On gay marriage, we are a state on the brink of something inevitable, with our unlikeliest elected officials in the thick of it.
A federal judge struck down Florida's ban on same-sex marriage, then stayed his decision until after Jan. 5. So now everyone's in a scramble: Did his ruling apply only in the rural Panhandle county where one of the couples challenging the ban lives? If court clerks in other counties issue marriage licenses to gay couples beginning Jan. 6, could they face criminal prosecution? Seriously?...
TAMPA — For 14 years, criminal cases involving accused rapists, molesters and child abusers in Hillsborough County have been heard by a single judge in the sex offender division.
Advocates of this highly specialized court for pedophiles and predators call it a smart, efficient way to handle difficult cases with unique sensitivities. But critics say no judge can hear the horrifying details of rape and abuse day after day without becoming biased — particularly when children are victims....
12/22/14 Public Safety
When you hear about another police officer killed, everything stops for a minute. Maybe that's especially true if you know cops — if you work alongside them as a reporter, or if they're in your family. My nephew never wanted to be anything else.
The headlines from this weekend were horrifying: The shooter in New York who turned the questions raised across America about the deaths of unarmed black men into madness, ambushing two officers in their patrol car. ...
12/19/14 Local Government
If the story line now playing off the Courtney Campbell Causeway were in some lowbrow summer movie — and not a painful reality for people who live and work there — the plot might go like this:
A certain professional wrestler — you know, the guy whose perpetually kerchiefed head, dark shades, white motorcycle-dude whiskers and gravelly voice make him instantly recognizable, from Tampa to Tunisia— fronts this nightclub off the causeway that bears his name. Hogan's Beach, it's called....
12/19/14 Economic Development
Big Brothers Big Sisters is going to call Tampa home.
The internationally known social services organization, currently based in Irving, Texas, is expected to relocate its headquarters to Tampa and is the subject of a Jan. 7 announcement by an economic development group.
Former Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio, who still maintains a Tampa residence with her husband, Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard, took the helm as president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters in March. At the time, she made a three-year commitment to lead the group....
12/18/14 Economic Development
If you had any doubt about the import of this week's announcement of a sweeping $1 billion plan to shape downtown Tampa's future, you need look no further than a popular Thai restaurant in nearby Hyde Park.
Daily, its matchbook-sized parking lot jams with carfuls of downtowners in suits and heels, there for the basil chicken and pad thai. But on Wednesday, you could have easily parked a semi or two. Inside, you could practically hear crickets....
As a Tampa Bay Times investigation detailing controversial "work therapy" at one of Tampa's largest homeless programs plays out, a question keeps coming up:
What's wrong with putting a man to work to cover the roof over his head and the meals he eats?
A series of stories by the Times' Will Hobson has laid bare some of the inner workings of New Beginnings, which runs a 36-bed emergency shelter and 144-bed complex of converted houses....
12/13/14 Local Government
Talk about change.
We are today a nation largely okay with letting people marry whom they want. A ban on county government participation in gay pride events voted in by Hillsborough commissioners has since been unanimously undone. Today, St. Petersburg boasts one of the biggest gay pride celebrations around and recently got highest marks as a city that pays attention to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender issues, with Tampa not far behind....
12/09/14 Economic Development
So the Rays and St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman have finally come up with a potential deal: The Rays would pay if the team leaves before its contract is up, and the city would let the Rays explore new digs in the town across the bridge.
You know — the one where politicians have long quipped about whether to be the boyfriend in this divorce and made it plain they're plenty interested once the ink dries on any separation papers....
A big city courthouse has plenty of contenders for what would be its saddest place: the room where women fill out forms to keep violent men away, the hallways where couples sit silently waiting to be divorced, the criminal courtrooms where spectators weep for victims and defendants both.
But the worst has to be the places for children.
They come here because of grownups who could not take care of them or did worse to them, or because they're charged with crimes themselves....
Among those who run Hillsborough County schools, rumors about the future of superintendent MaryEllen Elia are flying like it's Saturday afternoon in a small-town beauty parlor:
Now I'm not one to gossip, but you notice she's been back and forth to Boston a lot lately. And I just happen to know they're looking for a new superintendent up there.
Listen, I heard that a few on that school board, not to name names, plan on giving her a no-confidence vote....
When you are trying to make the county around you into a place where people want to live, the good part has to be building new buildings, talking big about bringing in baseball, debating the future of transportation, even.
But getting a handle on a homeless population that stubbornly resists all efforts to make it go away? Dealing head-on with the destitute, addicted and mentally ill and finding real solutions for getting people off the streets?...
TAMPA — Douglas Cone Sr., the bare-knuckles, chain-smoking road construction magnate who made headlines with news of a scandalous double life, died over the weekend. He was 86.
Mr. Cone, nicknamed Diesel for his penchant for puffing endless unfiltered Kools, helped build a dynasty that paved highways across the bay area, including expansions of Interstate 4 and the Suncoast Parkway....
11/27/14 Human Interest
Once upon a time, this was a soccer town. Before Tampa Bay had its Buccaneers, long before the Lightning hit the ice or the first Devil Ray hefted a bat at the Trop, this town loved its Rowdies.
Fans streamed into Tampa Stadium in team green and yellow, learned that the field was now a "pitch" and sang a merry fight song that called the team a kick in the grass. Crowds averaged more than 12,000 that first season in 1975, and a 1980 match drew a record 56,000 spectators....
11/21/14 Local Government
This week, the Hillsborough County Commission welcomed back three members post-election, remembered one they lost to term limits and cast a speculative eye on the new guy.
What will the board look like with the exit of Republican-for-rail Mark Sharpe, and former School Board member and social conservative Stacy White front and center?
At the formal investiture ceremony this week, I pretty much lost count of how many times sitting commissioners said things like "deeply respectful," and "like family" to describe themselves as a board. "Our collegial body," newly named commission Chairwoman Sandy Murman called them. "As you can tell, we are all very collegial with each other." I think they might have mimed it a few times and also used hand puppets....