05/31/08 Human Interest
CLEARWATER — The Homeless Emergency Project has been a leader for two decades in helping people throughout Pinellas County get back on their feet.
And as the number of people it serves has grown, the nonprofit in the North Greenwood section of Clearwater has spread over five blocks of North Betty Lane.
Now it is poised to grow some more.
HEP recently received approval from the city of Clearwater to build a 10,000-square-foot headquarters building costing nearly $2-million....
05/26/08 Local Government
CLEARWATER — The sprawling 40 acres on Drew Street near McMullen-Booth Road sit empty at the moment.
In a few years, though, the former site of the Jasmine Courts public housing development will be transformed into a new community called Parkview Village.
The Clearwater Housing Authority hopes to see 300 or more owner-occupied homes, rentals and stores there.
The project will be the product of an evolving philosophy for the housing authority and will be an unusual project among Pinellas County's five housing agencies that provide housing for poor residents....
The first time Abelardo Diaz went to a meeting of the Pinellas County Democratic Party, he did not see any fellow Hispanics present.
After his second meeting, he spoke with committee chairwoman Toni Molinaro.
"I notice there are no Latinos here," Diaz told her. "And I know they vote Democratic."
Diaz, 74, a native of Colombia, now aims to increase the county's number of Hispanic Democrats. He is the president of the new 20-member Democrat Hispanic Caucus of Pinellas, which has been organized under the umbrella of the county's Democratic Party....
PALM HARBOR — Two families were displaced from their homes early Tuesday when a truck went off the road and smashed into their apartment building, authorities say.
A 2008 Nissan truck was headed north on Kristen Court north of Tampa Road when the driver lost control around 12:30 a.m., the Florida Highway Patrol said.
The truck ran into a building at the Providence at Palm Harbor Apartments at 155 Kristen Court, according to troopers....
05/05/08 Human Interest
A year ago, three Largo Middle School Hispanic seventh-graders wrote a letter to Clearwater police Officer Maria Rodriguez.
The girls told Rodriguez, who worked as a liaison to the Hispanic community, they were being called ethnic slurs, primarily by some African-American students.
"They tell us to go cross the border, to go back to Mexico," Angelica Caudillo, then 13, wrote on behalf of the other girls....
04/30/08 Local Government
Raise property taxes before you cut services to children.
That's the appeal Pinellas County's Juvenile Welfare Board heard over and over and over again during a four-hour meeting Tuesday night that attracted about 170 people.
"Cuts to children and families never heal," Sharon Carie, chairwoman of Pinellas Advocates for Children and Families, told the board.
"We as citizens and taxpayers of Pinellas County are ready to pay the extra dollars to keep cuts from happening to children and families," she said....
CLEARWATER — This month's death of Army Spc. Arturo Huerta-Cruz in Iraq cast a spotlight on troops serving in the U.S. military who are not American citizens.
Huerta-Cruz, 23, was born in a small town in rural Mexico and moved to Clearwater with his family when he was 10. He was a legal permanent resident, or a "green card" soldier.
That made him an exception. Noncitizens account for about 5 percent of the troops in all the branches of the U.S. military. Noncitizens now must have green cards to enlist....
The grassroots movement launched in Palm Harbor to petition the Democratic National Committee to seat Florida's delegates appears to be going strong.
Dubbed Florida Demands Representation, the network of volunteers is holding rallies and petition drives in eight cities today, including one at the Gladden Park ballfield in St. Petersburg.
"These rallies are part of the plan to spread the message," said Jim Hannagan, a marketing consultant from Ozona who started the movement last month with volunteers in Palm Harbor....
CLEARWATER — U.S. Army Spc. Arturo Huerta-Cruz, who was born in a rural town in the Mexican state of Hidalgo but died fighting for his adopted country in Iraq, was buried Tuesday, under two large oaks.
More than one hundred people from Clearwater's tight-knit Mexican immigrant community gathered at Calvary Catholic Cemetery to bid farewell to one of their own.
"We feel sad because (he's) the first person who has been in the Army," said Odilon Mezquite, co-founder of the Concilio Mexicano — Mexican Council — a bay area support group for immigrants....
CLEARWATER — Kelly Roshten climbed onto a high step and faced the crowd of adults packing the cafeteria at Skycrest Elementary School.
In jeans and green sweatshirt, the fifth-grader smiled shyly as she lifted up her painting, Face or a Vase Optical Illusion, for the audience of would-be art patrons to consider.
"This is kind of a mysterious one," Ruth Eckerd Hall artist Ian Beck told the crowd as he started the bidding....
CLEARWATER — One picture in the living room memorial is of a barefoot little boy standing on the roof of a modest house in the state of Hidalgo, Mexico.
Another shows the same boy years later in America. He is wearing U.S. Army fatigues, gripping a machine gun with both hands.
Although he was not yet an American citizen, Arturo Huerta-Cruz, 23, volunteered to serve in his adopted country's military. On Monday, he died when an improvised explosive device exploded by his patrol near Tuz, Iraq. ...
04/15/08 Local Government
Pinellas County voters seem to have spoken firmly in favor of lower property taxes by overwhelmingly approving Amendment 1.
But Pinellas County's Juvenile Welfare Board hopes taxpayers will see endangered children as reason enough to relinquish some of those tax savings.
The JWB is the local government body specifically charged with paying for programs and services to protect children at risk. Almost all of its money for programs comes from property taxes....
04/12/08 Human Interest
CLEARWATER — Shanese Williams got pregnant last year when she was in eighth grade at Osceola Middle School.
Now a high school freshman with a 6-month-old son named Joshua, she attends a Clearwater school run by the YWCA of Tampa Bay for teens who are pregnant or have had babies.
"If I didn't come here, it means I wouldn't go to school," said Williams, 15. "I would have gone to the stage of dropping out." ...
PALM HARBOR — A 22-year-old volunteer high school band coach has been arrested on charges of having inappropriate sexual contact with two 15-year-old girls, both band members at Palm Harbor University High School.
Ryan C. Wilborn of Clearwater met the girls through a relative, then developed relationships with each through the school, where he was a volunteer band coach last fall, according to detectives....
04/04/08 Human Interest
LARGO — Four months later, the 4-year-old who survived Oliver Bernsdorff's shooting rampage is a bit taller, but she remains every inch the angelic preschooler.
Dressed in brown shorts and a pink blouse, the blond girl giggled as she slid barefoot on the hardwood floor Thursday night.
"I'm surfing," Annie Rose Pisanello said.
Moments later, she said the kind of thing that reminds her mother how much innocence her daughter lost on Dec. 14. ...