07/20/15 Human Interest
Eventually, this will again be a topic of conversation around here.
The average attendance at Tropicana Field remains below 15,000, putting the Rays in danger of being Major League Baseball's lowest-drawing team since the 2006 Marlins.
In many ways, it has become part of the franchise's identity. The Rays are known for pitching, a shrewd front office and a lack of fans in the seats....
07/18/15 Local Government
Over here, city officials were expecting applause. Over there, residents were offering insults. In between lay a giant mess.
(Albeit in bright blue, 95-gallon trash bins!)
Yes, the recycling war in St. Petersburg continues. It has been a monthlong battle between city officials beaming about finally introducing the town to 21st century technology, and a handful of residents annoyed at the city's my-way-not-the-alleyway style of collection....
The folks involved with Jeb Bush's education foundations love grades.
They love assigning and interpreting them. They love to praise and punish based on them. They love to preach that grades are intertwined with accountability and standards.
All of which raises an interesting point today:
Bush's foundations seem to have an achievement gap problem. You see, the Foundation for Florida's Future, a think tank created by Bush in 1995, recently released its 2015 grades for state legislators....
07/13/15 Human Interest
College for Kayley Simonsen is a single classroom in a nondescript building off Coachman Road in Clearwater. It's no one's idea of fancy, but it's every bit as meaningful to Kayley as the big-name universities her little sister is choosing from.
And right now, her parents are searching for the right words to explain to Kayley, 24, that her "college" is shutting down because the state has decided to stop funding a program that teaches life skills to adults with disabilities....
Follow the time line here:
1. Voters tell lawmakers not to cheat.
2. Lawmakers swear they won't.
3. The Florida Supreme Court says they did.
That's abbreviated, but it's factual. Legislators in Florida not only defied the Constitution, but defied the express wishes of most of you.
Essentially, they made a mockery of a constitutional amendment that said voting districts should not be drawn to favor parties or incumbents....
Let me see if I have this straight:
The attorney general and Florida's Chamber of Commerce have both joined with mega utility companies to fight a constitutional amendment on solar power that embraces a competitive marketplace.
Surely, that's a mistake. An oversight of some kind. Why would the state's top consumer advocate and its biggest economic cheerleader want to stifle the free market?...
Sometimes, it helps to be provocative.
In the right situation, in the proper moment, it can be more effective than a polite or subtle plea for attention.
And, sometimes, being provocative is counterproductive.
If you saw video or read the news accounts of a demonstration last week in Tampa, then you might understand what I mean.
A small group of activists gathered at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park to protest racism. Or violence. Or the Confederate battle flag. I'm not completely sure what the message was because it was obscured by the news that protesters burned several American flags....
07/03/15 Human Interest
THE VILLAGES — The community has a soundtrack, and it is Fox News. Take a walk through one of the bustling town squares, and you can hear it descending from the speakers — or is it the heavens? — somewhere above.
This is the place Republican presidential candidates come to boost campaigns. The place conservative authors are rock stars, and Gov. Rick Scott comes to feel the love....
The line exists. Of that, you can be sure.
Somewhere, there is a line that our state leaders will not cross. Call it morality. Call it decency. Call it integrity. Somewhere, there is a point where shame kicks in, and their conscience finally forces them to stop in their tracks.
Unfortunately, no one can locate that line.
Yes, it is a remarkable thing to witness the shameless in action. To see them deny the obvious and ignore the ironic....
06/29/15 Local Government
Someone, please, get the man some confetti.
He is a conqueror in need of a celebration. A honcho in search of minions.
It has been a little more than a week since Ed Montanari (sort of) won an election to the St. Petersburg City Council and the band is still waiting for its cue.
Alas, it turned out to be a victory without a battle.
No other candidate filed to run against him in District 1, and so Montanari happily accepted the political equivalent of a forfeit more than four months ahead of the election....
06/27/15 Human Interest
Two towns, two stories, two battles. Separated by miles and decades, and yet connected somehow through a bygone symbol and the passion it still incites.
The Confederate flag controversy playing out in Charleston today is not indigenous to South Carolina, and it is not novel by any standard.
Just ask the long-ago teenagers who were part of Pinellas County's first integrated class of students at Dixie Hollins High a couple of generations ago....
He is always chipper, that governor of ours. Always smiling, always talking of bigger ideas and better days.
And yet every time he walks out of a room, there seems to be more angry people than when he arrived.
This is not accidental, and it should not be any huge surprise. It is, for lack of a better term, the Rick Scott style.
And what exactly is that?
It is omnipotence without a conscience....
CHARLESTON, S.C. — Come, the man said, this is our house of worship.
And so, on a cloudless Sunday morning, they came.
They came to mourn. To worship. To comfort, and to gawk.
They came until the 800-seat Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church was filled beyond its means. And still more came. They spilled onto Calhoun Street where barricades were set up, and stereo speakers were brought outside so the sermon could be heard....
CHARLESTON, S.C. — This is a city with a past, not all of it glorious. A place where history is sold by the walking tour, though some of the banter is strategically cleansed.
The downtown is forever under the gaze of an 80-foot high statue of a man who once argued slavery was a blessing for us all. It's a place where a quiet man in a suit and tie can point to storefronts where, not so many years ago, he couldn't try on clothes because of the color of his skin. A community that has seen historically black neighborhoods disappear within gentrified streets of coffee shops and high-end rentals....
Sometimes, decisions made in the Legislature are nauseatingly selfish.
Sometimes, they are fanatical. Phony. Outlandish. Cruel.
And sometimes, they are none of those things.
They are simply wrong.
The state budget that was agreed upon earlier this week has plenty of fodder no matter where you reside philosophically. You can say legislators spent recklessly or you can say they skimped foolishly, and there is truth to both arguments....