Behind the News, Dispatches from the Sunshine State

Tampa taxpayers still paying for former Lowry Park CEO’s mistakes

13184868_4055c76713_mThe title really says it all. Last month, the city of Tampa settled a lawsuit with Donald Smith, who sued the city and Lowry Park Zoo for not providing adaquate wheelchair access. (Get the agenda item here.)

What does this have to do with Lex Salisbury, the former zoo CEO who got run out on a rail last year?

In my first article about Lowry Park Zoo back in November 2006, former employees told me about an atmosphere that discouraged employee advice and provided a disconnect between employees, their supervisors and the zoo’s management. A city audit ended up backing many of those claims.

There are a few more of these suits, regarding various issues during Salisbury’s reign, still moving through the court system. Something tells me taxpayers will be paying more than the estimated $200,000 the city is looking to get out of Salisbury.

(Photo: stagewhisper/Flickr)


Courtney Campbell Causeway (Davis Causeway) circa 1934


This 1934 photo is courtesy of Gus Muench, who you might remember as the champion of Cockroach Bay. He’s still trying to get that little slice of Old Florida protected. Here’s a message he sent with the photo:

My whole family fished from this bridge in the 40’s and never got hit by cars. Today, you would be dead in 2 minutes after walking out on the original Davis Causeway Bridge now Courtney Campbell. If we can’t understand how future growth in boating will destroy Tampa Bay seagrasses; it’s because our heads are buried in the sand … and that’s sad!
The Unemployed Life

Unemployent: ‘Yup. It sucks.’

A fellow blogger posted a link about me on their website a while back (thanks!) and in the same post, referenced another unemployed journalist: Christine.

I’ve been fairly lucky receiving my unemployment benefits for the first time, so it has been hard for me to offer advice here. But Christine, apparently, has been through the ringer dealing with our antiquated unemployment system:

The majority of you will be forced to navigate your way through this governmental body’s miles of red tape and voice mail. You will spend anywhere from 35 minutes to 15 hours a month on the phone or computer fighting for your unemployment compensation money. And when you do finally get a check, it will hurt your feelings. If this is the only income you are receiving, there’s no possibility of retaining the lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed.

Yup. It sucks.

Read the rest here.

I’m really interested in your own stories, too.

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation, Dispatches from the Sunshine State

Dispatches from the Sunshine State: Jesus plates, beastiality and the Confederate Flag

OH COME ALL YE LICENSE PLATES: A few bills moving through the State Senate would put religious themes on certian specialty license plates. Enthusiastic evangelists will be able to show their faith far and wide (right under their “Jesus is my co-pilot” and fish stickers), though they may want to start praying, because passage of the plates does not look good. Maybe that’s for the better, anyway; I mean, putting out these plates would create quite a quandry in religious circles with parishoners trying to decide whether their vehicle should get the “Choose Life” or Jesus plates. I’m not hatin’ though. Just like Gov. Crist, I don’t see a problem with the plates. I’m just hoping a compromise can be made, so my new favorite State Senator Al Lawson can get this awesome plate passed:


OF BEAST & MAN: State Senators have been more successful with their beastiality bill. I raised the rankles of animal lovers (including Rep. Bill Heller!) when I added a similar bill to my Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation last year. I feel the same now — that beastiality has never been “legal” and animal cruelty laws are sufficient — but there were more wacky bills this session than last to justify putting it on the list.

SPEAKING OF REDNECKS: The Sons of Confederate Veterans had quite the hootenanny this weekend. The Dixie memorial park is officially dedicated and that huge-ass flag on I-4 and I-75 is here to stay. I didn’t go, but I hear it was a multicultural affair. Come to think of it, so were the Sunday lynchings at the turn of the century, just in a different context.

Behind the News, Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Florida House passes offshore oil drilling bill

In my few years as a reporter, I’ve followed four different state legislatures — not necessarily reporting on them for the publications I worked for, but keeping an eye for my local readers. And in those years, I’ve never seen a politically-motivated “fuck you” like HB 1219.

Originally proposed by Republican Charles Van Zant and re-written by his colleague Rep. Dean Cannon, this bill would allow oil and gas drilling three miles or more from Florida’s coast. Taking advantage of President Bush’s relaxation of a federal law that prohibited such drilling, if this bill passes the Florida Senate, we could begin to see rigs right off our favorite beaches. Particulary insidious, the revamped version of this bill was released just 10 days before the session is to end.

I’m not going to get into the huge issue of drilling for oil domestically. But there are significant questions about how drilling so close to Florida’s shores would affect our tourist economy and it does neither side justice to bring up such an important bill so close to the end of session. (I think the term is “railroading” a bill through, right?) Obviously, these lawmakers are not responding to a crisis, but trying to send a (right wing talk show-inspired) political message to the nation. That’s irresponsible to Florida’s citizens.

In fact, a handful of Republicans — all from the Tampa Bay area — opposed the bill. Big shout-outs to Bill Galvano of Bradenton, Jim Frishe of St. Petersburg and Ed Hooper of Clearwater.

Unfortunately, their opposition wasn’t enough. Luckily, the Senate does not seemed poised to take up this cause:

“I’m not receptive to it,” said Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach. “That is a really significantly important issue and one that I think would, frankly at our end, would take some serious review.”

Rating: 5 bong hits bongbongbongbongbong

Behind the News

News Nuggets: Zoophiles, gay Charlie Crist, light rail and push-up pants!

To nurse your Earth Day hangover, here’s some outrageously juicy stories from across the state of Florida:

Charlie Crist can’t seem to shake those gay accusations.

After Hillsborough County’s Board of County Commissioners voted to put light rail on the ballot, Pinellas and Pasco counties may jump on the bandwagon.

The Marlins mascot could be the first zoophile arrested under Florida’s proposed beastiality law.

New accessory for the beach? Male push-up pants!

Behind the News, Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation

Bipartisan Guide to Ridiculous Legislation: Law would give campus police more power to arrest off-campus

First off, I want to make this clear: I am in no way demeaning campus police officers. God knows we could’ve used more of them at Virginia Tech. And I’m also not insinuating that campus cops are somehow less worthy than regular police officers. They just have different jobs and jurisdictions.

That said, SB 554 is completely out-of-bounds.

This bill, proposed by Republican Charlie Dean (who has some other questionable ideas this session), would give special powers to state university police officers to make arrests off-campus. And I’m not just talking about arresting some guy with a gun across the street from the school — which we could all agree makes sense — but also more simple offenses like traffic violations.

Already, some city and county law enforcement agencies have “mutual aid agreements” with campus police that give them some authority outside of campus. For example, I’ve seen USF police at DUI checkpoints along Fowler Avenue working alongside the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Tampa Police Department.

But this law would allow campus police to conduct speed trap operations by themselves off campus. The law would also give them the authority to, say, raid a party at an apartment complex near the campus. Critics of this law should ask: what happens when campus police are spread thin around a neighborhood and not patrolling the university?

Rating: 3 bong hits bongbongbong

(Read about my rating system here.)