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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Feeding Tampa Bay: The working hungry

Posted By on Thu, Nov 20, 2014 at 1:17 AM

Volunteers sort food into bins at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent in Tampa Heights, which opens to the public Nov. 20. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • Volunteers sort food into bins at the Metropolitan Ministries Holiday Tent in Tampa Heights, which opens to the public Nov. 20.

Lawrence Strickland remembers what it was like to be a hungry child in Tampa.

“You do whatever it takes to eat,” he told me. “Whether it’s knocking on a neighbor’s door asking for a pack of chicken, or waking up early in the morning at 9 o’clock or 8 o’clock and going through the phone book list of churches at 9 years old. I had to explain to them our situation and hopefully get assistance.” Strickland’s family hadn’t always been in need of the kindness of strangers. But when his mother went through a bad breakup and, as a result, became addicted to crack cocaine, “we went from stable housing to a trailer with roaches in neighborhoods that we weren’t familiar with.”

When Strickland became an adult, he thought he’d beaten the hunger curse: he had a good job as a corporate trainer, was married to a woman with a position at a local uniform company, and was, he thought, secure. But then he was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease, and was in and out of hospitals so often that his employer let him go. To make matters worse, Strickland’s wife lost her job when the uniform company relocated to Missouri. Once again, hunger was a part of his life, and though he and his family received SNAP assistance from the government — commonly referred to as food stamps — the allotment for a family of four, of about $10 a day, didn’t meet their most basic needs.

So they learned to make do. “We’re okay with food most of the time,” Strickland told me. “We don’t really have too many issues with that, ’cause we eat within our food stamp assistance. It runs out but we become pretty creative with things. You have to put bread and water together, see what it makes. You have to take powdered milk and eat a potato.”

Fortunately for the Strickland family, their pastor has given them a place to live, and Metropolitan Ministries, the extraordinary anti-poverty organization led by Tim Marks and headquartered in downtown Tampa, has helped them with food, daycare, and other necessities.

But without MetroMin, it’s not clear how this family could sustain itself. That $10 a day is all the government is offering.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Feeding Tampa Bay: Help is here

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 8:06 PM

news_hunger_events_sidebar_kindness_day.jpg

16th Annual Empty Bowls Luncheon Feeding America Tampa Bay hosts this fundraiser at Lykes Gaslight Park in downtown Tampa on Nov. 20, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. For a $10 donation, attendees receive a modest lunch that includes bread, an apple and water — and soup served in a bowl handcrafted by local schoolchildren. In addition, local artisans have donated pottery bowls for a silent auction, and Hillsborough County students will create and hand-paint bowls to share with luncheon guests as a take-home memento. feedingamericatampabay.org

Kind Mouse Fiesta The Junior League of St. Petersburg hosts a family-friendly fundraiser in which 10 percent of all food and drink sales will go to JLSP to purchase food for the Kind Mouse Food Pantry. A donation of $20 buys a Mousequerita, a beer, or a non-alcoholic drink of your choice. Food donations also accepted. Drawings and silent auction. Food purchase or donation. Sat., Nov. 22, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. El Gallo Grande, 1625 Fourth St. S., St. Petersburg. 727-895-5018. jlstpete.org


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Feeding Tampa Bay: Wood works with Bowls for Good

Posted By on Wed, Nov 19, 2014 at 7:57 PM

The author with her bowl. - BEN FARRELL/BOWLS FOR GOOD
  • Ben Farrell/Bowls for Good
  • The author with her bowl.

If you would’ve asked me what a lathe was a week ago, I wouldn’t have been able to tell you. But last Wednesday night, I found myself standing in front of one, learning the ins and outs of wood-turning.

Why? To help end hunger — one bowl at a time.


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Thursday, September 11, 2014

Greenlight, red light? The battle over Pinellas’ transit tax initiative continues to heat up

Posted By on Thu, Sep 11, 2014 at 9:35 AM

PSTA’s Susan Latvala, Brad Miller and Ken Welch (L to R). - KEVIN TIGHE
  • Kevin Tighe
  • PSTA’s Susan Latvala, Brad Miller and Ken Welch (L to R).

Earlier this spring Dr. David McKalip, one of the leading critics of the Greenlight Pinellas transit tax that county voters will decide on this fall, said that he felt something was amiss after watching an ad that PSTA, the Pinellas transit agency, ran with a disclaimer at its conclusion mentioning Department of Homeland Security grant money. He instigated a public records request to learn who made the commercials, then followed up by researching online documents and reviewing PSTA minutes of earlier board meetings. That convinced him that the agency had misspent DHS funds as a back-door way to promote the transit plan.

So he confronted PSTA Executive Director Brad Miller, who denied his charges. Shortly thereafter, ace WTSP investigative television reporter Mike Deeson picked up on McKalip’s work and did his own report. He confronted Miller on camera to answer the charge that it appeared the agency had misused funds to promote the transit agency, which PSTA is explicitly not allowed to do. Again, Miller rejected the allegation.

A couple of days later, the PSTA board met for its monthly June meeting. There, Miller and Welch addressed the issue, with Welch mocking its accuracy. As some Board members talked about demanding a retraction from the local CBS affiliate, Welch simply conceded that critics were going to use such “misinformation” all the way up to the election.

Except it wasn’t misinformation, something that Miller and Welch had to cop to after Homeland Security called on PSTA to return the $354,000 in federal funds after it concluded its own investigation (prompted by an inquiry from Congressman David Jolly).

A minor aberration on the way to Pinellas successfully voting on what its advocates call one of the biggest things to happen to the county, ever? Perhaps. But with trust in government at all-time low levels, the error by an agency asking to raise residents’ taxes played straight into the Tea Party mantra about Big Government run amok.

“It’s unfortunate that political ideology will play a significant role,” says Eckerd College political science professor Tony Brunello, who supports the measure. “So that this sort of skepticism about government could very well blunt the momentum towards getting this done.”

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Thursday, September 4, 2014

Mixed signals: WMNF's search for new listeners and continued relevance

Posted By on Thu, Sep 4, 2014 at 1:05 AM

WMNF moved into its new building in 2005. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • WMNF moved into its new building in 2005.

Tampa’s great radio experiment, WMNF 88.5 FM, is 35 years old, and its age is beginning to show.

Once the only game in town for news, talk and music outside the mainstream, WMNF now finds itself just one of a multitude of media options vying for listeners.

Previously housed in a series of cramped, makeshift quarters, WMNF now broadcasts from a large, modern facility, with a large, modern mortgage to match.

Perhaps most troubling, its commitment to diversity, to providing a forum for minority voices, is being questioned.

“I still think it’s viable,” said Ray “Rayzilla” Villadonga, a longtime WMNF programmer. “Trying to keep it viable and surviving is really the dilemma.”


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Thursday, July 31, 2014

The CL Intern Issue: Just do it — millennials find satisfaction in working on their passions

Posted By on Thu, Jul 31, 2014 at 1:32 AM

Reuben Pressman of Check I'm Here.
  • Reuben Pressman of Check I'm Here.

The media used to dismiss millennials as lazy, spoiled kids with the attention span of a goldfish. But given the success of people like Kevin Systrom, co-founder of Instagram, and Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook — both of whom made their marks well before they turned 30 — older generations are now seeing millennials as “The Entrepreneurial Generation.”

This wave of young entrepreneurial energy has hit Tampa Bay in a big way, as college students and grads start their own businesses and forge their own paths.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

My country 'tis of twee: Interview with rock writer Marc Spitz

Posted By on Thu, Jul 24, 2014 at 1:59 PM

Author Marc Spitz.
  • Author Marc Spitz.

What do Morrissey, Nick Drake, Dave Eggers, Judy Blume, Walt Disney, Zooey Deschanel, Lena Dunham and Kurt Cobain all have in common? According to a new book, they’re all critical figures, past and present, of the twee movement.

According to New York City-based rock journalist Marc Spitz, twee is the most important (and polarizing) pop cultural movement since hip-hop. Spitz is an energetic, thoughtful and incisive synthesizer of indie rock in particular, and his new book, Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film, is a provocative read.

Formerly a senior writer for Spin, Spitz has also written biographies of Mick Jagger, David Bowie, two novels (one involving the Smiths and Morrissey), and last year published Poseur, his explicit review of his own life of sex, drugs and rock and roll in 1990s New York as a struggling writer and addict. He spoke to us last week from his West Village home, and we began by asking him to explain what the hell “twee” actually is.

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Thursday, July 10, 2014

Go your own way: Uber, Lyft and the PTC

Ride-sharing's hot, but not everyone's jumping aboard.

Posted By on Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 1:05 AM

Lyft's trademark mustachioed rides.
  • Lyft's trademark mustachioed rides.

Ride-sharing services have been making news for a while now, but it’s only in recent months that they’ve established a presence in Tampa Bay.

San Francisco-based Lyft began operating in Hillsborough on April 4 and quickly added Pinellas. UberX cars started showing up in Tampa and St. Pete a week later. Regulatory authorities are alarmed (especially in Hillsborough) and taxi drivers are angry, but word of mouth from riders is positive. 

After four trips between my home in Tampa’s V.M. Ybor neighborhood and downtown Tampa — one with Uber, one with Lyft, and one with each of two local cab companies — I’m beginning to understand why.

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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Punishment by neglect

Posted By on Thu, Jun 19, 2014 at 5:00 AM

Henry Carvajal with his son Anthony. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • Henry Carvajal with his son Anthony.

Anthony Carvajal says the pain was so bad, the only thing he had to look forward to some mornings was guessing which bone he might break.

While serving three to five years for grand theft and possession of a firearm (and already a convicted felon), Carvajal was in a pre-work release program at the Kissimmee Transit House last August when he slipped and fell while working in the kitchen.

He thought he had ruptured a disc, but the Department of Corrections (DOC) ignored a racquetball-sized protrusion on Carvajal’s back and simply prescribed him 60 days’ worth of ibuprofen.

His symptoms intensified to the point that Carvajal felt compelled to leave work-release and return to prison — the Central Florida Reception Center in Orlando — for care. But he was put into the general population — not the infirmary — and his health continued to worsen.
Now the 44-year-old Tampa resident is dying of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the blood cells that he was not informed he had contracted until April 16 — six months after hospital officials incorrectly diagnosed him with osteoporosis.

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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Party up: This fall the Libertarians of Florida might just make a difference

Posted By on Thu, May 29, 2014 at 3:40 AM

Libertarian Party of Florida vice chairman Alex Snitker. - CHIP WEINER
  • Chip Weiner
  • Libertarian Party of Florida vice chairman Alex Snitker.

Flanked by signs reading “Clowns to the left” and “Jokers to the right,” the vice chair of the Libertarian Party of Florida was revving up the troops.

“We gotta make sure we get the message out there,” urged Alex Snitker, 37, a burly, bearded firebrand in a three-piece suit who in 2010 was LPF’s first-ever Senate candidate. A predominantly white, predominantly male group of about 80 people had gathered to hear him in a meeting room at the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel in downtown Tampa, where the state party held its convention May 16-18.

“Because for all the good things that are going on? The media’s not going to report on that stuff. They’re not going to talk about you. The revolution will not be televised. It will not be written down by mainstream media. It’s going to be told by people like you, the regular citizen.”

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