11/25/15 Human Interest
They will likely rise early this morning and begin getting their three children ready for the big day. It's their first holiday season in their new home, and bedlam will arrive just as reliably as the invited guests.
Surely, somewhere down the road, these will be the moments they cherish. Keepsakes of the heart, never to be tattered or lost.
But those memories will come later. After they drive across a bridge, and steer toward St. Petersburg's downtown. After they park, and walk through familiar doors....
Let's talk about the time Florida voters screwed up.
It was done with the best of intentions, and with the blessing of editorial boards and voter education groups. But it was a blunder, nonetheless.
This was back in 1998 when voters passed a constitutional amendment giving the governor more power by shrinking the size and scope of the state's Cabinet.
It made sense at the time. And much of the idea still has appeal. Instead of Florida being run by a virtual board of directors, the governor is responsible for calling the shots....
The list is not quite illustrious, but it is pretty long. And now Jameis Winston sits on top of it. With Sunday's victory, Winston becomes the first Tampa Bay rookie quarterback to win five starts. In all, 14 rookie quarterbacks have started a game for the Buccaneers, including first-round picks Steve Young, Vinny Testaverde and Trent Dilfer. All told, the other 13 QBs were 20-54 coming into 2015....
The numbers, we have been told, are clear. No room for argument or interpretation.
Living in modern-day Florida is like strolling through the streets of Happyville, USA. The governor and the state's top law enforcement official announced last year that crime in Florida had dropped to levels not seen since the days of bell-bottom jeans.
And remarkably, in 2015, the crime rate has dropped even lower....
11/18/15 Human Interest
It would be a shame — a travesty, really — if legislators in Florida vote to remove the statue of Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol just because of his Confederate Army roots.
Instead, they should remove the statue because he's a dud.
Seriously, who is this guy? A leader for the losing side in a hopeless effort? If that's the standard, we should be churning out statues of Buccaneer quarterbacks....
Two proposed amendments, two petition drives, too much nonsense.
So don't feel bad if you're confused about solar energy in Florida. You're supposed to be confused. It's actually part of the strategy behind one of the amendments.
Yup, let freedom and deception ring.
The major utility players in Florida are so unnerved by the thought of losing business to solar companies that they are in cahoots with one another to kill an amendment that would encourage the growth of solar energy without them....
11/11/15 Human Interest
Life as a nonprofit is rarely easy. You hustle, you cut corners, you struggle. And the next time a big bill comes due, you pray to heaven the money will be there to cover you.
You never expect that somewhere in an assisted living facility across town, your fortunes are growing by the dollar and by the day. You never expect someone's attorney will call one morning to let you know that millions of dollars are on the way....
Turns out, the similarities have been staring us in the face for years.
Price cuts = tax cuts.
Uninsured employees = uninsured residents.
No-frills merchandise = no-frills infrastructure.
Low wages = well, low wages.
Cheerful store greeter = Gov. Rick Scott.
It's obvious, isn't it? Florida is the Walmart of states.
Think about it. We're big. We're popular. And we're constantly talking about how cheap we are. It's as if we've ceded a higher class of living to those fancy-pants states with their mass transit, enviable education systems and high-tech jobs....
The commercials make it seem so easy. Take your passion for sports, mix it with a little due diligence and then relax as the jackpots come to you.
The only problem is, for most people, the reality of online sports fantasy leagues isn't quite as uplifting. The losers outnumber the winners by a staggering ratio, and celebrations never seem to spontaneously break out like they do in the ads on TV....
Somewhere in the void between political theory and human reality, Wendy Bradshaw realized she was failing the people she cared about most.
She would spend her mornings adhering to Florida's one-size-fits-all mentality to teach a class of second-graders, and then work evenings as an adjunct professor at the University of South Florida instructing aspiring teachers to strive for the exact opposite....
11/02/15 Local Government
I can see where you're coming from.
Today's election isn't really a big deal, not like a presidential or gubernatorial or even a mayoral race. It's just three disputed seats on the St. Petersburg City Council.
I mean, how often do important decisions actually come down to one or two votes by council members?
Well, yes, if you want to be a stickler, the Tampa Bay Rays stadium search has been in limbo for nearly a year because of 5-3 and 4-4 council votes....
10/31/15 Public Safety
The shots rang out from small-town North Carolina to Chicago. From a trailer park in Tennessee to a picnic site west of Pittsburgh.
October turned out to be a brutal month for children and guns in America. And, worst of all, it wasn't terribly unusual, which means November could bring more of the same.
This isn't a story of violent criminals. It's a story of tragic accidents, and careless gun safety. This is a story of kids shooting kids....
10/28/15 Human Interest
In the final minutes of one of his HBO specials, comedian Louis C.K. talks about the competing thoughts we all carry around in our brains.
First, there are the thoughts that guide us daily. The decent, proper and principled thoughts of a compassionate society. But, every once in a while, our more ruthless and pragmatic side emerges in conflict. He describes it as, "Of course … but maybe."...
What if we were wrong about education reforms? What if our solutions have been largely ineffective because our aim was grossly incorrect?
What if the whole stinking reform movement was based on a flawed theory that has not only wasted hundreds of millions of dollars, but also jeopardized the educational dreams of our neediest children?
I have to ask after reading the report by Marlene Sokol in Sunday's Tampa Bay Times that detailed the cost overruns and mixed results stemming from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's $100 million grant to Hillsborough County....
10/24/15 Local Government
Their words are chosen carefully. In some cases, with great trepidation.
One after another, St. Petersburg City Council members express regret at what they are about to say. And yet, every council member I reached tells a similar story.
There is, they say, a gulf between them and Mayor Rick Kriseman's office. They talk about a lack of communication and a diminished sense of teamwork. In some cases, there are vague suggestions of a lack of courtesy and even petty retaliations....