The federal government got into the disaster business when it created the National Flood Insurance Program. And for more than three decades, business was good.
Rates were relatively low, claims were mostly reasonable, and hardly anyone paid attention to the warning signs ahead. One hurricane, one super storm and $25 billion of debt later, everything has changed.
So, for the third time since 2012, Congress will consider major flood insurance legislation when returning to session in September. From a Florida perspective, the ideas range from good (cutting regulations to encourage private insurers) to excellent (capping rate hikes at 10 percent a year) to you-better-sit-down (eliminating the rate cap for repetitive loss homes)....
08/12/17 Public Safety
The girls knew the rules, and especially the consequences. Their father would never raise a hand to them, but he was an aficionado of understated punishments.
Grab a pen and paper, he would tell his two daughters, and come sit at the kitchen table. Write down what you did wrong, and how you plan on correcting it. Sign it, date it and make sure you spelled everything correctly.
Frank Vazquez fretted enough about Cylea and Leliana that he wouldn't let them spend the night with friends because of all of the things that might go on in other homes. And he was like a doorman at a fancy high-rise when it came to who got past the threshold to visit his girls....
Their lives ended in a stolen car in the middle of the night. Presumably, their childhood dreams ended long before then.
If blame must be assigned in the tragedy of three teenagers dying on a Palm Harbor road, this is as good a place to start as any.
Yes, you could talk about a juvenile justice system struggling to strike a balance between rescue and accountability. Yes, you could talk about the lack of personal or parental responsibility. Yes, you could talk about troubled schools, endless bureaucracy and any other societal ill you choose....
He was no one's idea of a dangerous criminal. Clyde Bunkley was a garden variety burglar, and not a very good one if you were looking for references.
So it came as no surprise when he was caught breaking into a Western Sizzlin' restaurant in Sarasota in the pre-dawn hours one April night in 1986. It was only when the cops searched his pockets that Bunkley was elevated from nondescript thief to irredeemable felon....
08/03/17 Local Government
The land is enticing, no doubt about that.
The 85-acre tract where Tropicana Field resides is so large and uniquely situated that it's almost impossible to screw up its redevelopment.
Unless you're thinking about building a soccer stadium there.
The idea came up this week when St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman mentioned on a radio show that Major League Soccer had some interest in that location as a possible stadium site....
07/29/17 Local Government
Compared to Washington D.C., the health care debate looks a little different in Dade City. No cameras. No formalities. No parade of U.S. senators eager for airtime. It's just a waiting room full of patients at a community health center, and an AC unit straining to prove it's still alive.
The more likely debate at Premier Community HealthCare is whether anyone on staff knows of a specialist who will take on a patient without insurance. Or whether they'll get the doors closed on time for a change. Or just how gruesome the fight for funds will get this year....
07/25/17 Local Government
Nothing else really matters, does it?
Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.
It's not that those other issues aren't important, but they aren't what's really dividing Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker. This election, wisely or not, is a referendum on whom you blame for past sewer problems and whom you trust to be in charge of future sewer fixes....
07/22/17 Public Safety
So all of this — the beaches, palm trees and fresh grouper sandwiches — comes with a few extenuating costs. To live in Florida is to accept a lifestyle of hazards, both peculiar and deadly. Lightning strikes and hurricanes, for example. Alligators and sharks, too. Floods, drug traffickers, spring break and scoundrels by the ballot-full.
For the most part, you can at least see them coming. You accept, understand and, in a lot of ways, learn to appreciate their place in Florida life....
07/15/17 Local Government
If it is merely attention they are seeking, members of the International People's Democratic Uhuru Movement have succeeded. People are buzzing about the outlandish rhetoric of candidates and disruptive behavior of followers.
In a municipal election that could have drowned in the wonky discussion of sewer repairs, neighborhood debates have somehow turned into hot tickets and viral videos.
But here's the unfortunate truth of the matter: ...
07/08/17 Local Government
They should be counting their blessings, and financial windfalls, in Miami this weekend.
Major League Baseball's All-Star Game will be played at Marlins Park on Tuesday, a precious perk doled out in return for building the $639 million stadium and parking complex that opened in 2012.
Instead, there's a good chance the cheering will be drowned out by grumbling.
Already unhappy with the amount of public money spent on the stadium, plenty of people in South Florida are even angrier now that Marlins owner Jeff Loria is selling the team for as much as $1.2 billion....
TAMPA — The church was in distress and likely heading to ruin.
Loan defaults and foreclosure proceedings had the members of New Salem Missionary Baptist Church in fear of losing their historic building on the edge of downtown Tampa. Elderly worshippers on fixed incomes were implored to donate more and more to save the church from potential calamity.
Yet unbeknownst to New Salem leaders during this time, a fund designed for churchgoers in financial crisis was being used to quietly direct tens of thousands of dollars to Pastor Henry J. Lyons, as well as to non-profit organizations he created, according to interviews and documents obtained by the Tampa Bay Times. ...
06/26/17 Human Interest
Let's talk about regulations.
Specifically, let's talk about the battles we've seen locally, and nationally, that have pitted the taxi industry against rideshare companies such as Uber.
So I was in Foxborough, Mass., Sunday night for a U2 concert at the stadium where the New England Patriots play.
(First aside: Yes, I saw U2 at Raymond James Stadium two weeks ago. But my best friend and I have gotten together to see U2 play often over the past 35 years. I never claimed to be particularly bright.)...
TAMPA — An FBI agent was at New Salem Missionary Baptist Church on Tuesday to inquire about allegations made against former pastor Henry J. Lyons.
Church elders voted to terminate Lyons last week, citing questions about potential financial improprieties.
06/20/17 Public Safety
Let's acknowledge the obvious:
State Rep. Dan Raulerson, R-Plant City, sounded a little hysterical when he recently suggested we should all be carrying weapons when we venture from our homes.
Unless I've missed something, we are a long way from being a war-torn country. For the great majority of Americans, I'll bet the only violence we ever see is on a television screen.
So to react to the senseless shooting of a congressman and others on a baseball field in northern Virginia with a holsters-for-homeowners campaign seems, if you'll pardon the phrase, like overkill....
TAMPA — The second coming of the Rev. Henry J. Lyons was not as celebrated or lucrative as his previous life.
The one-time leader of the largest black Baptist organization in America — toppled by infidelities and imprisoned on fraud charges — has kept a relatively low profile while running a century-old church in Hillsborough County the last dozen years.
Lyons no longer has the ear of the President of the United States, and his empire does not include the same luxuries as during his heyday in St. Petersburg in the 1990s....