With the primary elections mere weeks away, mailboxes are filling with interesting missives.
Among the usual campaign pieces with The Other Guy In The Race photographed looking either sinister or stupid, one notable local ad features a noble-looking fighter pilot standing next to an impressive-looking jet.
Vote Absentee for Norman Cannella for Judge, it says. DISCIPLINE HONOR RESPECT....
Once upon a time, an antigay, anti-Muslim, "pro-Christian" platform could do wonders for getting you elected in the conservative corners of Hillsborough County.
But the world keeps turning.
Slowly, state by state, people are being allowed to marry whom they want. Even here, miracle of miracles, county commissioners are warming to the idea that gay and transgender citizens deserve the same basic protections as everyone else....
07/25/14 Human Interest
Tampa lawyer Laura Ward wants to be a judge. And campaigning with her in her race against former chief prosecutor Karen Stanley is her father, former Hillsborough Circuit Judge Ed Ward.
Those on the campaign trail say he is everywhere. He has sent letters to legal notables, working connections. He's on her website and in her speeches. A pamphlet she leaves at voters' doors shows him smiling in what appear to be judicial robes, holding his daughter when she was little....
So a Tampa City Council member walks into a bar. And another bar. And another bar.
No, it's not the stress of this city — the busy, beery part of his South Tampa district in particular — that has council member Harry Cohen haunting Irish pubs and cocktail lounges along teeming South Howard Avenue. (SoHo, to those in the know.)
For weeks he has been sipping a ginger ale here, a seltzer there, on a fact-finding mission along the SoHo entertainment district through trendy Hyde Park. The goal: some kind of rapprochement between residents and bars and restaurants that range from Bern's steak house and the chi-chi new Epicurean Hotel to World of Beer. Not to be confused with nearby Yard of Ale....
07/22/14 Human Interest
The signs, a bright, guilt-inducing red, sprouted overnight like mushrooms along the grassy curbs of my regular shortcut through an old Tampa neighborhood.
Please, they implore me and the other cut-through drivers behind me: DRIVE LIKE YOUR KIDS LIVE HERE.
City streets, even very residential ones like Ridgewood Avenue where kids play, dogs get walked and neighbors are out being neighborly, are open for all of us to drive. Of course. This town's prettiest street in fancier South Tampa, the winding waterfront Bayshore Boulevard, belongs no more to the residents of the mansions along it than to the barefoot guy sitting on the seawall watching the boats go by....
07/18/14 Human Interest
Imagine you are a boy growing up in Tampa, Florida, USA.
Now, imagine that pretty much everywhere in your town, your name — the one teachers say at roll call, the one by which you introduce yourself to strangers — immediately evokes images of naked women wrapped around stripper poles.
Now 41, Joey Redner is very familiar with the question: What was it like growing up as the son and namesake of Tampa's undisputed strip club king Joe Redner? He has a hard time answering. People made assumptions; boys were impressed. Maybe it's like growing up with red hair, the kind everyone seems to need to comment on. It just was....
I can't decide if this makes us a big cosmopolitan region or a small town where pretty much everyone is related to everyone else. Or both.
Among the finalists for the St. Petersburg police chief job is current assistant chief Melanie Bevan. Should she end up as Mayor Rick Kriseman's pick in this very big decision for his city, it would make for an interesting juxtaposition with the town across the bridge....
Once upon a time, a politician named Ronda Storms held sway over the land, or at least Hillsborough County.
A conservative Christian and a county commissioner, Storms managed to prevent county government from even acknowledging gay pride events. She wasn't alone: the same board had previously repealed an ordinance to protect gays against discrimination.
But time passes, politicians fade and new ones step up. Sometimes even government progresses....
After only nine months, Florida's law against texting while driving is officially toothless.
Across the state, police can spot a motorist looking not at the road but at his phone, madly typing in messages, directions, smiley face emoticons, whatever — all while careening down the interstate in the lane next to you.
And unless this motorist is also committing some other infraction, under the new law police can do pretty much nothing. They cannot pull him over just for texting, even though the driver and his rather critical eyes are concentrating elsewhere....
07/10/14 Public Safety
Score a small victory for justice evenly applied, even when it involves the incendiary issue of immigration.
In an America in which some hold fast to a send-'em-all-back-and-let-some-other-country-sort-'em-out philosophy, sheriffs around the country — and in our own back yard — have struck an interesting tone with a notable change in jail policy.
Inmates who were also immigrants were routinely held an extra two days — even though they had been granted bail and could come up with the cash — at the request of the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency known far and wide by the chilly acronym ICE....
Does it seem like Tampa spends a lot of time trying to explain itself to the rest of the world?
No, it is not Orlando West or Jacksonville South. Yes, the city has hosted national and international events. No, a real Cuban sandwich cannot include pesto mayo, or avocado, and yes, those are actual chickens running around Ybor City just past a respectable downtown skyline.
And yes, we are an interesting blend of Cuban, Spanish and Italian immigrant roots, something you don't find just anywhere....
When it comes to making progress on transit, we seem perpetually stuck in traffic.
Or, for a more archaic analogy: When political leaders start talking about how to pay for improving buses and roads and, yes, adding rail, sometimes it starts to feel like we're pulling on the reins of the world's most obstinate mule.
Those who believe it possible to move our transit system into, say, this century, have high hopes pinned on November's Greenlight Pinellas referendum for a new penny sales tax....
07/03/14 Human Interest
You have to love a nation that celebrates its independence every July 4, not with a parade of guns, tanks, and soldiers who file by the White House in a show of strength and muscle, but with family picnics where kids throw Frisbees, the potato salad gets iffy, and the flies die from happiness. You may think you have overeaten, but it is patriotism.
— the late Erma Bombeck ...
Somehow, the Hooters on the corner soldiers on, dishing up lunchtime wings to tourists in T-shirts and guys in ties. But otherwise, the sprawling Channelside entertainment complex along a slice of waterfront at the edge of downtown Tampa looks to be on life support.
A marquee still welcomes visitors who were here for the Outback Bowl six months ago. "Look, there's movies," says a little girl walking by with her mother, pointing to a theater sign. No. There were movies....
Already, the story has brought phone calls from out-of-state friends who heard about longtime Tampa City Council member Charlie Miranda and the ducks. This story will likely get him slapped on the back at the West Tampa Sandwich Shop and called the Duck Guy — or, you crazy (unprintable word questioning one's parentage) — into the next decade.
Sure, this is a city on the move, a backdrop for glitzy national events and all that. But it is also the sort of town in which a born-and-bred politician will valiantly protect the honor of its ducks....