Best Of 2022

People, Places and Politics

People, Places and Politics
As Governor DeSantis cracked down on the ever-elusive CRT boogeyman in public schools, James Michael Shaw Jr. had a different idea: educate the public. But the local lawyer had to do it in a creative way. He made a promo video for a “forbidden” Critical Race Theory event, which would let people know what the words actually meant, rather than just stoking fear in the public, as DeSantis is known to do. @jamesshawjr on Twitter
Tampa Police headquarters is chock full of controversy. Last year, the department was caught in close to two scandals a month. This year, the controversies are adding up. Through a public records request, CL caught the department using geofencing, a spying tactic that has caused uproar around the country, because average citizens can often get caught in an unconstitutional digital dragnet. TPD didn’t offer comment for the story.
The Times editorial board knew that Judge Jared Smith had denied a 17-year-old abortion and that he was found to have abused his judicial discretion in making that decision. But the board still endorsed—or “recommended” in the paper’s eyes—the right-wing evangelist judge. As CL uncovered more disturbing behavior from Smith, the Times continued to stand by its man. But the endorsement didn’t work, and in a rare upset, Smith, an incumbent judge, lost to Nancy Jacobs. You gotta give it to the Times for sticking it out until the end. @tbtimes_opinion on Twitter
The Ybor Misfits started as an apartment living room project, but has grown into a local institution. So much so that the group has teamed up with the cigar-famous J.C. Newman Family to create a micro-sanctuary in Ybor, which can house several chickens in need. The Misfits also fought the city’s attempt to eradicate the chickens a few years back, which would have destroyed an important aspect of Tampa history. @theybormisfits on Instagram
After the fall of Roe vs. Wade and threats to reproductive rights on the state level, councilwoman Hurtak decided to take a stand and push for the City of Tampa to defend women’s rights locally. Specifically, she wants local law enforcement to promise officers won’t pursue charges against people who pursue abortions in Tampa. The protections are still in the works, thanks to Hurtak, who made a brave stand. @lynnhurtak on Twitter
Being boss of a major municipality’s communications is a hard job. Since taking the position of Tampa’s communications director, Smith has been a highlight reel of unfortunate gaffes. In the introduction to a community forum on homelessness, Smith made a joke about how kids camping out for a nearby concert weren’t actually homeless people. “I'm glad you got parking,” he said. Two months later, when asked for a comment about Neo-Nazi’s camped out with swastika flags outside the Tampa Convention Center he opted not for a forceful condemnation of extremism and instead said it was “a sad time for our country when people from the darkest fringes of society feel comfortable openly expressing their vile hate, but it's understandable why many media outlets refuse to do their bidding by publicizing this garbage." News flash, Adam: white nationalist sentiments have infiltrated the mainstream, and outlets that don’t report on it are more or less turning the other way. @adamsmithtimes on Twitter
Over the last four decades, Coach Trent has cemented his place as an unsung legend and hero for at least two generations of Tampeños. Mullins, a University of Tampa Grad, has been involved with the same locally-grown independent education group for 40 years, and taught physical education at two different schools. His kids not only get their bodies moving and learn motor skills by playing sports, but also reap the benefits of an amazing life that has seen coach travel the world, learn several languages, and also lead one of Tampa Bay’s foremost reggae bands, Jahfari. If you want your kid to be fast and efficient on their feet, but also know ballet, sing songs, speak to you in their non-native tongue, and just be a good human, then Coach Trent is your guy. @jahfarireggaeband on Facebook
Traditionally, land preservation in Florida has been a long tale of lost battles to save a disappearing paradise. Not always though, sometimes, occasionally, a piece of old Florida is preserved. When that happens, it feels like a huge victory because it is. Such is the case with Tampa’s W. Kent Bailey Hiking Trail, the largest tract of conservation land in Hillsborough County. Former Sierra Club chair, Kent Bailey, led the charge to safeguard the undeveloped 12,800 acre property amid Hillsborough’s booming development. Bailey passed away in 2020 but his legacy is in those woods. Proof that sometimes you can fight city hall and win.