The Daystarter: Child drowning spike in Hillsborough; little oversight in Florida school guardian money spending; who's joining Maroon 5 in Super Bowl halftime show

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
Published Jan. 14, 2019

Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.

• After a cool start to the morning, we'll have a mostly sunny day with no chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service. High temperatures will be in the mid to upper 60s.

• The Brevard County Sheriff's Office made a big purchase with the state funding it received to start a school guardian program: a 300-degree use-of-force simulator that lets trainees step into a virtual active-shooter situation. The cost: $124,995. Last year, Florida lawmakers doled out $9.4 million to help train "guardians," school-district employees who can carry concealed weapons on campus and help in active-shooter situations. Classroom teachers cannot participate, but principals, coaches and other employees can. Turns out, school systems had few rules to follow and little oversight.

• Those who knew Shelby Svensen from his Ohio days remember him as an "oddball" and a "loner" who sponged off others and could turn violent. Authorities say he's confessed to killing his wife and three in-laws found dead on New Year's Day.

• Every year, Florida's treasure of coastlines, rivers, natural springs and backyard swimming pools prove lethal to children. Nowhere was that more true than in Hillsborough County last year, where the number of drownings spiked to 11, the highest in the state and more than the previous two years combined.

• Smokers in Florida can't light up in restaurants, stores, offices and government buildings. Now one Florida state senator wants to add another location to the no-smoking list: the state's beaches. As Craig Pittman notes, the dispute is about litter, not second-hand smoke.

• A voter-approved plan to remake Hillsborough County's transportation systems with millions in new sales tax revenue has been mired in uncertainty and effectively halted by a lawsuit challenging the tax. While the court weighs the case, local government leaders have shown a reticence to spend revenue that the state started collecting on Jan. 1. No injunctions have been ordered, but the fear that a judge could overturn the tax has provided enough doubt to stymie some plans.

• Meanwhile, the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Agency board is interviewing candidates this month to replace Katharine Eagan, who left for Pittsburgh a year ago. Politicians and community members agree it is a pivotal time for the agency as it prepares to receive more than 130 million in new sales tax revenue each year on the heels of a November referendum. The agency's current budget is about $80 million. But some are concerned that board members are narrowing the candidate field too quickly.

• As the new Pier project has grown, so has its budget. The project was originally budgeted at $50 million with tax increment financing (TIF) funds, but the budget has since twice been bolstered by additional TIF funds, bringing it to $76 million. And sections of the new Pier apparently will not be "substantially" complete until late December, Waveney Ann Moore reports.

• For the latest in Florida politics, make sure to check The Buzz.

• For the latest education coverage, make sure to read The Gradebook. And check out the Gradebook podcast as education reporter Jeffrey Solochek leads a weekly discussion about Florida education.

• Check out the Times photo and video channels for the most compelling visuals.

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Fifty years ago this weekend, the Jets, Joe Namath and Earl Christy shocked the world. On Jan. 12, 1969, Earl Christy played a bit part in one of the greatest moments in NFL history. But Broadway Joe says the Tarpon Springs man occupies a special place in the hearts of those old New York Jets.

• The Rays are interested in former White Sox infielder Matt Davidson as a potential two-way player. The success of the Angels' Shohei Ohtani, last season's American League rookie of the year, as a designated hitter and pitcher will likely prompt more teams to pursue players who could be two-way options, especially with the value of each spot on a team's 25-man roster becoming more important.

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USF senior cornerback Mazzi Wilkins has been assaulted on social media since his tackle on UCF's McKenzie Milton resulted in a horrific injury. In the form of incendiary bombs tossed his way on social media. Mazzi Wilkins has been assaulted with threats, profanities and labels such as "thug," "punk" and worse.

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• The NFL ended months of uncertainty by officially announcing Maroon 5, Big Boi and Travis Scott as the performers at this year's Super Bowl halftime show. Maroon 5 had been the widely reported halftime show act since September, but the NFL didn't confirm the band as its headliner until Sunday. The league said Maroon 5 will be joined by Big Boi, the Atlanta-based rapper from Outkast, and Scott.

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