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Today on Context Florida: Jon Steverson & the law, Helen Gordon Davis, black bear hunting and shooting hostages

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Today on Context Florida:

DEP Secretary Jon Steverson says he has never fired anyone for enforcing the law. Yet Bruce Ritchie says Steverson’s fingerprints – or at least tacit backing – are all over the ouster of top staff at the St. Johns River Water Management District. The resignations of Executive Director Hans Tanzler and four top staff members at the district, based in Palatka, has prompted criticism from environmentalists and newspaper editorial writers about political interference from Tallahassee.

Obituaries for Helen Gordon Davis correctly recounted what one called her “trailblazing” career in the Florida Legislature, where in 1974 she became one of very few women – the first from Hillsborough County – in what a colleague famously called “the land of the Bubbas.” What the tributes didn’t mention, after her death May 18, was the ignoble, cynical way in which some of her colleagues conspired to sacrifice her career to their own political ambitions. To Martin Dyckman, it’s a story whose ending has yet to be written.

On June 24, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission will vote on a proposal to open a trophy hunt on Florida’s unique subspecies of black bears. They were removed from the list of threatened species just three years ago. The trouble is, write Kate MacFall and Jennifer Place, the commission does not have enough information to make this decision and is going against the wishes of many Floridians. The last statewide count of Florida black bears was 13 years ago, when state biologists estimated that we had 2,000 to 3,000 surviving bears. Without having a handle on how many bears actually exist today, how can the commission justify allowing hunters to kill 200 bears a year?

In the movie “Speed,” Reeves’s character Jack Travern and Harry Temple, played by Jeff Daniels, are SWAT team members discussing a hypothetical hostage situation. Says Temple: “All right, pop quiz. Airport. Gunman with one hostage. He’s using her for cover. He’s almost to a plane, you’re a hundred feet away. What do you think?” Travern replies tersely: “Shoot the hostage.” Sometimes, says Jac Wilder VerSteeg, you just can’t protect the hostage from harm. And if you try, it only protects the perp. This is playing out in Tallahassee and Washington, D.C., as the Legislature prepares to return for the June 1 special session.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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