05/17/13 Local Government
EAST LAKE — The way Ron Schultz sees it, the value East Lake residents get from the tax they pay now for library services is like "… going to a Shell gas station, giving them $50 and getting $30 in gas back.''
Schultz is chairman of the advisory board for the East Lake Community Library. For years, the board has complained that East Lake taxpayers contribute a lot more in Pinellas library taxes than they get back in revenue for their local library. Last year, for instance, East Lake paid in roughly $986,000 and received only about $400,000 back....
It's lunchtime inside the tiny restaurant on Ulmerton Road. While one customer waits for the arroz con gandules (rice with pigeon peas) and another waits for the pernil (slow-roasted pork), Edward Lopez was ready for his pastelitos (meat pies).
"I'm from Puerto Rico, and the first time I came in here, and I ate the food, it made me so happy,'' said Lopez, who has lived in Florida seven years. "I keep coming back because I feel like I'm home.''...
People curious about Florida history, and Spain's role in it, will find plenty to interest them Sunday at Heritage Village, including an exhibit and lecture honoring explorer Juan Ponce de Leon.
Five hundred years ago this year, Ponce de Leon landed on the east coast of the state — the first group of Europeans to document a landing here — and gave the region a name: La Florida. Florida is marking the anniversary with a year-long, statewide celebration called "Viva Florida 500."...
Ever since the first time he fired a rifle (at summer camp in 1961), Dan Baum has been fascinated with guns. It's an interest he shares with those who lean more to the political right than Baum, a self-proclaimed liberal Democrat. In 2011, the former staff writer for the New Yorker decided to grab his reporter's notebook, along with his licensed concealed-carry gun, and hit the road for an in-depth look at Americans' relationship with guns....
05/06/13 Local Government
LARGO — Dozens of residents of the Briarwood Travel Villa and RV Park plan to stand in front of Largo City Hall today to protest a developer's proposal to build an apartment complex on the woodsy property they call home.
Landlord Steve McConihay, wants to turn Briarwood, a 138-space RV park near Largo Mall, into a 260-unit apartment complex.
If he gets his way, park residents — many elderly, disabled and living on less than $1,000 a month — will be displaced, said Christine Allamanno, an affordable project staff attorney for Gulfcoast Legal Services....
05/04/13 Human Interest
Carol Channing's giant smile was her trademark.
Barbra Streisand is known for her dramatic stage presence and accent.
And Liza Minnelli? "Liza is one long, run-on sentence that doesn't stop,'' joked Amy Dobbert..
Dobbert, 33, plays all three of those actors in Eight O'Clock Theatre's funny spoof of Broadway icons, Forbidden Broadway's Greatest Hits, at the Largo Cultural Center....
Before Yancey, 50, pursued his lifelong dream of becoming a novelist, he pursued people who owed the IRS money for taxes. After working for the government for 10 years, Yancey decided to incorporate his job with his art by penning a memoir, Confessions of a Tax Collector. Nine years later, he's got 13 novels under his belt, including his well-known young adult novel, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp. This month, Yancey is releasing a post-apocalyptic thriller, The Fifth Wave, which has already been picked up by GK Films and Sony Pictures. On May 18, Yancey will make a Tampa appearance at Inkwood Books, 216 S Armenia Ave....
04/30/13 Local Government
PALM HARBOR — For more than five years, dozens of customers would visit the Crossroads Farmers Market held every Sunday at the North Pinellas Historical Museum, buying local honey, fresh produce or handmade jewelry. Some would combine the visit with a trip inside the museum, checking out the displays depicting pioneer life in Ozona, Crystal Beach, East Lake and Palm Harbor.
In the end, the success of the farmers market was also its downfall....
04/27/13 Human Interest
BELLEAIR — Harold Heye and his wife had only one stipulation 30 years ago when they made their donation to the group overseeing the creation of what would become Ruth Eckerd Hall.
According to a Jan. 2, 1984 article in the Evening Independent, they asked that the gift not receive "too much publicity.''
And so leading up to the grand opening, the only place the entity announced the creation of the Margarete Heye Great Room, named after Harold's mother, was in a brochure about the center....
Gavin, 49, first interviewed Lena Horne in 1994 for a New York Times article. "Lena had been a lifelong fascination for me. She was 77, and she was on the threshold of her final comeback when I got to talk to her. It was a two-hour interview, and I felt she was very truthful. It was a big deal for me,'' says Gavin. Ten years later, the freelance journalist went back to his interview notes and conducted dozens of interviews to write Stormy Weather: The Life of Lena Horne. On Thursday at the Straz Center in Tampa, while Mary Wilson of the Supremes performs the music, Gavin will present Stormy Weather: The Lena Horne Project as narrator and host. A Fordham graduate, Gavin is working on a Peggy Lee biography....
CLEARWATER — The Swanky Swine was open for business.
Customers in line held their dollars while perusing the merchandise. They watched as workers tallied up the sales and counted back change.
Some of the shoppers bought a candy bar or bag of chips. Others were ready to guzzle a Swanky Swale, the store's premier beverage made of pink lemonade and Sprite.
In between transactions, the employees, all special needs students enrolled in the transitions program at the private Woodlawn Community Academy, talked about their inventory....
04/12/13 Human Interest
PALM HARBOR — The Gulf of Mexico is as much a part of Wally Ericson as his husky voice and bushy white eyebrows.
"It's his natural habitat,'' said his wife, Nancy Ericson, whose first date with Ericson ended in a thunderstorm, albeit a romantic one, off Honeymoon Island in 1954.
Before Wally Ericson made a career from boatbuilding and fishing, which took him as far north as Canada and as far south as Nicaragua, and before he and Nancy raised their three children while operating Ericson Marine in Tarpon Springs, he worked as a dredger. He and his dredge created the foundation for many of the waterfront communities in Pinellas County....
04/12/13 Human Interest
TARPON SPRINGS — On Thursday, a person in a maroon van was seen throwing a gray kitten out the window on Grand Boulevard in Tarpon Springs.
Fortunately, Gail Deterra of Palm Harbor, a rescue volunteer for the Clearwater Audubon Society, was driving behind the vehicle. "I saw something go out of the driver-side window,'' she recalled.
She flagged down another driver to help, and she, the other driver and his son got to the kitten before it was hit....
In his new book, The Dark, Lemony Snicket, a.k.a. Daniel Handler, writes, "You might be afraid of the dark, but the dark is not afraid of you.'' Then he lures a young boy named Lazlo through some spooky scenarios. But don't despair; as he did in his 13 books known collectively as A Series of Unfortunate Events, Handler doesn't just scare the bejeebers out of young readers, he also continues to make them smile. For adults looking for a few laughs, Handler is the co-creator of the website whywebrokeupproject.com, which invites the heartbroken to share their worst breakup stories with the world. If they're lucky, they'll receive a reply from Handler himself....
04/09/13 Local Government
PALM HARBOR — Just like they did five years ago, Pinellas County commissioners on Tuesday considered Glenn and Leah Bergoffen's request to vacate the public right of way in front of their home on Maryland Avenue so they could build a 300-foot-long dock. And just like they did in 2008, commissioners voted unanimously against it.
But this time the commissioners added a denial with prejudice, making it clear that they did not want to hear the same request again....