Hillsborough County Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins doesn't hesitate to pull out charts and graphs when asked about the school district's improving graduation rates. Even when Eakins grapples with budget challenges, a demanding school board, administrative changes and struggling inner-city schools, the 3.1 point improvement in the graduation rate represents a beacon of positivity. That increase in the 2015-16 school year equates to 595 more kids leaving the system with a standard diploma....
03/19/17 Human Interest
After anger and angst — I felt both listening to Office of Management and Budget director Mick Mulvaney detail President Donald Trump's budget blueprint — I stepped back and calmed down.
The people who may be affected by potential budget cuts need more than a vilification of Trump and his supporters. They need more than fear.
They need solutions.
Our concern should lie not with those who care about the wrong community aspects, but with those who don't care at all....
Looking to promote Black Marriage Day, Stephanie McNeal-Brown recently found herself in a bit of a funk.
She received an impressive response from those who attended her 2016 panel discussion on the subject — a topic full of unvarnished truths — but her 2017 event plans left her grappling with self doubt.
While the poetry slam on Friday (March 24) had drawn interest, ticket sales lagged for the community conversation slated for Saturday (March 25)....
GIBSONTON — People stepped into the Goodrich Quality Theaters' GDX auditorium Thursday and immediately looked up in awe at the floor-to-ceiling screens.
The aisles between rows in the 250-seat room are wide enough for rollerblading, the recliners feel like a mattress and the 60 speakers can make those recliners rumble with every intense moment from a movie soundtrack.
Ever since Xscape Theaters and Goodrich Quality Theaters announced plans to open 14-screen multiplexes within miles of each other in this growing corner of the county, it shaped up as a battle for moviegoers in the SouthShore and Brandon area....
Until March 1, Ken Griffey Sr. said he never realized so many tunnels run underneath Washington, D.C.
Griffey, a former Major Leaguer and father of Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., walked those tunnels earlier this month seeking dollars for prostate cancer research. At 66, the suburban Philadelphia man could revel in retirement and spend time spoiling grandkids.
Instead, he partnered with Zero — The End of Prostate Cancer to lobby senators and representatives. Grifffey, a leading advocate for the Bayer pharmaceutical company's "Men Who Speak Up" campaign (menwhospeakup.com) does just that about a deadly disease he managed to overcome....
03/13/17 Human Interest
During our recent appearance on WEDU-Ch. 3's Florida This Week, political strategist Barry Edwards put forth a theory that U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist would make a 2018 run for governor.
I literally blurted out: "Stop."
But the more Edwards and I spoke after the show, the more he strengthened his argument. Whether Crist could win remains a different discussion, but the chance he might join the current field of possible Democratic candidates remains real....
TAMPA — Growing up, my family seldom relied on a professional handyman.
When we needed something fixed, we didn't call a plumber or an electrician, we called our next door neighbors, the Toomes family.
George and Pearlie Toomes had seven sons and each could fix just about anything — screen doors, plumbing, air conditioners — because their father could fix just about anything. They also specialized in catching lizards with an old coffee can when one got in the house....
03/05/17 Human Interest
Meandering through the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts never leaves me disappointed.
William Kwamena-Poh offered a peek into his native Ghana through his stylized gouache works. Katie Heffel boasted that she offered her captivating New York works at Tampa prices. Wanda J. Brown waved at folks.
MacDonald Training Center CEO Karenne Levy looked on as the work of the center's clients fetched buyers. And Jes Irie Wear came from Islip, N.Y., to showcase clothes that "fit and flatter." Fashion is art....
Florida Strawberry Festival general manager Paul Davis had long held Patti LaBelle on his wish list of headline entertainment.
And just to make sure the soulful LaBelle still had the chops to deliver, he attended one of her recent shows and marveled over a three-hour performance that belied the diva's 72 years.
The festival's brand rests on appearances by big stars like LaBelle, Rascal Flatts, Little Big Town and Jennifer Nettles. But did you know Davis and his staff invest as much time in choosing the acts that perform beyond the main Wish Farms Soundstage....
02/26/17 Human Interest
Ruby C. Williams, Florida's folk art matriarch, regaled an audience of well-wishers at an Athena Society event in Bealsville's historic Glover School.
Williams, who keeps her age a closely guarded secret, shared her thoughts on being the great-great-granddaughter of one of the 12 founders of Bealsville, a community south of Plant City founded 152 years ago by former slaves. She spoke of her love of the land, her adoration for farming and the quaint appeal of her remarkable paintings....
She stepped up to the stage after the dynamic speaker shared her thoughts on education, on race, on creating one of Florida's most prestigious historically black colleges.
She looked the speaker in the eyes, embraced her and sweetly said, "Hello, grandmother." And in that moment, Ersula Odom's ongoing portrayal of Mary McLeod Bethune received its most significant endorsement — from the granddaughter of the legendary educator....
02/19/17 Human Interest
Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist made a stunning admission in a well-reported story on Tampa Bay's transportation woes by Tampa Bay Times staff writers Caitlin Johnston and Eli Zhang.
Crist said he didn't realize HART stands as one of the most poorly funded transit systems in the nation until a Times reporter told him. Amazing. First of all, it's his job to know. Second, the shortcomings of the system become apparent to anyone who spends even a single day using the system to get to work....
02/12/17 Human Interest
It's a familiar Aesop's Fables, but it appears Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran has never read The Goose That Laid the Golden Eggs.
Corcoran, perhaps to boost his name recognition for a gubernatorial run, continues to make headlines in his quest to withdraw state funding from Visit Florida. Even more amazing, Rep. Shawn Harrison, R-Tampa, went against his area's own tourism interest in a House subcommittee vote last week....
02/10/17 Human Interest
Cheryl Flood had to be the first one — the first one — to ride the new LED Giant Slide at the Florida State Fair. It's her favorite. Flood brought that same enthusiasm to her new role as executive director of the Florida State Fair. Agricultural Commissioner Adam Putnam placed Flood, then the agricultural department's director of external affairs, in the role on an interim basis in March of 2016 after the abrupt resignation of then executive director Chuck Pesano....
The lazy attitude that has betrayed me for so many years makes one last plea.
It's overcast and a bit dreary. You're just getting over a cold. Let's just ride around and listen to Luther.
I am undaunted. Spurred by Luther Vandross' ever chipper Glow of Love, I'm compelled to flee the ordinary confines of my car, and seek the extraordinary that awaits on the Tampa Riverwalk. I can't resist the chance to soak in the solace, to explore....