07/22/17 Public Safety
So all of this — the beaches, palm trees and fresh grouper sandwiches — comes with a few extenuating costs. To live in Florida is to accept a lifestyle of hazards, both peculiar and deadly. Lightning strikes and hurricanes, for example. Alligators and sharks, too. Floods, drug traffickers, spring break and scoundrels by the ballot-full.
For the most part, you can at least see them coming. You accept, understand and, in a lot of ways, learn to appreciate their place in Florida life....
07/15/17 Local Government
If it is merely attention they are seeking, members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement have succeeded. People are buzzing about the outlandish rhetoric of candidates and disruptive behavior of followers.
In a municipal election that could have drowned in the wonky discussion of sewer repairs, neighborhood debates have somehow turned into hot tickets and viral videos.
But here's the unfortunate truth of the matter: ...
07/08/17 Local Government
They should be counting their blessings, and financial windfalls, in Miami this weekend.
Major League Baseball's All-Star Game will be played at Marlins Park on Tuesday, a precious perk doled out in return for building the $639 million stadium and parking complex that opened in 2012.
Instead, there's a good chance the cheering will be drowned out by grumbling.
Already unhappy with the amount of public money spent on the stadium, plenty of people in South Florida are even angrier now that Marlins owner Jeff Loria is selling the team for as much as $1.2 billion....
TAMPA — The church was in distress and likely heading to ruin.
Loan defaults and foreclosure proceedings had the members of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in fear of losing their historic building on the edge of downtown Tampa. Elderly worshippers on fixed incomes were implored to donate more and more to save the church from potential calamity.
Yet unbeknownst to New Salem leaders during this time, a fund designed for churchgoers in financial crisis was being used to quietly direct tens of thousands of dollars to Pastor Henry J. Lyons, as well as to non-profit organizations he created, according to interviews and documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. ...
06/26/17 Human Interest
Let's talk about regulations.
Specifically, let's talk about the battles we've seen locally, and nationally, that have pitted the taxi industry against rideshare companies such as Uber.
So I was in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday night for a U2 concert at the stadium where the New England Patriots play.
(First aside: Yes, I saw U2 at Raymond James Stadium two weeks ago. But my best friend and I have gotten together to see U2 play often over the past 35 years. I never claimed to be particularly bright.)...
TAMPA — An FBI agent was at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday to inquire about allegations made against former pastor Henry J. Lyons.
Church elders voted to terminate Lyons last week, citing questions about potential financial improprieties.
06/20/17 Public Safety
Let's acknowledge the obvious:
State Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, sounded a little hysterical when he recently suggested we should all be carrying weapons when we venture from our homes.
Unless I've missed something, we are a long way from being a war-torn country. For the great majority of Americans, I'll bet the only violence we ever see is on a television screen.
So to react to the senseless shooting of a congressman and others on a baseball field in northern Virginia with a holsters-for-homeowners campaign seems, if you'll pardon the phrase, like overkill....
TAMPA — The second coming of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons was not as celebrated or lucrative as his previous life.
The one-time leader of the largest black Baptist organization in America — toppled by infidelities and imprisoned on fraud charges — has kept a relatively low profile while running a century-old church in Hillsborough County the last dozen years.
Lyons no longer has the ear of the President of the United States, and his empire does not include the same luxuries as during his heyday in St. Petersburg in the 1990s....
06/16/17 Economic Development
The time has come to embrace our weakness, Tampa Bay.
When it comes to the future of mass transit, we seem to have ignored, argued and delayed ourselves right into a potentially enviable situation. In other words, our aversion to trains may actually pay off.
The world is about to change when it comes to how people travel from Point A to Point B. And one of the area's most high-profile business owners thinks this market is uniquely positioned to take advantage of what could be a transformative — and wildly lucrative — industry....
The premise is simple:
The state is in charge of funding for education in Florida, and so local school boards should shut up and do what they are told when it comes to policies.
There's just one problem with that:
Some local districts have been providing a greater percentage of education funding than the state, which means Tallahassee is offering less and interfering more.
In what universe does that make sense?...
06/08/17 Public Safety
The doors open early, well before the sun is in play.
Like coffee shop baristas awaiting the rush hour crunch, the medical professionals at Operation PAR facilities begin preparations for the methadone cocktails they'll soon be dispensing.
They'll serve business professionals on the way to work; students on the way to class; expectant mothers on the way to appointments; transients on the way to nowhere....
The governor was angry. Very, very angry.
We know this because he traveled the state explaining it to anyone who would listen. It was his own version of a pique behind the curtains tour.
In Naples, he said legislators failed residents by coming up with a last-minute budget nobody had seen. In Lake Mary, he said lawmakers passed a budget in the dark. In Pensacola, he said he was shocked that the Legislature was operating in secrecy....
They call, they email, they pursue.
The guy they're looking for has been busy planting palm trees at his new home in Belleair Bluffs, but the TV news producers have another project in mind. They're curious if he'll shovel dirt on Donald Trump.
So, he feels obliged to explain to them that he's not anti-Trump. He sincerely wants the man to succeed, if only for the future of the nation....
Holy smoke, did you see the starting salary figures for Florida Highway Patrol officers outlined in a recent Tampa Bay Times story?
I was stunned that state troopers in Florida begin their careers making $33,977 a year. That seems like an absurdly low figure for a job of significance and responsibility.
Reporter Jeremy Wallace astutely pointed out that Florida's starting wage is quite a bit lower than some neighboring Southern states not exactly known for their high cost of living....
05/27/17 Public Safety
Before examining the details, let's propose a question:
Is it more important to punish a criminal or save a life?
Because there are times when those goals can be in conflict. Times when after-the-fact justice can be a factor in a future life-or-death crisis.
Here's what I'm talking about:
Not long ago, an 18-year-old college freshman near Jacksonville overdosed on heroin laced with fentanyl. Her boyfriend called 911 when she began having trouble breathing, but it was too late....