COMMUTERS POUR IN FROM PINELLAS, PASCO: Nearly 32,000 Pasco County residents and 44,000 Pinellas County residents commuted into Hillsborough County in 2000 for their jobs, according to statistics released Thursday by the U.S. Census.
Among 471,000 workers who live in Hillsborough County, only 6,100 commuted to Pasco County. Another 25,000 worked in Pinellas.
The number of commuters who live in one county and work in another rose significantly over all of the Tampa Bay area between 1990 and 2000, the statistics showed. It rose particularly in Pasco, where new developments that serve as bedroom communities to Hillsborough are going up faster than gasoline prices.
"There are all sorts of reasons that people are willing to put up with long commutes," said Steve Polzin, director of transportation demand management for the University of South Florida's Center for Urban Transportation. "Folks want to live at the beach, or they want to get away from the center city for lower costs, lower crime and better schools.
"This is not a new phenomenon. People have been moving away from the core cities for centuries, as soon as they have opportunity and means."
SCHOOLS TRIM EVACUATION POLICY FOR FCAT: Countywide school evacuations for bomb threats are no longer automatic during FCAT testing. School officials said they are taking other, undisclosed precautions to keep campuses safe.
"The overring concern is making sure FCAT testing is not unduly disrupted," said Mark Hart, spokesman for the Hillsborough County School District.
Hillsborough's temporary change brings its policy more in line with those of other school districts, including Pasco and Pinellas. Neither orders a mass evacuation when a threat is made against an unnamed school.
Some experts and parents have criticized Hillsborough's longstanding policy of evacuating all 199 schools when a threat is made. No bombs have ever been found, and some think the policy may actually contribute to hoaxes as thrill-seeking students see how easily they can empty schools with a phone call.
TAMPA AIRPORT ACCLAIMED: It took a decade, but a leading travel magazine has once again named Tampa International Airport the best airport in the country and one of the best in the world.
According to an annual poll taken by Conde Nast Traveler magazine and released Thursday, TIA was the most-loved airport in the country and ranked third in the world behind two perennial favorites: Singapore's Changi Airport and Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport.
The magazine ranked only the top three, but among the honorable mentions were Orlando International and Palm Beach International airports. Others listed were in Las Vegas, Portland, Ore., Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City and Washington, D.C.
The airports were judged on five criteria: location and ease of access; ease of connection; customs and baggage handling; food, shops and amenities; and comfort and design.
The last time TIA was named No. 1 in the country by Conde Nast was in 1993.
RUNOFF FOR STOKES: Tampa Palms attorney Shawn Harrison easily held onto his City Council seat in Tuesday's election, taking 97.6 percent of the vote for District 7. In the citywide District 1, Curtis Stokes, also of Tampa Palms, will face Gwen Miller in a runoff. Miller took 46.1 percent of the vote while Stokes received 25.3 percent. The runoff is March 25.
PROSECUTOR DEMOTED FOR VIOLENCE: Hillsborough homicide prosecutor Curt Allen received a demotion and a pay cut last week, a month after being suspended for allegations he punched a fellow prosecutor and later poked a man in a post-Gasparilla barroom spat.
Allen was demoted from the Major Crimes Unit to deputy chief in a felony courtroom, with a drop in salary from $82,000 to $76,000. Allen declined to comment.
State Attorney Mark Ober said he had a mental health expert examine Allen at Allen's expense. "It was determined that Curt does not have any anger management issues, nor does he have an alcohol problem," Ober said in a press release Tuesday.
Ober said he decided to keep Allen after weighing his "contributions to this office and the community with the recent incidents."
In the past year, Allen, 36, has been Ober's most visible prosecutor, an ultra-aggressive courtroom presence who has steered some of the office's biggest trials to victory.
This log house at 12705 Orange Grove Drive, believed to be one of the oldest in Carrollwood, burned down Thursday when an electrical wire ignited. The home was built in the 1920s and was being restored by owners Jeannie Brownfield and her husband, Dwayne. It is said to have been a haven for mob boss Al Capone, and at one time was part of a nudist colony.