Just before Jane Castor retired as Tampa police chief last year, I asked her about what had to be the most ridiculous rumor going: Castor would one day run for mayor of the city where she was a cop for 31 years.
Crazy, right? What an unlikely next step, particularly for someone who seemed to keep herself decidedly out of the trip-wire politics of the town. Such vocational transitions have been known to occur — with success, even — but didn't this seem against the natural order of things, like dogs and cats, reporters and politicians, cops and elected officials? ...
Will it be deja vu all over again with Jim Norman, the sullied former politician hoping for redemption through re-election?
Norman's back on the stump and working the neighborhoods and even has results from a lie detector test he says prove he's not a bad guy. The former star of the Republican Party hopes voters forgive, forget and return him to his rightful place on the Hillsborough County Commission — despite all that messy ethics stuff I'm betting he'd rather not talk about....
I am pleased to report that some elected officials this week earned the paycheck you give them — which, as we know, is not always the case.
During a marathon day at the Tampa City Council meeting came the usual boring reports, attaboys and one citizen who stood during public comment and appeared to predict a hurricane will wipe us out in September.
By day's end, Mayor Bob Buckhorn had secured a nearly unanimous vote for his pricey $35.5 million legacy park on the less fashionable side of the Hillsborough River across from downtown. But first came interesting words from Councilman Harry Cohen, who was frustrated when fellow council members failed to vote in fixes for the flooding that can cripple the streets of his South Tampa district when rains come....
05/20/16 Human Interest
WHAT I ATE: After we made our way through the long, skinny restaurant to the counter, perused the menu, ordered and settled in a booth, the server delivered warm, crispy, slightly smoky-tasting chips. We dipped them into a choice of salsas — mild to scorchy — that we had ladled into little plastic cups from clay pots on an icy buffet we spotted on our way to the table....
05/19/16 Public Safety
Okay, Walmart, here's your chance.
Here's your opportunity to show that even the world's largest retailer with a cold eye on the bottom line can be convinced to pay its own way. Here's the chance to straighten up and act like a responsible neighbor in the very communities in which you thrive.
In a report both surprising, and, well, not, Tampa Bay Times reporters Zachary T. Sampson, Laura C. Morel and Eli Murray recently chronicled the alarmingly high rate at which our local taxpayer-paid police get called to neighborhood Walmart stores across Tampa Bay....
Shoot down a tax for transportation, if you must. Refuse to pay a taxpayer dime for some fancy new sports stadium, fine.
But it's hard to argue against a park.
This is especially true since downtown Tampa is finally getting parks right after those dismal years of sad, patchy stretches of grass with a waterfront hidden in there somewhere, and people not much interested in being there even in daylight....
Amazingly, against all odds, the chance that voters could get to decide for themselves on a sales tax to pay for our transportation needs — killed last month in a late-night 4-3 Hillsborough County Commission vote — has risen for a last, feeble gasp.
And you thought this one was done, given all it has been through: previous failed tax referendums on both sides of the bay. The latest incarnation, Go Hillsborough, accused of being short on specifics and leadership. The original penny-tax idea weakened to a half-cent. A hint of a scandal that blew away into nothing....
05/13/16 Human Interest
WHAT I ATE: Though the menu has some intriguing specialty pizzas — thin-sliced eggplant, roasted cauliflower, broccoli rabe with sausage — I went purist with plain cheese (or "Grande Mozzarella" with "Italian Plum Tomatoes.") Pizzas here are "well-done," if you catch the double meaning there, from a coal-fired oven.
A sucker for a big salad, I ordered a family-size classic Italian to share. My date went rogue from old-school Italian options like meatballs with ricotta or pork ribs with peppers and went with the roast beef sandwich. While we waited, a piled-high plate of wings with carmelized onions went by, and those were some big chickens....
05/12/16 Human Interest
In front of the sprawling building that always looked like it was watching downtown Tampa from across the Hillsborough River stood a sign of solid concrete, flanked by floodlights and flags, weighing at least a ton.
The Tampa Tribune, it read, and The Tampa Times, in that particular lettering of a newspaper and a city institution.
Soon, the building on prime real estate on the west riverbank will make way for shiny new residential mid-rise apartments, with restaurant space and impressive views of the bustling Riverwalk and downtown beyond. The big Miami developer that bought the property last year is expected to begin demolition later this year....
So a guy on the Tampa City Council had this nice idea.
Hey, thought Guido Maniscalco, the council's newest and youngest member, why not let people who get parking tickets pay off part of their fines by feeding the hungry? Why not let parking scofflaws fork over canned goods instead of cash to help out over the holidays?
Tallahassee, Savannah, Albany, Cincinnati and Lexington, Ky., have all done some version of food for fines. So surely this proposal would fly through a City Council meeting with minimal discussion and a resoundingly unanimous yes, right?...
05/05/16 Human Interest
“One of the longest walks a politician has to take is the one from the front door to the edge of the driveway to get not one but two newspapers."
— Former congressman, gubernatorial candidate and prominent Tampa guy Jim Davis this week on the news that, after a decades-long rivalry, the Tampa Bay Times purchased the Tampa Tribune.
Believe me, Mr. Davis, it could be one long walk for reporters, too....
05/03/16 Human Interest
A little Tampa trivia, post- Beyoncé.
The big black SUVs and burly men demanding to know if you are paparazzi are gone from the home on quiet, tree-shaded Riviera Drive on Davis Islands, one of the city's prettiest neighborhoods. This is the house that the uberstar and husband Jay Z were rumored to have rented before her big concert Friday.
Points for locale choice — Davis Islanders are positively blase about having the likes of Derek Jeter in their midst....
Remember those 3-D posters that looked like some random pattern until you stared long enough for the underlying picture of, say, a cowboy or a unicorn or even a city skyline to come into focus, totally surprising you with the big picture?
Yeah, that's pretty much downtown Tampa at the moment.
The latest potential puzzle piece for a city coming together involves a beleaguered science museum that for 34 years has sprawled 11 miles away across 75-plus county-owned acres across from the University of South Florida....
Three long years, endless meetings, some bare-knuckle politics and one debunked scandal later, Hillsborough County remains stalled on a road to nowhere.
In a decision Wednesday night critical to the county's transportation needs, commissioners voted 4-3 to deny voters the right to decide on a half-penny sales tax for roads and other transit fixes — a hard-fought proposal called Go Hillsborough....
It's been two years of hard road leading to tonight's Hillsborough County Commission vote on a half-penny sales tax for transportation, a decision so big a couple of hundred citizens might just show up to share their thoughts.
So here's the current buzz from all sides on the battered proposal known as Go Hillsborough:
It's too much to ask of taxpayers.
It's not nearly enough to get the job done....