Now we’re getting medical advice because some guy has a friend in Trinidad.
The headline jumped off the screen on Tampabay.com: Tampa police called for hundreds to be evicted. Entire families lost their homes.
Are cops helping kick families out of their homes under cover of the city’s Crime Free Multi Housing program — sometimes for minor crimes? If that’s so, it’s bad. Seriously, who would do that?
Going by the headline, it looked like the Tampa Bay Times investigative work might win another Pulitzer Prize. Especially given the depleted resources newspaper organizations have today, the Times does remarkable investigative work worthy of praise.
And before we get to the “yeah, but” part of this, the Times got validation of its work Saturday when Tampa Mayor Jane Castor announced reforms to the program. We’ll get to those in a bit.
The reporting put a spotlight on a problem that always seems to exist between Tampa Police and communities of color.
As the story noted, since 2013, when Castor was the Police Chief, “the Tampa Police Department has taken a hands-on role at more than 100 apartment communities, sending notices to landlords when their tenants are arrested or stopped by officers and encouraging their eviction.”
Only two things are wrong with that.
First, the headline oversold the story. TPD didn’t “call” for the evictions; that was up to the individual apartment complex. And the complexes first had to agree to receive the arrest notices from TPD. Many apartment complexes chose not to participate.
In a letter to the NAACP Hillsborough County Executive Board, Castor took exception to the report.
“Of the tens of thousands of residents who have lived in Tampa’s Crime Free complexes since 2013, the Times said it found 42 who were evicted after misdemeanor charges against tenants were reported to landlords,” she wrote.
“Keep in mind that the TPD is not evicting anyone. It is merely providing public records to landlords like the Tampa Housing Authority, who must provide due process to any tenant it seeks to evict. Common sense tells us that no landlord is going to evict a paying tenant who is not disturbing the peace and tranquility of other tenants.”
The reforms announced will make this program more equitable. Where before even petty crimes committed elsewhere were reported, the Times reported notices will be limited to “certain serious drug and violent felonies.” There’s an extra layer of inspection before a notice is sent, only the only notices will be those arrests that happen on the individual property.
So yes, Times, your work led to change. Well done.
Castor was also the Chief when TPD embarked on infamous enforcement of what the Times called “Biking While Black.”
That investigation has found that Tampa police targeted poor, Black neighborhoods for minor violations by bicyclists. In three years, TPD issued more bicycle citations than Jacksonville, Miami, St. Petersburg, and Orlando combined.
Eight out of ten tickets went to Blacks.
Castor later apologized, and the U.S. Department of Justice criticized the city.
The Times did note that Tampa’s program is hardly unique. Similar programs exist in more than 2,000 U.S. cities, and Tampa moved ahead after learning about the concept from the Orlando Police Department.
But the headline made it sound like TPD was going door-to-door and throwing tenants out on the street, and it’s not so. That made it seem like the Times was going for clicks as much as change.
OK, it’s on to our weekly game of Winners and Losers.
Honorable mention — Kathleen Passidomo: The Republican state Senator from Naples made two things clear.
She is pro-life and will consider expanding protections for the unborn in Florida. She doesn’t support the draconian anti-abortion law passed recently in Texas. That law gives cash bounties to private citizens who successfully sue anyone involved in an abortion in Texas. That includes the doctor, and even the person who drove the patient to the clinic. The Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported that Passidomo said in a speech, “I am pro-life, but I am not pro-telling on your neighbors.”
Her position matters because Passidomo is in line to become Senate President if Republicans keep control of the chamber in 2022.
She said she would not support a “cut and paste” of the Texas law.
“There are provisions in there that don’t make sense,” she said.
Almost (but not quite) biggest winner — The Internal Revenue Service: Sometimes here, we like to throw you a curveball. We do that today in praise of the agency that takes your money. The IRS confirmed that money given by charitable organizations to victims at the Surfside catastrophe is not taxable.
Senators Rick Scott and Marco Rubio had requested confirmation of that by IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig.
After Rettig confirmed the gifts were not taxable, the Florida senators released a joint statement.
“We appreciate Commissioner Rettig’s confirmation that gifts to survivors of the Surfside tragedy are not taxable,” it read.
“This much-needed clarity means families struggling to rebuild their lives have one less thing to worry about. We will continue to work with federal, state, and local officials to support the families and the surrounding community.”
The clarity probably wasn’t needed all that much.
Long-standing IRS policy states, “individual recipients of gifts are generally not subject to federal income tax on the value of the gift.”
It’s reasonable to suspect the senators knew that all along, but they got their name in the paper for showing concern.
The biggest winner — State revenue collections: Good news. The state just found some extra money in the couch cushions.
Actually, it was a lot of extra money. The News Service of Florida reported general-revenue collections exceeded expectations by 24% in July. That’s $619.8 million above April projections, according to a report released by the Legislature’s Office of Economic & Demographic Research.
Officials attributed the spike in spending to the most recent round of federal stimulus checks. Also, consumers began pulling out “atypically large savings” built up since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dishonorable mention — Florida hotels: The pandemic continues to hammer the hotel industry. Projections call for Florida hotels to take a $5.3 billion loss in revenue from business travel by the end of this year.
That’s a 61% drop compared to 2019, according to a report by the American Hotel & Lodging Association and Kalibri Labs.
“Florida is a top destination for national and international business travel, and our hotels and restaurants rely on that revenue,” said Carol Dover, President and CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
“While leisure travel returned this year — in some regions higher than even 2019’s record figures — business travel still remains down overall.”
Nationally, projections say hotels could end the year down 500,000 jobs compared to 2019.
“We continue to advocate for hotel relief so that our industry can recover, support and employ our team members, and create those wonderful guest experiences we are known for worldwide,” Dover said.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist filed the Save Hotel Jobs Act. Crist is running for Governor of Florida in 2022.
Almost (but not quite) biggest loser — Byron Donalds: One of the hits by Grammy Award-winning rapper Nikki Minaj is called “Yikes.”
That could be the theme song for this segment of W&L because this one is over-the-top weird.
It started when Minaj skipped the recent Met Gala because of the ceremony’s requirement that participants prove they were vaccinated against COVID-19.
“My cousin in Trinidad won’t get the vaccine cuz his friend got it & became impotent. His testicles became swollen. His friend was weeks away from getting married, now the girl called off the wedding. So just pray on it & make sure you’re comfortable with ur decision, not bullied,” she tweeted.
The Twitterverse quickly reacted.
“Sorry, this is not a side effect of the vaccine. It is called hydrocele. In adults, the two primary causes are injury or STD (chlamydia or gonorrhea). Probably your cousin’s friend was taking one last marriage fling, picked up an STD, & is blaming vaccines. He needs an MD, stat,” author Kurt Eichenwald tweeted.
Republican Lavern Spicer, a candidate for Florida’s 24th Congressional District, responded, “Ok please explain how you know her cousin’s medical history and also how you KNOW exactly what side effects can happen.”
We told you this was strange.
But Donalds, the Republican U.S. Rep. from Florida’s CD 19, gets the prize for the following tweet.
“Thank you to the @NICKIMINAJ, for standing strong. Big Tech & health ‘experts’ hate dissent. They’ll get in your business & coerce your decision-making. Nicki Minaj said HELL NO, & now she’s on the chopping block. Big mistake, don’t come after Nicki.”
Oh, good grief. Is Donalds saying we should craft national health policy because Nikki Minaj’s cousin in Trinidad knew a guy who became impotent and blamed it on the vaccine?
And Donalds says we shouldn’t listen to health “experts.” Is he a health expert? How many heard this line of nonsense and decided to take their chances with a ventilator instead of a proven vaccine?
By the way, one of Donald’s fancy-schmancy health “experts” debunked that claim.
“There’s no evidence that it happens. Nor is there any mechanistic reason to imagine that it would happen,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
Oh, sorry. I forgot. We’re not supposed to believe people who actually studied this stuff for decades. But a guy who knows a guy from Trinidad?
Biggest loser — Quarantined students: Here’s some sobering news, but unfortunately not unexpected. The Tampa Bay Times reported students continue to fall behind because of the pandemic.
The newspaper noted, “Positive cases of the coronavirus reached last year’s level after one month, forcing large numbers of children and teachers to stay out of school until cleared to return.
“Also, the state stopped paying for live remote classes, which were available a year ago, meaning students can’t tune in to lessons from home. And schools have struggled to get substitutes for quarantined teachers.”
It’s an unholy mess in some schools.
Teachers can face a sudden influx of students from another class because that teacher was in quarantine. They’re also supposed to respond to concerned parents calling to get assignments for their quarantined students.
The shortage of substitute teachers makes a bad situation worse.
School districts have online sites that can provide information about assignments and other important items, but it can be difficult to keep up without in-person instruction.
It’s no wonder many educators leave the profession.
In too many cases, the noble teaching profession becomes an academic triage that could leave many students unprepared to move forward.
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