08/29/16 Local Government
The plan is too big to be reduced to a single word, but I will do it anyway.
It's ambitious, hopeful and intricate. But none of those are the right word. It's well-meaning, massive and necessary. But that doesn't quite explain it, either.
All the studies, debates and plans to transform St. Petersburg's most impoverished neighborhoods needed just one vital word to get off on the right foot:...
Here's an interesting story about a government agency in action.
And depending on your point of view, that action could be described as either playing hardball or crossing the line into deception and intimidation.
To set the stage:
The South Florida Water Management District has gotten into a handful of skirmishes this year with environmental types. The executive director called the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service a bunch of "tin-eared bureaucrats,'' and the agency described a Caloosahatchee River Watch group forum as "one-sided detractors in pursuit of an agenda without facts to support it'' even before the forum was held....
You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into this world
Congratulations, Democrats. You too, Republicans.
Your partisan games have become so important to you that you've lost sight of your humanity.
The Zika virus has been on America's radar for nearly a year, and 535 members of Congress have done nothing but dither and deny. No consensus, no funding, no compassion....
08/22/16 Human Interest
The words are angry, but the voice is not. Even on one of his worst days in one of his worst summers, Doc Gooden sounds forever friendly. Polite. Hopeful, if a little weary.
The guy never changes, you think, and then wonder if that isn't part of the problem.
It is the afternoon after rumors of Dwight Gooden's possible drug relapse seemed to have sparked a national suicide watch, and he is calling back now from his Jersey City apartment to assure you all is well....
Sooner or later, our luck is going to run out.
And then we'll be the sad losers watching helplessly as homes and dreams are consumed by floodwaters. Just like the unfortunate souls in Baton Rouge, La., last week, and just like folks in West Virginia and South Carolina in the months before that.
It's going to happen here. Maybe in the next few months, maybe in the next few decades. Our proximity to water is too near, much of our terrain is too low and our run-ins with storms too frequent....
It's time for Florida teachers to give up their legal fight against school vouchers.
Do it quietly. Do it reluctantly. If need be, do it with fists clenched.
Just do it.
An appeals court said Tuesday that there was no basis to hear a lawsuit brought by the state teachers union, just as a lower court had said previously. The union now has 30 days to ask the state Supreme Court to consider the case....
These are frisky days for voters in Florida.
We have, for a change, something known as "choices.'' These would be actual situations involving multiple candidates running for the same legislative seat in the state Capitol.
Apparently, this is commonplace in many states.
Around here, it borders on folklore.
Just consider the last time we had a chance to vote for state legislators. Of the 140 seats up for grabs in 2014, there were 124 incumbents in the field. And since incumbents win about 95 percent of state races, that meant your ballot could not have had less impact if you had used darts....
08/13/16 Public Safety
By the time police arrived, the child was a pitiful mess. Her cheeks were flushed. Her sweaty hair was matted to her forehead, and her sobs were barely audible. The 3-year-old had been secured in a car seat, and locked inside an SUV in the parking lot of a Lake Wales Walmart for at least 20 minutes.
The skies were overcast on Wednesday, but the heat index was in the mid 90s in the late afternoon. Sweating while standing outside, Sgt. Bruce Yoxall knew the girl's temperature had to be soaring inside....
The first days of school are usually hectic ones for families everywhere.
Navigating the car circle. Packing a nutritious lunch. Filing an emergency injunction in circuit court. Where does anyone find the time?
Although, come to think of it, that last one might be a uniquely Florida chore. Because, for the life of me, I can't think of another state that is quite so dedicated to driving a wedge between its parents and its schools....
Some fights are just not worth the effort.
And if this was a mere tug-of-war over $10 in your pocket, then I would suggest the aggravation was not commensurate with the potential victory.
But what if this was about something larger?
What if this was about being taken advantage of in your own hometown? Of the folks in Tallahassee selling you down the river? What if it was a simple question of fair play?...
08/06/16 Human Interest
The idea is to put a face on democracy. To attach a name to a life of honor.
So the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections office came up with a program to include short bios of local military veterans in voter registration forms given to high school seniors. Inspiration, you might call it. A dignified plea to link America's greatest freedom to her greatest sacrifices.
Or, in the case of Larry Phelan, to tell the story of a generation receding from view....
This is what you might call being legally flexible:
The state has accused pari-mutuel facilities across Florida of operating illegal card games, while in a separate lawsuit denying the games exist.
"The state," observed lawyer John Lockwood "has a very nuanced position."
I'm not saying the state is unethical. I'm not even saying the state is wrong. I'm just pointing out that tap dancing seems to be a job requirement in Tallahassee....
08/01/16 Local Government
Here's some exciting news:
Pinellas County officials seem confident they can get a costly court decision reversed on appeal, and ultimately save taxpayers $16.5 million.
And here's the downside:
There's a chance those county officials are completely delusional, and will end up costing taxpayers even more money.
For the record, I'm betting on delusional.
This case involves a proposed apartment complex in Safety Harbor that some residents were unhappy about. The apartments were approved by city officials in 2013, but still needed the county to approve a zoning change from industrial use to residential....
The parking lot was just paved, the walls are being painted, and soon the medical landscape in Tampa Bay will be forever remade.
Tucked in an innocuous set of office buildings behind a car dealership on U.S. 19 in Clearwater, the second medical marijuana dispensary in Florida is expected to open in the next few weeks. A month later, the state's third store is scheduled to debut on N Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa....
To paraphrase an old Sam Cooke song:
Don't know much about ecology. Don't know much biology.
But I do know a stacked deck when I see one.
And what happened this week at the Environmental Regulation Commission meeting looks to me like rigged government at its worst.
If you were following the headlines, you know the commission approved new standards for the amount of dangerous chemicals allowed in Florida's waters....