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....
The political ramifications are not lost on Kristine Benson.
She understands the Legislature is basically playing a high-stakes game of ransom with funds for education. She's admittedly conflicted. She called the controversial bill HB 7069 a "slimy'' strategy.
And yet, she is pulling for it to succeed.
She has no other choice.
As far as she is concerned, the future of her 6-year-old son Chase depends on it....
Excuse me chief, but it's time to take a stand.
If we're being honest, it's way past time.
Look, I know you've gotten rave reviews since assuming control of the St. Petersburg Police Department in 2014. Everybody, it seems, has good things to say about Tony Holloway.
Residents seem generally happy, the rank-and-file are mostly content and the politicians are thrilled. Heaven knows it ain't easy to please everyone across the board like that....
05/20/17 Local Government
A former attorney for the city of St. Petersburg once argued in court that just because a law was unfair it wasn't necessarily unconstitutional.
This wasn't some theoretical exercise. It was the city's rationale for denying workers' compensation payments to a firefighter after he suffered a catastrophic back injury on the job.
Back in 2013, the city argued that it should not matter that the firefighter was not medically cleared to work. Nor that he had bills to pay, had to raid his pension account and withdraw from the city's deferred retirement program. The law at the time gave the city the right to stop payments, and so it did....
Can't help noticing you've been a little peeved lately. Honestly, I can't blame you.
You've been in office long enough to know you're not going to please everyone, and the critics will come at you from every direction. There should be no surprises or complaints there.
Still, it's gotta sting to be knee-capped by your own cohorts.
Worse yet, they did it in full view of the world. You argued, you threatened, you practically groveled in the public square, and Florida legislators still treated you like some empty-suited stooge....
05/13/17 Human Interest
Sometimes, when they didn't know she was there, Kay Dillinger would hear them talk.
Their words were not unkind, nor were they incorrect. They just lacked the necessary perspective.
They would be walking the halls of the PACE school for girls in Pinellas County, and some young lady leading the tour would stop to explain about the room known as Beth's Closet.
"There was this lady,'' the tour guide would say, "and her daughter committed suicide . . .''...
05/09/17 Local Government
Well, okay, score the first point for the former mayor.
And all Rick Baker had to do was show up at City Hall.
Within an hour of the news breaking that Baker had, indeed, filed to run again for the mayor's office in St. Petersburg, he was being depicted as out-of-touch and divisive by Rick Kriseman's campaign manager. And, in case that description wasn't pointed enough, we were reminded that Baker worked to defeat the nation's first African-American president....
Six months ago, he was more popular than Donald Trump.
At least around here, U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis was a brand name with an unquestioned track record in elections. Trump may have beaten Hillary Clinton by nearly 20 points in Florida's 12th Congressional District that spans from North Pinellas through Pasco, but Bilirakis won the seat by 37 points.
Realistically, there is no reason to believe he won't again be an overwhelming favorite to win a seventh term when the next election rolls around in 2018....
House Speaker Richard Corcoran began the 2017 Florida legislative session by questioning the wisdom and the need to continue funding the state's tourism agency.
To hear Corcoran explain it, money was being wasted, accountability did not exist and the state would get along just fine without so many slackers at Visit Florida.
What puzzles me is why Corcoran stopped there.
If his goal was to root out the tone deaf and the useless in Tallahassee, the past few weeks have revealed an even more obvious target for elimination....
05/03/17 Human Interest
Let's start with the irony, shall we?
In his mind, Warren Erickson saw his collection of flags as an invitation to conversation and goodwill. Instead, a handful of neighbors are angry, his homeowners association is firing off new edicts and most of his flags have been permanently retired to a corner in his garage.
"There's some friction around here, and I'm not sure why," Erickson said. "It's not like I'm flying the flag that ISIS flies."...
04/29/17 Local Government
I've been bothered by these questions all week:
What if it had been the Roman Catholic diocese? What if it had been the Jewish Federations of North America?
What if it had been any religious organization other than the Church of Scientology being snubbed by the Clearwater Marine Aquarium in a land purchase deal?
I can't say for certain, but I assume there would have been some consternation. A lot of hand-wringing. Maybe even some people in positions of prominence talking about religious discrimination....
Glad to see your dedication to the free market, Rep. Larry Ahern.
You too, Reps. Wengay Newton, Chris Sprowls, Sean Shaw and James Grant.
In fact, there were a dozen state representatives from the Tampa Bay area who decided Wednesday it would be good public policy to allow hard liquor to be sold next to the Pop-Tarts at your neighborhood Walmart or Target.
So can I assume you will show the same free market fervor when it comes to implementing the medical marijuana amendment this week?...
Competing education plans are about to collide in Tallahassee.
If you're inclined to skip over a bunch of the details, the basic difference is this:
The Senate is looking for a solution to Florida's persistent education gap, and the House is looking for an excuse to create more charter schools.
And hanging in the balance?
Only tens of thousands of kids.
This is how life works in Tallahassee, where ideology often comes before common sense. And in this case, the House's ideology is a long-standing mission to turn education over to private interests....
Honor, they say, is the bedrock of their character. It is the quality, to quote the U.S. Marine Corps website, that empowers Marines to exemplify the ultimate in ethical and moral behavior.
Clearly, Sen. Frank Artiles skipped that part of his military training.
For I see no honor in how Artiles has behaved in recent days. Not in his insults directed toward a female senator, nor in his reluctance to apologize until it became clear that he had no other choice....
04/02/17 Human Interest
This day is like no other, and has been for a century.
Most holidays feel like a destination. A yearlong wait for a singular moment.
Baseball's opening day is more like a departure. A bon voyage to the cold, and a fresh embrace of the new. The day, like the game itself, cannot be contained by a clock. Instead, opening day is the beginning of a six-month journey across the calendar and the country....