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Toast to the Bay/Dump in the Bay: Tampa Bay Times and the Mosley Motel

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Toast to the Bay: The Tampa Bay Times

It’s not every day you catch us folks at SaintPetersBlog praising the Tampa Bay Times. But we like to give credit where credit is due. The Investigative Reporters and Editors group awarded a handful of Times talent its prestigious Philip Meyer Award for investigative journalism for the “Failure Factories” report.

No group of reporters, and the subsequent expose, could be more deserving.

Named in the award were Cara Fitzpatrick, Michael LaForgia, Lisa Gartner, Nathaniel Lash and Connie Humburg.

Their report took a likely 18 grueling months to compile and analyze data, then gathering it into a page-turning, must read report uncovering five chronically failing elementary schools in the mostly black, poor neighborhoods of South St. Pete.

The schools, once performing on par with other average schools, nose-dived into failing following a 2007 vote to abandon school integration.

In justifying the vote, the school board promised increased funding in poor, black neighborhoods like the five identified in the report as well as increased staff and better resources. None of that was delivered.

The result of the “Failure Factories” report has been widespread. The City of St. Pete hired a full-time staff member specifically to address education issues, even though the topic has typically been left strictly to the school district. Elected officials in municipalities, as well as in positions outside the school board, have taken bold stances on the issue demanding action.

While we are no stranger for calling other news sources out for sloppy reporting or any of a number of other possible journalistic transgressions and political oversights, we’re also glad to lift a glass when it’s due to a talented bunch of reporters.

To these bright and tenacious journalists, congratulations on a story hard-fought to get and mighty cheers from the competition.

Dump into the Bay: The Mosley Motel

The Mosley Motel is in-and-of-itself, a dump. Trash litters the courtyard. Drug dealers come and go freely, peddling their wares over and over. It’s a mecca for every vagrant who scraped together enough cash for a night off the street.

While, ideally, the Mosley could be a blessing for those down on their luck with nowhere else to go and has indeed served as a shelter (of sorts) for the county’s homeless, it’s one of St. Petersburg’s most notorious offenders as a nuisance property.

Calls to the police there outpace just about anywhere else in the area. Not only has the city taken notice, with years of levying fines and threatening closure on the resort of last resort, the Mosley Motel is now reaching the end of another rope — foreclosure.

After four years of trying to fight it — or postpone it — the Mosley’s time has finally come. The property is slated to be sold at public auction next week, after owing HSBC Bank more than $6 million. Rumors abound that the owners of neighboring Skyline Fifth, located right behind the property, are already in the process of shutting down and purchasing the Mosley.

The Mosley is owned by who some consider the city’s ultimate slumlord, Michael Shimshoni. The end of a nasty era of renting rooms to drug dealers, addicts and prostitutes earns him a giant dump into the Bay this week.

Though, an honorable mention for this week’s toast could arguably go to the residents of Historic Kenwood and their fearless leader, Amy Foster, for finally seeing an end to the nuisance property they’ve so loathed for years.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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