ST. PETERSBURG — Stymied by missteps, the group trying to save downtown's Historic YMCA must raise $1.2 million in the next four months to avoid losing its contract — a failure that may result in the building's destruction.
On Saturday, members hosted an 11 a.m. news conference (attended solely by a Tampa Bay Times reporter) in which the group's organizer, Tom Nestor, announced that they had shifted their fundraising strategy: Instead of seeking a single investment, they would ask 12 people to each put up $100,000....
02/22/14 Human Interest
Bella Erwin hopped, anxiously, from one foot to the other. With both hands, she pressed to her chest a photograph attached to a lanyard around her neck. She held it gently, careful not to fray its edges.
She and her father, Kevin, stood near the back of a slow-moving line at Tropicana Field during their first trip to Rays Fan Fest. Lost in thought, her brown eyes stared off into nothing. Bella, who is 8, considered what she would say when she reached the front, where her favorite player, Wil Myers, was signing autographs. She already had the general idea. But the phrasing. The phrasing was important....
LARGO — Ebony Stewart died on the dark tile floor of a home in St. Petersburg, prosecutors say, because one man she didn't know owed money to another man she didn't know.
Three years ago, one of those men walked into a Pinellas County pawn shop and spotted his own bracelet for sale. The man asked who had pawned the piece of jewelry, and he was given a name: Ronnie Betts.
Incensed, he confronted Betts, who is his cousin. Betts, a felon on probation, insisted he would make it right. He had a plan....
02/08/14 Local Government
Accused of interfering with the inquiry that led to the firing of his community's police chief, Plant City Commissioner William "Billy" Keel has called for an independent investigation that he hopes will clear him of wrongdoing.
On Friday, in a letter to City Manager Greg Horwedel, Keel wrote: "…this whole thing puts a cloud over the city, and puts my fellow commissioners in an untenable position to be pressed to take investigative action of some kind against a fellow commissioner."...
02/07/14 Human Interest
GAINESVILLE — Beaming, the woman dressed in all black strolled past thatch palms and mossy oaks until she reached the end of the dirt path. Seventeen TV cameras pointed at a lectern under a green tent. Photographers readied lenses, and reporters opened notebooks.
As organizers prepared for the news conference to begin, Hilary Sessions, the mother of one of the most famous missing persons in Florida history, walked through the crowd and up to a strand of yellow crime scene tape strung between two trees. Behind the tent, a yellow excavator tore into the ground. Its arm raised and the bucket tilted down. A stream of dirt cascaded back to the earth....
LARGO — The man trying to get John Michael Hill put to death and the man trying to save his life agree on this: five years ago, Hill stabbed his longtime partner more than 50 times, eventually plunging the 13-inch butcher knife so deeply into the man that the blade wasn't found until autopsy.
Prosecutor Michael Marr called it first-degree murder.
Defense attorney Daniel Hernandez called it "an accidental and an unfortunate tragedy."...
01/29/14 Human Interest
TEMPLE TERRACE — The young woman gripping the microphone glided onto the stage, her 4-inch black heels thumping the thin carpet. "Check, check, check," she said. "Mike one." That evening in Temple Terrace, she prepared to headline a concert for kids in a church hall no bigger than a double-wide mobile home. It had low ceilings with fluorescent lights and the stage was just a raised section of floor. But up there, as she tested the rattling acoustics in a nearly empty room, Terri Saffold beamed as if that was where she most belonged. As if she had never been far from a church's holy stage. But Terri had....
ST. PETERSBURG — The woman at the microphone introduced herself to the crowd, but she didn't need to. Most of them, it was clear, knew her already. She described herself as a proud new homeowner in District 8. Her gray T-shirt had "University of South Florida St. Petersburg" in bold, black letters across its front. She chomped gum and with every word moved her hands, pointing either the pen in her right or the reading glasses in her left....
01/26/14 Economic Development
ST. PETERSBURG — The little girl sprinted from the bedroom, her bare feet slapping the cold terrazzo floor. Halting, she looked up at her mother, sitting on a stool in the kitchen.
"Mommy, are you going to work today?"
"Yes," Yanira Avezuela told her daughter, Kassidy Russell. The girl, 5, shrugged.
"Tomorrow, I'm off," said Avezuela, smiling.
"Yay," the girl shouted. Her braids bouncing, she hopped back to the bedroom....
David Jolly won Pinellas County's nationally watched Republican congressional primary by a wide margin on Tuesday, setting the stage for a costly and intense general election battle with Democrat Alex Sink.
Jolly, 41, a former congressional aide and Washington lobbyist, won 45 percent of the vote, followed by state Rep. Kathleen Peters with 31 percent and Mark Bircher with 24 percent, according to unofficial results....
SEMINOLE — To the croon of MMMBop, the battle raged among the metallic combatants, their wheels whirling and arms jolting. In the crowded bleachers, banners waved and feet stomped. Mouths whistled, even yelped.
If in that moment the robots could have felt something — which certain corners of the Internet swear is possible — they would have been proud.
Of course, the real stars of Saturday's First Tech Challenge Robotics Pinellas League Championship — billed as the "Tech-Tacular of Seminole High School" — were the 16 teams of teenagers from area high schools who had built (and were controlling) the 18- by 18-inch contraptions....
ST. PETERSBURG — The fire engine's horn blasted as it rolled down a street of aging cinder block houses and double-wide mobile homes, most surrounded by rusted chain-link fences. State Rep. Kathleen Peters, peeking out the window, sat behind the driver. She wore a Christmas-red, waist-length stocking cap that matched her lipstick and fingernails.
The engine stopped, and Peters climbed out into the Lealman neighborhood. She walked back to a U-Haul truck and approached a pair of firefighters unloading toys....
ST. PETERSBURG — It sure sounds good.
The Dow Jones Industrial Average has climbed more than 3,000 points since the year began. Unemployment is down. Car sales are up. People are building more homes and selling them for higher prices.
So Tampa Bay residents' optimism about their financial futures should abound, right?
Not so much.
A Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and AM 820 News Tampa Bay poll this month asked 625 registered voters in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties how they believed they would be faring economically a year from now....
12/23/13 Human Interest
On the morning he was sure his life would change forever, the man with a silver crew cut and the shoulders of a fullback sat in the quiet fluorescence of a doctor's office, his knee bouncing and his breaths long.
The door opened.
"We're ready," said a thin woman in dark slacks and a white coat. "Are you?"
"Let's rock and roll," he said.
Mike Gray, who is 44, had struggled to hear much of anything since he was a toddler. With hearing aids and by reading lips he could, in most circumstances, communicate. But his deafness had always held him back — from education, jobs, dreams. He was tired of funny looks and rolled eyes. Of saying "Pardon?" Of missing all those jokes at work, even the ones at his expense....
12/21/13 Human Interest
ST. PETERSBURG — She started her day before the sun did, at 5:30, with a spread of pancakes and sausage for her children, all seven. They watched cartoons as she slipped on light blue scrubs and brushed her dark hair, streaked with pink.
Her sister, that day's babysitter, arrived just after 6, and a few minutes later Shirley Johnson headed for a house where an 88-year-old man was waiting. She got him out of bed and into the shower. She dressed and shaved him, made a breakfast of oatmeal, a banana and two slices of toast. She brought him his newspaper. He thanked her....