grappling with gambling reform in Tallahassee said last week they want to phase out greyhound racing.

    A Derby Lane spokeswoman said the track still wants to run dogs while offering poker and slot machines, but if the track's days are numbered, I can't help but think the Gandy Boulevard location could be the home of a new Rays stadium. It would put the team closer to Tampa and Clearwater, and the elevated six-lane roadway under construction on Gandy from Interstate 275 to Fourth Street will improve traffic. Talk has centered on moving the team to Tampa, but keeping the stadium in Pinellas County allows for an easier political solution. …...

  10. Athena Society cultivates sisterhood among young women of promise

    Human Interest

    In the summer before her sixth-grade year, doctors diagnosed Konner Brewer with Type 1 diabetes and told the active 11-year-old she needed to curb her foray into athletics.

    "They told me I could no longer participate at such a high level in sports, that it was no longer safe for me," said Brewer, now a junior at the Academy of the Holy Names. "In my mind, I thought, 'Can't do something? Hmm. Challenge accepted.' "...

    Konner Brewer gets a kiss from her mother, Karla Brewer, after her speech at the Young Women of Promise luncheon.
  11. A young colt provides an old lesson about generosity

    Human Interest

    The deputy drove up on an early Saturday morning last month to feed the five horses at the Hillsborough County Sheriff Office's training facility in Lithia and found a surprise inside the corral.

    A sixth horse.

    Apples, an aptly named Appaloosa and one of the horses that the Sheriff's Office seized in an animal cruelty case in January, had given birth to a colt. At the time, the horses were so thin that deputies had no idea one might be pregnant....

  12. Sessums Elementary becomes first SouthShore school to offer single-gender classes


    RIVERVIEW — Kristen Burnett started researching the pros and cons of single-gender classes before she left the classroom four years ago.

    She strongly considered teaching single-gender classes as she learned more about the approach and the new neurological research that identified learning differences between boys and girls.

    Now Burnett will learn even more through the eyes of her daughter when Sessums Elementary becomes the first school in the SouthShore area to offer single-gender classes in 2014-15. The school will include one single-gender class for boys and one for girls in each grade....

    The district looked at single-gender classes at Sessums because of increasing interest in single-gender magnet middle schools Franklin Boys Preparatory and Ferrell Girls Preparatory, above.
  13. RCS Grace House sees through stereotypes to help homeless families

    Human Interest


    Diana Lugo's vision may be no better than the average person, but she certainly sees the plight of homeless families in a different light.

    Lugo, program director at the RCS Grace House in Clearwater, doesn't possess X-ray vision, but her position at the emergency shelter for homeless families allows her to pierce through the stereotypes. Professional workers have knocked on her door, embarrassed that they have burned through savings and used up 401k funds trying to provide a home for their kids....

  14. United Way event shows stylish star Tim Gunn has substance

    Human Interest

    I'm not a big fan of (un)reality TV, but Tim Gunn has earned my respect.

    The Project Runway mentor often delivers critical candor, but he's not without heart, which probably explains why he's lending his name and presence to the United Way's 10th annual Art of Giving event Friday at Peter O. Knight airport on Davis Islands. All proceeds will go to the United Way's Early Learning Initiative. ...

  15. Hooper: Fix a fatal stretch of Hillsborough Avenue now

    Human Interest

    The news wrenched Owen Young's gut.

    It always does.

    Whenever the Middleton High principal learns that a car has struck one of his students trying to cross Hillsborough Avenue, it shakes his soul.

    "It's like, not again," said Young, still grappling with the death of 15-year-old Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, who was hit by a car March 18 along with her 14-year-old sister, Victoria, still in Tampa General....

    Shenika Davis