09/26/16 Local Government
Shame on me, that I haven't said this enough.
Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections Deborah Clark has done a splendid job nudging us toward the future with her efforts to promote voting by mail. Voter turnout numbers in Pinellas are consistently among the state's best for high-population counties.
So, all together now, let's offer overdue recognition:
Great job, Deb.
Now stop being so stubborn....
09/24/16 Local Government
You can call it a scandal, and perhaps history will soon agree.
Maybe all of the investigations and probes will point to a recognizable villain, and we'll start referring to the whole affair as Sewergate.
But for now it might help to focus on the process. To understand the breakdowns that led to dirty water flowing in St. Petersburg's streets and waterways.
Talk to enough witnesses, and a familiar narrative emerges. The motives differ and the conclusions vary, but most people seem to view this as a three-act tragedy....
The first time I was double charged at a doctor's office, I wrote it off as a fluke. A clerical error caused by a complicated insurance system.
It was mildly bothersome the second time, but I still told myself it was more gaffe than scam. When it happened a third time, in barely more than a year, it felt like something entirely different.
It felt like I was being hustled.
What we're talking about here does not rise to the conventional definition of fraud. It's more like blissful ignorance. The more ignorant the patient is, the more blissful a doctor's bank account gets....
(The following statement is based on research by an educational institute.)
Being a teacher in Florida stinks.
(The next statement is an extrapolation based on that first statement.)
Being a student in Florida is about to get worse.
Mind you, these are not cold, hard facts. They are more like observations in the wake of a comprehensive study done by the Learning Policy Institute that predicts America will soon have a teacher shortage....
09/17/16 Local Government
To: The Hon. Rick Kriseman, Mayor of St. Petersburg
Bit of a rough week, huh? Critics here, whiners there.
I guess it's true what they say: When it rains, it pours.
In this case, right out of the city's sewage plants.
Yeah, that's kind of a cheap shot. But it is, in a way, what I wanted to talk about.
You need to loosen up. A lot. I'm not saying the wastewater issue is a joke, but I am saying your office has to quit trying to always control, manipulate and spin the news....
09/12/16 Local Government
This is a story in need of a hero. Or at least a conscience.
If you've been following the saga of the Mosley Motel, you've probably had a difficult time choosing sides. That's because no one seems completely virtuous, no matter what their intentions.
It's a story entangled by economics, bureaucracy and legalities. It went through one courtroom last week, is due in another this week and has a looming deadline that will allow a developer, Altis Cardinal of Miami, to shut it down. ...
09/09/16 Public Safety
The name was unfamiliar to her and, initially, the story was, too.
It was the pain that Patricia Silliman recognized. The look of disbelief and grief on the faces of strangers.
Silliman had the TV news on late at night when she first saw the loved ones of Levonia Riggins, the 22-year-old Tampa man who was killed during a SWAT team raid of his home.
"My heart just sank,'' Silliman said....
Once upon a time, there was an attorney who was a hero to many.
Bright, beautiful and beloved, she was. To the honest folks in a town known as Tampa, she was the deliverer of justice. The prosecutor unafraid to look killers in the eye.
Go then, the people told her, and climb higher up the legal mountain. Seize your destiny, and protect our interests.
And this she did.
She became Attorney General, and all was good for a time. The people were able to go about their chores without worry or reflection. And they hardly noticed that their hero had slowly begun to change....
From here, the trail of broken promises seems endless.
Go back 12 years. Go back 28 years. Go back 52 years to the day Pinellas County began fighting a lawsuit that had accused the county of rigging a zoning system to keep black kids out of white schools.
Every step along the way, the school system has promised black parents a better outcome for their children. And every so often we are reminded that promises are easily forgotten....
08/31/16 Public Safety
The evidence suggests we have been overzealous.
Numbers say child protection investigators in the sheriff's offices of Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties have been removing children from potentially dangerous homes at a higher rate than the state average.
And the critics say investigators err too often on the side of removal, and judges almost never overrule their decisions.
To which I say:...
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....