Monumental Additions

All cities value and revere their histories. But it’s especially noteworthy and relevant for a city such as Tampa, a city where most people are not from here. Where locals’ roots are as likely to be Chicago or Philadelphia as Seminole Heights or Hyde Park. Where knowing the history of where you live can be both a learning and a bonding experience.

That’s why Tampa’s Historical Monument Trail along the Riverwalk is so important. With the recent addition of six more busts, honoring noteworthy individuals who have helped shape the history of Tampa and Hillsborough County, there are now 30 such monuments. They are diverse–Anglo, Black, Hispanic, female and male–reminders of who we are and who came before us. In short, how we got here.

“The Trail allows us to remember and honor those who were so committed and dedicated  to moving our community forward,” said Mayor Bob Buckhorn at the unveiling ceremony. “It is a place where our citizens not only connect along this incredible Riverwalk, but they will also be able to connect to one another through shared history that brought them to it.”

Indeed, cities can’t realize their potential unless they have an understanding and appreciation of their past, their identity. Tampa, more than most, needs such a venue. Tampa, more than most, has a fascinating back story to share–from historic Ybor City to an ever-evolving, new-urbanism downtown.

And for the record, the six historical additions include a certain Ybor City lector/tri-lingual newspaper founder who continues to leave his mark on this city. For readers of La Gaceta, the name and legacy of Victoriano Manteiga are familiar.

Well Rewarded

It was only fitting that Delonda Walker, the McDonald’s worker who turned in a gun that led to the arrest of the Seminole Heights serial-killer suspect, be given all of the ($110,000) reward money. Forget about the technicalities of calling a hotline number. Without her acting on suspicion, Seminole Heights is arguably still a tense community with possibly a fifth victim adding to the gut fear and paranoia.

It’s also significant that Walker is African-American. For those who still champion the “no-snitch” culture in the black community, this is a rebuke. This is what involved residents do when they act in communal self interest. And it doesn’t happen without the police and city hall having earned the confidence and respect of a community under siege.

Spartans Shout-out

What with news-making USF in our backyard, we don’t hear as much about the University of Tampa as we should. It’s more than ever-ratcheting growth and baseball championships. Case in point: UT was one of only two (UF is the other) Florida universities to have its graduate business school programs make the Bloomberg Businessweek top 100. UT’s Sykes School of Business was ranked 78th. Go, Spartans.

It’s Back: Winston’s Past

It’s not the Bucs’ worst nightmare. Yet. But it’s uncomfortably close. Wasting a high draft choice on a failed kicker never seemed like such an innocent miscalculation.

Sexual groping allegations against quarterback Jameis Winston are hardly in the Harvey Weinstein league. But for Winston, his viability as the highly-touted, highly-paid, highly-marketed face of the franchise is in jeopardy. It’s never good when the NFL–under increasing pressure to clean up its image–is investigating your quarterback catalyst. This is national news.

Given his back story, Winston cannot afford to stray. His margin of error is zero. To his credit, he has, heretofore, represented the Buccaneer organization in commendable fashion.

But that past is beyond problematic. Last December he settled a high-profile lawsuit with a woman who accused him of rape when both were students at FSU. The details were disgusting, but Winston and the Bucs thought the matter was behind them. Not.

Allegations that he groped a female Uber driver last year have now surfaced at the worst possible time as Weinstein, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, Roy Moore and the like have created a self-sustaining, creepy news cycle that Winston is now part of. And if you are the Bucs, you are again reliving the Jameis Winston/Marcus Mariota draft dilemma that never goes away.

As for Mariota, whose Tennessee Titans team is on course to make the playoffs, he has become a solid NFL quarterback, one who continues to make better decisions on–and off–the field than Winston. But, yes, he did throw four interceptions against Pittsburgh last week.

As for the Bucs, this has to be an agonizing waiting game as this matter gets inevitably lawyered up. What’s at stake is more than their quarterback. Their identity and their credibility are part of this crucible.

Tampa’s Good Fortune

Whether it’s philanthropists such as Les and Pam Muma and Frank and Carol Morsani or entrepreneurs and business magnates such as Richard Gonzmart and Jeff Vinik, Tampa is very lucky to have their significant impact on our area. From the University of South Florida to restaurants in The Heights and Hyde Park to Water Street Tampa. What they have most obviously in common in this: Their involvement is a vote of confidence for our city and an investment in its future.

Adams Recalled

It was noteworthy, if not stop-the-presses stuff. Gerry Adams–the long-time leader of Sinn Fein, the political arm of the Irish Republican Army–is stepping down. Now 69, Adams has long been a high-profile advocate for “democratic socialism” and an end to the political partition of the island of Ireland. He has led Sinn Fein for more than 30 years.

And during that time–1995 to be exact–he visited Tampa as part of his barnstorming American tour to raise awareness and money. I heard his history-heavy talk at the University of Tampa, and later caught his more activist, emotional approach at a fund-raiser at Four Green Fields Irish pub.

The latter was more entertaining. Pubs guarantee it. Adams was both wry and emphatic. He talked about the Good Friday peace accord and the shared-power experiment in self-government as merely part of a process. It was a “short-term, strategic goal” he told the crowd.

That’s because unification with the Republic of Ireland remained unwaveringly the “long-term” goal. And Adams made it clear that “long” was, in short, not all that long as demographic patterns continued to favor Northern Ireland’s Catholic population. A Catholic majority was not much more than a generation or two away, if that, he underscored. So why resort to violence when demographic inevitability can carry out your agenda?

“Peace is not just the absence of violence,” he told his beer-quaffing audience. “It’s also justice. Irish unity will manifest itself in whatever society people want.”

It went over well with the Guinness crowd.

St. Pete Election

Chances are, the over-analysis of the St. Petersburg mayoral race hasn’t ended yet: from musings over the Trump factor and Democratic Party support to Rick Kriseman chief of staff Kevin King and St. Pete Pride.

Two takeaways:

Yes, it is formally a non-partisan race, and that is as it should be for a city. But these are extraordinary times for our country–and the ramifications of a Trump administration have an inevitable ripple effect across states and municipalities. From climate-change implications to federal grants to nuclear saber-rattling. And from a personal perspective, if you can’t publicly disassociate yourself from life-long, Trump values–from misogyny to mendacity–you are not to be trusted.

Second, much was made that 10,000 more voters turned out for the general election than for the primary; it was characterized as a pretty good turnout. As in 38 percent isn’t bad for an off-year election.

That’s the sad reality for democracy in contemporary America. More than 60 percent of the voters are no-shows in a really important election for a city that matters on so many levels, and that’s considered pretty good. That’s bad.

Sic(k) Transit

The timing was coincidental, but the variation on a theme is an all-too-familiar one. The announcements that the Cross-Bay Ferry would not be re-upped this season and that HART CEO Katherine Eagan was leaving for Pittsburgh were in the same news cycle. Although decidedly different transportation modes, the ferry and the HART system are further reminders that Tampa continues its transformation plans without serious transportation plans.

We are surrounded by water and yet a regional ferry system–absent literal buy-in from all partners–is still in a trial-run stage. Maybe in 2018. And HART still means buses. No wonder Eagan is eager to be the CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny, Pa., which includes buses, light rail and aerial cable cars.

Icon Shout-Out

From elected officials to local media, there was an understandable outpouring of respect and love over the passing of Jan Platt. Her service, ethics and inspiration were well noted across a spectrum of the citizenry. Among the eclectic chorus: the Press Box Lounge on South Dale Mabry. A digital sign out front said: “RIP Jan Platt, a Tampa Icon.” Nearby was “Go Bolts” signage.

That speaks volumes when it’s not just high-profile public officials who are giving shout-outs for one of their own. Jan Platt touched a lot of lives, and the Press Box underscored that reality. Indeed, RIP.

Serial Killer Unites A Community On Edge

We’ve seen Tampa make the national news before. Hurricane cross-hairs. Super Bowls. National political convention. Swing-state, I-4 Corridor anchor city. But nobody saw this one coming. It has nothing to do with Amazon’s “HQ2.” It has everything to do with community fear.

Over the last fortnight, Tampa has become a staple of online and network news. It was the lead item on Sunday’s NBC network newscast. Probably others too. A serial killer has apparently been stalking Seminole Heights. Three murders in 10 days within a mile radius. It’s resulted in unlikely national air time for interim police Chief Brian Dugan and Seminole Heights incoming neighborhood association president Steve Zinder.

The shooting deaths are connected, say police, without saying too much. A lanky, semi-strutting “person of interest” glides through surveillance footage like some hooded, suspicious specter.

Making matters worse, Halloween is just a few days away. We all know the implications.

The anxiety and stress are palpable. The need for collective security and community solidarity has never been more acute. Porch lights on. Nobody walks alone. You could be a victim–or a suspect.

But by all accounts, “Tampa Strong” doesn’t look like a bumper sticker. It’s being lived.

There was a candlelight vigil for the victims–a black man, a white woman and a Hispanic man–that was accompanied by a police escort. Code inspectors are out looking for possible hideouts. City crews and TPD are working the alleys, removing debris and patrolling. Officers are escorting students home from school. The Tampa branch of the Guardian Angels is on patrol. TECO is replacing street lights. Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Chief Dugan were prominent at Monday’s community meeting at Edison Elementary School on east Curtis Street. Their mission: preach calm as well as caution. Being on edge is understandable, being careless is not. No weak links.

This is not some DOT matter or gentrification issue. This is life and death. This is now about caring, vigilant neighbors and collaborative community policing.

And at some point, this will all, mercifully, be behind us. But when that happens let’s remember that community ties are ongoing and solidarity doesn’t require an existential threat. In that way, good can be the upshot of evil.

Not that we needed reminding, but we are Tampa strong. And all Tampa lives matter.

Not that we need reminding, but Mayor Bob is Mayor Bob. “This is personal,” underscored Buckhorn. “We will hunt this SOB down.”