Acceptance to Florida's flagship public university this spring came with a huge twist for roughly 3,100 high school seniors: They are welcome to join Gator Nation, but only by computer — at least at first.
In a new experiment, the University of Florida is offering students who otherwise would not have made the cut for traditional freshman enrollment another option of attending classes online-only until they've accumulated two years of study. They are guaranteed admission on-campus after that....
04/02/15 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — With the opening day of baseball season fast approaching, the St. Petersburg City Council voted Thursday to reopen the debate about the future of Tropicana Field and the Tampa Bay Rays.
The council voted to hold a workshop "as quickly as possible" on Mayor Rick Kriseman's latest proposal to let the team explore stadium options in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.
The vote did not signal that council members will approve a regionwide search. A similar proposal failed in December by a 5-3 vote, and key council members continued to maintain that two deals Kriseman has negotiated with the Rays leave the city with the short end of the stick....
ST. PETERSBURG — Controversial changes to the city's historic preservation ordinance have shifted to a slower track, but not much slower.
The City Council decided Thursday to delay the final vote on ordinance changes until its July 23 meeting to provide time to hold another public workshop and give concerned property owners more time to weigh in.
The proposed changes, among other things, would make it easier for neighborhoods to apply for landmark status, which restricts how people can renovate and develop property. ...
04/01/15 Human Interest
Minor-league baseball can tolerate muggy Florida's open-air stadiums. If rain or lightning wipes out $1 Tuesday, who cares if average attendance slips from 1,300 to 900?
Major-league stakes are higher. Forget nostalgic notions about baseball under summer skies. Fans forking out $40 for a ticket and a beer want protection and comfort. As a result, the Miami Marlins and Tampa Bay Rays play in roofed stadiums with air conditioning, a situation that is neither gratifying nor cheap....
04/01/15 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Mayor Rick Kriseman's latest attempt to break a stadium standoff with the Tampa Bay Rays may get an airing before the St. Petersburg City after all — if not a vote.
Council member Karl Nurse has added an item to Thursday's council agenda, calling for a workshop on the stadium. If his colleagues agree to hold one, he also wants to invite the Rays to send a representative....
03/30/15 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay's five-year stalemate over a new baseball stadium continues — with no obvious end in sight.
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman decided Monday he doesn't have enough City Council votes to forge an agreement that would allow the Tampa Bay Rays to explore potential new stadium sites on both sides of the bay.
That keeps the team playing at Tropicana Field into an indefinite future, Kriseman said, and prevents the city from developing the Trop's 85 acres....
Non-euphoric pot may nudge forward in the Legislature this year, but the window for a full-fledged medical marijuana system has all but slammed shut.
A bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, that would allow broad use of medical marijuana has not been scheduled for a committee hearing. Neither has a companion House bill, and by House rules, the deadline for that is Tuesday. Nor has leadership in either chamber shown any signs of making marijuana a high priority....
03/23/15 State Roundup
Noneuphoric pot may nudge forward in the Florida Legislature this year, but the window for a full-fledged medical marijuana system has all but slammed shut.
A bill by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, which would allow broad use of medical marijuana, has not been scheduled for a committee hearing. Neither has a companion House bill sponsored by Reps. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, and John Wood, R-Winter Haven. The deadline for that is today. The Republican leadership in neither chamber made passage of a medical marijuana plan a high priority, despite a statewide November ballot measure that won 58 percent of voters' approval....
MOST FLORIDIANS FAVOR medical marijuana of some kind. A flamboyant Orlando lawyer, children with seizures and a presidential election have seen to that.
What type of system Florida might adopt — and when — remains a moving target.
Attorney John Morgan's United for Care group has launched another constitutional amendment campaign for 2016, after falling just shy last year of the 60 percent required for passage....
During baseball season, St. Petersburg resident Claude McKenzie heads for sections 302 and 304 at Tropicana Field, where he works as a "fan host" for the Tampa Bay Rays.
"It's not the type of job you can really live on, but it offers socialization and a good time. It makes me feel special," said McKenzie, 55, who also holds down a day job at a nearby hotel.
Still, McKenzie was happy to hear Thursday that he is about to receive a jump in pay. The Rays are joining the likes of Wal-Mart, T.J. Maxx and other service industry employers and raising their minimum wage to $10 an hour....
The nation's three largest tobacco companies have agreed to pay $100 million to settle roughly 400 lawsuits filed in federal court by Floridians who contended that smoking damaged their health or killed a loved one.
The settlement does not affect federal cases that have already gone to trial or are on appeal. It also doesn't affect more than 2,000 cases still wending their way though state courts. Those cases could prove far more costly to the tobacco companies if plaintiffs ultimately prevail....
ST. PETERSBURG — As hundreds of Tampa Bay Rays fans flooded Tropicana Field's plastic turf Saturday, Rays owner Stuart Sternberg said he'll seek a replacement stadium no later than 2022 — with or without permission from St. Petersburg.
For five years, city officials have blocked his request for a regionwide hunt for a new ballpark — most recently at a tense City Council meeting in December....
02/19/15 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — If nothing else, a City Council workshop Thursday confirmed that St. Petersburg's approach to the Tampa Bay Rays is running on two distinct paths.
Council members, hoping to keep the team in town, kicked around ideas for financing a new stadium — but just in St. Petersburg.
Neither the Rays nor Mayor Rick Kriseman attended the meeting. They are still trying to negotiate terms for letting the team search for stadium sites anywhere in Hillsborough or Pinellas counties....
The Tampa Bay Rays boost St. Petersburg's economy with every pitch at Tropicana Field.
Beer guys hawking Budweisers pocket some of the proceeds. Visiting teams stay at the Vinoy Renaissance hotel. Evan Longoria's Venetian Isles landscaper claims a slice of his $100 million contract.
St. Petersburg residents have cited this economic impact while opposing Mayor Rick Kriseman's plans to let the Rays explore new stadium sites in Tampa....
02/06/15 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — If the Tampa Bay Rays leave Tropicana Field, how much would the property sell for?
That multimillion-dollar question has arisen as the Rays push to explore new stadium sites before their lease expires in 2027. City Council members — already leery of losing the team to Tampa — worry that the Trop contract could give the Rays a big slice of redevelopment revenue on their way out of town....