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What You Missed This Week in La Gaceta

From As We Heard It, by Patrick Manteiga

► The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) is having a hard time trying to give away money in Tampa for highway projects.
This week, an attempt to expand parts of I-275 and a ramp from I-275 to I-4 led to a six-hour meeting of the Metropolitan Planning Organization (MPO).
In the end, the MPO included adding a lane to I-275, north and south bound between the Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard intersection and the Bearss Avenue intersection in its transportation improvement plan. It also put in its plan an additional lane to the flyover ramp from I-275 to I-4 at malfunction junction.
Adding these projects to the plan does not guarantee they will be built. In fact, considering there was significant opposition from the MPO Board from Tampa City Council members and Hillsborough County Commissioners, we believe their future looks bleak. …(to read more, buy a paper)

► Former Tampa City Councilman Frank Reddick has officially filed to run for the Hillsborough County Commission District 3 seat as a Democrat.(to read more, buy a paper)

► We are sorry to hear Hillsborough County Public Schools Superintendent Jeff Eakins will not stay past his present contract, which ends June 30, 2020.
His leadership style is calm and gentle, but firm. His accomplishments are many. …(to read more, buy a paper)

► The City of Tampa Water Department presented to Tampa City Council its plans to dramatically raise the rates for water and sewer customers to meet infrastructure needs.
To Council’s credit, it allowed the process to move forward but told the City staff that it will have to do a far better job than its present plan of notifying the public and explaining the plan. We hope the City’s presentations regarding this rate increase are not only robust but honest.
We got an example of the notice that the City is placing in the customers’ water bills regarding the rate increase. We’ve included it on the bottom of this page. It’s pretty innocuous and wouldn’t generate much interest or concern. It’s not an honest attempt to inform the public.
Perhaps it should include some facts and have in it that a new base rate will be charged to all water customers and will top out in a few years at $32 a month per home in the city, water usage charges will go up approximately 90 percent and wastewater charges will go up 70 percent.
Those facts might draw a bigger crowd than the notice that is shown in this page.
Business rates will also go up dramatically and will be charged by meter size. This could explain the City policy over the last couple of years of forcing new businesses that make major changes to a building to increase the meter size, even when water usage did not necessitate it. The City will now be able to charge these new businesses more money per month.
The chart we received doesn’t quite match up to the rates discussed at the City Council meeting, but we believe small businesses will pay around $100 a month. That’s a $1,200-a-year tax. Large businesses could pay $5,000 a month just for being hooked up to the City’s pipes.
This plan guarantees tax, fee and rate increases every year for 20 years. There is no review, adjustment or accountability built into the plan during these 20 years. If the City receives significant grants that offset the costs of infrastructure, taxes, fees and rates will still increase at the same pace. If we have a major recession and our residents and businesses are hurting, taxes will increase automatically. If the water department is found to be wasting money, it will get rewarded with more money – every year for 20 years.
We believe if rates are increased that there should be audits and reviews every two or three years to see if these dramatic increases are needed. We believe there needs to be the opportunity for Council to lower the rate. The City does have pressing infrastructure needs, but this is the Cadillac plan. It upgrades everything and does it on the backs of our poorest residents. This is a regressive tax.
A big home on Bayshore, with its pool and irrigated yard, will pay the same base rate as a small home in East Tampa. The $2 million condominium will actually pay less of the base rate than the East Tampa home. …(to read more, buy a paper)

From Chairman of the Bored, by Gene Siudut

► … Blowouts are going to happen in sports. Blowouts with one team showing up the other with taunting and dancing well after the match is decided never has to happen. If we want our children to do so, we must certainly set an example and the USWNT failed in this mandate miserably.
The USWNT is stocked with well-trained professionals who are the cream of the crop. Thailand is not. This would be like Muhammad Ali in his prime knocking out someone’s grandmother and talking trash to her while she’s on the ground.
We are better than Thailand. Big whoop.
What we need to be better than is our behavior in the Thailand game. Those uniforms mean you represent our country and making damn fools out of yourselves might be representative of many Americans, but I don’t believe it represents what the majority stands for. …(to read more, buy a paper)

From O’Pinions To Go, by Joe O’Neill

► … As we well know, what happens in Washington doesn’t stay in Washington. The ripple effects are impactful and not always helpful. The most recent, and all-too-familiar, Exhibit A: the Trump Administration’s crackdown on travel to Cuba. It has banned “people to people” group travel. It also has banned cruise ships, yachts, fishing boats and private aircraft from stopping in Cuba. It’s all about squeezing the Cuban government for its “destabilizing” support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. As if anything were more Hemispherically destabilizing than the Trump presidency. Too bad we can’t ban bullying, pandering and hypocrisy.
More to the point, it’s all about squeezing as much political capital out of a renewed, neo-con approach to Cuba after the Obama Administration’s rapprochement. Florida is the ultimate swing state and there is still enough hard-line South Florida sentiment favoring a crackdown on the Cuban government to make it politically expedient for Donald Trump, Ron De Santis, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio in a close-call state. Too bad most Americans remain indifferent to the issue. There’s never enough pushback – even if it’s just to say how dare Trump and John Bolton dictate where we can travel. We’re not talking Yemen.
And how ironic that this heavy-handed, Cold War approach is so blatantly counterproductive. …(to read more, buy a paper)

From In Context, by Doris Weatherford

► I worked for Betty Castor during her campaign for education commissioner in 1986, when the question of establishing a state lottery was on the ballot. She (and I) hesitated about it, but did not object if it really would raise additional money for education. Voters adopted it, and Betty worked hard to direct the flow of dollars to two specific, measurable programs at opposite ends of the school spectrum: early childhood education and merit scholarships at our public universities.
My daughter was in high school then, and I clearly remember the day she came home from school and told me about Florida Academic Scholarships. This was Betty’s program, being implemented at the local level. My kiddo was very excited about the pep talk her counselors at Armwood had given re this scholarship to Florida colleges, and although she ultimately went to Harvard (why not?), it was satisfying evidence for me that Betty’s plan was on track. …(to read more, buy a paper)

From Silhouettes, an interview with Michael Murphy, by Tiffany Razzano

► Michael Murphy’s first introduction to “the artist’s life” was as a child accompanying his father to art classes at “the nascent [Hillsborough Community College] Ybor [City] campus.” Through the GI Bill, which provides educational assistance to those who served in the military, his father, John M. Murphy, a Vietnam War veteran, was able to take college courses. “That was back when the campus was still under construction, and the art classes were held in the portable [buildings,]” Michael said.
After this experience, the South Tampa native was hooked on two things: Ybor City and the arts. …(to read more, buy a paper)

From Líneas de la memoria, por Gabriel Cartaya

► … El próximo domingo, 19 de mayo, a las 11 a.m., rendiremos homenaje a José Martí en el Círculo Cubano de Ybor City, al cumplirse ese día el 124 aniversario de su caída en combate. Esta vez, vuelve a coincidir con una fecha dominical, lo que ha ocurrido 18 veces desde aquel día en que, cabalgando en un brioso corcel en la sabana de Dos Ríos, se desplomó el cuerpo sin vida del poeta, escritor, pedagogo, periodista, traductor, diplomático y político cubano que organizó y desató la última guerra independentista en Hispanoamérica.
El libro, que puede adquirirse en ese lugar, recrea en algo más de cien páginas la febril actividad en que estuvo inmerso el Apóstol cubano durante los 20 domingos que pudo vivir ese año y, desde el acercamiento a ese día, todo el torbellino de ocupaciones y preocupaciones que le rodearon –desde Nueva York a Dos Ríos– como dirigente político de una guerra que concebía rápida y eficaz, como último procedimiento para la fundación de una república democrática, moderna y próspera.
Aunque se han escrito decenas de buenas biografías sobre José Martí y cientos de ensayos que aluden a los acontecimientos que se describen y valoran en esta obra, en ninguna el centro de atención ha sido dirigido a la búsqueda de un equilibrio entre la responsabilidad colectiva del líder político que elabora un manifiesto programático para dirigir una guerra y fundar una república de compromiso universal, con los sentimientos más hondos de su ser individual, donde la prosa poética es cuidada con la misma intensidad que el contenido de la estrategia político-militar de la que es máximo responsable. …(to read more, buy a paper)

From Briznas culturales, por Leonardo Venta

► … El 7 de mayo de 1861 nace el escritor y filósofo Rabindranath Tagore, uno de los puntales de la rica tradición literaria hindú. De los recuerdos de su niñez comentaba: “Yo era un niño muy solitario; mi padre estaba ausente casi siempre, aunque su presencia espiritual llenaba toda la casa. Esta fue una de las influencias más profundas en mi vida”.
Fue el benjamín de un numeroso y acomodado núcleo familiar. En 1875, el mismo año en que muere su madre, publica su primer poema. En 1878 fue a Inglaterra a estudiar derecho. Así rememora sus impresiones del neblinoso espacio británico: “(…) ese mundo carecía de todo atractivo; cielo turbio, luz mortecina como la mirada de un cadáver, horizontes cerrados. Ni una sonrisa acogedora en aquel espacio triste e insólito”. Después de una breve estancia allí, regresó a la India para transformarse, en poco tiempo, en el autor más significativo de la época colonial. …(to read more, buy a paper)

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