The Mitch Perry Report: A farewell to Creative Loafing

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This will be my last Mitch Perry Report. 

I’m going to continue reporting about news and politics in the Tampa Bay area and beyond — just for a different media outlet. More on that below.

It's not easy leaving this place that's been my professional home for the past five years. (And not always just professional — one summer night a few years ago, after my air conditioning broke down, I walked the short distance from my home in Ybor to the office to crash on one of our very comfortable couches.)

When I started at Creative Loafing, the paper was in serious transition. It's now in good shape, owned by Southcomm, a Nashville-based company that publishes multiple alternative newsweeklies, but when I arrived in September 2009 CL had just gone through a bankruptcy proceeding and had been purchased by a hedge fund. A month later we moved from North Howard Avenue in West Tampa to our current digs, in the Ybor Factory Building (aka Ybor Square), where we worked in temporary offices for a few months before moving across the courtyard to our current home  in early 2010. 

Things got really interesting in early 2011 when a new interest came in to buy Ybor Square and spruce it up with millions of dollars in improvements. You may have heard of them — a little entity called the Church of Scientology? There was a lot of concern that this new landlord/tenant relationship would not work out, and let’s just say that personally it got off to a bit of a rocky start, resulting in a story about that whole event a few weeks later, because everything's fodder for a writer, of course.

Office life enjoyment always comes down to the people you work with, and I'm going to miss very much the folks who I share this office space with every day. There are too many folks to name — but indulge me as I give a shout-out to my colleagues in the editorial dept. who've been here since I came onboard in '09, like Leilani Polk, Julie Garisto and photographer Chip Weiner.

Three people I worked extremely closely with over these years left earlier in 2014: Joe Bardi, Arielle Stevenson and Todd Bates. They've been succeeded this year by Scott Harrell, Meaghan Habuda and Julio Ramos.

About a year ago when I was on a leave of absence in California to deal with a family tragedy, a Tampa Tribune staffer wrote to me, a bit upset about a story that he thought short-changed his paper, and proudly proclaimed that his paper was like "the Little Engine That Could," in comparison to the other daily paper in town.

Well, with all due respect, the Tribune is a media behemoth in size compared to CL’s editorial staff! The fact is, there aren't that many writer-editors on our staff. Freelance contributors are a major part of keeping it all together, but there are just a few people producing loads of content online and in our weekly paper.  And the credit for keeping it all together goes to our editor, David Warner.

I will miss him greatly; Hey, it was an editor-writer relationship, so it wasn’t always hunky-dory, but most of the time it was, actually.  His guidance, his copy editing and his frequently challenging me as to why anybody should care about something I was writing are things that always made me better. He's got a great sense of humor and has been a great friend, especially in difficult times. 

CL (or Weekly Planet) has been a part of the Tampa Bay area scene since the late 1980s, and I'm proud to have been part of a great legacy that includes Wayne Garcia and John Sugg. And the Tribune's Kate Bradshaw will do great in succeeding me as news and politics editor next month.

As to my immediate future, I’m moving over to write for blogger/publisher Peter Schorsch’s various websites, which include SaintPetersBlog and the ramping up of the FloridaPolitics site in the future.

It’s a major challenge, but then again, so was replacing Wayne Garcia in this spot in 2009.

I hope those who follow me every day here will continue to read CL as well as my stuff on the new site. The best way to keep track is to follow me on Twitter at @MitchEPerry.

And in other news...

There's been a lot of handwringing about the big loss that Greenlight Pinellas suffered on Tuesday night, and there should be. But when you realize that nearly every other tax referendum on the ballot in the state lost big-time, maybe it's more about the tax than it is about rail?

It seems in the wake of the incidents involving Michael Brown in Ferguson and Eric Garner in NYC this summer, there has been a demand for police departments nationally to start using body cameras on officers. But St. Pete Police Chief Tony Holloway doesn't sound so convinced they'll be that effective. 

While Republicans may even try to impeach President Obama if he tries an executive order regarding immigration, activists are calling on him to call off deportations for millions of undocumented immigrants now.

Is the high-speed ferry concept in jeopardy in Hillsborough County? A group of private citizens from different political stripes have formed a committee to show their support for the project.

If you haven't had a chance to read it, our report in this week's issue on Election Night in Florida is here.

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