The smell is rich, warm, slightly nutty — almost but not quite burned. It's a smell that is as much a part of Ybor City as the roosters that strut with impunity across its historic brick streets, as Ybor as a pressed Cuban and a steamy cup of cafe con leche.
Some mornings, this particular aroma drifts west into downtown Tampa, warming a city just waking up. If I'm lucky, it wafts over to my neighborhood not far away — the distinctive scent of Naviera coffee beans roasting in the mill as they have in this town for nearly a century....
Okay, let's get the sappy part out of the way.
Some of us who grew up with you — walking through your automatic doors into the smell of baking bread, weighing ourselves since kindergarten on those big scales in your lobbies, watching polite bag boys roll our moms' groceries to the car — well, we would sooner bleed Publix green than shop another store....
Let us consider what's been said over the years about Hillsborough County's Public Transportation Commission. Oh, where to start.
There are the allegations of the PTC's cozy relationship with the taxi and limo industry it's supposed to regulate.
Or the fact that the PTC is the only such standalone agency in a state in which other local governments seem to handle the same duties without all the vitriol....
The question — posed to just-elected Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren in a room full of lawyers not yet sure what to make of the new guy — was a good one.
In courts across Florida, certain first-time offenders get the chance to avoid trials — and more importantly criminal records — for less serious offenses. Would the new state attorney consider starting such a diversion program for people charged with DUI?...
Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham will probably not miss me.
Okay, maybe it's the overall attention he won't miss. He is by his own description a shy and quiet man — but also an elected official, which means having your votes scrutinized and on occasion thrown back at you.
A Republican voice on the board since 2006, Higginbotham surprised not a few people with the recent announcement that he does not plan to run again when his term is up in 2018. Sam Rashid, a powerful east county political activist, said Higginbotham "was told he could not run for re-election" after he displeased conservative loyal supporters....
For those already not enamored with a "stand your ground" law that makes it easier for people in Florida to shoot and kill with impunity, get ready:
Lawmakers might be about to make it worse.
Anyone familiar with the name George Zimmerman knows our controversial law says you can use deadly force with no obligation to back down or flee if you feel threatened. Critics say stand your ground has the potential to cheapen human life, and a Tampa Bay Times investigation found the law has been applied unevenly across the state....
11/08/16 Human Interest
As a prosecutor just out of law school, Lyann Goudie found herself invited to the boss' house for a party.
Hers was no ordinary boss.
Miami-Dade State Attorney Janet Reno was 6-foot-1, Harvard Law, fiercely smart, a little intimidating.
The party was at her home at the edge of the Everglades. Reno's employees' kids ran everywhere. Hot dogs grilled and peacocks roamed free. There on the porch sat Reno's mother, challenging guests to a game of cards. And there was Reno, the boss, in a long, loose, comfortable dress....
11/05/16 Public Safety
Notes from the boat and other news of the week:
Tongues were wagging as assorted elected officials and local leaders made the first ceremonial trip on the Cross-Bay Ferry this week.
The subject of the chatter: the presence of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, or lack thereof.
Buckhorn was on hand on land in Tampa to greet the ferry as it arrived on its inaugural jaunt from St. Petersburg with that city's Mayor Rick Kriseman aboard. Another batch of notables waited on the Tampa dock as the boat readied for the journey back, Buckhorn among them....
On a pretty fall afternoon last Sunday, the good citizens of Hillsborough County stopped by the Jan Platt Library in South Tampa to cast their early votes.
Outside, campaign supporters waved signs. Birds sang and children played. The scene was practically Rockwellian.
Until things got "loud," "out of hand" and "ugly" — in the words of the poll worker who called 911.
And all of this was related to a race between two people running not in that bloodbath of a campaign for president, but to be a local judge....
One morning this week, I sailed to work.
Okay, that's an exaggeration. I ferried from downtown St. Petersburg to downtown Tampa on the inaugural voyage of the biggest no-brainer ever to hit two cities separated only by bridges: the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project.
And once I got off that boat, it was downhill, transportationwise. Which is pretty much how we do progress on transit in these parts, in fits and starts....
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....