05/17/13 Human Interest
If you follow horse racing and politics, you might have noticed a hooved contender for today's Preakness with an interesting name — one that sounds a lot like a horse of a (recently) different color around here.
Okay, so who's betting on "Govenor Charlie?"
Of course, a horse named Govenor Charlie (no "r") in a big race brings to mind our own freshly Democratic former Gov. Charlie....
If you are forming a panel to empower minorities, should a racist get a seat at the table?
Does a man who believes women are inferior belong in a women's rights group?
Does tolerance mean tolerating bigots — who are, by definition, intolerant?
And does Terry Kemple — conservative Christian activist and Hillsborough School Board candidate who speaks out against gay rights — belong on a board that's supposed to be about diversity?...
Every town has its characters, its politicians and misfits, its go-to good guys and inevitable bad ones. And somewhere in there, a town needs a dreamer.
We have Ed Turanchik.
He was a Hillsborough County commissioner, and if it is possible to have your head in the clouds and still be the smart guy in the room, that was him. He pushed for commuter rail nobody was buying and thought this would be a great place for the 2012 Summer Olympics, only for some reason they picked London instead....
It's disheartening how much we sometimes try to make Florida look like Everywhere Else.
We pave the state in highways and strip malls that might as well be in Ohio or Indiana — no offense to those vowel states. But what's best about this place is the Spanish moss dripping from the oaks, the old brick buildings we somehow did not mow down in the name of "progress," the beaches that are, not to brag or anything, incomparable....
Pinellas County is pondering whether to keep charging homeless people $6.25 for a state ID card that can be key to getting them back on their feet. Meanwhile, in Hillsborough, the tax collector is walking the walk.
Or driving the bus, so to speak, if things work out as planned.
This week Doug Belden told the Times that, as in some other counties, he is dropping the $6.25 processing fee for an ID card for homeless people — maybe a few bucks to you and me, but a whole lot more to someone with nothing....
Nowhere is this town's dilemma over the homeless better illustrated than on a single city block off Tampa Street.
Just north of downtown, this particular stretch is not quite a part of the shiny skyscrapers, bustling restaurants and picturesque parks that signal a city taking off — though Tampa boosters sure hope one day it will be.
Still, amid the old buildings and vacant lots is exactly the kind of business those boosters dream about: The Bush Ross law firm, a lovely building that practically reeks of affluence and Important Legal Doings. As a bonus, it sits across from Stetson law school, an even more impressive structure that also signals desirable development even on this end of downtown....
It has been the proverbial long winter, economy-wise.
Building cranes slowed and homes were foreclosed and jobs disappeared. Government budgets got cut to the bone and more, and then —
Wait — did somebody say "spring?"
Technically, it has been spring for a while now — look at our jacaranda trees in full, purple bloom. But economy-wise, there are signs, too.
Suddenly you notice buildings going up around you again, and the headlines say consumer spending and local home sales are both up. All of which sounds suspiciously like happier days to come....
Look at that — Hillsborough County government can be progressive, at least when it comes to cats.
This week commissioners approved a smart plan to reduce the terrible number of animals killed at the county shelter yearly. Well, except Commissioner Standing-Up-For-Squirrels Crist, but more on that in a minute.
The commission, which can sometimes be cowed by the crowd, did this in the face of opposition to the "community cat" program, the single hot topic in the comprehensive proposal....
Years ago, I was a reporter covering a trial at a downtown Tampa courthouse with a jury that deliberated all night and into the wee hours. When a bailiff stepped outside for some fresh air under the stars, I went along for something to do.
"Watch," he said, and pointed to the cats.
In all of the years I had walked to and from this courthouse — walked all around downtown, even — I had never seen them. But apparently at night, the town was theirs. They crept along sidewalks and ducked into storm sewers, all these feral and free-ranging cats somehow surviving....
I'm always looking for signs that Tampa is a city on the move — a little less Pahokee, a little more Philly, if you know what I mean.
This week we found out we are apparently more a Dick's Sporting Goods berg than a Saks city (sigh), but still, there are good signs. Mention Tampa as a potential venue for big bowl games or major political events and no one laughs — not anymore, anyway. And it is a distinct possibility that one day soon we will be judged hip enough to rate a Trader Joe's....
04/25/13 Human Interest
They had just served the last hot lunch to the homeless and hungry that day at Trinity Cafe, had just closed the heavy door to the old building near downtown Tampa. Volunteers were scraping plates and mopping floors when somebody knocked.
He was a thin man, and Cindy Davis, the day's coordinator, had to tell him they were done and he should come back tomorrow. Then a little boy stepped forward. Don't feed me, the man said. Feed my son....
Hey, are those FBI footprints we're seeing in the investigation into whether lawyers plotted to get opposing counsel arrested on a DUI charge during that ridiculous shock jock trial?
That's the hot legal rumor percolating around Tampa courthouses — though the FBI itself politely declined Tuesday to confirm involvement in the serious questions raised over the arrest of lawyer C. Philip Campbell during that defamation case....
04/19/13 Human Interest
Tampa congresswoman Kathy Castor was in the news with her recent trip to Cuba, made in the spirit of lifting more than 50 years of sanctions and brokering a better relationship.
Next, nearly half the Tampa City Council heads there at the end of May as part of a Chamber of Commerce event, including first-timers Harry Cohen and Yvonne Yolie Capin, and fellow council member Mary Mulhern, who has been twice....
04/18/13 Public Safety
It's hard to shock anyone with true stories of Florida, since nothing is too weird to have happened here. Giant pythons, a mystery monkey, bizarre crime, crazy politics, sun, surf and sinkholes — we've got it all.
Although when it comes to our laws, you might raise an eyebrow with the one about how once upon a time across much of the Sunshine State, it was perfectly legal to drive around with a frosty can of Bud in your hand, maybe even toast the police officer in the next lane, without fear of a ticket....
It was a senseless dispute at a college graduation party, one of those moments gone horribly wrong because someone brought a gun.
"Somebody pushed somebody else," Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller told me this week. "And somebody took out a gun and started shooting. And shot five people."
And so Miller, who was a state legislator when it happened back in 1997, found himself standing in a Tallahassee hospital hearing a doctor say the words "50-50." Those were the odds that his son Les Miller III, Trey as he was called, would survive being shot....