Axios Tampa Bay

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April 01, 2021

Welcome to Thursday. Fancy meeting you here.

Here's that cold front for ya. 🌥 A high of 73 today and a low of 47 this evening.

  • Never, ever take it for granted.

Today's newsletter is 928 words, a 3.5-minute read.

1 big thing: Controversial "anti-riot" bill may stall in Senate

 A protester flashes a peace sign while laying in the street during a protest march through downtown as the Republican National Convention wraps up at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

A protester flashes a peace sign while lying in the street during a protest march through downtown Tampa as the Republican National Convention wrapped up in 2012. Photo: Tom Pennington/Getty Images

The so-called "anti-riot" bill that cleared the Florida House along party lines after weeks of opposition from social justice groups and hours of debate faces an uncertain future in the Senate, per the Associated Press.

  • Getting a state budget passed, a priority, may eat up the remaining weeks and leave little time for bills that call for long debate.

Why it matters: The bill would increase penalties for crimes committed during a violent protest, and it would create new felonies for organizing or taking part in demonstrations that turn violent.

  • The sweeping bill would also create roadblocks for local governments to trim police spending.

Background: The framework was laid out by Gov. Ron DeSantis last year following largely peaceful protests throughout the country sparked by the death of George Floyd.

Black lawmakers hate the bill, calling it a "heartless" return to the Jim Crow era that would stifle dissent.

  • “This bill is designed to keep us in check, to keep us fearful, to scare us from speaking out about the fact that Black lives matter,” Rep. Angie Nixon, D-Jacksonville, said.

The other side: Florida House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor) told Axios that the bill is "racially blind" and serves to make peaceful protesters safer.

  • "There are so many people out in the public who have a misunderstanding ... of what the bill actually does," Sprowls said. "I have a deep belief in the First Amendment and the ability of people to address grievances with protest."

Sprowls said that the bill was born in the legislature, not from law enforcement officers who felt hamstrung to respond to violence during protests.

  • "This came from our observations, looking at what was happening across the country," Sprowls said. "I do not want a situation where a protest spirals out of control."

The bill enters the Senate the same week a Tampa man pleaded guilty for starting a protest-related fire that destroyed Champs Sports on Fowler Avenue, and an Army reservist and former Marine sued Tampa after being shot by police with rubber bullets during protests.

Read the bill for yourself

2. Former Dozier School wards lobby for claims bill

Former wards of the state who call themselves the White House Boys release yellow balloons in memory of boys who died at the state-run reform school.

Former wards of the state who call themselves the White House Boys release yellow balloons in memory of boys who died at the state-run Dozier reform school. Photo: Ben Montgomery

A group of men who spent time in the 1950s and '60s as prisoners at the Dozier School for Boys in Marianna lobbied lawmakers on Wednesday for restitution they say they deserve for the torture they endured in state custody.

  • The men, who call themselves the White House Boys, asked the state to pay up after decades of sexual and physical abuse claims at the state-run reformatory, open from 1900 to 2011.
  • A bill approved in January by the Senate Criminal Justice Committee would allow the former Dozier inmates to receive state certification that they were victims of physical, mental or sexual abuse.

The Legislature formally apologized for abuse at the facilities in 2017 and claims bills are pending in the House and Senate.

"They told us they're trying to get this thing moving forward, but hope is just a hard word to say. It's just gone on so long that it's wearing us down."
— Jim Abigando, 80, who was confined at the facility in the 1950s

3. Crist and Castor push for action after factory exposé

illustration of newspaper airplane flying into computer monitor

Illustration by Rebecca Zisser / Axios

Remember that story we told you to read?

You've got more homework because now The Tampa Bay Times has dropped part 2 of its "Poisoned" series.

The stories prompted Reps. Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist to send a letter to the Secretary of Labor on Wednesday, demanding OSHA expedite an inspection of Tampa's Gopher lead smelting plant.

Read the stories and the letter

4. The Pulp: A rind is a terrible thing to waste

Illustration of an oversized broadcast antenna standing on an orange instead of the earth, with lightning bolts coming out of the top.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

🏗 Development teams behind Water Street Tampa are facing at least 20 liens and disputes for unpaid construction and labor contracts. (Tampa Bay Times)

👨‍👩‍👦‍👦 Tampa Bay foster parents are trying to unionize to present a stronger front against shortcomings in the child welfare system. (WFLA)

Detectives responding to an alleged suicide say the gun was found in the North Port woman's left hand, but relatives say she was right-handed. (WTSP)

🪖 The U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs in Tampa will move its mental health services into a new state-of-the-art facility by the end of 2023. (Bay News 9)

🦈 Edithe, a 1,138-pound great white shark, has made her way into Tampa Bay waters. (WTSP)

🐶 A veterinarian found a bullet in a rescue dog's stomach. (ABC Action News)

🚶‍♀️ The Raymond James Stadium vaccination site is now accepting walk-ups. (FOX 13)

Quote du jour:

"My neighbor saw our chandelier and I told her about the ones that were on Broadway. She went and looked at them and put up one of their own! ... It’s starting to spread."
— Lee Miller on why so many of her fellow Dunedin residents now have illuminated chandeliers hanging over their front lawns

5. Screen Time: Roberto Torres

Photo illustration of a grid of smartphone screens, the center one showing an image of Roberto Torres.

Photo illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios. Photo: Roberto Torres

Some call Blind Tiger one of the best coffee shops in Tampa Bay. But owner Roberto Torres calls it a fluke.

  • Torres opened the shop in 2014 as a storefront for his clothing brand Black and Denim, but the coffee concept quickly took off on its own.

Backstory: Before he became a designer-turned-coffee shop king, Torres immigrated from Panama and started working in the U.S. as an auditor for an accounting firm. He turned to entrepreneurship after the 2008 financial crisis.

Now, he's working toward opening a new shop, Cass Street Deli, in Pinellas County.

How does a great mind like Torres interact with tech? We asked him about his habits.

📱 Device of choice: iPhone 11. "I’m an Android person, but I guess now I’m an iPhone person. My staff got me the phone because they wanted our group text to be blue."

👇 First tap of the day: Axios app. "I try to like everything I see from Axios so it comes up more." (We swear we didn't put him up to this)

📻 Go-to news source: NPR and PBS. "I like Julie Woodruff from PBS and the entire cast from NPR. I’ve convinced myself they’re my friends. It’s like having a personal relationship where you have your friends read you the news."

🎧 Podcast of choice: NPR's "Up First." And "Politics War Room."

🎶 On rotation: "If I’m trying to stay calm, jazz. If I’m trying to get hyped up, '90s hip-hop. If I’m trying to discover new music I go to 'All Songs Considered.' They have a very wide spectrum of what’s happening in music. I don’t want to be close-minded or miss out on an opportunity to hear a new musician and get exposed to different things."

📖 Reading list: "The Second Mountain" by David Brooks.

📲 Most-used app: NPR and Messages

6. 1 last LOL

Screenshot of a tweet from Mike's weather page with the caption "Think this will work?" and a picture of the giant ship that was stuck in the Suez canal wedged between Florida and Cuba.
Screenshot courtesy of @tropicalupdate.

Nice try, Mike.

Follow Mike's Weather Page @tropicalupdate.

📖 Ben is reading Tampa Bay Noir and listening to Aimee Mann's Tiny Desk Concert. 🌳

🎶 Selene is listening to Dodie and reading about Tinder for train enthusiasts. 🚂

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