12/09/17 Local Government
This is a story of lawsuits and precedents. Developers and politicians. It's a story of one staggering court award, and one stupefying reversal.
But we're going to ignore all of that for a moment, and instead go to what the story is really about.
To a January morning in 2014 at a Board of County Commissioners meeting in Pinellas County. The room is jammed with residents from Safety Harbor. They are there to beg commissioners to fight an administrative law ruling allowing an out-of-town developer to build a 246-unit apartment complex on the outskirts of their funky, waterside town....
At some point, the truth has to matter, right?
Evidence, due process, all of that?
No matter how you feel about Sen. Jack Latvala personally (and I've never been a huge fan) or how you feel about the overzealousness of his defense (which I criticized earlier this week), we all have an obligation to follow the facts and truth of the sexual harassment charges brought against him.
So why are so many people rushing to judgment?...
12/05/17 The Heater
Evan Longoria gave the Rays hope when they had none. In 2008, he was the homegrown prospect that helped turned a franchise's fortunes for the first time.
In the years since, he has given the Rays loyalty. Consistency. Dignity.
And now it's finally time for him to give the Rays a better future.
It's time to trade Evan Longoria.
This will not be a popular idea. If it happens, folks will call the Rays cheap. They will complain this is everything that is wrong with modern baseball. They will announce they are swearing off the Rays forever....
His run at the Governor's Mansion is dead. And now Jack Latvala seems oddly determined to torch what's left of his career in the Florida Senate, too.
Yes, it's been a strange month in the life of one of Tampa Bay's most recognizable and respected politicians. He's crossed the bridge from a vigorous defense against sexual harassment allegations to take part in an all-out war with his accuser, as well as much of the Tallahassee establishment....
The charge is murder, and the evidence is ample. There are witnesses and a video. There is a weapon and an admission. There is a dead man on the ground with wounds from 17 bullets.
But is there justice?
Is there any empathy for a 50-year-old man sitting in a jail cell, wondering whether his freedom was worth trading for his family's safety?
Those are the lingering questions from a harrowing story that appeared in the Tampa Bay Times last Sunday by Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Lane DeGregory....
This is your shindig. Or at least it's supposed to be.
The Constitution Revision Commission was created a half-century ago just so you, the Florida voter, would have a chance every generation to consider major changes to how the state is run.
Unfortunately, we put politicians in charge of choosing the party's soundtrack.
And that means we get the same ol' song-and-dance.
Let me explain:...
Clearly, flattery did not work.
The folks who supported him in the polls, the crowds that applauded him at multiple Tiger Bay functions, the social media purveyors eager for his latest snark were not enough to persuade John Morgan to seek the Democratic nomination for governor.
So, should they now try shame?
Because Morgan's sorta-definitely-maybe decision not to run for governor feels kind of cheesy and self-serving at this point....
During the day, you hear from the psychics and the kooks. The well-intentioned tipsters, and the unsolicited profilers. This is all part of serial killer spillover, a sort of cottage industry of macabre.
It gets tougher at night when you're hounded by your own doubts. When you lie awake in bed at 2 a.m., wondering if there is any possible strategy or clue you've missed.
For some reason, they never include these details in the FBI Behavioral Analysis Unit research projects on serial killers. If you look closely, the FBI studies even tell you they have "little utility in helping identify an unknown offender during an active serial murder investigation.''...
11/16/17 Real Estate
Bless their scheming little hearts, they tried.
The folks in the U.S. House of Representatives got together and crunched numbers, weighed data, negotiated differences and came up with a flood insurance plan that hardly anyone likes.
And that includes some of the people who voted for it.
That's more of an observation than actual criticism. Because, heaven knows, flood insurance is not easily solved. Not when it is perceived to be too generous and, simultaneously, too expensive....
When it comes to your principles, there is no shame in putting up a fight.
You can fight City Hall, and you can fight the power. According to the song, you can fight the law. You can even fight the good fight, whatever that means.
But you cannot fight reality. Not if you want to win.
And I'm afraid that's what Hillsborough County teachers are doing right now.
If you haven't followed recent headlines, educators in Hillsborough are pounding their desks over the news that the school district will not come through with scheduled pay raises for thousands of teachers....
Take a bow, Florida.
When it comes to drug sentencing laws, the experts say you are tougher than most. You lock up more people, and you keep them behind bars longer than just about any other state.
You also waste more taxpayer money, create more career criminals and fail to treat more addicts than most other states, too.
But those are just details, right?
Well, thankfully, a pair of legislators from Tampa Bay have decided that you can still be tough on crime while also being smart on crime. Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, and Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg, have filed separate bills (SB 694 and HB 481) known as "safety valve'' laws that would give judges more discretion in minor drug cases under certain conditions....
Once upon a time, a political newcomer took advantage of a president's upside-down approval ratings and rode that tea party outrage all the way to the Governor's Mansion in Tallahassee.
Now, all these years later, we're about to find out if political karma can be a glitch.
Plotting a new path toward the U.S. Senate, Gov. Rick Scott has suddenly come face-to-face with the realization that, this time, another president's unpopularity could eventually drag him down....
The crowd was chanting, a Tom Petty song was playing and the re-elected mayor of St. Petersburg was expressing heartfelt thanks from the center of the stage.
This is what victory looks like.
In another four years, we'll know if it's also what vindication looks like.
This is your time, Rick Kriseman. Even more so than your first mayoral victory four years ago. That election started you on a new path, and this election will determine where you end up....
11/07/17 Local Government
Here's what the critics have to say about Tampa Bay:
Not a snark, not a critique, not a peep.
The websites, magazines, Realtors and bankers who have been breathlessly handicapping the Amazon headquarters sweepstakes haven't even bothered to insult Tampa Bay. Apparently, we are that inconsequential. If this were Casablanca, we would be Peter Lorre to Amazon's Humphrey Bogart....
11/04/17 Local Government
For months, everyone else has been telling you what's important in the St. Petersburg mayoral race.
The candidates and their intermediaries. The editors and the columnists. The faceless PACs and the political parties.
Naturally, all those folks are entitled to their own points of view, but in the final hour it's up to you to decide which issues are most important in your world. And that hour is rapidly approaching....