The Daystarter: St. Pete votes to ban plastic straws; explaining the Rays' Jake Bauers-for-Yandy Diaz trade; get ready for some rough weather tonight

Published Dec. 14, 2018

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

• The cold will soon be gone — but so will the tranquil weather. The National Weather Service is tracking a large, complex storm system gathering over the northern Gulf Coast that will make its way to the Tampa Bay area today. Forecasters expect isolated tornadoes, waterspouts, flash flooding, heavy rainfall, lightning, possible hail and winds gusting in excess of 60 mph. Extreme weather is forecast to hit later tonight into overnight Saturday, so be careful.

• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay including Underoath and Kenny G on stage, and jolly joggers racing through downtown St. Petersburg in the Jingle Bell Run.

The weather forecast for Friday was nasty, so one of the larger boat parades in the area changed its launch date. The good news is the Treasure Island boat parade will ship out on Sunday instead.

• When Dr. Jonathan Ellen resigned this week as CEO of Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, it caused a ripple that spread to other corners of the civic world. Ellen was a key board member for several nonprofits and public organizations, including the committee leading the effort to consolidate the University of South Florida. He resigned or was removed from those posts too. Today's report discusses how those organizations are moving to fill the void.

• Say goodbye to plastic straws in the 'Burg. After months of discussions, St. Petersburg's City Council voted late Thursday night to ban single-use plastic straws as well as expanded polystyrene, more commonly known by its brand name Styrofoam. The straw ban will start in 2020, while the polystyrene ban will start in just a few weeks. Josh Solomon explains how the vote went down, how it will work and how the city could end up at odds with state law.

• St. Petersburg's newly converted bike lanes on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N are either fantastic or one of the worst decisions the city's made, depending on who you ask. They're also a sign of what's to come. Caitlin Johnston reports that the city has committed to a 20-year initiative that over the next five years would add 60 miles of bike lanes, trails and markings and about 92 pedestrian crossings to city streets.

• Construction is providing new glimpses into the old tunnels running beneath Ybor City, but the historic Latin district isn't the only place in the Tampa Bay area where underground passages may have been put to illicit use. Downtown St. Petersburg has one, too. So Paul Guzzo tries to answer the question:s Did Al Capone's rum-running operation during prohibition use the tunnel found behind a wall inside the historic Snell Arcade building ?

• Craig Pittman reports on the latest threat to Florida's wetlands: A new definition of federally protected wetlands that the Trump administration unveiled this week would make an estimated 6 million acres of Florida's wetlands vulnerable to developers and other interests that seek to wipe them out, according to figures from the Environmental Protection Agency.

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• The panel investigating the Florida high school massacre recommended that teachers who volunteer and undergo extensive background checks and training be allowed to carry concealed guns on campus to stop future shootings. The Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Commission voted 13-1 to recommend the Legislature allow the arming of teachers, saying it's not enough to have one or two police officers or armed guards on campus. Florida law adopted after the Feb. 14 shooting that left 17 dead allows districts to arm non-teaching staff members such as principals, librarians and custodians — 13 of the 67 districts do, mostly in rural parts of the state.

• What went wrong in Florida's 2018 midterm election? How can it be fixed? Those questions loom over Florida's lawmakers as they deal with the aftermath of the most contentious, and litigious, election since 2000. Read more from Lawrence Mower and Elizabeth Koh.

• Florida executed Miami's Jose Antonio Jimenez by lethal injection on Thursday night, 26 years after he viciously stabbed a woman to death during a burglary. Jimenez was pronounced dead at 9:48 p.m. The execution, originally set for 6 p.m., was delayed by a last-minute request to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay the execution. The court declined without comment Thursday night, according to the Associated Press.

• The best journalism in the bay area is all in one place. Check out all the Tampa Bay Times investigations and special 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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Read the Tampa Bay Times new online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports.

• The Rays dealt a player who appeared to be a key part of their future for a 27-year-old corner infielder who can hit the ball really hard. Marc Topkin examines the Rays' logic behind the deal while sharing Jake Bauers' interesting best wishes to the Rays. And if you question the Bauers-for-Yandy Diaz exchange with Cleveland, Tom Jones has this reminder of Tampa Bay's reaction to a much bigger trade a year ago.

• Amalie Arena fared worse than Raymond James Stadium and Tropicana Field in a report released by ESPN reviewing food-safety inspection reports for the 111 pro sports stadiums in North America. Amalie ranked 22nd-worst overall and seventh-worst among NHL arenas for percentage of high-level food violations. Find out how the arena is responding and how Ray Jay and the Trop fared.

• Judging by the scoreboard, this didn't look like a game the Lightning needed a career game from Andrei Vasilevskiy. Tampa Bay won by a decent margin at 4-1. The score was deceiving, however. Toronto out-played Tampa Bay and put 49 shots on the Lightning goaltender. He came up with saves again and again, to the tune of a new career high, and did so in his first game back from a fractured foot.

• The Times can keep you up-to-date on the Lightning's quest for the Stanley Cup: Click here for the latest news throughout the season. For the latest updates on @Twitter, follow Lightning beat writers Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Nick Kelly at @_NickKelly.

• How attractive is the Bucs' head coaching job? Don't be fooled, columnist Martin Fennelly writes. The Bucs still have enough pieces for there to be a free-for-all for the head coaching job if they decide to fire Dirk Koetter at the end of the season.

• Bowl season starts Saturday and we've got you covered with our guide of "can't miss" games to "why, just why."

• The latest Times coverage of the Bucs is just a click away at For the latest team news on @Twitter, follow beat writers Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD and Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.

• To get the latest Rays' news from the Times this offseason, click here and follow baseball writer Marc Topkin on @Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

• Check out the Times coverage of Gator football all season long and keep up with college football beat writer Matt Baker on Twitter at @MBakerTBTimes.

• All the Bulls news you can use is right here from Times beat writer Joey Knight. Follow him on Twitter for the latest at @TBTimes_Bulls.

• Check out the latest episode of the Times sports podcast Sports Day Tampa Bay led by veteran sportswriter Rick Stroud.

• • •

The Tampa Bay Times onine Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.

• Women empower other women by sharing experiences. And in recent years a lot of powerful, successful women have written books about their experiences. So Brittany Volk read 13 of those celebrity memoirs and wrote about what she learned reading books like Mindy Kaling's 2012 book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? in 2012 and Tina Fey's 2013 bestseller Bossypants.

• Listen to our new podcast, Life of the Party, that keeps you caught up just enough to get by in small talk. Times staffers Stephanie Hayes and Brittany Volk will discuss what's going on, from celebrity news to movies and music, plus offbeat info that will make you the most interesting person in the room.

• Don't just write the right way — write the Lane way. Keep up with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lane DeGregory's podcast, WriteLane, and learn about her approach to the craft of storytelling.

• • •

Check out the Tampa Bay Times online Business page for the latest on the economy, jobs, real estate, retail and workplace culture.

• Developers of a controversial condo tower proposed for downtown St. Petersburg hit a major roadblock Thursday when a key city panel failed to approve the project. City council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, voted 4-4 on a motion to approve the 19-story, 18-unit Blue Lotus, formerly called Bezu. A majority vote was required for approval.

• If you own a house in the Tampa Bay area, chances are you've received at least one "Dear Homeowner '' letter offering to buy it for cash, "as is'' and with no closing costs or commissions. And if it's a somewhat tired-looking house worth less than $125,000, chances are you get enough solicitations to paper an entire wall. Susan Taylor Martin reports that those letters are coming from investors who are having a hard time finding houses they can flip for profit.

• In Tampa Bay, the cost of replacing a broken windshield isn't just parts and labor — increasingly, it also includes legal fees. The bay area is ground-zero for lawsuits brought by auto glass repair companies against insurers over the fair price of a windshield repair. It's also home to the surprisingly small group of lawyers facilitating this proliferation, reports Malena Carollo.