Remember those 3-D posters that looked like some random pattern until you stared long enough for the underlying picture of, say, a cowboy or a unicorn or even a city skyline to come into focus, totally surprising you with the big picture?
Yeah, that's pretty much downtown Tampa at the moment.
The latest potential puzzle piece for a city coming together involves a beleaguered science museum that for 34 years has sprawled 11 miles away across 75-plus county-owned acres across from the University of South Florida....
Three long years, endless meetings, some bare-knuckle politics and one debunked scandal later, Hillsborough County remains stalled on a road to nowhere.
In a decision Wednesday night critical to the county's transportation needs, commissioners voted 4-3 to deny voters the right to decide on a half-penny sales tax for roads and other transit fixes — a hard-fought proposal called Go Hillsborough....
It's been two years of hard road leading to tonight's Hillsborough County Commission vote on a half-penny sales tax for transportation, a decision so big a couple of hundred citizens might just show up to share their thoughts.
So here's the current buzz from all sides on the battered proposal known as Go Hillsborough:
It's too much to ask of taxpayers.
It's not nearly enough to get the job done....
While this country was living through the latest episode of our TV reality show of a presidential race, I was away in Ireland, where I met a donkey named Bertie.
Bertie has it pretty good, living a donkey's life in a field overlooking the hills down the rugged Atlantic coast, eating hay and oats and apples offered from the lunches of passing schoolchildren. He was named for former Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, who left office amid allegations of financial improprieties, which he denied, a storyline as American as apple pie. ...
04/08/16 Human Interest
Former Tampa mayor and bi-county icon Dick Greco was officially sprung this week after more than two months in the hospital.
And because it was Greco, it had to include a party.
Last Sunday, more than 100 well-wishers — muckety-mucks, friends, family and hospital personnel who got to know a man who never met a stranger, much less shied from hugging one — gathered at Florida Hospital Tampa for a surprise celebration as he was being wheeled back out into the real world. They sipped lemonade and ice tea and nibbled appetizers as Greco was called honorary hospital mayor. Well, of course he was....
04/07/16 Human Interest
Fair to say you probably did not go to the Colonnade, the seafood restaurant on a particularly pretty part of South Tampa's Bayshore Boulevard, just for the food.
Maybe you had a fondness for the tiny, old-fashioned muffins they served, for the fried shrimp or the fat onion rings. If you grew up here, maybe the place threads through your family history for generations of birthdays, anniversaries and pre-prom dinners, for grandparents' stories of buying their dates Colonnade Cokes served with olives in them....
It's not like prominent Tampa philanthropist David A. Straz Jr., whose name is splashed across the town's performing arts center (among other buildings), is unfamiliar with governmentally doled-out accolades.
Hanging in his office, in fact, are plaques bearing keys to not just the city but also the county, each thanking him for his generosity in the usual overstuffed language of such awards....
04/01/16 Human Interest
Is it possible? Is Tampa losing its ugly?
For years, for decades, you could find ugly everywhere in this town — in old hotels gone to seed, in abandoned buildings, in indefensible public housing complexes that were a study in blight. Even much of the Hillsborough River was ugly, what you could see of it — a peek of it between ugly downtown buildings or from a patch of grass near the ugly interstate....
Behind-the-scenes lobbying. Rumors of powerful endorsements and political retribution. And the intriguing question of whether some of the voters will factor in that a candidate once implied they were butt-kissers.
It's all there in Tampa's own House of Cards.
Next week's election of the City Council chair is why some people love politics the way Netflix bingers can't wait to find out what that crafty President Frank Underwood will get up to next....
The latest local allegations of public corruption — this time, over at the Florida State Fair — could come down to whether a hot tub given to the guy who ran the place had anything to do with him giving the vendor a free 25-foot inflatable duck.
By now this should go without saying: No, I am not making this up.
Accusations that public officials might trade on their powerful positions are hardly new in these parts. When I first got here in the 1980s, three Hillsborough County commissioners were taken off in handcuffs in a bribery scandal during which one of them rubbed his nose or, alternately, pulled his ear, to indicate how a rezoning vote would go....
03/25/16 Human Interest
When native New Yorker Joe Lopano landed here five years ago to run our fine airport, he found himself fascinated by our birds.
Always a nature guy, he liked a lot of them — the rosy-pink spoonbills and crafty skimmers, the long-legged herons stalking the shoreline. But he was particularly taken with our fierce-looking ospreys, how they dip down into the waters and make off with a wriggling fish even as you stand staring up from Bayshore Boulevard at this National Geographic moment....
03/24/16 Human Interest
First things first: As with every victim of gun violence, Jamie Gilt deserves no less than heartfelt wishes for a full recovery from a bullet fired into her back as she drove her pickup truck through Putnam County this month. Her 4-year-old son rode with her.
The gun was hers. He fired it.
When it comes to our current and epic struggle over balancing gun rights and gun safety, the story-gone-viral of what happened to Gilt is both object lesson and rallying cry....
03/22/16 Local Government
TAMPA — Florida State Fair executive director Chuck Pesano resigned after a state investigation found that he used his position to funnel business to his family's company, get Tampa Bay Rays tickets and have a hot tub installed in his Valrico home.
The findings by a Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Inspector General's investigation put an end to an 11-year tenure for Pesano, 63, who was paid $146,250 a year. He submitted a one-sentence resignation Feb. 25, the day after the investigation was published. The report concluded that there was evidence to show he did business with his own agency, entered into conflicting relationships and accepted gifts....
03/22/16 Public Safety
Somewhere out there right now is a person who will get caught with a small amount of pot — personal-use pot, as opposed to a whole lot of pot.
For that person, a criminal charge could affect things to come, like getting a job or finding a place to live. People who deal daily in courts and crime will tell you a first arrest can be a slippery slope to a second, and such laws can unfairly weigh on minorities in particular....
While a Pinellas jury ruminated this week over whether a wrestler willing to be filmed riding a wrecking ball in a T-back and sitting sans pants on a toilet could have his privacy invaded by a secret sex tape, a jury across the bay was taking up a slightly loftier but somewhat related matter.
The common denominator? Embattled, potty-mouthed shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem, who, by the way, is accused in a completely separate matter of desperately trying to influence his own radio ratings....