03/25/15 Local Government
The owner is frustrated, the mayor is weary and a deadline may be slipping past.
Chances are increasing that the agreement to allow the Rays to search around the Tampa Bay area for new stadium sites may not get done in 2015.
The Rays have generally avoided discussing stadium-related issues once the regular season begins, so it's possible the next meeting or two could be the last opportunities for the mayor's deal with the team to be approved by the current City Council....
Today we get to gauge the courage of some of our state lawmakers. Are they fearless? Are they gallant? Are they bold and principled?
Or are they afraid of one lobbyist in the gallery?
At 1 this afternoon, the state House's criminal justice subcommittee will discuss a bill that addresses the growing concern over homemade gun ranges in neighborhood yards.
Nearly everyone agrees it is dangerous and foolhardy to shoot guns in the general direction of a neighbor's nearby home, and yet legislators seem loath to fix a vague law that discourages local police from preventing this type of insanity....
03/21/15 Local Government
Like the inverted pyramid itself, the pier selection process has been turned on its head.
The latest delay came Friday evening in a bloodless coup d'blah. The mannered mob arrived not with pitchforks, but with polls. And by the time they were finished fussing, the pier selection committee was in full retreat.
Call it power to the people. Call it democracy in action. Or just call it St. Petersburg....
He'd heard the accusations before, in another time and place.
Support solar energy, and you will support higher electric bills. Less reliability. More tax subsidies and unwanted government interference.
This is what the critics said in Georgia in 2013, and they're saying it again in Florida today.
"Total foolishness," Georgia Public Service Commissioner Bubba McDonald said Wednesday. "We have no state subsidies, and there has been no upward pressure on rates. If anything, it's held down the cost of fuel....
Here's the gist of an audit of the state's high-tech, high-priced computer system for processing unemployment claims:
There were also some details. Stuff about design documentation, operational processing, data integral controls and timely automated claim notices.
But mostly, blech!
It seems the computer system didn't do what it was designed to do, took too long to get money to people in financial distress and may have unnecessarily exposed the Social Security numbers of a lot of Florida residents....
03/14/15 Human Interest
Every conversation begins years before the first word is spoken.
It begins with the experiences that shape us, and the lessons that instruct us. It begins with our own biases, and the unique point of view that we bring to every discussion.
And so the continuing conversation of Ferguson, Mo. is not necessarily about the death of Michael Brown last year, nor the shooting of two police officers at a protest last week....
03/11/15 Local Government
The people have spoken. Or maybe they've just cleared their throats.
It's kind of hard to tell the difference when you consider the miniscule number of voices heard in the recent St. Petersburg pier survey.
In a city with nearly 230,000 eligible voters, only 9,631 verified residents bothered to weigh in. To put it another way, pick any crowd of two dozen people in St. Petersburg and chances are 23 of them did not offer an opinion on the city's next pier....
03/09/15 Global Warming
Some might call it censorship. Or perhaps whitewashing.
I prefer to think of it as interpretive governing.
It's the process of ignoring, twisting or otherwise manipulating facts that do not match a politician's particular narrative.
Sort of like what has been going on at the Department of Environmental Protection since Rick Scott was elected governor. It seems former employees and others associated with the department say they were instructed to never use terms such as "global warming'' or "climate change" around the office....
Parents knew it. Teachers knew it. Principals, superintendents and school boards all knew it.
Florida's high-stakes testing program was a mess, and it took a whole lot of shouting from a lot of these people before lawmakers finally acknowledged it.
So this week, the education committees in both the Senate and the House began the process of finding a remedy.
You would think this was good news. You would hope this was the start of real reform. Turns out, you would be sadly mistaken....
Sometimes, change arrives dramatic and loud. And sometimes, it is as understated as two simple words.
With that declaration, a Broward County jury may eventually have as much impact on Florida's medical marijuana debate as all of the advertising and shouting that preceded last fall's failed constitutional amendment.
For what is believed to be the first time in state history, a jury has accepted a medical necessity defense in a marijuana trial. And so Jesse Teplicki, a 50-year-old marine mechanic who says he suffers from chronic anorexia, avoided a potential five-year prison term for having 46 cannabis plants growing in his home....
As lawmakers show up for a new Legislative session this morning in Tallahassee, let's review where we stand on the issue of Medicaid expansion:
In the past week, the state's Senate majority leader and a spokesperson in the governor's office both sounded the alarm about a looming budget calamity.
Safety net hospitals are growing increasingly nervous about the potential loss of $1 billion in federal funds, and nearly 1 million residents are still without health insurance....
Beware of the sex offenders!
The murderers, terrorists and crazies, too!
The folks supporting legislation to allow guns on college campuses want everyone to know about all of the dangers potentially lurking behind every tree in the quad.
One thing they don't want you to know?
And the simple truth is your sons and daughters are much safer on college campuses than almost any other place in pretty much any given city....
THREE YEARS AGO, the governor made a mistake. A costly, shortsighted, foolish mistake.
It was the summer of 2012, and states all around the nation were looking for ways to reform prison systems that were bleeding budgets and taxpayers dry.
In a rare burst of wisdom and cooperation, the Florida Legislature came together to pass a bill that would cut prison costs and, hopefully, slow the perpetual cycle of drug-addicted convicts booking return trips to jail cells. More than 97 percent of your state representatives and senators voted in favor of this commonsense bill....
The captain is older now, and spends more time on land than a fisherman should.
For John Yates, life has been irretrievably altered since that summer day in 2007 when a fish and wildlife officer boarded his boat in the Gulf of Mexico and accused the Manatee County man of catching undersized grouper.
What happened next is still disputed, but no one denies the fallout has been both chilling and far-reaching. Prosecutors accused Yates of destroying evidence by tossing a few fish overboard, and charged him under a law designed to go after Wall Street frauds....
In another era, this probably wouldn't qualify as news. In another state, it might go largely unnoticed.
But here in Florida, amid the most secretive, duplicitous, unapproachable administration Tallahassee has seen in years, it's darn near heroic.
State Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, turned heads last week when he suggested a new formula for determining which pet projects might end up in the state budget....