08/21/15 Public Safety
He was a teenager about to begin whatever the rest of his life would be.
Next week's first day of school would have made 14-year-old Edward Harris IV — E.J., they called him — officially a high school freshman. Done would be the mornings his dad drove him to Greco Middle School, home of the Cubs. Tuesday, E.J. could have climbed aboard a big yellow school bus outside his modest home in Woodland Terrace and stepped off of it at Tampa's sprawling, storied Hillsborough High, the oldest high school in the city....
TAMPA — It would surprise no one who knew Joseph M. Joeb that he wrote his own obituary. Or how he wrote it.
Mr. Joeb, self-proclaimed curmudgeon, artist, author, parrot enthusiast and, most important, teacher, died last week at age 72 — "which was sooner than he wanted but pretty much when he expected," his obituary said. He had, after all, survived an earlier bout with lung cancer, and so he was already past his "sell by" date....
You might have thought that once certain members of the Hills- borough County School Board finally ran their archnemesis out of town on a rail, they would be ready to move on to the business of running actual schools.
You might be wrong.
At least this time their squabble with former superintendent MaryEllen Elia goes beyond style points and their long-held objections to Elia's fiercely autocratic way of getting things done....
08/07/15 Human Interest
We've seen these interhousehold rivalries before: One spouse is a die-hard Gator, the other bleeds 'Noles garnet and gold. Husband is forever loyal to his Red Sox, while wife cheers only her hometown Rays.
But this one's political. And involves a politician.
Republican Hillsborough County Commissioner and former state legislator Victor Crist says he's all in for Jeb Bush for president....
08/06/15 Economic Development
Actual scene from a South Tampa restaurant: A man orders a locally brewed Jai Alai beer. Pronounced "high lie," it's a retro-cool name going back to Tampa's rich cultural history and a sport that's like an old-school, lightning-fast game of racquetball, only with a Spanish flair.
The waiter serves the brew with a flourish. "Here's your jail ale," he says, clearly unfamiliar with all that tradition....
08/04/15 Public Safety
We are deep into the long, hot summer that has worried public officials across America.
We've seen police encounters caught on video and read stories that stretch thin the trust between officers and citizens.
In Tampa, the mayor and the then-police chief called for a Justice Department review after a Tampa Bay Times investigation that showed eight out of 10 bicycling tickets were being issued to black residents....
07/31/15 Human Interest
Okay, so Florida is weird.
The Sunshine State routinely provides improbable news — outrageous politics, bizarre characters, stories involving pythons. We are such rich and fertile soil for prolific tweeters and late-night TV snarksters they should pay us a cut.
This week's front page featured a photo of five people unfurling an 18-foot python found in the Everglades. That's nothing. Two years ago, a 20-foot, 115-pound such snake was brought in as a visitor to the Tampa Bay Rays clubhouse. Why, you ask? Why not, we answer. It's Florida....
07/30/15 Public Safety
A campus cop in Cincinnati shoots and kills a motorist he pulled over. He says he was dragged when the man tried to drive away. A fellow officer backs him up.
But the officer's own body camera tells a different story.
It shows Officer Ray Tensing lied about being dragged by the car, a prosecutor said this week, and he likely lost his temper when driver Samuel DuBose wouldn't get out of the car. Now, Tensing is charged with murder. And that video is critical evidence in the latest racially tinged and explosive encounter between police and the public....
Say that your once-sleepy downtown is on the verge of something that could be epic.
Say that how downtown might one day look — bustling with workers and residents and cool things to do, with a thriving medical school and a big science museum — depends, at least in part, on a certain benevolent citizen from up north.
(Benevolent and rich. That he appears to love living here is just gravy.)...
In a low-ceilinged courtroom crowded with juveniles charged with crimes, an improbable scene played out this week.
A teenage girl stood before a judge as the entire courtroom applauded her — prosecutors, probation officers, public defenders, even other teenagers slouched on benches awaiting their own cases.
And on this first day of Girls Court in Hillsborough County, it happened more than once....
The children are brought into court in detention uniforms, blue shirts and khakis, distinguishing them from grownup inmates in baggy bright orange filling other courtrooms not far away.
Most are teenagers, though they have been as young as 8, as young as 6. Some come transported in chains and then unshackled for court. And some days, this must feel like the most hopeless place in the Hillsborough County Courthouse....
This is not the opening to a snarky lawyer joke, I swear. But does anyone think Florida needs more of them?
Friday, the governing board of the Florida Bar preliminarily takes up the idea of allowing lawyers from other states to practice in ours without taking that all-important Florida Bar exam.
Lawyers from elsewhere who want to work here — balmy beaches, anyone? A little Disney for the kids, perhaps? — would need to have practiced law for five of the past seven years. They cannot have, you know, set up enemy lawyers for DUI arrests or anything like that. Maybe they'll have to show knowledge of certain specialty areas of our law....
07/10/15 Public Safety
There is a small detail you notice about Tampa's new police chief, Eric Ward — beyond the impeccable uniform, no-nonsense eyeglasses and clean-shaven head. (He had hair when he started this job two months ago, he says, a rare quip.) It's a detail beyond his careful, formal way of talking.
It's the holes in his ears.
Two in one lobe, one in the other, they are remnants of being a teenager, of growing up in public housing in east Tampa, raised by a single mother after a divorce. He already stood out because of his deeply religious family — piercing his ears, he figured, made him like the other kids....
Here's something you don't often hear about a government function:
This could be fun.
Wednesday, current and former Tampa City Council members gather for a 100-year celebration of Old City Hall, though the council itself dates to 1849.
Former members' names grace notable city spots — Nick Nuccio Parkway, Curtis Hixon Park, Jan Platt Library. Tampa had a council chairman named Richard (Dick?) Cheney, though the swankiest name had to be L. Beecher McSwain....
Two years ago, a cowboy of a Tampa lawyer, successful and smooth in his crisp suit, condemned opposing counsel in a contentious case playing out for the cameras.
But he wasn't complaining about anything that lawyer had done in court that day in the ongoing defamation trial between two overblown radio DJs — Bubba the Love Sponge Clem and Todd Schnitt.
No, the news had just broken that lawyer C. Philip Campbell was arrested for DUI mid trial. So opposing attorney Stephen Diaco rose up righteous for reporters....