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....
11/20/14 Local Government
It's old, but the big gray library at the edge of downtown still has this quiet energy, the low-key bustle and hum of the city around it.
Kids hefting skateboards drop their voices as they head into the hush. Homeless men commandeer computers or unfurl newspapers for long reads. Bookish types bury their noses in work, little kids beeline for picture books, and locals wander the shelves.
For nearly half a century, Tampa's John F. Germany Public Library has been part of a downtown that boomed and busted and now is beginning a boom again. Around it, residential towers rise and restaurants open and a new Riverwalk meanders past....
On Thanksgiving Day, when I am madly making the most important meal of the year, I will need something.
Without fail, I will lack for enough butter or brown sugar, or pepper for the turkey-shaped pepper shaker. Once, I completely forgot cranberry sauce, which, truth be told, tends to sit largely untouched on our table every year. But we must have it, or risk the kids ever after telling the dark family tale of The Time We Went Without Cranberry. It's tradition, after all....
11/14/14 Human Interest
Funny how what's scary depends on who you are.
Some of us get on a plane with no more worry than taking a walk, but far fewer parachute out of one for fun. Some will pay for the theme-park thrill of being menaced by creepy zombies at Halloween, while others find the actual world frightening enough. Me, I spend time around politicians, reporters and lawyers. But I would Not. Swim. With Sharks....
11/14/14 Human Interest
TAMPA — The scandal swept through Tampa society like a late-season hurricane, taking down no less than the retired four-star general running the CIA.
But the news two years ago this month of David Petraeus' career-ending extramarital affair had nothing on the local sideshow: doe-eyed, raven-haired, twin sister socialites who partied with top military officers — Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam....
11/13/14 Human Interest
The scandal swept through Tampa society like a late-season hurricane, taking down no less than the retired four-star general running the CIA.
But the news two years ago of David Petraeus' career-ending extramarital affair had nothing on the local sideshow: Two raven-haired, twin sister socialites who partied with top military officers — Jill Kelley and Natalie Khawam. ...
11/11/14 Public Safety
A police officer is accused of beating up a suspect during an arrest. The officer denies it. One man's word against another. Whom do you believe?
Someone is shot and killed by a cop who says he had no choice. Turns out the dead man didn't have a weapon. How do you sort out the truth?
Tampa will soon join a growing list of cities arming officers with a valuable tool that could cut both ways in critical situations — and do a lot for transparency and trust, too....
Something caught the collective eye of people leaving a busy downtown lunch spot this week and made them stop for a look:
At a row of bikes parked along the curb.
No, we are not that starved for entertainment in Tampa. This was a sneak preview of a much-heralded, soon-to-launch bike rental enterprise for downtown. And these were some bikes, sleek and upright, sporting jaunty metal baskets and painted the sunniest, most optimistic shade of blue....
Here is the worst-kept secret in Tampa politics: Mayor Bob Buckhorn might want to be Florida's next governor.
The city's everywhere-mayor has long been in the rumor mix for Tallahassee 2018. Tuesday's re-election of Republican Gov. Rick Scott — and the crushing defeat of newly minted Democrat Charlie Crist — could not be better for his chances.
If (insert here a caveat you'll be hearing for a while) the ambitious mayor decides to make a go of it....
10/31/14 Local Government
Scenario No. 1: Imagine downtown Tampa, former gritty port town with a perpetual chip on its shoulder, transformed into a different sort of city — one cool enough that residents, out-of-towners, diners, bar patrons and concertgoers could stroll along its riverfront, sipping beer, wine and cocktails.
Or, Scenario No. 2: Imagine Tampa's Riverwalk, a wide path that runs between restaurants, parks and hotels from one end of downtown to the other, transformed by drunken hordes of beer-swilling revelers — and the city is left to deal with the ensuing alcohol-related headaches. (Oh, wait — that's Gasparilla.)...
What fun — if you happen to find a particularly combustible mix of politics and personality fun.
So there's this school superintendent and this school board member who are often at odds. On issues large and small — like school bus safety and financial accountability — their headline-making clashes have not always been pretty. Or likely to inspire confidence in the citizens they serve, either....
10/28/14 Human Interest
Okay, I know Joe Maddon belonged to the Rays before their sudden and awful split last week. But he belonged to Tampa, too.
We certainly get our share of carpetbaggers who don't seem to take to this place. And then there are the all-ins who like it so much they make it better — late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner, the Lightning's Jeff Vinik. When Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano got here, he couldn't stop talking about the ospreys. Maddon, above, has been one of those....
When you are a local politician — a caffeinated, in-the-thick-of-things one like Hillsborough County Commissioner Mark Sharpe — a weekend trip to your South Tampa Publix can be more of a meet-and-greet. Between the deli chickens and the dairy aisle, people bend your ear on everything from mass transit to talk of a downtown medical school.
"Dad," Sharpe's teenage son asked him on a recent such trip, "you going to miss this?"...
Campaigning to be elected judge in Florida must sometimes feel like one of those strange dreams — the kind in which you're running but can't get anywhere, or trying to do something with your hands, only they're as big and clumsy as oven mitts.
As a judicial candidate, you knock on doors, attend voter forums, visit editorial boards and wave signs on street corners asking people to vote for you, just like other candidates....
When Pinellas County chiropractor William LaTorre made headlines again — this time, with news of his suicide Thursday at age 73 — we remembered his trial. How could we not?
The horrific boat wreck 25 years ago left four teenagers dead. And it was the first criminal case I ever followed that utterly changed from what we were sure we knew at the beginning, the verdict inevitable, into something completely different. Before O.J. and Rodney King, even....