It's not quite a fair fight. Or even a practical fight.
In this corner, you have businessman Charles Koch. He's the one with billions of dollars in the vault and presidential hopefuls on the line. He essentially wants to buy influence at Florida State University by offering the school sizable chunks of grant money.
In the other corner, you have grad student Ralph Wilson. He's the one with less than $30 in his checking account, and a wheezing '91 Toyota Corolla. He, and a few others, are hoping to shame FSU into better monitoring Koch's influence....
04/16/14 Local Government
Do not be misled by the abruptness of Bob LaSala's firing this week.
Do not read too much into the unanimous vote of Pinellas commissioners to terminate their county administrator, and do not infer anything from the lack of debate.
If not inevitable, this ending was entirely predictable.
For it is probably fair to say that LaSala was clearly the wrong option in 2014 for some of the same reasons he was the perfect choice in 2009....
Please forgive me, but I am a dim-witted product of Florida's inferior public schools. Big numbers confuse me and grandiose ideas are beyond my grasp.
For instance, I have a difficult time following the game plan of our super-smart state leaders when it comes to public education. Try as I might, their logic escapes me.
They insist accountability is the key to all that is magical in education, then steer students and tax money to private schools that have no formal accountability....
There are few sure bets when it comes to your state Legislature.
Education is forever a minefield, and gambling remains divisive. Dropping dead on the House floor might reignite the health care debate, but I wouldn't count on that either.
No, if you're a lawmaker looking to increase your legislative batting average, there is really only one issue that has a guarantee of safe passage:...
Today's topic is beer.
Well, maybe how the state regulates craft breweries.
Okay, it's about how legislators are willing to contradict themselves, ignore their constituents and push the agendas of their campaign donors.
(Ding, ding, ding!)
A bill approved by a Senate committee on Tuesday will essentially force small breweries to sell their bottled or canned beer to a distributor before buying it back from the same distributor and finally selling it to you from their own brewery....
His fate was decided swiftly. The jury returned a guilty verdict in 84 minutes. A judge handed down a death sentence 15 minutes after that.
But, for James Richardson, true justice arrived more slowly. He would spend 21 years in prison before his murder conviction was finally thrown out in 1989.
As for an apology?
He's still waiting.
Today, nearly 47 years after the migrant farm worker was seemingly wrongly accused of poisoning his seven young children in Arcadia, the state of Florida may finally get around to offering him some version of atonement....
The topic is devastation. As in, if you pass this piece of legislation, you could decimate the state's mental health crisis centers.
So say the experts standing before this Florida Senate committee. So says one senator who wonders what the motivation is for the bill. So says the senator, and former county sheriff, who worries about the impact on law enforcement. So says the senator who fears other unintended consequences. ...
Help me out here.
There has to be a perfect word to sum up the federal lawsuit Duke Energy filed last week seeking $54 million from Westinghouse Electric.
There has to be a phrase that accurately describes the splendid arrogance of a money-hoarding beast loudly complaining about someone else's ill-gotten windfall.
Now I've considered a few lewd descriptions, and some snotty ones, too. Yet none adequately sums up the shamelessness and audacity of Duke's claim....
Give them credit, your representatives in the state House. They don't know the meaning of the word "quit."
They also don't seem to know the meaning of shame. Or hypocrisy. Or fairness. Or equality.
Yes, after the state Senate was ambivalent about radically expanding the school voucher system, the House simply repackaged the same idea with a new sales pitch.
And — surprise! — failed to address the gigantic flaw....
03/21/14 Human Interest
Near as anyone can tell, the water and electricity have been turned off for months. A tree around back has fallen on the house's roof, and rats are making themselves at home. Human waste has shown up in odd places outside, and the front door has a series of sticky notes addressed to Clearwater police.
From that remarkably low starting point, the story still manages to go downhill.
You see, the occupants of this nondescript house on a quiet street in a neighborhood off U.S. 19 are not the owners. Nor, neighbors say, do they have a lease....
The folks in the Supervisor of Elections Office have turned Pinellas County into the envy of Florida when it comes to absentee balloting.
By mail or dropoff, due to demographics or design, this county has been the most efficient collector of absentee ballots of any metro area in the state.
So pop the corks, cut the cake and revel in your accomplishments.
And then consider rethinking your good work....
03/17/14 Public Safety
Some of the children were beaten to death.
Others died of malnutrition. Suffocation. Neglect.
Each story is heartbreaking.
A Miami Herald report identified 477 children from troubled homes who have died since 2008 despite being on Florida's Department of Children and Families' radar.
Their deaths are horrible enough. What's worse is the suspicion that we may have failed them. That too many of these tragedies and atrocities might have been prevented....
At the risk of oversimplifying a year's worth of investigative reporting, here is the most important takeaway from the Tampa Bay Times' recent report on hospital trauma care bills:
When asked about the high cost of trauma response fees, the CEO of UF Health Shands Hospital acknowledged prices were out of whack with reality. He pledged to lower the trauma response cost, which is essentially a cover charge, from $10,000 to $4,000....
And so it begins again for Rick Scott. This time, a little earlier than the last.
The governor will begin selling himself today in a brand new campaign commercial designed to make him look every bit as human as you or I.
Now you might remember, at this point four years ago, Scott was not yet running for governor. His name recognition was practically nil, and when the first polls arrived in early May, he trailed Bill McCollum by 14 points in the Republican primary....
Technically, this isn't as impressive as the Ming thing.
It's a couple of centuries short of a dynasty and a few ZIP codes shy of an empire. On the other hand, the Ming Dynasty never had to deal with Social Security attack ads.
And so this is where the Republican Party finds itself today. After six decades of dominance in Pinellas County's congressional district, Republicans are staring at a rare challenge....