Best Of 2016

Best antidote to campaign bullshit

Perhaps the most convincing indication that PolitiFact is doing a good job (besides that Pulitzer) is the fact that their fair-minded analyses of candidate-speak have riled up partisans on both sides of this season’s bitter political divide. Maybe we’re living in a post-fact world — those multiple Pants On Fire! judgments against Trump don’t seem to matter a whit to his supporters — but at a time when rumors, lies and conspiracy theories dominate the national conversation, the sober-sided truth-tellers at PolitiFact provide a much-needed dose of sanity. politifact.com. —David Warner

Best capitalism/history love story

Often, the first thing to go when “progress” comes to town are local historic landmarks. Often, they don’t go away without a fight from local preservationists who argue that the sense of place these old, iconic structures create is a much better economic development tool than a spattering of condos. But former cigar industry hub Ybor City is melding the two ideas, and investors are instead refurbishing old buildings, turning them into apartments and hotels for the growing number of people who live elsewhere but work in Ybor. —KB

Best city councilperson

If you’re young when you ascend to elected office, your inclination may be to play ball so that you don’t make any enemies as you seek to hold onto your seat and, you hope, climb the ladder. Maniscalco instead seems to vote in ways that reflect his district as well as his generation. As a member of the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Board, he was the sole dissenting vote against imposing prohibitive rules against ride-sharing services. He also opposed the unpopular TBX tollway project. If he had lost his 2015 runoff election to Jackie Toledo (who is now running for State Rep. Dana Young’s soon-to-be former seat), the conversations at the dais would likely be very, very different. Plus, he digs Bowie, and conversing with him about music is a rare pleasure for reporters who tend to feel like a round peg in a square hole at gatherings of local politicos. —KB

Best clusterf*ck
Flickr user DonkeyHotey

Want to succeed at least somewhat as one of two major political parties? Rule #1: Cultivate a deep bench of talented candidates and operatives. Rule #2: Try not to put those people in the same races, where they’ll expend precious resources cannibalizing one another. Can we guess which of these rules Tampa Bay Democrats aren’t quite getting? Sure, some of their problems stem from gerrymandering and candidates preferring to run for open seats in districts Dems can actually win, but when you have 18 talented Democrats in six bloody primaries, it costs money and confuses voters… though it’s fun for us political reporters. —KB

Best cross-bay catalyst
Heidi Kurpiela

For years, there has been talk of ferry service in Tampa Bay, a proposal championed most vocally by former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik. But it was St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman who managed to push the envelope with help from BP settlement funds. Kriseman hustled across the bay to persuade Tampa’s mayor and City Council and the Hillsborough County Commission to kick in money for a cross-bay ferry pilot project, and was able to get the Pinellas County Commission on board as well. All are putting in $350,000 apiece to test out the ferry service’s feasibility, and the pilot is set to begin connecting downtown Tampa to downtown St. Pete in November, with a ride rate of $10 per head. —KB

The Rays gave remaining t-shirts from the Pulse fundraiser to the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.
Tampa Bay Rays
The Rays gave remaining t-shirts from the Pulse fundraiser to the Tampa International Gay & Lesbian Film Festival.

The Tampa Bay Rays were already planning to hold their annual Pride Night for LGBT fans when news broke of the massacre at Orlando's Pulse Nightclub. In short order, Rays senior management, led by President Brian Auld, turned the game into a fundraiser and a memorial, selling out the stadium through sales of $5 tickets, the proceeds from which went to EQFL’s Pulse Victims Fund; adding programming, including a profoundly moving video tribute; and giving “We Are Orlando” t-shirts with a rainbow-hued Rays logo to all attendees. More than $300,000 was raised for the fund through ticket sales, raffles and donation centers during a truly unforgettable evening at the Trop. raysbaseball.com. —David Warner

An impromptu memorial outside Orlando Health in June, 2016.
Miosotis Jade/Wikimedia Commons
An impromptu memorial outside Orlando Health in June, 2016.

Survivors of the Pulse nightclub shootings suffered from wounds both physical and psychological, and that trauma could have been compounded by the economic burdens of medical care. But Orlando Health, whose Orlando Regional Medical Center cared for more than 44 of the victims, and Florida Hospital, which treated 12, eased that burden last month when their CEOs announced that the hospitals were waiving all out-of-pocket medical expenses for the survivors — bills that would have totaled an estimated $5.5 million. OH CEO David Strong told the Orlando Sentinel that the decision reflected the hospital’s desire to thank organizations and individuals who had reached out to help: “This is simply our way of paying that kindness forward.” Now that’s caregiving. orlandohealth.com, floridahospital.com. —David Warner

Smith with her wife, Andrea Hildebran, their son, Logan, and some four-legged friends in 2014.
Heidi Kurpiela
Smith with her wife, Andrea Hildebran, their son, Logan, and some four-legged friends in 2014.

“Leaders lead,” Nadine Smith once said. As executive director of Equality Florida, she has long exemplified that adage herself, fighting for the rights of the state’s LGBT citizens with smarts, empathy and steely conviction. In the wake of the horrific June 12 massacre in Orlando, she showed those qualities to the world, speaking with quiet eloquence to national media and spearheading a fundraising drive that raised $9 million for survivors and victims’ families. With EQFL about to celebrate its 20th anniversary next year, Smith continues to lead the way, establishing savvy partnerships with schools, businesses, churches and legislators to ensure workplace equality and safe schools. eqfl.org. —David Warner

Best fond farewell

A lot can be said about how we got here, the state of journalism in the age of social media, the fact that the phrase “newspaper sales” seems an oxymoron at a time when most media outlets provide their content for free online. But up until the last minute of the Trib’s existence, none of that mattered to the staffers who worked tirelessly to break stories and put out a paper every day. Even as the ground was pulled from under them — layoffs every few months, the sale of the building that housed the paper — staffers carried themselves with professionalism, and the newsroom maintained an air of camaraderie and humor. The Tampa Bay Times bought the paper, immediately shuttering it in early May, and to this day there are some talented former Trib staffers still looking for the permanent work they deserve. —KB

Best foster-vangelist
Cathy Salustri

It may not be possible to save them all, but if it is, Rick Chaubody’s going to show us how. Chaubody, the head of Suncoast Animal League, used to run the Humane Society of Pinellas, and he physically put the first puppy I ever had as an adult in my arms, a liver-spot dal he suggested I foster. Of course, I adopted her and she remained loyal and cranky and perfect until the end. He’s done this for, I’d wager, tens of thousands of cats and dogs in the Tampa Bay Area. This year alone — in addition to running a rescue with local adoptable pets — he’s rescued over 70 abandoned pups from Redland, FL and almost 70 from a shelter in Alabama that looked a lot like I picture hell must. I wouldn’t just trust him with my life, I would trust him with my dog’s. He’s done this for, I’d wager, tens of thousands of cats and dogs in the Tampa Bay Area. This year alone — in addition to running a rescue with local adoptable pets — he’s rescued over 70 abandoned pups from Redland, FL and almost 70 from a shelter in Alabama that looked a lot like I picture hell must. I wouldn’t just trust him with my life, I would trust him with my dog’s.