12/17/14 Local Government
"I believe it is a risk, but it is more of an opportunity."
Former St. Petersburg City Council member Martha Maddux on July 24, 1986
Once, a great many years ago, we bet on St. Petersburg.
To be more precise, six members of the City Council bet on the city's future by voting to approve the construction of a baseball stadium.
They did it despite the threat of lawsuits. They did it despite Yankees owner George Steinbrenner warning it was a mistake. And they did it despite the commissioner of baseball insisting St. Pete was a long shot to land an expansion team....
12/15/14 Local Government
So I have taken the digital tour of the eight contenders for St. Petersburg's new pier.
I read all of the proposals and pretended to understand all of the blueprints. I solicited opinions from those around me and recorded all of their considerations.
And now, with complete confidence, I can say to the six members of the pier selection committee:
You people cannot win. No way, no how. A design by Michelangelo, with input from Frank Lloyd Wright, would get trashed by folks on one side of town or the other....
Here's an idea for teachers unhappy about being attacked by politicians:
Stop giving them ammunition.
Stop inviting closer inspection. Stop daring lawmakers to micromanage your curriculum, your classroom, your salary and your job status.
Because, trust me, that's exactly what's going to happen if we continue seeing unrealistic results in statewide teacher evaluations.
The most recent numbers suggest 97.7 percent of the teachers in the state are doing a fine job, with only 0.3 percent scoring at the lowest level....
12/10/14 Local Government
The money doesn't add up, and there's no getting around that.
If you consider that hundreds of millions of dollars in government funds may soon be devoted to the building of a new baseball stadium on one side of the bay or the other, it makes no sense that the current lease at Tropicana Field could possibly be bought off by the Tampa Bay Rays for a measly $3 million a year.
So if a cash payment is the only consideration, there is really no debate. You tell the Rays to shut up, find a catcher and play ball....
12/08/14 Local Government
Soon, the arguments will grow furious and loud.
There will be those who think St. Pete left too many millions on the table in its proposed deal to allow the Rays to go stadium shopping in Hillsborough.
Others will insist St. Pete has irretrievably weakened its legal standing should the Rays try to pack up and head for, let's say, San Antonio.
And almost everyone will have an opinion now that we have revived a 30-year-old debate — Should the stadium go in Tampa or St. Pete? — for a new generation....
In retrospect, compassion was never the way to go. How do you appeal to someone's better nature when it is in such short supply?
Piling on the guilt also failed to work, and arguing for common sense was a colossal waste of time.
No, when it came to getting the zealots in Florida's House of Representatives to consider health care expansion, only one strategy was ever going to make sense:...
We Floridians love our "stand your ground" law.
That's what the polls indicate, and it's what our lawmakers often tell us.
And, yet, we're still not sure what it is.
The law was written so broadly, so loosely, that it has wildly different interpretations from case to case and county to county. In some ways, "stand your ground" is less clear today than when it was passed nine years ago....
We begin in the middle of nowhere. No crowds, no TV cameras, no reason whatsoever to be paying attention. Just a handful of people on a fishing boat in the Gulf of Mexico.
It's a summer day in 2007, and John Yates figures he has 3,000 pounds of grouper cooling on ice. Unfortunately, an officer with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission figures about 72 of those fish are slightly undersized, and thus illegal....
They're low-profile bureaucrats, I get that.
They're faceless, nameless and mostly monotonous, and I can't blame you at all for not paying attention to the members of the Public Service Commission.
Except for this:
They're treating you like a chump.
A pushover. A fool.
They're helping electric companies reach further into your wallet, and they're doing it while earning big bucks to supposedly protect your interests....
So a bunch of voters get together to essentially tell Florida lawmakers that they don't trust them.
Don't trust them to be honest. Don't trust them to be fair. Don't trust them to be, I guess you could say, trustworthy.
These 3 million voters pass two constitutional amendments to make sure voting maps will never, ever be drawn to favor incumbents and political parties....
They say there are legacies on the line. A president's. A chief justice's. Even the reputations of a forgettable collection of congressional leaders might hang in the balance.
They all await the outcome of a Supreme Court decision regarding a critical component of the Affordable Care Act. In the months to come, the story will no doubt be divided along the lines of political winners and losers....
11/19/14 Local Government
His neighborhood was being torn down around him in the name of progress.
Sitting on his front porch with a baseball cap on his head and memories on his mind, the elderly gentleman told a reporter the story of planting the giant oak that was now providing their shade. He talked of the big-name acts that had passed through the doors of the Manhattan Casino across the road on 22nd Street S.
And he scoffed at the idea that progress was on the way....
Apparently, the new buzz word in education is customization.
Jeb Bush used it the other day. So did state Sen. John Legg, who was the education committee chairman the past two years. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio wrote about customization, and so did Patricia Levesque, CEO of Foundation for Excellence in Education.
It is part of a philosophy that says parents should be calling the shots when it comes to the education of their children. That means more charters and more voucher money. It means home-schooling and virtual schools. Essentially, it means parents know best....
Democrats in Florida are putting together another election task force.
Republicans in Florida are laughing hysterically.
That's the simplified version of where we are in state politics today. Democrats continue to look for something that Republicans keep parading in front of them.
Call it messaging. Or vision. Or a dang clue.
You might have heard that Democrats are whining about all the money spent by Gov. Rick Scott in the final days of the campaign. And I'm sure it did have some effect....
11/12/14 Local Government
One court case is still not final, and the other may have been filed prematurely.
So don't get too excited and, for heaven's sake, don't start spending money that will probably never reach your bank account.
Various cities and counties across the state may have a teensy problem with their red-light camera programs. And, by teensy, I mean they could be on the hook for millions of dollars in refunds to drivers who were nicked by violations in the past few years....