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Jamal Thalji, Times Staff Writer

Jamal Thalji

Jamal Thalji has spent two decades covering crime, business, courts and sports for the Tampa Bay Times. Now he's an assistant metro editor.

He was raised in the Tampa Bay area, attended Osceola High School and is a graduate of the University of South Florida in Tampa.

He worked for the Times while he was in college and interned at the Des Moines Register. He returned to Florida to work for the Times in its Citrus and Pasco County bureaus.

After five years covering criminal and civil court in Pasco County for the Times, in 2008 he became metro police reporter for the city of St. Petersburg.

In June 2012 he joined the Times business staff and covered Tampa International Airport, Port Tampa Bay, the tourism industry and Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik's $1 billion plan to redevelop downtown Tampa.

Along the way Thalji has also covered NASA, the NFL, the NBA, college football, hurricanes, forest fires, space shuttle launches, criminal trials and lots of high school football.

In June 2015, he became an assistant metro editor in the Tampa newsroom.

Did you know: He filed the last byline in the history of the St. Petersburg Times, which changed its name to the Tampa Bay Times on Jan. 1, 2012.

Phone: (813) 226-3404

Email: jthalji@tampabay.com

Twitter: @jthalji

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  1. Tight Tampa Bay area primary races will divide Democrats this summer

    Elections

    It's looking to be a long, hot summer for a number of mostly Democratic Tampa Bay politicians battling it out in the Aug. 30 primary.

    House District 68, which covers much of St. Petersburg and Pinellas Park, Lealman and Feather Sound, pits two well-funded, well-connected 30-something candidates, Eric Lynn and Ben Diamond, against one another in a race that has local Democrats divided.

    All by himself, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman shows just how split Democrats are. He endorsed Lynn when he was in the Democratic 13th Congressional District primary against Charlie Crist. Kriseman then endorsed Diamond for the House seat before Lynn jumped into the race in early May. ...

    Kevin Beckner, one of the party’s young stars, and Pat Frank, a legendary longtime Democratic politician, are locked in Hillsborough County’s most contentious race, for clerk of the Circuit Court.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning fall to NBA's Golden State Warriors in bid to be professional sports' best business team

    Business

    The Tampa Bay Lightning fell short Wednesday night in its bid to be named the top professional sports business team of the year by SportsBusiness Journal, a national sports business industry publication.

    Instead, the NBA champion Golden State Warriors won the honor, the franchise's second in three years, at the annual Sports Business Awards in New York City.

    "It was an honor to be a finalist in the Sports Team of the Year category," Lightning CEO Steve Griggs said in a statement. "It's a testament to the great work performed by our employees over the past year....

    NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman talks with Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik before Wednesday night's Game 3 of the Eastern Conference final between the Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Lightning were vying for another honor that night in New York City: the SportsBusiness Journal's annual Sports Business Awards' Sports Team of the Year. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]

  3. Greater Tampa Chamber offers timely endorsement of Hillsborough's proposed transportation tax

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The proposed half-cent sales tax to fund Hillsborough County's transportation needs finally landed a key endorsement: the business community.

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce, the largest business chamber in Hillsborough, on Thursday endorsed the half-cent option that is projected to raise $117.5 million a year to pay for hundreds of projects for those who drive, bike, walk and use the bus....

    The view from southbound Interstate 275 of traffic backing up in the northbound lanes through Tampa earlier this year. The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce on Thursday unanimously endorsed a proposed half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements. The Hillsborough County Commission will decide next week whether to put it on the November ballot so voters can decide for themselves. [WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times]
  4. Chamber poll: Hillsborough traffic is bad, but support for transportation tax is split

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County residents agree on this much: Traffic is bad.

    Ninety-seven percent of the 400 residents queried in a recent Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce poll believe the county is either "extremely congested" or "somewhat congested."

    "The overwhelming number of respondents say there's something that needs to be done about transportation," said chamber president and CEO Bob Rohrlack. "That's huge."...

    Backed-up traffic in the northbound lanes of Interstate 275 in Tampa in January supports a recent Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce poll that found 97 percent of the 400 residents queried believe Hillsborough County’s roads are either “extremely congested” or “somewhat congested.”
  5. Sam Rashid resigns from Hillsborough airport board — but doesn't apologize

    Politics

    TAMPA — Republican activist Sam Rashid resigned from the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority on Friday.

    "Today, I tender my resignation and wish you and your next appointee continued success," Rashid wrote to Gov. Rick Scott.

    But Rashid did not apologize for the misogynistic Facebook slur that led to his resignation: He called public relations consultant Beth Leytham a "tax-payer subsidized slut" on Sept. 2....

  6. Lightning CEO Tod Leiweke steps down to become chief operating officer of the NFL

    Business

    TAMPA — Tod Leiweke said that hockey was his first love when Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik lured him away from the NFL's Seattle Seahawks in 2010 to come rebuild the bay area's failing hockey franchise as its new CEO.

    Now pro football has wooed Leiweke back.

    The Lightning CEO resigned Friday to take on one of the top jobs in the National Football League: chief operating officer, a position last held by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell himself in 2006....

    Tod Leiweke, left, will stay in a lesser capacity until August while president Steve Griggs takes over as Lightning CEO.
  7. Tampa Bay tourism aims at cities served by Allegiant, and a new calendar

    Tourism

    The Tampa Bay tourism industry isn't just relying on top feeder markets like Chicago and New York and its stronghold seasons of summer and winter to attract visitors anymore.

    Instead, officials are creating their own hybrid tourism seasons and aiming for secondary markets served by Allegiant Air in cities such as Akron, Ohio; Des Moines, Iowa; and Grand Rapids, Mich.

    "These are good, strong Allegiant markets," said David Downing, CEO of the Pinellas tourism agency Visit St. Pete/Clearwater....

    Florida Governor Rick Scott next to actor Nathan Gamble visits with Clearwater Marine Aquariums' dolphins Hope (left) and Winter, flanked by trainers Susan Young (left) and Heather Statz during a visit to the aquarium Thursday morning 7/23/2015 to highlight funding for VISIT FLORIDA to continue Florida?€™s record-breaking tourism. He held a press conference in the aquariums theater with area and state wide tourism officials and local leaders before getting a visit with the aquariums movie star dolphins Winter and Hope alongside Dolphin Tale actor Nathan Gamble.
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning's finances on verge of skating into the black

    Business

    TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup final — and maybe in the black as well.

    The Lightning is close to breaking even for the first time in the Jeff Vinik era and only the second time in its 23-year history.

    Team officials say that the longest postseason run since Vinik bought the team in 2010 has sparked sales of season tickets, suites and sponsorships that will fuel revenues for years to come....

    Tampa Bay Lightning fans gather outside Amalie Arena in Tampa during the Eastern Conference finals against the New York Rangers. Success has led to a surge in season ticket and suite sales.
  9. Tampa International Airport brings car rental companies under one roof

    Airlines

    TAMPA — One selling point of Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano's $943 million plan to remake the airport is that it would make renting cars there a whole lot easier.

    Instead of looking for deals on or off airport property, customers in the ninth largest rental market in the nation would be able to choose from a range of prices, choices and companies all under one roof.

    That perk will be a reality in two years: The airport said that nine rental companies — representing 16 different brands — have signed agreements to use its new 2.6 million-square-foot rental facility months before its even set to break ground this fall....

    This is an artist's rendering of the interior of the new car rental facility that Tampa International Airport will build by 2017. Airport officials said they've signed contracts with nine companies to bring 16 rental car companies to the new 2.6 million square-foot facility. Tampa has the 9th largest car rental market in the nation, and airport officials say that it will all be under one roof at the airport.
  10. Container architecture starting to have a moment in Tampa Bay

    Business

    They are always 8 feet tall and 8 feet wide and 20 or 40 feet long. Millions carry the cargo that keeps the economy going. Millions more are scattered across the globe, unused.

    Shipping containers symbolize our quest to buy things and the excess and waste that result. These corrugated steel boxes may also hold part of the solution.

    Containers are being recycled and reinvented to serve humanity in new ways, as homes and offices, bridges and schools, even a research station in Antarctica....

    Ferg’s Live across from Amalie Arena in Tampa positions shipping containers to form a courtyard. The boxes are used for a bar, bathrooms and outdoor kitchen. Above the corner is a small stage.
  11. Critics take aim at Tampa International Airport's concessions contracts

    Airlines

    TAMPA — The proposals are in. The bids have been ranked. After eight months, the process of choosing what people will eat, drink and buy at Tampa International Airport is almost at an end.

    The airport's overseer, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, will pick the winning bids on June 4.

    But critics of the process are starting to speak up.

    They question the airport's commitment to minority-owned and locally owned businesses, the diversity of the selection committees and even whether a board member should recuse himself from voting because a bidder donated to his re-election campaign....

    The airport’s bid process is designed to encourage concessionaires to include “local flavors,” but officials say federal law prohibits them from favoring local companies when awarding contracts.
  12. Museum of Science and Industry board interested in Jeff Vinik's downtown Tampa project

    Business

    TAMPA — Jeff Vinik was a tad busy Monday — his Tampa Bay Lightning were in New York for that night's NHL playoff game — but he still found time to address a very important group: the Museum of Science and Industry's board of directors.

    Vinik is undertaking a $1 billion redevelopment of downtown Tampa, and he thinks MOSI would be a great addition to the project.

    So on Monday the Lightning owner briefed board members on the idea — and they're definitely interested....

    Jeff Vinik’s plan for downtown Tampa will cost $1 billion.
  13. Tampa Bay will be part of Humana's hiring spree

    Business

    TAMPA — Humana said that it's about to go on a hiring spree and start adding 500 jobs a year nationally — and many of those jobs will end up in the bay area.

    The Louisville, Ky., insurance company announced its new hiring goal Tuesday and said it wants to fill those new jobs by hiring military veterans and their spouses.

    "Tampa Bay will be a focus," Humana spokesman Jeff Blunt said, "and the area has a heavy military family presence."...

  14. New medical startup Inspirata sets up shop in Tampa, will hire 70

    Corporate

    TAMPA — Satish Sanan used to be big into horse racing. But the Clearwater entrepreneur said he sold his horses and is devoting himself to his new medical startup, Inspirata Inc.

    The company hopes to revolutionize digital pathology by creating digital slides of the cancer cells taken from patients.

    "This will be my legacy," Sanan said.

    Inspirata wants to create digital images that will make it easier for doctors to diagnosis patients, share information with other physicians, build a cancer database and create a "predictive algorithm" to forecast how future cancers will develop....

  15. Mapping out proposed dining, shopping options at Tampa International Airport

    Airlines

    TAMPA — Plans have been drawn. Checks have been cut. Demolition has begun. The metamorphosis of Tampa International Airport is well under way.

    There's one last step to take, however, and it may be the most important piece of the $943 million project:

    What are people going to eat, drink and buy when the transformed airport is unveiled in 2017?

    The complicated — and at times grueling — airport concessions selection process will finally come to a close with the June 4 meeting of the board that oversees the airport, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority....

    An artist’s rendering of the proposed Hard Rock Cafe in the main terminal.