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Sue Carlton, Times Columnist

Sue Carlton

Sue Carlton is a native Floridian from a longtime Southern family that her father always said consisted of thieves and cattle rustlers run out of Georgia. She grew up in Miami and joined the Tampa Bay Times in 1988. Over the years she has covered community news, politics, cops, government, and her all-time favorite, criminal courts. For nearly nine years she wrote about the kind of strange cases that only seem to happen here, about intriguing legal issues and courthouse politics. On that beat, she authored a lengthy narrative series on a trooper who killed his wife and co-authored a series on a suburban mother murdered by her teenage daughter and her friends. Sue was the deputy editor of the features section and was the Tampa city editor before she became a columnist in 2005. Three times a week, she writes about politics, outrages, observations, court cases of the day and whatever else comes up. She lives in Tampa with her husband and their very good dog.

Phone: (813) 226-3376 or toll-free 1-800-333-7505, ext. 3376


  1. Carlton: Ex-top cop Jane Castor as Tampa's next mayor? It could happen


    Just before Jane Castor retired as Tampa police chief last year, I asked her about what had to be the most ridiculous rumor going: Castor would one day run for mayor of the city where she was a cop for 31 years.

    Crazy, right? What an unlikely next step, particularly for someone who seemed to keep herself decidedly out of the trip-wire politics of the town. Such vocational transitions have been known to occur — with success, even — but didn't this seem against the natural order of things, like dogs and cats, reporters and politicians, cops and elected officials? ...

    Jane Castor wouldn’t be Tampa’s first female mayor, but would be the first openly gay one. [Times files (2014)]
  2. Carlton: Jim Norman wants a return to politics, no questions asked


    Will it be deja vu all over again with Jim Norman, the sullied former politician hoping for redemption through re-election?

    Norman's back on the stump and working the neighborhoods and even has results from a lie detector test he says prove he's not a bad guy. The former star of the Republican Party hopes voters forgive, forget and return him to his rightful place on the Hillsborough County Commission — despite all that messy ethics stuff I'm betting he'd rather not talk about....

    Jim Norman is seeking re-election to the Hillsborough County Commission. 
  3. That new tax will cost you a Cuban sandwich, and other ways government works


    I am pleased to report that some elected officials this week earned the paycheck you give them — which, as we know, is not always the case.

    During a marathon day at the Tampa City Council meeting came the usual boring reports, attaboys and one citizen who stood during public comment and appeared to predict a hurricane will wipe us out in September.

    By day's end, Mayor Bob Buckhorn had secured a nearly unanimous vote for his pricey $35.5 million legacy park on the less fashionable side of the Hillsborough River across from downtown. But first came interesting words from Councilman Harry Cohen, who was frustrated when fellow council members failed to vote in fixes for the flooding that can cripple the streets of his South Tampa district when rains come....

  4. Mekenita Mexican Grille: Citrus and spice in a strip mall

    Human Interest

    WHAT I ATE: After we made our way through the long, skinny restaurant to the counter, perused the menu, ordered and settled in a booth, the server delivered warm, crispy, slightly smoky-tasting chips. We dipped them into a choice of salsas — mild to scorchy — that we had ladled into little plastic cups from clay pots on an icy buffet we spotted on our way to the table....

    The smoked chicken black bean eggrolls are burly and burrito sized at Mekenita Mexican Grille.
  5. Carlton: Here's your chance, Walmart, to make it right in Tampa Bay

    Public Safety

    Okay, Walmart, here's your chance.

    Here's your opportunity to show that even the world's largest retailer with a cold eye on the bottom line can be convinced to pay its own way. Here's the chance to straighten up and act like a responsible neighbor in the very communities in which you thrive.

    In a report both surprising, and, well, not, Tampa Bay Times reporters Zachary T. Sampson, Laura C. Morel and Eli Murray recently chronicled the alarmingly high rate at which our local taxpayer-paid police get called to neighborhood Walmart stores across Tampa Bay....

    The exterior of the Walmart Supercenter located at 1505 N Dale Mabry Highway in Hillsborough County. [Photo by CHRIS URSO]
  6. Carlton: Would you pay $35 million for a park?


    Shoot down a tax for transportation, if you must. Refuse to pay a taxpayer dime for some fancy new sports stadium, fine.

    But it's hard to argue against a park.

    This is especially true since downtown Tampa is finally getting parks right after those dismal years of sad, patchy stretches of grass with a waterfront hidden in there somewhere, and people not much interested in being there even in daylight....

    Tampa’s 23-acre Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park is in line for a $35.5 million makeover. [City of Tampa rendering]
  7. Carlton: Barely alive, a tax for transportation would give voters, not politicians, a say


    It lives.

    Amazingly, against all odds, the chance that voters could get to decide for themselves on a sales tax to pay for our transportation needs — killed last month in a late-night 4-3 Hillsborough County Commission vote — has risen for a last, feeble gasp.

    And you thought this one was done, given all it has been through: previous failed tax referendums on both sides of the bay. The latest incarnation, Go Hillsborough, accused of being short on specifics and leadership. The original penny-tax idea weakened to a half-cent. A hint of a scandal that blew away into nothing....

  8. Neighborhood Bistro: Put this chain in the rotation

    Human Interest

    WHAT I ATE: Though the menu has some intriguing specialty pizzas — thin-sliced eggplant, roasted cauliflower, broccoli rabe with sausage — I went purist with plain cheese (or "Grande Mozzarella" with "Italian Plum Tomatoes.") Pizzas here are "well-done," if you catch the double meaning there, from a coal-fired oven.

    A sucker for a big salad, I ordered a family-size classic Italian to share. My date went rogue from old-school Italian options like meatballs with ricotta or pork ribs with peppers and went with the roast beef sandwich. While we waited, a piled-high plate of wings with carmelized onions went by, and those were some big chickens....

    A meatball and ricotta pizza comes out of the oven at Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza. The menu offers interesting specialty ingredients.
  9. Carlton: Saving a sign that the Tribune was here

    Human Interest

    In front of the sprawling building that always looked like it was watching downtown Tampa from across the Hillsborough River stood a sign of solid concrete, flanked by floodlights and flags, weighing at least a ton.

    The Tampa Tribune, it read, and The Tampa Times, in that particular lettering of a newspaper and a city institution.

    Soon, the building on prime real estate on the west riverbank will make way for shiny new residential mid-rise apartments, with restaurant space and impressive views of the bustling Riverwalk and downtown beyond. The big Miami developer that bought the property last year is expected to begin demolition later this year....

    What will become of the concrete Tampa Tribune sign when the newspaper’s former building is demolished?
  10. Carlton: Government is where a nice little idea can go to die


    So a guy on the Tampa City Council had this nice idea.

    Hey, thought Guido Maniscalco, the council's newest and youngest member, why not let people who get parking tickets pay off part of their fines by feeding the hungry? Why not let parking scofflaws fork over canned goods instead of cash to help out over the holidays?

    Tallahassee, Savannah, Albany, Cincinnati and Lexington, Ky., have all done some version of food for fines. So surely this proposal would fly through a City Council meeting with minimal discussion and a resoundingly unanimous yes, right?...

  11. Carlton: Newspaper rivalry kept reporters alert

    Human Interest

    “One of the longest walks a politician has to take is the one from the front door to the edge of the driveway to get not one but two newspapers."

    — Former congressman, gubernatorial candidate and prominent Tampa guy Jim Davis this week on the news that, after a decades-long rivalry, the Tampa Bay Times purchased the Tampa Tribune.

    Believe me, Mr. Davis, it could be one long walk for reporters, too....

  12. Sue Carlton: Beyoncé puts the Tampa in TMZ, and some Facebook fun as transportation tax dies

    Human Interest

    A little Tampa trivia, post- Beyoncé.

    The big black SUVs and burly men demanding to know if you are paparazzi are gone from the home on quiet, tree-shaded Riviera Drive on Davis Islands, one of the city's prettiest neighborhoods. This is the house that the uberstar and husband Jay Z were rumored to have rented before her big concert Friday.

    Points for locale choice — Davis Islanders are positively blase about having the likes of Derek Jeter in their midst....

    Beyonc? performs in concert at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa on Friday. [Times staff] 
  13. Carlton: A giant dinosaur may be on Tampa's horizon


    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....

  14. Carlton: From Go Hillsborough to No Hillsborough, scoring your elected officials


    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....

  15. Carlton: Hillsborough's transportation tax plan is not perfect. Pass it anyway.


    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....

    The anti-tax crowd is content with us sitting in traffic for the next few decades or so, one person per car, with roads that need widening the minute they’re built. But commissioners should move past the politics and vote the Go Hillsborough proposal onto the November ballot for taxpayers to decide. [ZACK WITTMAN | Times]