Maybe those glossy fliers piling up in your mailbox as Election Day looms should come with a cautionary note:
Warning: This is a political ad and therefore might be a little loose on that whole Truth in Advertising thing. Govern yourself accordingly.
That cynicism is earned. Just this week in a Florida Senate race, a lawyer asked local TV stations to quit running an ad from a Republican committee supporting candidate Dana Young because of a little problem with, you know, the actual facts alleged about her opponent, Democrat Bob Buesing....
Hard to say what's most surprising about Mickey Jacob's name being added to the list of rumored contenders to replace Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn when he term-limits out in three years. (A departure that, by the way, may require a SWAT team, given Buckhorn's fondness for the job.)
So is it most surprising that:
1. Jacob is very much not-from-here — an immigrant, as he likes to say, Canada-born and naturalized 16 years ago?...
We are busy with our actual lives, busy with work, kids and whether we remembered to buy dog food. What's more, we are battered to numbness by this particularly bruising political season, and so maybe we do not notice when shaded truths and outright distortions land in our mailboxes as Election Day looms.
Which, the cynical would say, is what some people bank on.
Republican State House Majority Leader Dana Young is squaring off against Tampa lawyer and Democrat Bob Buesing for an open Florida Senate seat — with strip club owner Joe Redner and Air Force reservist Sheldon Upthegrove running as no-party candidates. It's a close race that deserves a fair fight....
10/14/16 Human Interest
On a quiet, curving street in a neighborhood north of downtown Tampa, I spot what surely has to be war: Two residents facing off over what has been one ugly presidential election.
Actually, at first I thought I was seeing a single house divided: a tidy bungalow sporting yard signs for both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
Now how nuclear do you suppose dinnertime conversations could get in that house? Did divorce lawyers discreetly leave their business cards in the mailbox?...
Given the utterly surreal election year we're in, it's getting boring saying this.
Is this really who we are?
For the moment, I don't mean that predatory talk about women from someone who wants to be our president. Or even the fact that basic civility has become as quaint as a pocket hanky.
This one is homegrown in Florida.
Gov. Rick Scott was enjoying a brief moment of widespread approval for his steady straight talk when Hurricane Matthew was threatening our state. Scott has been so unpopular over the years you would think he might want to savor the moment, enjoy it a little, but no. He quickly ruined it by being — actually, pretty much the guy he's always been....
Dick Greco looks lonely.
Not actual Dick Greco, arguably the chattiest, most huggy mayor ever to run the city of Tampa. This is the statue of Greco that sits on a bus bench at the downtown streetcar station that bears his name, Greco's bronzed arm stretched across the back, awaiting friend and stranger alike.
But on a busy Monday morning, as commuters in cars stream into a city just waking up, Greco has no takers — except the homeless guy rousing himself from his blankets on the pavement nearby....
10/06/16 Human Interest
WHAT I ATE: My dining companion and I shared the veggie samosas — two giant puffs of a fragrant filled pastry that shattered satisfyingly under your fork. My entree was the chana masala, a vegetarian chickpea dish in a spicy sauce. My dining companion ordered the butter chicken in a rich sauce, and both were served with a generous portion of white biryani rice. We could smell the hot, fresh garlic naan bread halfway to our table. Dinner portions are generous and definitely doggy baggable....
It is a true fact that ours is an endlessly mockable state, given our twisted politics and our tendency to be the backdrop to crimes weirder than anywhere else. But there is much to like about Florida: our perpetual sunshine, the beaches and the breathtaking natural resources that developers haven't managed to pave over just yet.
We also have Zika and sinkholes that swallow actual houses. And we have hurricanes....
Wait a minute: Government actually listened?
Maybe that should be more affirmative: Government actually listened.
With enthusiastic punctuation, even: Government actually listened!
In a surprise U-turn this week, the Florida Department of Transportation abruptly removed a big little detail from its controversial $6 billion Tampa Bay Express highway improvement plan — a detail that got people riled, and with good reason....
It's not even the first time lawyer Grady Irvin Jr. will share a defense table with a white supremacist.
Make that alleged white supremacist, though the Nazi-themed tattoos might be a giveaway.
The case in federal court isn't one you would pay much attention to. Michael Carroll Wilson, 43 — Moon Lake Mike, to his pals — is accused of being a felon in possession of a loaded gun that deputies say they found in his bedroom when they executed a search warrant on a trailer in Pasco County....
In Tampa's perpetual quest to be a more-than-second-tier city, we do have our points of pride.
There is our uber-cool Tampa International Airport, even if construction has it looking like a war-torn country. There are those sugar-sand beaches across the bay, the sprawling University of South Florida and Ybor City, a Latin Quarter like nothing else in America. We have an emerging — is it too early to say vibrant? — downtown, wrapped in a ribbon of Riverwalk....
09/29/16 Human Interest
Time capsule: This is a recurring Floridian magazine feature that allows readers to re-experience some of the Tampa Bay Times' best stories with the wisdom of hindsight.
At the end of this meeting, which spilled into the early morning hours, the Tampa City Council unanimously approved an ordinance to make it illegal for an adult entertainer to work within 6 feet of a customer. The "six foot rule" is still on the books, but, says Times columnist Sue Carlton, "it's safe to say it has become very low on the police department's priority list." ...
Let's just say this latest confusion in an already controversial plan to improve traffic around here is not exactly confidence inspiring.
Already there's been plenty of contention over the $6 billion Tampa Bay Express interstate expansion project known as TBX — as in, "NO TBX," a sentiment posted on yard signs by people who believe it will tear the heart out of neighborhoods.
The plan includes rebuilding what's not-so-affectionately known as Malfunction Junction, the exchange between interstates 275 and 4 at the edge of downtown Tampa. It will replace the 3-mile span of the perpetually congested northbound lanes of the Howard Frankland Bridge. And it will add nearly 100 miles of tolled express lanes for people willing and able to pay to use them while the rest of us schlubs ride in regular traffic....
On a rainy summer afternoon inside the courthouse by the railroad tracks in Plant City, the case is halfway down the crowded docket.
Petitioner: Christine Rose Novak, it reads. Name change.
Weary-looking people fill the benches in family court, most of them here for divorces. But in the third row, wearing a vibrant blue necktie and the beginnings of a beard, sits the petitioner, his girlfriend at his side....
09/23/16 Public Safety
Florida facts: We have earned being called the Gunshine State. The National Rifle Association uses our lawmakers as sock puppets. And no pro-gun proposal is too absurd for these parts.
So why should we be surprised at this latest insanity about Florida, guns and The American Way?
As the world knows, this is loud-and-proud Stand Your Ground territory. Our law essentially says: Back down, hell — if I'm scared enough, I get to shoot. Retreat? Don't have to....