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Tampa Police Dept. to host community forums this week in wake of Justice Dept. report on bike citation policy

Following a Justice Department’s report on the Tampa Police Department’s controversial policy on citing bicyclists, the TPD announced that they would hold three community listening sessions  to get there feedback. Those meetings take place this week, with the first meeting scheduled for later this evening. Here’s the schedule:

Tuesday, June 7, 2016
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Hillsborough Community CollegeDale Mabry Campus, Student Services Auditorium
4001 West Tampa Bay Boulevard, Tampa 33614
Parking in Lot #1

Wednesday, June 8, 2016
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Springhill Community Center
1000 East Eskimo Avenue, Tampa 33604

Thursday, June 9, 2016
6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Middleton High SchoolAuditorium
4801 North 22nd Street, Tampa 33610

The DOJ released their 82-page report in late April. It said that the agency’s policy of stopping and citing black bicyclists was not discriminatory.

It did, however, state that the TPD’s bicycle enforcement policy did not produce a community benefit in terms of bicycle safety, bicycle theft, or crime generally. And it said that the policy “did burden individual bicyclists, particularly Black bicyclists in high crime areas of Tampa.”

The report was released slightly over a year after the TPD’s disproportionate rates toward citing black bicyclists for infractions was made public in an expose by Tampa Bay Times reporters Alexandra Zayas and Kameel Stanley. That story reported that the TPD had written more bike tickets from 2012-2014 than the police departments of the cities of St. Petersburg, Miami, Jacksonville and Orlando combined, and that eight of 10 were black. That’s despite the fact that blacks made up just 26 percent of the city’s population.

The TPD said that the reason for the high level of citations was threefold: 1) To improve bicycle safety; 2) to reduce bicycle theft, and 3) to prevent crimes in high-crime areas using the stops are part of a proactive police strategy.

Police Chief Eric Ward told the Tampa City Council after the report was issued that he intended to hold such forums, one of a series of recommendations listed at the conclusion of the DOJ’s report.

Those meetings begin on Tuesday night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mitch Perry Report for 6.7.16 – Hillary now officially the candidate? Yes, according to AP

Happy Tuesday, everybody.

To paraphrase Bob Dylan, you won’t need a weatherman  to tell you how many streets will be inoperative in Tampa today, after an onslaught of rain touched down on the area overnight. We’ll have to wait and see how bad the flooding is, but one has to wonder how long before the Buckhorn administration will feel confident enough that they’ll have the four votes to pass an stormwater infrastructure bill that failed last fall.

There’s been lots of developments since I last visited this page on Thursday. The biggest political news is the development where the Associated Press has already declared Hillary Clinton to have the sufficient delegates to be the Democratic presidential nominee. They reached that conclusion by reaching out to superdelegates who had not announced which candidate they were supporting. They then confirmed that enough were backing Hillary, getting her to the magic number of 2,383.

Although Clinton supporters were celebrating the news throughout the night, it’s not necessarily beneficial for Hillary as voters are poised to go to the polls in California, North Dakota, South Dakota, New Mexico, Montana and New Jersey today.

Meanwhile, there were lots of developments that have taken place in recent days one could touch upon. How about a favorite subject – as per Charlie Frago in Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Times, about the ideas that Tampa Bay Rays management are floating about how to enhance the fan experience in a newly created stadium.

Some of the ideas are definitely outside the (band) box, such as “a new kind of ticket that allows the fan to roam.” Forgive me for being a bit cynical, but would an executive have an idea like that if they thought their new park would be filled most nights, making it rather difficult for that “new type of ticket” to flourish?

Another idea floated – not having an upper deck – is indicative of this stadium not being that large. Both Fenway Park and Wrigley Field, two of the smallest (and most classic and iconic) parks in the game, have more than one deck. So how big or small of a park are we thinking?

And while we’re on this subject, how realistic is it that the Rays, after holding months of discussions with Hillsborough County officials, will ultimately decide that the best place for them to play is – exactly the same place that they’re trying to escape?

And lastly, with all the obvious reflection over the late Muhammed Ali since Friday, I watched parts of a fight I had never viewed before last night – his October, 1980 loss to Larry Holmes.

It is shocking how badly outmatched “The Greatest” was in that one (by the way, did you ever see the 1977 “The Greatest” a dramatic bio of the champion that featured playing himself? Not bad), and it seems to me so tragic that he was allowed to even participate in that fight (amazingly, he fought one more time, and lost, to Trevor Berwick in 1981).

Dr. Ferdie Pacheco, a/k/a “The Fight Doctor,” told journalist Jon Saraceno in 2010 that he left the Ali camp in ’77 because his team was continuing to put him in challenging fights, when he no longer had the capacity to maintain his previous skills. He said he showed Ali’s medical exam results to his team after his fight against Earnie Shavers in 1977-

“I sent them to Angelo, (Dundee, the manager) Herbert Muhammad, Ali and his wife (Veronica). I wrote, “This is what’s happening to you. If you want to continue, you have no shot at a normal life.” I never heard a word — a word. Because they knew I was right.”

It’s tragic that the man was just a shell of himself for so many years after his boxing prime was over. I get it while it’s not being emphasized in the current coverage, but it’s not irrelevant.

 

AFP-Florida warns Tampa Bay lawmakers to not use taxpayer funds for potential Rays stadium

Americans for Prosperity Florida is calling on lawmakers from both sides of Tampa Bay not to use public taxpayer dollars in the financing of any potential new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

“As the Rays search for a potential new sandlot to call home, their focus should steer clear of calling on taxpayers to sacrifice anymore, ” said AFPF state director Chris Hudson.

His statement comes on the same day that the Tampa Bay Times published a front-page story on the latest discussions that the ball club with officials from Hillsborough County on Tuesday regarding potential sites for a new park.  The Rays refused to acknowledge what sites were discussed, but the Times reports that up to nine different potential locations were mentioned.

One important item that rarely gets discussed in this continuing drama, which has gone on since the previous decade when the Rays declared they didn’t see a future for themselves at Tropicana Field, is how much this stadium will ultimately cost, and more importantly, who will pay for it.

“Major League Baseball has a rich history in Florida, but that history has been marred by greedy franchise owners and misinformed elected officials that have raided taxpayer coffers to the detriment of the communities that house these teams,” said Hudson. “Local officials need to stand by their citizens and disregard any attempts by MLB teams, like the Rays, that use faulty expectations and more broken promises.”

Rays management suggested several years ago that they would be able to front approximately a third of the costs of a new stadium, which could ultimately cost more than $600 million to construct. If that were the case, the community would be responsible for raising the additional $400 million.

While naming rights could reduce that amount, it seems inevitable that taxpayers would still be called on to foot the rest of the bill. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other local officials have mentioned several funding possibilities in the past, including accessing hotel bed taxes and, if the stadium were placed in a certain part of Tampa, accessing community redevelopment agency funds.

Lawmakers have been reluctant to say that they would call for a referendum, a la the 1996 Community Investment Tax. That tax included funding for education and public infrastructure facilities, but was the main vehicle to help pay for the entire construction of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stadium.

“It is unfair to ask taxpayers to help a sports club enrich itself at the expense of real community infrastructure needs,” said AFP’s Hudson.

AFP Florida has been leading the charge in Tallahassee over the past few years to deny government subsidies for sports facilities, luring Hollywood productions, and recruiting businesses to Florida vis a vis Enterprise Florida.

They were unpersuasive, however, in getting members of the Tampa City Council, the Hillsborough County Commission and the Tampa Sports Authority to reject funding renovations to Raymond James Stadium and Steinbrenner Field in recent months.

“At what point have taxpayers finally given enough?” Hudson asks. “County and city officials in the Tampa Bay area need to get a grip on the real priorities facing their communities, and allow wealthy team owners to fend for themselves because the money they are promising doesn’t belong to them – it belongs to taxpayers.”

AFP applauds Sarasota for rejecting incentives to lure national roofing company to relocate

Americans For Prosperity Florida is praising the Sarasota County Commission for rejecting a financial incentive to help lure an out of town private company to relocate their business in the county.

“We’re thrilled to see Sarasota County reject the calls from special interests to take taxpayer dollars and give it away to a private company,” said state director, Chris Hudson. “These local businesses have every right to be upset that their tax dollars are being used to bring their competitors in from other states and compete against them. It’s not governments place to pick winners and losers, the other 66 counties should take Sarasota’s lead and do away with these failed corporate welfare handouts.”

Sarasota Commissioners voted 4-1 on Tuesday  against providing $720,000 in local tax refunds and grants to an undisclosed national roofing company that would compel them to move to the county. The state had pledged another $864,000 in incentive money to help Sarasota County land the headquarters, reports the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

The vote is being decried by economic development officials who say that such incentives are absolutely required to attract companies to relocate to their region. Local contractors lobbied heavily against the commission granting the incentives.

The vote could be interpreted as a statement opposing the narrative driven by the economic development community about bringing new business. And in Thursday’s Tampa Bay Times, business columnist Robert Trigaux speculates on whether the deleterious affects of the Sarasota County Commissioners “thumbing its nose” at a headquarters relocation could actually affect Jeff Vinik’s attempts to attract out-of-state corporations to relocate to his proposed 40-acre redevelopment in the Channelside area of Tampa.

Trigaux writes:

It seems unlikely the Sarasota denial of a deal would influence Vinik’s efforts, but it’s early to assess the Sarasota impact. Site selectors are a clubby bunch and talk to one another frequently — more so when one of them feels unexpectedly spurned in what should have been a slam-dunk deal. And Sarasota’s county commissioners bowing to the wishes of local companies, however well-intentioned, could spark more pushback against economic development in other metro areas.

Americans for Prosperity Florida has been one of the few prominent organizations to fight against such economic incentives. They’ve concentrated their work in the legislature in recent years against proposals for incentives to Hollywood producers and sports franchises, and applauded legislators who worked against Governor Rick Scott’s request for $250 million for Enterprise Florida, the state’s mostly taxpayer-funded economic development agency charged with creating business deals.

Kathleen Peters responds to Jennifer Webb’s comments on her support of fracking bill

Commenting on the same day that the Pinellas County Commission was poised to vote on a fracking ban, House District 69 Democratic candidate Jennifer Webb announced that she not only supports such a ban, but took the opportunity to take a swipe at her GOP opponent, incumbent Kathleen Peters.

Noting that there were bills presented in the Legislature banning fracking that never received a hearing, Webb said that, “Rep. Peters has had ample opportunity to take the lead on protecting our beaches and tourism from fracking, but once again put the needs of lobbyists and special interests ahead of Pinellas families and small businesses. ”

Webb added that “Our environment and our state’s main industry, tourism, are inextricably bound, to not recognize this fact is troubling.”

Peters was nearly incredulous to hear Webb’s statement read to her. She says she proudly supported the fracking bill sponsored by Naples Senate Republican Garett Richter that failed to get a hearing. That legislation would have directed the Department of Environmental Protection to set up a regulatory scheme for inshore oil and gas drilling, provide $1 million to study the impact of fracking on Florida’s aquifer and limestone bedrock, and pre-empt local government ordinances banning the practice.

“The only bill that was presented to any legislator to stop fracking in Florida was that bill,” Peters said Tuesday.”So in my opinion, anyone who opposes that bill, then supports what happened and now anyone can come into this state and do fracking. Anyone who voted no was absolutely irresponsible, because we do not have a moratorium on it.”

Peters also strongly disputed Webb’s comment that she put the needs of lobbyists ahead of her constituents, calling such a change, “ludicrous.”

“She can make all the claims that she wants, but my track record shows that it’s not the lobbyists that drives my legislative language,” Peters said, citing her sponsorship of a 2015 bill that, among other things, requires the Public Service Commission to conduct additional meetings related to electric utilities; requires PSC to post information on website; requires persons who lobby PSC Nominating Council to register as lobbyist; requires PSC commissioners to take ethics training courses,  granted additional powers to Public Counsel; revises provisions regarding utility billing practices and clarified the use of funds received to encourage development of certain energy systems.

Webb says there have been enough studies, and says it’s time to shut down the possibility of such technology ever being employed in Florida.

“Fracking has been extensively studied and the risks of fracking are well documented,” Webb said. “As such, the motivation for that study must have been political. It is outrageous that the Florida Legislature would spend even a dime of taxpayers’ money to study fracking in Florida. The voters didn’t want fracking, and the legislature could have banned it outright in 2016. I’m not willing to risk polluting our drinking water, beaches, and waterways for antiquated energy solutions that benefit dirty oil and gas companies.”

Webb is a USF administrator running for office for the first time. Peters was initially elected to the Pinellas County seat in 2012, and was re-elected in 2014.

If the Pinellas County Commission approves a fracking ban on Tuesday, there would be a public hearing on the matter to take place on June 7.

Jeff Greene’s lawyer calls out Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Greene‘s lawyer is berating the Tampa Bay Times over a story on its settlement of Greene’s libel suit against it.

Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire, also is “demand(ing) that the Tampa Bay Times now disclose the amount publicly.” He sued the Times and the Miami Herald in 2010 but settled confidentially with both papers in recent weeks.

Times attorney Alison Steele, who negotiated the settlement, could not be immediately reached by phone Tuesday afternoon.

The real estate developer, who ran as a Democrat, claimed both newspapers derailed his U.S. Senate campaign that year with coverage of alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht.

Democrat Kendrick Meek, a former state senator, went on to win the Democratic primary. The seat eventually was won by current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

The newspaper ran a 226-word story on the settlement last week.

In it, Times editor Neil Brown said the settlement “represents our insurance company’s calculation of acceptable legal expenses. On the central dispute, the Times does not retract or correct our coverage, nor will we limit any future reporting.”

On Tuesday, Atlanta attorney L. Lin Wood fired back with a nearly 800-word statement released to FloridaPolitics.com and other news media.

“The statement of Neil Brown is false and misleading,” Wood said. “The Tampa Bay Times is attempting to spin this settlement as a victory for the newspaper when, in fact, it was a well-deserved defeat for the Times and a victory” for Greene.

“I stand by the statement in the previous article and the Times has nothing further to add,” Brown said in an email Tuesday evening.

Wood added that the “requirement that the amount be confidential and not be disclosed was a condition imposed by the Tampa Bay Times.”

“Having focused on defamation cases for over 20 of my 39 years of law practice, I would accurately characterize the amount paid as a significant payment for the settlement of a public figure libel case, consistent with an acknowledgment of wrongdoing,” Wood said.

He added: “I can state unequivocally that the settlement amount bears no reasonable relationship to the amount of legal expenses that would have been incurred by the Tampa Bay Times if it had elected to have the case resolved by a jury trial, as opposed to a settlement.”

Greene, Wood said, “did not file and pursue this litigation for the primary purpose of financial gain.”

Rather, he did so to publicly correct the false and defamatory statements which impugned his personal and business reputation. Mr. Greene’s primary goal was accomplished by the publication of the Editor’s Notes for each article.

Mr. Greene is a multi-billionaire and philanthropist who, along with his wife, Mei Sze, have signed the Giving Pledge started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. While Mr. Greene was less concerned with the settlement amount, he wanted to make certain that the amount was large enough to be consistent with an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and could never be correctly characterized as a “cost of litigation” payment – which is exactly the mischaracterization set forth in the Brown statement.

The Tampa Bay Times did not attempt to contact Mr. Greene or me for comment prior to publishing its own self-serving article based on the Brown statement. The circumstances surrounding the Brown statement, and the Tampa Bay Times article based on it, should raise serious questions of journalistic integrity and credibility in the minds of readers of the Times.

A Miami-Dade circuit judge dismissed Greene’s suit in 2012, saying he couldn’t “prove the paper acted in malice,” a legal standard in libel actions brought by public figures.

Greene would have to show the Times and Herald knew their stories were wrong or that they had a “reckless disregard” of whether their reporting was false or not.

An appellate court reversed the judge’s decision and revived the suit, saying Greene’s claims were “legally sufficient” to move forward.

Got a job? #HireATribber

Former Tampa Tribune staffers are hoping what the internet takes away, it can also give back.

Several reporters, editors, designers and others have banded together to find work through social media using the hashtag, #HireATribber.

Elaine Silvestrini, the former Tribune courts reporter who came up with the idea, has become the group’s unofficial leader and cheerleader in chief.

Her first tweet with the hashtag was this past Friday: “You won’t regret it if you #HireATribber.”

It’s since appeared in several dozen tweets, including this from former copy editor Ecton Theriot on Monday: “The top 7 reasons to #HireATribber: Award-winning writers, editors, designers, graphic artists, photographers, IT pros, ad sales staff.”

“I was applying for a marketing job, and on the application it asked for my Twitter handle,” Silvestrini said in an email. “I realized I hadn’t tweeted since the layoff because all I used to tweet about (with some small exceptions) was my work. And I wasn’t working.”

Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Times bought the 123-year-old Tribune, its longtime cross-bay rival, and shut it down. Hundreds of former Tribune workers are now out of work, though they’ll continue to be paid for 60 days after the sale.

The Tribune suffered from the same problem as many newspapers across the country: Weakening advertising revenue caused by fewer people subscribing and reading. More people, especially younger readers, turn to free online sources to consume news.

“I realized I needed to start tweeting again,” Silvestrini added. “But what to tweet about? I wasn’t working. But my job now is to find work. So it dawned on me that I should tweet about that.”

Now, former colleagues are not just sharing remembrances of Hillsborough County’s newspaper of record online, they’re also helping each other out with job leads and advice.

“And so I invited them to join me on Twitter,” Silvestrini said. “Many have, and I expect more will because this has been going on for only a few days.”

Besides Theriot, joining her in the Tweetstorm are web producer and writer Rick Mayer; web producer and writer Chris Spata; web producer and editor Robert D’Angelo; IT professional Rachel Johnson; copy editor Sue Anastasia; Tampa Bay Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson; sports editor Joanne Korth; county government reporter Mike Salinero and copy editor and web producer Tim Chong. 

Chong’s approach is more arch than others. He tweeted Monday, “Why #HireATribber? We kick butt and chew gum, and we’re all out of gum.”

Later, he added: “Why #HireATribber? It will bring balance to The Force.” (Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the nickname of the Times’ and Miami Herald’s combined capital bureau is the “Death Star.”)

Her former officemates “have come in full force, because that’s what Tribbers do,” Silvestrini said. “We know something needs to be done—we need to get jobs — and we do what we need to make it happen.”

“We have developed skills that can benefit pretty much any industry and we need to get the word out,” she added. “We know this community as well as anyone … And we’re not just newsroom types. There are all kinds of other staff who can contribute to your company, from facilities to receptionists to operations and more.”

Silvestrini said many people on Twitter have offered encouragement, ideas, and retweets — but no one’s gotten a job. Yet.

“It’s really been kind of overwhelming, in a good way, how much it’s taken off in such a short time,” she said.

“One challenge for most of us is that a huge percentage of the leads we’re getting require relocation,” Silvestrini said. “That’s difficult, if not impossible for many of us. We’ve put down roots. We have homes and families we can’t leave. So any leads that allow us to stay put, whether by working locally or telecommuting, are especially appreciated.”

Mitch Perry Report for 5.13.16 – Friday 13th edition

Well, so much for that much anticipated San Antonio-Golden State NBA Western Final. Congrats to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who took down the Spurs in six. Gotta love the unexpected.

 Today the Republican Party of Florida hosts their first of a two-day spring meeting in Tampa. I just realized that the Republicans always hold these type of events in Tampa, while the Democrats generally prefer Orlando. ….A transgender student who was suspended for using the restroom at school is challenging a new Marion County School District policy that prohibits transgender students from using restrooms consistent with their gender identities violates federal anti-discrimination law. That happens while the Obama administration is going to send a directive to that school board – and every other one in the nation – telling them to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. Cue the hysteria.

Some people considered yesterday’s television coverage of the just a little hyped tete-a-tete between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump was cable news at its worse. Really? Others called it for what it really was – Thursday.

Nice to see Jerome Stockfish’s byline in today’s Times, or Times/Tribune hybrid. Times management could have done us all a service and published the names of the staffers with the Trib who were offered jobs at the paper. Instead, we get a small trickling everyday of what lucky reporters made the cut, and they’re really aren’t that many.

CD 18 Democratic hopeful Randy Perkins tells POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo that he’s going to give up fundraising. Considering the guy’s a multi-millionaire, is this what qualifies as bravery in national politics these days? If elected, however, he says he’ll also refrain from fundraising, meaning he could be another co-sponsor for David Jolly’s Stop Act.

In other news…

Who says that Dems and R’s don’t come together? In the House, the body overwhelmingly voted on 18 different anti-drug bills this week, and now Sarasota’s Vern Buchanan is calling on the Senate to follow up.

HD 49 Democratic candidate Carlos Guillermo Smith is now campaigning for a statewide marijuana decriminalization bill, after Orlando became the latest Florida municipality to pass their own ordinance on the issue.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz refuses to debate her CD 23 challenger, Tim Canova, but for how long can she get away with that?

There are some excited local Democrats – delegates for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton – who found out this week that they’re going to Philadelphia for the convention.

And for the first time this year, Hillsborough GOP incumbent state attorney Mark Ober raised more money in a month than did his Democratic upstart challenger, Andrew Warren.

Tampa Bay Times settles suit with Jeff Greene

The Tampa Bay Times settled a libel suit filed against it by Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, the newspaper reported Thursday.

The terms of that settlement were not released.

“We have been in this legal standoff for nearly six years,” Times Editor Neil Brown said in a statement. “The settlement represents our insurance company’s calculation of acceptable legal expenses.

“On the central dispute, the Times does not retract or correct our coverage, nor will we limit any future reporting,” he added.

Greene, a real estate developer, ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2010. The seat eventually was won by current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Greene claimed that both newspapers derailed his Senate campaign with coverage of alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht.

Democrat Kendrick Meek, a former state senator, went on to win the Democratic primary.

One story insinuated that former boxer Mike Tyson – best man at Greene’s wedding – had used drugs on the yacht. The Times later ran a rare front-page clarification, with Tyson saying he did not use drugs on Greene’s yacht.

A Miami-Dade circuit judge had dismissed Greene’s suit in 2012, saying he couldn’t “prove the paper acted in malice,” a legal standard in libel actions brought by public figures.

Greene would have to show the Times and Herald knew their stories were wrong or that they had a “reckless disregard” of whether their reporting was false or not.

An appellate court reversed the judge’s decision and revived the suit, saying Greene’s claims were “legally sufficient” to move forward.

Greene already settled last month with The Miami Herald, the Times’ co-defendant in the case. The terms of that arrangement also weren’t disclosed.

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:

Tampa Bay Times — Work together to cut arrests for petty crimes

The St. Petersburg City Council has wisely decided to pause in its march toward creating a civil citation program that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and other minor offenses. The council members delayed their vote to give Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri time to complete a proposal for a countywide prearrest diversion program. This was the right call. The city and county are working toward the same important goal, and they should agree on how to proceed on such an important policy issue so the community has consistency and clarity.

In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the City Council delayed a vote on a proposal to create a civil citation program that would reduce arrests for minor crimes such as littering, petty theft, disorderly conduct and possession of small amounts of marijuana. The council was reacting, in part, to pleas from law enforcement officials such as police Chief Tony Holloway, who favors a single measure that would address the issue for the entire county. The council has led on this issue from the beginning, first by introducing the issue and later by seeing the need for a coordinated effort beyond the city limits.

Bradenton Herald — Cruise to Cuba marks progress on several fronts

President Barack Obama correctly sensed that engagement with Cuba is the best way to change the Castro regime’s behavior. A cruise ship docking in Havana, whose passengers include Cuban-Americans, is the latest concrete example of a policy that succeeds in forcing change by working with Cuba, not freezing it out. The Cuban people will be the ultimate winners.

Carrying more than 700 passengers, Carnival Corp.’s Adonia had a smooth 90-mile trip across the Florida Straits, arriving in Havana on Monday as hundreds of Cubans watched from shore. But the voyage was almost scuttled before it began.

Cuba had originally insisted that Cuba-born passengers would not be able to enter port. Facing fierce criticism from both U.S. officials and the Cuban-American community, Carnival threatened to delay any voyages until the matter was resolved.

Then late last week, Cuban authorities lifted their decades-old restriction. The Adonia will make calls at two more Cuban ports before returning to Miami next week, the first of many voyages to come.

Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia profits from Orlando’s boom

In recent years, local tourism officials have convened focus groups in Houston and Charlotte, North Carolina. They put on a marketing blitz in New York City to capitalize on JetBlue’s new service to Daytona Beach. They’ve worked to boost visitors from England and Canada; there’s even some talk about emerging tourism from China.

Those efforts are working. Daytona Beach-area officials were “dancing in the aisles” this week over March tourism numbers that showed a staggering 25 percent increase in revenue compared to last year. But even as they cast a wider net for visitors, local tourism leaders are keeping their eyes on an asset that’s much closer: Orlando, and specifically, the theme-park region that is, once again for 2016, the No. 1 tourist destination in the United States — and an easy drive away for Volusia beaches and other local attractions. That’s a smart move: Volusia County should continue to challenge Brevard County’s quest to be the premiere beach destination for the 66-million-plus people who visited Orlando-area theme parks or attended conventions there last year.

Florida Times-UnionCheers: Walk to defeat ALS is a rousing success

Cheers to all of the generous people who came out to make the recent Jacksonville Walk to Defeat ALS a success!

In all, 1,619 participants took part in the walk, which began at the Seven Bridges Grille restaurant near Tinsletown.

The event raised $330,064 to back the fight against ALS — the acronym for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive disease that affects the nerve cells and muscles.

The great turnout was heartwarming because the event — which had a fun, tropical theme — took place during a steady rainstorm that caused some festivities to be moved indoors.

Florida Today – Trump’s GOP won’t be party of no

Of all the Republican pillars smashed to shards by Donald Trump’s wrecking ball, the most fundamental repudiation is this: The presidential nominee for the “party of no” will likely be the guy who wrote The Art of the Deal.

With a big Indiana win behind him, a 34-point lead in the latest poll of California and Ted Cruz out of the race, Trump appears to have lost nothing and perhaps has gained much by talking constantly about the need for deals. It’s possible, in fact, to view his entire campaign as one big opening bid. Making deals is his core identity and, like so many things he says and does, completely counter to the GOP line.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to make Barack Obama a one-term president, but even in Obama’s second term he has stuck to the strategy that failed: opposing nearly anything Obama wants. The result is mostly paralysis, even in areas where there is common ground.

Gainesville Sun – Cheers and jeers

Our community showed its great generosity during a whirlwind charity event this week.

Cheer: More than 1,400 donors across the area, for contributing around $286,000 during the Amazing Give.

The Community Foundation of North Central Florida put together the 24-hour fundraising campaign, bringing together nearly 50 nonprofits for the effort. People donated to their favorite nonprofits, with the groups getting additional grants based on meeting different fundraising goals.

Around $282,000 was collected when the event officially ended Tuesday at 6 p.m., but additional money has since been taken in. The groups collecting the highest amount of donations included the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and the Alachua County Humane Society.

Lakeland Ledger — Speaking of pot, let’s do so

In April 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, cut off and surrounded by Union forces and exhausted from four years of war, exchanged a series of notes with his Union counterpart, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, inquiring about a possible surrender. In replies to Grant’s letters, issued within 48 hours of their war-ending meeting at Appomattox Courthouse, Lee maintained that while he did not share Grant’s assessment that his situation was hopeless, he did say he reciprocated Grant’s “desire to avoid useless effusion of blood” and agreed that “the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all.”

For those same reasons, many across America believe it’s time to call a truce in the four-decade-old War on Drugs, particularly when it comes to marijuana.

Miami Herald — Where’s Congress on Zika? Nowhere!

More than 100 days after the first cases of Zika were reported in Florida, leaders of Congress stubbornly continue to turn a deaf ear to pleas for additional federal funding. The indifference shown by lawmakers in the face of an identifiable health threat is both impossible to ignore and hard to fathom.

President Obama wants $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika, and he’s drawn rare — and commendable — bipartisan support from Florida’s two U.S. senators.

Democrat Bill Nelson calls the spread of Zika in Florida a “full-blown crisis.” Republican Marco Rubio has been equally emphatic: “It is the obligation of the federal government to keep our people safe, and this is an imminent and real threat to the public safety and security of our nation and our people.”

Both have beseeched colleagues to support additional funding. Yet Congress has resisted this plea for help since February, when President Obama first sought emergency aid.

Orlando Sentinel — Don’t lessen manatee protections

Many Floridians love manatees. Maybe it’s because the slow-moving giants are gentle reminders of the state’s natural wonders. And maybe it’s because we recognize that as the manatee’s survival goes, so goes coastal Florida.

For proof, look no farther than the Brevard County‘s Indian River Lagoon, a popular manatee thoroughfare. A toxic algae outbreak there in March was so severe it killed thousands of fish, creating a smelly environmental disaster. Past blooms of algae — fueled by fertilizer runoff and septic tank leaks — have led to a collapse of the food chain, killing manatees and other marine life.

Yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, yielding to pressure from property-rights groups, has proposed reducing the level of protection manatees now get from the federal government. The bureaucratic process is known as “downlisting” the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.” It may not sound like a big step, but it is.

The federal government considers a species endangered when it is in imminent risk of extinction. Then federal agencies work with state and local governments to put protective measures in place. For manatees, that includes creating marked sanctuaries on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and setting speed limits for boats in waters where manatees congregate.

Ocala StarBanner — Answers needed on Sabal Trail

The proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline would traverse 30 miles of western Marion County and travel within less than a mile of Rainbow Springs and then go under the Withlacoochee River. Yet, according to a letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by the County Commission, local officials “are unable to find specific details associated with (Sabal Trail’s) analysis of the Marion County portion of the project.”

In the letter, the commission is asking the Corps to conduct an “independent supplemental environmental impact statement” to answer a litany of questions about the massive project, which will run 515 miles from central Alabama to Osceola County, south of Orlando. The pipeline, most of which is 36-inch pipe, would pass through a dozen Florida counties and pass near or under a significant number of important waterways, including the Suwannee, Santa Fe and Withlacoochee rivers. Yet, Sabal Trail is woefully short on details in its report on what steps it would take to protect these natural treasures. The same goes for Rainbow Springs.

Pensacola News-Journal — Bayview Cross: A shallow fight along bayou’s shore

We wholeheartedly endorse meaningful legal battles in defense of constitutional liberties — but the suit filed over the Bayview Cross is not one of them.

The PNJ’s Will Isern reported last week that the “two Washington, D.C., groups that last year threatened to sue the city of Pensacola if it did not remove the large white cross at Bayview Park have now followed through with that threat, filing a complaint Wednesday in federal court.

“The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the suit on behalf of four Pensacola residents.”

Palm Beach Post — Trump would need to sway broader group of voters in November

Nomination within his grasp, Donald Trump would need to win over a broader group of voters in November beyond those who have helped clear the Republican presidential field for him.

As a whole, voters in the general election will be younger, more likely to be female and vastly more diverse than the predominantly white groups of the Republican primaries. In recent elections, those sets of voters have leaned sharply toward the Democrats.

To counter the Democrats’ advantage among women, young people and black, Latino and Asian-American voters, Trump will have to maximize his support among whites — especially white men — to levels rarely seen.

Panama City News-Herald — Veep sweepstakes fantasy league draft choices

It’s been a tough month for Ted Cruz. In an odd and desperate turn of events, Ted Cruz threw up a Hail Mary by naming Carly Fiorina as his running mate. This would’ve put her “just a heartbeat away” from never being the vice president – had Cruz not abandoned his bid after a crushing loss in Indiana.

She wanted to become the first person to lose twice in the same presidential election. Ted Cruz naming his VP when he did was a bit like the Atlanta Braves naming where they are going to have their World Series victory parade.

He picked Carly in a hasty manner. It was a three-question vetting process: 1. Are you a woman? 2. How would you be working with Lucifer in the flesh? 3. Are you good at suffering humiliating losses?

South Florida Sun Sentinel – Put school construction on firmer ground

At state and local levels — including Broward and Palm Beach counties — too much that is not constructive is going on with school construction.

Or, in the case of Broward, too much is not going on at all. As the Sun Sentinel reported, nine approved school renovation projects have languished because district staff failed to put the work out for bid.

Those projects, budgeted at more than $25 million and approved before voters passed an $800 million bond issue in November 2014, include work on leaking roofs, balky air-conditioning and library expansion.

Meanwhile, the bond-issue projects also lag. The district has offered excuses that, frankly, amount to bureaucratic blah blah blah. It is a blessing to have construction funds in this increasingly anti-tax, anti-government atmosphere. Not spending those funds on time and on budget is a sure way to lose voter trust.

Tallahassee Democrat – Don’t trivialize Sunland’s history as fun ghost story

The first time I visited Sunland Tallahassee was in 1977. I was a young, enthusiastic public information officer with the state, responsible for press contact in the Tallahassee district, which included Sunland and four other state institutions.

My tour began on a top floor. It was filled with cage-like metal cribs. The staff person brought us to one specific crib, to help us appreciate the challenges of her job – and, no doubt, for the shock value.

Inside, was an infant whose brain was outside his skull, a condition call exencephaly. He would die soon. It was a mind-jarring introduction to the facility.

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