1. Archive

School ends Harry Potter adventures

Administrators at Carrollwood Elementary will not order any new Harry Potter books for the school library, fearing that parents might object to the wizardry and witchcraft themes in the popular series.

Principal Joan Bookman said children still will be allowed to bring Harry Potter books to school, and the school will keep the first Harry Potter book in the library. But the library will not stock the two latest volumes of the series.

"It was because of the witchcraft themes," Bookman said. "We just knew that we probably had some parents who wouldn't want their children to read these books."

J.K. Rowling's books, which hold three of the top four spots on the New York Times bestseller list, star an 11-year-old apprentice wizard.

The books have sparked controversy in some school districts around the country, where some parents thought the witchcraft collided with their Christian beliefs.

"I think it's absurd," said Judith Krug, director of the office for intellectual freedom at the American Library Association. "I find it amazing that a school _ whose job is to educate children _ is not putting materials in the library that every kid wants to read."

Judge puts kink in bottler's plans for more spring water

ZEPHYRHILLS _ Zephyrhills Spring Water Co.'s request for a sixfold increase in withdrawals of water from Crystal Springs failed to win over a judge last week.

The company, the largest purveyor of bottled water in the state, lost the latest round when administrative law Judge Lawrence P. Stevenson said Thonotosassa rancher Robert Thomas, whose family owns Crystal Springs, failed to provide reasonable assurances that the Hillsborough River could withstand withdrawals of up to 1.8-million gallons per day.

Crystal Springs feeds directly into the Hillsborough River, Tampa's main source of drinking water.

The judge also ruled that Zephyrhills Spring Water, a subsidiary of Nestle Corp.'s Perrier division and the country's sixth-largest bottled water company, did not prove that there was sufficient demand from consumers to justify the increase.

The case now goes to the Southwest Florida Water Management District's governing board, which is scheduled to consider the judge's ruling at its February meeting.

Prosecutor declines to review Pasco sheriff's math errors

NEW PORT RICHEY _ Pasco County Sheriff Lee Cannon, accused by a former county commissioner of "cooking" his budget numbers to show a need for a bigger patrol force, will not face a criminal investigation as some had urged.

Pasco-Pinellas State Attorney Bernie McCabe on Wednesday said there is no evidence the sheriff intentionally falsified statistics.

McCabe's comments came the day after former County Commissioner Ed Collins asked the State Attorney's Office to investigate, saying Cannon had purposefully produced misleading numbers for the County Commission.

Collins' call for an investigation was prompted by a special report in last Sunday's Pasco edition of the St. Petersburg Times that detailed several pieces of inaccurate information provided by Cannon and his top aides to commissioners and voters.

Cannon used the information to bolster his case for a special law enforcement tax in 1998.

County commissioners are talking about hiring an independent consultant to review the Sheriff's Office staffing situation, which Cannon says he welcomes.

African Festival Market

has lost its sizzle

ST. PETERSBURG _ Two months shy of its first anniversary, the African Festival Market has shrunk to just a few vendors, and its future is uncertain.

The brainchild of Omali Yeshitela, chairman of the National People's Democratic Uhuru Movement, the market was touted as a low-cost training ground for entrepreneurs who might not have the financial means to open a shop but had creativity to sell.

On its first weekend, about 70 vendors set up at Campbell Park, around 16th Street and Sixth Avenue S, selling food, crafts and art to the accompaniment of live music and disc jockeys. Hundreds of browsers were on hand.

But on Jan. 22, no vendors were in the park, despite the warm winter day. The previous Saturday, a windy, cold winter day, only one vendor was there.

The St. Petersburg City Council agreed to contribute $100,000 in services to help the African Festival Market. Available were police, traffic, fire, parks, recreation and sanitation services. The contract was for one year, and the contract ends Feb. 29.

State can't embrace

plan for crane migration

INVERNESS _ A proposal for introducing a migratory flock of endangered whooping cranes that would winter in Citrus and Hernando counties has captured the imagination of biologists and birdwatchers alike.

But with less than two years to go before the cranes are scheduled to arrive, one key player in this nationwide effort _ the state of Florida _ has yet to buy in.

After nurturing a tenuous flock of non-migratory whooping cranes near Lake Kissimmee for the past seven years, state biologists worry that this new federal program would divert already thin resources before their project has every opportunity to succeed.

In response, they are withholding preliminary endorsement of the migratory project until the project's sponsor, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, answers questions about funding, timing and logistics.

Proponents of the plan hope that at the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission meeting this week in Jacksonville commissioners hold off judgment or give the project a conditional go-ahead with the guarantee the state's concerns would be addressed.

Coming up this week

Lock up your valuables: Pirates invade Tampa once again on Saturday for Gasparilla. In addition to the pirate invasion and parade along Bayshore Boulevard, there will be an arts festival and fireworks at night.

The Pinellas County School Board this week begins a series of meetings to answer questions about the district's plan to end busing. Each of the seven public meetings will begin at 7 p.m. and last 90 minutes. First up is a meeting with the Countryside High School school advisory committee on Thursday, followed by Pinellas Park High (Feb. 9), Dixie Hollins High (Feb. 10), and Lakewood High School (Feb. 16). Then starting Feb. 7 the School Board will hold three "listening sessions" for comments from the public, starting Feb. 7 at Palm Harbor University High School, John Hopkins Middle School (Feb. 15) and at the School Administration Building conference hall (Feb. 17.) This is all due to a settlement between the School Board and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund that would end a 28-year-old court order that required cross-county busing for desegregation.

_ Compiled by Times staff writer Sharon Kennedy Wynne.

ROUNDABOUT SNAGS: A month after the heralded opening of this eye-catching roundabout, city officials are debating how to eliminate some of the confusion for people navigating the new entrance to Clearwater Beach. In this photo, traffic to the right enters Clearwater Beach at the roundabout and traffic to the left exits as two pedestrians rush across the street at a point where there is no crosswalk. The city is considering creating more barriers to prevent pedestrians from walking everywhere in the road. Since Dec. 15, about 26 accidents have been reported, said Wayne Shelor, Clearwater police spokesman. That is more than at most intersections, although most incidents have been slow-speed fender benders.