12/11/13 Human Interest
For the most part, we waste our outrage.
We get worked up when we should chill out. We see a tiny anomaly and treat it like a grand metaphor. And heaven help us if YouTube gets involved.
All of which is a prelude to the had-to-be-in Florida story of baby Jesus sharing a Christmas display with a stack of beer cans in the state Capitol.
The short version goes something like this:...
Just about 20 years ago, the state Legislature took a stand against profiteers.
Disturbed by reports of businesses jacking up prices to prey on victims of Hurricane Andrew, the Legislature passed a law forbidding price gouging in the wake of storms.
The word used in Florida Statutes is "unconscionable.''
Unfortunately, the law only applies to post-storm and not pre-storm gouging. And it excludes price increases by government agencies....
The question of Medicaid expansion in Florida — Pffft, who needs $51 billion? — returned to the headlines last week.
There was a study released by the Commonwealth Fund, a nonprofit group that researches health policies, that pointed out how you and I are paying for a boatload of health coverage in a bunch of states not named Florida since we're not expanding Medicaid here.
And there was an op-ed piece written by state House Speaker Will Weatherford in response to an uncomplimentary blog post that appeared in the Florida Times-Union....
They live in parallel universes, each one a creation of misguided hope.
On one side are the politicians who seem convinced that every classroom is identical, and the only reason students fail is because their teachers are inept.
On the other side are educators who see a world that's out to get them, and reflexively protect their own whether they are deserving or not.
In between is the real world....
Looks like their court briefs are in a bunch.
Yes, it seems the Senate president, the speaker of the House and the attorney general are all so worked up about the wording of a proposed medical marijuana amendment, they have filed briefs that will be argued this week before the state Supreme Court.
Good for them.
That's democracy in action. It's the legislative and executive branches of government coming before the judicial branch in healthy debate....
They have called for his head, his job, his political future.
From the governor to the state Republican Party chairman to Democrats in every direction, the chorus has been predictably harmonious.
They say U.S. Rep. Trey Radel, a Republican from Fort Myers, should resign at midterm following his recent guilty plea to a misdemeanor charge of buying cocaine.
Please excuse me for singing a different tune....
11/25/13 Human Interest
This is not a column about guilt or innocence.
I have neither the facts, nor the gall, to offer a strong opinion on the sexual allegation brought against Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston.
And this is not a column regarding public support.
For those who are absolutely convinced they understand the motivations of this case, on one side or the other, there is little anyone can say that will convince them otherwise....
Something is wrong here.
Something with our laws, or with our culture. Something with our schools, or with our priorities.
Because it is inconceivable that a 12-year-old girl could apparently be bullied so often and so cruelly that she would choose to end her life and, two months later, authorities would seemingly close the book on her alleged tormentors.
This doesn't mean that prosecutors erred this week when they declined to pursue aggravated stalking charges against two teenage girls in connection with the September death of Rebecca Sedwick in Lakeland....
11/20/13 Local Government
Welcome to the City of Indecision.
Where a procrastinator's job is never done.
This is the city that has spent millions of dollars and devoted years of effort to replace the Pier, and still has no idea what the future holds. The city that can't seem to agree on curbside recycling, let alone a major-league baseball team's address.
And now this week comes the news that St. Petersburg is still playing Eenie Meenie Miney Moe with police station proposals, a mere six years after the city supported the renewal of a county sales tax to pay for construction....
Like characters in an Agatha Christie novel, the leading suspects have all vanished. Unexpectedly. Inexplicably. One after another.
There was the longtime county commissioner. The sheriff. The former mayors of Clearwater and St. Petersburg. One state senator, and then another. Even the widow, brother and son of the dearly departed hero.
The most recognizable names in the Republican Party in Pinellas County have all politely declined to run for a congressional seat owned by the GOP for four decades....
11/16/13 Human Interest
CALLER: Yes, hello. (Sniffle.) My grandpa Vincenzo just passed away. (Sob.) In his final moments, he told me he had been holding on to that unclaimed Powerball ticket for me, (weeping) but he didn't get a chance to tell me where he hid it.
LOTTERY OFFICIAL: According to the videotape, that ticket was bought by a woman.
CALLER: Yeah, so Grandpa Vincenzo liked to wear the occasional dress. Where can I pick up the money? ...
The initial reports of the Atlanta Braves' proposed stadium deal are in front of him.
He sees the size of the investment a Georgia suburb is willing to make to build the stadium and lure a big-league franchise. He sees the acreage the team will have at its disposal to develop hotels, restaurants and retail stores around the stadium.
Surely Tampa Bay Rays owner Stuart Sternberg is thinking:...
In terms of brevity and accuracy, most of the headlines from last week's House committee meeting were right on target.
Lawmakers vote down repeal of "stand your ground"
This would be the concise version of events. The straightforward telling of a story that has captured the state's attention for months.
Here's the alternate version:
Grandstanding on "stand your ground" leads nowhere...
Of all the little boy's companions, fear had to be the most devoted.
He had been removed from his home in the wake of disturbing accusations directed at his mother's boyfriend. The boyfriend kicked a child in the head. He beat the boy's mother. Drugs were abused, and the home was rancid with animal feces.
Placed with his grandmother, the little boy's life and fears somehow grew worse. He and his three siblings were beaten and made to sleep in animal crates, according to a Miami Herald report. There is a suspicion the children were medicated to keep them asleep most of the day in their Fort Myers-area home....
It was nearing the final days of the mayoral election, and the candidates were running hard toward the finish line.
Having just abruptly announced a new direction in his Midtown strategy, Mayor Bill Foster was asked why he hadn't told City Council members beforehand.
His essential reply:
Because I didn't have to.
If the learning curve for Mayor-elect Rick Kriseman seems daunting today, this might be as good a place as any for him to start....