Richard Danielson, Times Staff Writer

Richard Danielson

Richard Danielson covers city government and politics in Tampa. He grew up in Clearwater, graduated from Vanderbilt University and joined the Times in 1987. This is his second tour at City Hall (the first was from 1992 to '97). His other reporting assignments at the Times have included covering local government and politics in Pasco County, courts and higher education. He also has worked as the Times' Palm Harbor bureau chief and Clearwater city editor. In his current assignment, he is the main contributor to PolitiFact Florida's Buck-O-Meter, which tracks Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's performance on 34 campaign promises.

Phone: (813) 226-3403

Email: danielson@tampabay.com

Twitter: @Danielson_Times

  1. Hillsborough Avenue site of pedestrian deaths to get signal, crosswalk

    Roads

    TAMPA — One of the deadliest roads in one of the deadliest metro areas in the country for pedestrians is getting a safety upgrade, but residents and local officials are calling for more.

    Florida Department of Transportation and Tampa officials said Tuesday they are working to put a crosswalk with its own traffic signal on E Hillsborough Avenue where two Middleton High School students were killed in the last three years....

    The backpack and shoe of Shenika Davis lie in the middle of Hillsborough Avenue in Tampa after the 15-year-old was struck and killed in 2011. From 2008 to 2012, there have been 21 pedestrian- and bicycle-related crashes on Hillsborough between N 22nd Street and N 30th Street.
  2. IIFA notes: More traffic and security than normal, but this is no RNC

    Events

    TAMPA — Next week's International Indian Film Academy Weekend & Awards won't turn Tampa into the armed camp it was for the Republican National Convention.

    Still, don't be surprised to see enhanced security and more traffic than normal, especially downtown.

    "We will be prepared to host a great event, keep it safe, keep the traffic flowing — hopefully, keep the rain away," Mayor Bob Buckhorn says....

  3. IIFA notes: Organizers respond to lawsuit

    Events

    TAMPA — The organizers of the International Indian Film Academy's awards on Monday responded to a lawsuit filed by an Orlando tour company that contends it helped bring the awards to the United States, then got shoved out of the picture.

    The suit, filed in state court in New York, seeks $7 million in damages for Akarsh Kolaparth and his family's company, 7M Tours.

    In response, Wizcraft International Entertainment, the parent company of the IIFA awards, said Kolaparth's complaints are without merit....

  4. Mothers, community leaders demand improvements to Hillsborough Avenue in east Tampa

    Local Government

    TAMPA — It was a grieving mother's plea, choked out between sobs.

    "It hasn't even been a month since what happened with my daughter," Victoria Cabrera said in Spanish, her sister-in-law translating for her at a news conference Monday afternoon. "Do you guys want another accident? Do you guys want somebody else to die?"

    Her 15-year-old daughter, Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, died four days after being struck while trying to cross E Hillsborough Avenue on March 18. As she spoke, her 14-year-old daughter, Victoria Velasquez-Cabrera, stood nearby, her head down, her arm bandaged to the wrist from the same accident....

    Authorities examine the car that hit Victoria Velasquez-Cabrera, 14, and her sister Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, 15, while they were trying to cross E Hillsborough Avenue on March 18. Norma died four days later. On Monday, the girls’ mother and community leaders gathered for a news conference to press the Florida Department of Transportation to make the six-lane road safer.
  5. Quote of NFL player's racial slur raises eyebrows at Tampa city meeting

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Lawyer and longtime Tampa civil rights leader Delano Stewart surprised listeners during a public hearing at City Hall last week when he quoted an NFL player's use of the n-word.

    At the time, Stewart, 78, was acting as the city's legal adviser to the Civil Service Board and was delivering a forceful critique of the city's case against a fired parks employee who is black. Then he paused and referred to a racial slur made last year by Philadelphia Eagles wide receiver Riley Cooper....

    Lawyer and longtime Tampa civil rights leader Delano Stewart surprised listeners during a public hearing at City Hall last week when he quoted an NFL player's use of the n-word.
  6. Fired after winning shopping spree, Tampa employee gets job back

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Queen Matthews was delighted last year when a contest she won sent her on a $1,000 Sweetbay shopping spree with Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings.

    You know who wasn't delighted?

    Her bosses at Tampa City Hall.

    They thought she was sick that day.

    Then they saw the news video of her running and filling a cart with groceries. They fired her.

    That was Oct. 31. Last week, the city's Civil Service Board reinstated Matthews on appeal. Board members said the city didn't prove that Matthews, 47, submitted falsified paperwork about being sick so she could have guaranteed time off for the spree....

    Queen Matthews and Rays outfielder Desmond Jennings zip through Sweetbay Aug. 28 on a $1,000 shopping spree.
  7. Orlando tour company sues organizers of Bollywood awards in Tampa

    Civil

    TAMPA — An Orlando travel company is suing Dr. Kiran Patel and the Mumbai-based organizers of the Bollywood film awards, complaining it was frozen out of the gala's business after helping bring the event to Tampa.

    Akarsh Kolaparth and his family's company, 7M Tours, contend they worked for three years to bring the International Indian Film Academy's awards to the United States, spending $265,000 along the way....

  8. Plan for Ybor hotel on city-owned land unravels

    Local Government

    TAMPA — After offering $650,000 for a city-owned parking lot in Ybor City, a prominent hotel developer now is looking to build somewhere else in the historic district.

    In December, City Hall put out a call for development proposals for a third of a block it owns at E Seventh Avenue and Nick Nuccio Parkway. It got two responses.

    The best, officials say, came from the Liberty Group, a Tampa-based hotel investment, development and management company with $300 million in assets. It proposed an $11.3 million hotel with 70 guest rooms and suites, interior lap pool, ground-floor lounge and rooftop bar....

  9. Preparations for Bollywood Oscars head into home stretch

    Tourism

    TAMPA — If getting ready for the Republican National Convention was a two-year marathon, the countdown to the Bollywood film awards is starting to feel more like a two-week dash.

    The April 26 awards show at Raymond James Stadium has about 7,000 tickets remaining for sale. Announcements of Bollywood events are coming out more frequently. And hoteliers are hearing they should expect a big chunk of their bookings 10 to 20 days out....

  10. Tampa company sues local Bollywood boosters

    Civil

    TAMPA — A Tampa-based video communications company is suing two leading local organizers behind the effort to bring the Bollywood film industry's annual awards show to Tampa.

    The company, AVI-SPL, contends that Tampa cardiologist, businessman and philanthropist Dr. Kiran Patel and his brother-in-law, Lutz real estate agent Chetan "Jason" Shah, agreed to make it the exclusive executive producer for 32 "buzz events" associated with the extravaganza, scheduled for April 23-26, but that didn't happen....

  11. Tampa council reverses vote; city to keep red-light cameras into 2016

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The City Council Thursday gave new life to Tampa's red-light cameras, voting 6-1 to continue the program for two years.

    The extension reversed a 4-3 council vote two weeks ago against renewing the city's contract with camera supplier American Traffic Solutions of Tempe, Ariz.

    Tampa has 51 cameras focused on 21 different intersections to catch red-light runners, and police say their use has raised driver awareness, reducing crashes and red-light violations....

  12. Council votes swinging back in favor of Tampa's red-light cameras

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The City Council appears poised to reverse its March 20 vote against extending Tampa's red-light camera program for two more years.

    Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Wednesday that he would dedicate 25 percent of the revenue from the cameras to transportation safety projects — something several council members want. "It was more important to me that the cameras stay in place," Buckhorn said....

  13. To promote downtown Tampa, mayor announces Mac & Cheese Throwdown

    Events

    TAMPA — The mayor who welcomed food trucks to Lykes Gaslight Square and dyed the Hills­borough River shamrock green has a new party planned for downtown Tampa.

    The city's first-ever "Mac & Cheese Throwdown" will feature casseroles from more than two dozen local restaurants on May 10 at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park.

    Other cities have similar contests, and one in Albany, N.Y., is in its fifth year. Mayor Bob Buckhorn said he encountered the idea during a city trip last year to Aspen, Colo., where the city's mac and cheese festival draws thousands and served as the backdrop for a viral video....

  14. Eddie Gonzalez was great police chief, even better party guest

    Human Interest

    Eddie Gonzalez, who died March 14 at 73 of a heart attack in South Florida, wasn't Tampa's longest-serving police chief, but he may have been its most relaxed.

    Then-Mayor Sandy Freedman hired Gonzalez, Tampa's chief from March 1992 through June 1993, to return to his hometown from his job as second-in-command at the Metro-Dade Police Department.

    As a reporter, my first look at Gonzalez was not in person, but on videotape, and it was telling. Before he arrived in Tampa, I borrowed the tape of the city's interviews with each of the finalists for the chief's job....

    The packed news conference in the mayor’s office was nearly anticlimactic, a simple confirmation of what then-Mayor Sandy Freedman said she had known for a long time: that Eddie Gonzalez was the right choice.
  15. No deal yet to renew Tampa's red-light camera program

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Top aides to Mayor Bob Buckhorn have met with three of the four City Council members who voted against renewing the city's red-light camera program, but none has committed to switching sides.

    At least not yet.

    City chief financial officer Sonya Little, chief of staff Dennis Rogero and transportation manager Jean Duncan so far have talked with council Chairman Charlie Miranda, Mary Mulhern and Frank Reddick. They are scheduled to sit down with the fourth "no" vote, Yvonne Yolie Capin, on Wednesday....