Your eyes grow watery and swollen. Your throat feels raw, and your head begins to pound.
It's that time of the year in Florida when the air grows thick and nearly unbearable.
Yes, the state Legislature is in mid-session.
And that means hypocrisy is in full bloom.
My goodness, how these folks can foul the air with their relentless double-talk. They are always for smaller government right up until a campaign donation convinces them otherwise. Regulations are bad, unless they coincide with agendas. Legislators never pick winners and losers, but they will remember certain people fondly in appropriations committees....
03/24/17 Local Government
For 10 years, we have crept. You may even say plodded.
The search for a new baseball stadium in Tampa Bay has been nothing if not deliberate and, on most days, stealthy. Speculation has run up the score on confirmation almost every step of the way.
And then, suddenly, BOOM!
The headline says the Rays' top five choices for stadium sites have all been eliminated. If this isn't game-changing, it's at least significant....
Feel free to check whichever box seems like the more plausible explanation for Aramis Ayala's stunning death penalty announcement:
� After four years in law school, four years as a prosecutor, eight years as a public defender, nine years as an adjunct law professor and nine months as a state attorney candidate, she had an unforeseen epiphany last week regarding the merits of the death penalty....
This legislative crusade to take food stamps away from more than 200,000 Floridians seems to be motivated by two philosophical ideals:
No. 1 — Limit spending.
No. 2 — Nudge people toward self-sufficiency.
Well, heck, who's going to argue with that? Lawmakers should always be careful when spending our tax dollars, and weaning people from government dependency is a no-brainer....
We are divided, you and me.
For that matter, so are you and a neighbor. You and a co-worker. Maybe even you and a family member.
We, as a community in Tampa Bay, are about as divided as it gets in America.
And that's not a bad thing. You might even say it's worth celebrating.
I started thinking about this when I saw a headline on analyst Nate Silver's website fivethirtyeight.com the other day. It declared, "Purple America Has All But Disappeared.''...
Here's the problem with courage:
It doesn't look good in small doses.
You either have it all the time or you're faking it most of the time. And when your courage is dependent on convenience, people tend to notice.
This is why Gus Bilirakis might want to brace himself for some sniping.
The Republican congressman from North Pinellas got some well-deserved praise a few weeks ago when he stepped outside of Capitol Hill's safety zone and spent several uncomfortable weekends and nights listening to constituents talk about the country's health care laws....
Two years later, we're still talking about teacher bonuses. As if this is the magical elixir that will suddenly lead to better schools, well-rounded students and happier lives.
If you had not yet heard, the folks in Tallahassee are rolling out improvements to their "Best & Brightest" bonus plan for teachers. And by improvements, I mean upgrading the plan from truly idiotic to largely ineffective....
03/11/17 Human Interest
It is a question with only one acceptable answer:
What do you do when your children are in peril?
You protect them. Always. Without hesitation and without remorse. That's supposed to be the deal when you become a parent. You should be willing to trade your happiness and health, if it comes to that, in exchange for their safety.
Now let me ask you this:
What do you do when your children are in peril . . . from one of your other kids?...
Think about the worst movie to ever come out of Hollywood.
A film that was a proven disaster, without any redeeming value.
And now imagine this:
They're making a sequel.
Apparently, that type of backward thinking went into a pair of energy bills being considered in the Florida Senate and House. Piggybacking on the billions of dollars that Florida customers lost on nuclear power gambles, there is now a pathway for the same kind of ripoff for fracking....
03/07/17 Local Government
Kudos to the Tampa Bay Rowdies and owner Bill Edwards.
So far, they've been spot-on in their quest to bring a Major League Soccer expansion team to the area. They've been up front about their intentions. They haven't tried to circumvent St. Pete's waterfront regulations. They intend on paying for Al Lang Stadium renovations themselves. They've even agreed to foot the bill for the May referendum on a potential 25-year lease with the city....
03/04/17 Human Interest
Redemption may or may not begin in a Waffle House off Interstate 75. This is the place Tim Kane chose last week for his first non-prison meal in 25 years. For 90 minutes, he sits and savors a lunch of greasy delight. There is no one to tell him chow time has ended.
Or maybe it begins in a stuffy chamber in Tallahassee. This is the place officials gathered last fall to hear the pleas of prisoners seeking parole. In an extraordinary decision, they ignored an investigator's recommendation of a 2027 parole date and instead ordered Kane be released as soon as possible....
In these, the final days of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, it is helpful to point out that you need not wear a bright orange wig and a red nose to have the heart of a clown.
You need only be elected to the Florida House of Representatives.
Yes, in this case, it is the sideshow that never ends. How many clowns can you squeeze into a Volkswagen? Not as many as you can get to sponsor a gun bill in the Florida House....
Most people seem to think "stand your ground'' is a pretty good law.
Politicians swear that's true, and the polls typically back up the concept. We like how it makes us feel safer. We like the idea that it gives us an upper hand against the bad guys.
We like it right up until the moment we see someone else using it.
When prosecutors drop charges against two teenagers allegedly involved in a gunbattle that left eight people wounded during a holiday parade, then "stand your ground'' seems a little nutty....
Remember that kid from the old neighborhood?
The one who could never lose gracefully? When a game was over, he would always complain something wasn't fair, and if the rules weren't changed he was going home.
You know what you call that kid today?
A state legislator.
Because it sure seems as if lawmakers have a wicked childish streak in them whenever they don't get their way....
02/24/17 Public Safety
Their lives were surely greater than a medical examiner's final summation. You would think a world of hopes and memories were tucked safely away in every one of their hearts.
And yet the stories told in investigative recaps sound like a bleak and repetitive nightmare:
Found on the bathroom tile. Found in a friend's car. Found in a cheap hotel. A syringe nearby. Plastic baggies nearby. A straw nearby. Fifty-three years old. Thirty-four years old. Eighteen years old....