French bakery flourishes in downtown St. Pete


Streets along the Tampa Bay waterfront flood with a mixture of tropical colors. Hues of greens, blues and yellows pop against the cloudless sky on Beach Drive.

Skyscraping condos and small businesses share the small spaces between the land and the bay. The streets are littered with cars and small motorized bikes. The sun shines on shoppers eagerly entering and leaving the intricately decorated stores while strolling the sidewalks during the bright and humid afternoons.

Nestled directly in the middle of all the bustle and excitement is a taste of France.

Cassis Bakery is part of what used to be called Cassis American Brasserie. Its new name is Cassis St. Pete to avoid confusion and connect with the local culture. Cassis Bakery’s pastry chef, Katherine Williams, says the French-style restaurant is very convenient.

“Brasserie is sort of a thing in France that caters to all different times of the day,” said Williams. “Whether you want to get a cup of coffee, come in and get breakfast, or if you want to come in and have a nice dinner and a glass of wine, a brasserie caters to all that.”

Williams became the pastry chef at Cassis after her boss stepped down in January 2017. She graduated from USF with a degree in English but decided to pursue pastry at the Art Institute of Tampa after falling in love with her college hobby.

Starting at Cassis right after graduating, she now manages the entire bakery. Her responsibilities include scheduling, ordering inventory and recipe testing.

“I like to make sure we have seasonal stuff that’s fresh, Florida flavors, which we didn’t have much of before,” said Williams. “But also keeping a balance of French traditional style.”

This is the fruit tart at the Cassis Bakery on Beach Drive in St. Pete. Photo taken by Rachel Rowan.

The Cassis Bakery is a completely separate business from their savory counterpart, which is a French-American style restaurant that is one swinging door away from the quaint French bakery.

Running the kitchen is Chef Jeremy Duclut. He offers French fare such as French onion soup, braised escargot and a croque monsieur. Duclut also offers Bahn Mi sliders, fried chicken and a roasted cauliflower head. It is a menu that seems to appeal to every palette.

Not only is Cassis a region in France, it is also a food ingredient known as black currant. It carries the same flavor as a dark grape or sour blueberry. Both the bakery and restaurant carry on the Cassis namesake by including the flavor into their recipes.

Williams said that Cassis’ recent brand modernization shows that the restaurant and bakery dedicate themselves to bringing fresh flavors to the locals. At the same time, the brasserie is still dedicated to its French culinary traditions with a light American twist.

Both the bakery and the restaurant plan to remain a St. Pete staple and will continue to serve the community. Not only does Cassis love their patrons, it also loves their fellow businesses. The bakery tries to collaborate whenever possible.

4th annual Sarasota music marathon a major hit

Runners and spectators alike were treated to a unique musical marathon Sunday morning at the 4th annual Sarasota Music Half Marathon.

The event, which features both 10K and half marathon events through the city of Sarasota, does things a little differently. The race includes live performances from local musical acts scattered throughout the course. The result is a high energy event, drawing adept running and fresh challengers from local areas and abroad to experience the sights and sounds of Sarasota.

The course began at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, leading runners through local areas such as St. Armands Circle, along the Sarasota Bayfront and over the Ringling Bridge. Along the course, 18 bands ranging in genre from rock and soul to reggae and marching bands played for four hours, offering encouragement and ambiance to runners—and a free show for spectators.

Beginning at 6:30 a.m., runners had four hours to finish the 13.1 mile half marathon course and return back to the Van Wezel.  The runners were greeted with an event medal and invited to a festival-style after party, complete with a buffet, beer garden and yet another musical act.

The event, sponsored by Metro Diner, began in 2015 and adds musical acts as a unique twist on the common marathon. This year over 1,700 runners completed the half marathon route.

Attendance was high on the streets as well, despite the early start, as spectators cheered, waved signs and enjoyed the musical stylings being offered right in their own proverbial front yards.

Registration for the 2019 Sarasota Music Half Marathon has already begun and can be found at 

Tampa Bay Central Avenue tours celebrate black history

TAMPA — Central Avenue was once the center of black life in Tampa. Now historians want to share its rich history and preserve its spirit for generations to come.

Built by emancipated slaves and freemen, Central Avenue was the heart of The Scrub, the first African-American neighborhood in Tampa.

With as many as 200 black-owned businesses on and around it, Central Avenue thrived for years.

This changed in 1967 with the death of 19-year-old Martin Chambers who was suspected of burglary and killed by police. His death sparked riots that lasted three days and ultimately destroyed Central Avenue.

Fred Hearns, noted historian and Tampa local, leads tours that highlight the cultural significance and history of the area.

Hearns works in partnership with the Tampa Bay History Center to host these tours on the last Saturday of every month, aside from some summer months.

The tour explores Central Avenue as it is today. It begins at the Robert Saunders Public Library on North Nebraska Avenue. The library is named after Saunders, who led the Tampa Chapter of the NAACP for many years.

Taken by Emily McCain

There is a stone wall outside the library with paintings preserved from the building’s past. You can explore the inside of the library, which archives and displays much of the history of Central Avenue. Guests can also appreciate the $7 million renovation the library received in 2015.

The library also features a Hall of History with interactive displays that bring you into Tampa’s past. They showcase the history of black athletes, churches, small artifacts and more. It also has a library dedicated to African-American genealogy and history.

Taken by Emily McCain

The tour then moves outside the library to Perry Harvey Sr. Park. Larger than life statues and history carved into the sidewalk, the park tells Central Avenue’s story. The displays are thanks to a $6.3 million renovation that took place in 2016.

The park features sections of optical tiles that change as you walk by them. There is also a walkway known as Leader Row. Stained concrete and cut aluminum showcase notable leaders from Central Avenue.

Nancy Dalence, Curator of Education at the Tampa Bay History Center, has worked closely with Hearns since the tours began in fall 2016. She says Hearns is one of the best black history historians in the area who brings his own accounts to the tour.

“Everybody [who] has been on the tour has just been amazed at how much history they didn’t know,” Dalence said.

“[There’s] just so many connections to great stories and it’s a really important part of our history. People just didn’t know it was here, and thanks to Fred, now they do.”

To sign up or learn more about these tours and others, you can visit

USF student organizes International Holocaust Remembrance Day concert

International Holocaust Remembrance Day is held annually on Jan. 27. The day marks the anniversary of the liberation of millions of Jews from Auschwitz. It is a day to remember those who died unjustly by Nazi forces and celebrate those who survived.

This year, the University of South Florida commemorated this day by holding a concert in honor of International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Zachary Konick is a second-year music composition graduate student at USF. He is also the organizer of the concert. His Jewish heritage remains a catalyst in his wish to give back to the Jewish community.

“I haven’t always been too involved in my Jewish background, unfortunately. I go to temple for service, here and there, but I haven’t been as involved as I might have wanted to be,” said Konick. “Doing this was kind of a way to get back into my Jewish heritage a little bit more. To reconnect with this a little bit more.”

Konick, as a composer, wanted to bring a piece of his art to the stage. His piece “Kaddish” is derived from “The Mourner’s Kaddish,” a Jewish prayer that talks about death.

Throughout the composition, a juxtaposition of the Israeli national anthem and his grandmother Rosette’s voice can be heard. These elements enhance the musical value of the piece and solidify Konick’s desire to honor his grandma.

“I wanted to give something to my nana, who is a Holocaust survivor. I wanted to give something to her before she leaves from this planet,” said Konick. “My piece is dedicated to her for that reason.”

Screen Shot 2018-02-16 at 8.11.53 PM.png
USF graduate student Zachary Konick composed the piece “Kaddish” which was derived from the Jewish prayer, “The Mourner’s Kaddish.” Photo by Maria Laura Lugo.

Francis Schwartz is the featured composer for the concert. He is a Sarasota resident who graces the world with his “music theater” compositions, as he likes to describe his music.

Invited artists are performing four of his original compositions during the concert. These include “On the State of Children,” “Auschwitz,” “Caligula” and “The Grey Road.” Schwartz considers his music a way to combat injustice around the world.

“I’m very much aware of injustice being practiced all over the world. Discrimination, hatred. This is something that I have combatted ever since I was a little boy. Ever since I was old enough to be conscious of the fact that people hate each other and discriminate against each other for reasons of race, ethnic origin, color or sexual orientation,” said Schwartz. “It’s a very complex thing. We are masters of hate. I try through my music to unravel that very tightly knit ball of hate.”

The compositions are brought to life with the dynamism of the dancers. Carolina Garcia Zerpa and Itarah Godbolt are two of the dancers invited to grace the stage of the concert. Despite not having direct Jewish connections, they consider it important to use their art to bring awareness to events like these.

“Anyway that I can use my instrument, my body, my art form of dance to add expression or bring awareness, add another dimension or dynamic to another artist’s work and what they’re doing. That is my connection. I’m always willing and wanting to do that,” said Godbolt. “We’re also not just artists. We are people and we are activists and we have experiences. There are many ways to express that through art. When you bring all of that together is just magnifies and brings back to life another way to share those experiences”

In light of the recent events around the world, Konick considers that this concert signifies a way to unify cultures and ethnicities.

“This concert isn’t just about Jewish heritage. It’s really important to me that this concert is about unity as well, given all the tensions politically and socially in the US lately and throughout the world,” said Konick. “We really want to strike home that this concert is about coming together and fighting about persecution of any kind”

Florida Focus News Brief Feb. 28, 2018

In this news brief: Governor Rick Scott visited Tampa to discuss his $500 million school safety plan; A building at UCF is evacuated for suspicious activity; Dick’s Sporting Goods will stop selling assault-style weapons; an Avon Park middle school teacher is arrested for having a sexual relationship with a student; the gold-medal winning USA women’s hockey team will be honored at tonight’s Lightning game at Amalie Arena.

The power of the falafel


WordPress Post:

Falafel | Oil-Free and Vegan


Chickpeas? I delicious creamy nutty bean that can be used in so many recipes for vegan cooking.

I love using them in this recipe. They are a great bean to use since they are not too watery when smashed. So, when baking in the oven for an oil-free recipe they crisp up well!

My love for falafels began three years ago when I went to my first veg fest festival. I loved the mixture of the entire experience. The crunchy outside and the warm soft inside was a delicious mixture of textures.

Since then I wanted to create a version that was even healthier for the body with less fat and fewer calories as well.  So, I came up with this recipe that still gives that crispy texture I want from the original recipes.

It is generally paired with a cucumber salad and hummus, all wrapped in a pita bread.

I love the added cheesiness of my falafels compared to the original stand ones.

Falafels, Vegan & Oil-Free

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cooking Times:  25 minutes

Serves:  6 people


  • One can of chickpeas 15 or 16 oz
  • Oats 1 Cup
  • One Small Red Onion
  • 1 TBSP Fresh Dill
  • 2 TBSP Fresh Cilantro
  • One Lemon (a whole lemon)
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic
  • Salt a pinch
  • Pepper 1 TSP
  • Nutritional Yeast – Nooch (1 TBSP)
  • Cumin – 1 TSP
  • Curry Powder 1 or 2 TSP
  • Onion & Garlic Powder if wanted (1 TSP Each)


  1. Either measure the same amount of a can of chickpeas to your homemade cooked chickpeas or rinse one can of chickpeas really well under cold water.
  2. Chop your entire small onion.
  3. Chop your fresh dill and fresh cilantro.
  4. Into your food processor add all your ingredients (an entire lemon).
  5. Process until mixture forms a dough. May need to stop the food processor and mix once or twice in between.
  6. Line a tray with parchment paper.
  7. Form the mixture into about 1-inch balls and place onto the parchment paper.
  8. Place the tray into a 425-degree F oven.
  9. Cook for 13 minutes. Take them out and flip the falafel balls.
  10. Cook for another 15 minutes.
  11. Take out and let cool for 2 minutes.


Serve & Enjoy!


If either too dry adds more lemon juice or a TSP of water at a time to get a hard dough-like mixture. Or, if too wet add more oats to get soft but firm dough mixture.

You can place the falafels on top of a salad and a packed potato. You can also make falafel tacos and burritos as well. They are a great source of protein and vitamins for the body.

Nutrition: Per Serving | About 2

Calories: 45

Fat: 11.08 g

Carbs:  25-30 g

Protein:  25 g

Instagram post:

Twitter post:

Instagram Public Story


Matt Lauer loses job after sexual harassment accusations

(image courtesy of David Shankbone CC BY 3.0)

TAMPA—“Today” show anchor Matt Lauer joined the constantly-growing list of celebrities ousted from their jobs Nov. 30 after being accused of workplace sexual misconduct.

After NBC fired Lauer, more accusers came forward, just as they did when Harvey Weinstein’s alleged misconduct went public. The online publication Variety published a story about Lauer that reporters said took months to investigate. The article details accounts from multiple women, beyond the first complaint NBC says it received.

Fellow “Today” show anchor Savannah Guthrie and coworker Hoda Kotb reported Lauer’s firing on-air the morning that news first broke.

CNN noted that this is not the first time women have reported news of a colleague being fired after sexual misconduct allegations. People praised Guthrie’s composure and display of raw emotions.

Others criticized Guthrie and Kotb for not focusing on the women who came forward. Some even accused the cohosts of being aware of the alleged misconduct.

In the days following Lauer’s firing, more women have come forward, and videos have emerged showing Lauer acting inappropriate toward women on the “Today” show.

Lauer released a statement Thursday saying he feels “embarrassed and ashamed,” and is committed to “repairing the damage” he inflicted. He did say that some of the allegations and reporting of his misconduct is “untrue,” but offered no further clarification.

According to multiple news sources, Lauer and his wife, Annette Roque, have lived apart for years. In 2006, Roque filed for divorce, but ultimately did not follow through. The couple has three children together.

While people criticized Lauer for the behavior women accused him of, some defended him. Geraldo Rivera, a well-known reporter, tweeted about the scandal on Wednesday.

He also wrote that women should have to report harassment within a certain time period. Rivera apologized later that day after receiving backlash from people who claimed he victim-shamed Lauer’s accusers and victims of sexual harassment.

Some people think that Rivera’s mindset mirrors that of many people across the United States who do not believe sexual harassment is a serious problem.

Another controversy that arose from Lauer’s firing involved President Trump. Trump’s complicated history with sexually inappropriate remarks is no secret, but some believe he is guilty of more than inappropriate statements. An op-ed in the LA Times asked why Trump has not been held accountable for the sexual assault accusations against him.

Twitter users wondered the same.

Trump himself commented on the accusations about Lauer, but did not mention anything about his history of being accused of sexual misconduct. Instead, he continued to attack media, as he has done several times in the past.

Lauer has not made a statement about any of the individual accusations at this time, and his conduct is still under investigation by NBC. The company will reportedly not pay out the rest of his $20 million dollar per year paycheck.


Tampa Bay Lightning and NHL Celebrate Hockey Fights Cancer this October

Hockey Fights Cancer runs throughout the month of November. Photo via Ashley Vedral

During the month of November, the NHL contributes to the fight against cancer with their ‘Hockey Fights Cancer’ nights, bringing funding and awareness to the cause.

Each of the 31 NHL teams take pride in participating. The teams choose one home game during the month of November to dedicate to those affected by the disease. The players wear lavender jerseys during warm ups in addition to their own personal touches like lavender stick tape or skate accessories.

The league began this initiative after Former Tampa Bay Lightning forward John Cullen was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma in 1997. Cullen had played in 13 NHL seasons before his diagnosis.

Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma is a cancer that develops in white blood cells and can begin in different parts of the body causing a variety of symptoms.

Cullen went through six rounds of radiation and chemotherapy along with a bone marrow transplant that stopped his heart temporarily.

After taking a year off to go through his recovery, Cullen attempted to play in the NHL again during the 1998-99 season, but decided to retire after just four games.

Due to the recent cancer diagnosis of New Jersey Devils forward Brian Boyle, who played with the Lightning from 2014 to early 2017, the current Lightning players dedicated their Hockey Fights Cancer night to Boyle.

Boyle wasn’t the only recent diagnosis that left the Lightning community solemn. FOX Sports Sun television host Paul Kennedy was recently diagnosed with prostate cancer approximately two weeks ago. Kennedy is in his 12th season as the Lightning’s rink side reporter but is taking a hiatus to deal with his diagnosis and recovery.

Players posed carrying signs saying who they fight for pre-game to show support for those who have been personally affected by the disease. Fans are given ‘I Fight For’ signs upon entry during Hockey Fights Cancer night and encouraged to write down someone they fight for. These pictures are shared throughout the arena and social media, uniting thousands of survivors and supporters.

“I look forward to this night every year,” said Kyrah Joseph, a longtime Lightning fan, “I am pursuing a career as a physician’s assistant at USF and have a personal connection the the subject.”

All around the league, players, staff and fans share their own stories regarding the vicious disease. Vancouver Canucks defenseman Erik Gudbranson has been very vocal about his brother’s battle against Acute Myeloid Leukemia.

Acute Myeloid Leukemia is a cancer that develops within different blood forming cells and can progress quickly if untreated. A bone-marrow transplant is the most common treatment for this particular cancer.

Gudbranson’s younger brother, Denis was just six years old when he was diagnosed. At the age of 11, Gudbranson had to take on a lot more responsibility than the average 11 year old. He became the third parent in his household having to look after his other younger brother, Alex, and his younger sister, Chantel.

Gudbranson’s brother received a bone-marrow transplant after having been in remission and then having the cancer return just a few months later.

Denis is now a healthy 19 year old attending college at Concordia University in Montreal.

Additionally, NBCSN announcer, former player and Stanley Cup Champion Eddie Olczyk was diagnosed with colon cancer earlier this season and is currently receiving treatment.

“In 2016, an estimated 1,685,210 new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States and 595,690 people will die from the disease,” according to the National Cancer Institute.

The awareness that the NHL and many other professional sports leagues have brought to this cause is one of the many reasons why people like Denis Gudbranson are able to find donors that are willing to help.

The league plans to continue this initiative for as long as it possibly can, hopefully leading to a cure.


Differing opinions on climate change

It is no secret that opinions on climate change around the world are all quite different. Countries, political parties, men and women all have differing views. Pew Research Center has conducted multiple studies regarding these differences with the most popular study being the difference between political parties.

Conducted in October 2016 by Cary Funk and Brian Kennedy, The Politics of Climate used several surveys to establish the divide between liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans in categories such as trust in professional researchers and the information about climate change that they are producing. The study surveyed 1,534 American adults with a margin of error at four percentage points. In accordance with this study, Democrats have been shown to be more positive about the information presented by scientists, while Republicans are more doubtful. The chart below maps the differences.

PEW Research Center

Along with distrust, the study looks at other factors, listed below.

  • “Seven-in-ten liberal Democrats (70 percent) trust climate scientists a lot to give full and accurate information about the causes of climate change, compared with just 15 percent of conservative Republicans.
  • Some 54 percent of liberal Democrats say climate scientists understand the causes of climate change very well. This compares with only 11 percent among conservative Republicans and 19 percent among moderate/liberal Republicans.
  • Liberal Democrats, more than any other party/ideology group, perceive widespread consensus among climate scientists about the causes of warming. Only 16 percent of conservative Republicans say almost all scientists agree on this, compared with 55 percent of liberal Democrats.
  • The credibility of climate research is also closely tied with Americans’ political views. Some 55 percent of liberal Democrats say climate research reflects the best available evidence most of the time, 39 percent say some of the time. By contrast, 9 percent of conservative Republicans say this occurs most of the time, 54 percent say it occurs some of the time.
  • On the flip side, conservative Republicans are more inclined to say climate research findings are influenced by scientists’ desire to advance their careers (57 percent) or their own political leanings (54 percent) most of the time. Small minorities of liberal Democrats say either influence occurs most of the time (16 percent and 11 percent, respectively).”

The differences between political parties may be large on the above issues, however, most Americans, putting aside party affiliation, believe that climate scientists should have a say in policy decisions regarding climate change.

“69 percent among moderate or liberal Republicans and 48 percent of conservative Republicans say climate scientists should have a major role in policy decisions related to the climate,” Funk and Kennedy said.

A large portion of this study looks at the gap between republicans and democrats over what can be done to lessen the effect humans have on the climate.

  •             “Power plant emission restrictions − 76 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 29 percent of conservative Republicans say the same, a difference of 47-percentage points.
  • An international agreement to limit carbon emissions − 71 percent of liberal Democrats and 27 percent of conservative Republicans say this can make a big difference, a gap of 44-percentage points.
  • Tougher fuel efficiency standards for cars and trucks − 67 percent of liberal Democrats and 27 percent of conservative Republicans say this can make a big difference, a 40-percentage-point divide.
  • Corporate tax incentives to encourage businesses to reduce the “carbon footprint” from their activities − 67 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 23 percent of conservative Republicans agree for a difference of 44 percentage points.
  • More people driving hybrid and electric vehicles − 56 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference, while 23 percent of conservative Republicans do, a difference of 33-percentage points.
  • People’s individual efforts to reduce their “carbon footprints” as they go about daily life − 52 percent of liberal Democrats say this can make a big difference compared with 21 percent of conservative Republicans, a difference of 31 percentage points.”
PEW Research Center

Six out of 10 liberal Democrats believe that climate change will directly damage the environment while two in 10 conservative Republicans do not.

Funk and Kennedy also note that “scientific literacy” does not affect either party’s opinions on climate change. The entire study can be found here.

In another Pew Research Center study from 2015 by Jacob Poushter, Canadians are more concerned about climate change than Americans are.

According to a chart in the study, 84 percent of Canadians support limiting greenhouse gas emissions, while 69 percent of Americans support it. 73 percent of Canadians believe that people need to make lifestyle changes to help reduce human effects of climate change while 66 percent of Americans believe this. 56 percent of Canadians believe climate change is currently harming people while 41 percent of Americans believe this. 49 percent of Canadians believe that rich countries should do more to address climate change while 40 percent of Americans believe rich countries should do more. Perhaps the most important statistic in the chart is 51 percent of Canadians believe that climate change is a serious problem while only 45 percent of Americans believe that climate change is a serious problem. The low concern for climate change as a serious issue may prove alarming to some.

Poushter also notes in his study that “[d]espite the greater concern shown by Canadians on global warming, partisan divides on the issue follow a similar pattern in both countries.” The entire study can be found here.

Pew Research Center’s Richard Wike collected a series of data and charts showing the opinions of the world when it comes to climate change. One of the charts states that countries with higher levels of carbon emissions are less concerned with climate change.

In a less alarming chart, “Climate change is not seen as a distant threat. A global median of 51 percent say climate change is already harming people around the world, while another 28 percent believe it will do so in the next few years.” Latin America is the country that sees climate change as the biggest threat with 77 percent of people concerned about it effecting people today. Looking closer, 90 percent of Brazilians feel that climate change is currently harming people on Earth. The entire study can be found here.

In another study at Pew Research Center from December 2015 by Hani Zainulbhai, women are more concerned for climate change personally harming them than men. Women are also noted believing that climate change is a serious problem. In the U.S., women are 17 percent more likely to believe climate change is a serious problem. In Canada, women are 13 percent more likely to be concerned by climate change while in Australia, the gap is 12 percent.

As for climate change being personally harmful, “The gender disparity also occurs in views of personal harm caused by climate change. American women again differ the most from their male counterparts – 69 percent of women are concerned it will harm them personally, while fewer than half of men (48 percent) express this view. Women are more concerned than men in many of the other countries surveyed, including double-digit gender imbalances in Germany (+15 points) and Canada (+14),” Zainulbhai said. The entire study can be found here.

While all of these studies are different, they do hold one similar conclusion. Climate change is not being taken as seriously as it should be.

Local Tampa architect reveals unofficial Ray’s stadium design

The stadium design by Joe Toph includes a bird’s-eye view.






A Tampa architect has developed an unofficial visual concept for the proposed Tampa Bay Rays ballpark in Ybor City.

Joe Toph released his vision for the new stadium on under the username Bueller. The designs are unofficial and the Ray’s team was not involved in their creation.

“I created these for fun,” Toph said. “I just wanted to get a creative dialogue started on the potential the location has.”

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan announced Oct. 24 that he found a site for a new baseball stadium. The 14 acre site is bordered by the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway, North 15th Street, East 4th Avenue and Channelside Drive.

Locals and officials brought up one of the main issues with the location, which is parking. The lot is large enough for a baseball stadium, but there is concern that there may not be enough room on the proposed site for additional parking to be built.

However, the proximity to Ybor City and Downtown Tampa makes this site easily accessible through public transit. Toph’s plan includes the use of the trolley line, noting that it could also serve as a light rail line in the future. A possible Uber pickup lot and a water taxi marina are also included in the design.

If Toph’s vision does not pan out, and another garage cannot be built on the lot, there are other parking options. Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn told ABC Action News that the parking garages in Ybor City and in the downtown area are not used every night.

“The key will be to provide the linkages whether it’s a trolley or whatever to connect those garages to the stadium,” Buckhorn said.

The next hurdle for the proposed site will be finding the funding for the project.

“That’s going to be the $800 million question,” Buckhorn said.

The Rays will have to come to the table with a significant financial plan to fund the potential stadium. Mayor Buckhorn doesn’t want another stadium built on taxpayer dollars.

Raymond James Stadium is funded completely by taxpayer dollars and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers lease to play in the stadium. According to Buckhorn, another stadium funded the same way would leave future generations of mayors and locals with an unpayable debt.

Tampa Bay real estate agent and Palmetto Beach resident, Laura Meyer, is looking forward to the possible development of the new stadium in such close proximity to the neighborhood she has called home for over a decade.

“A stadium in Ybor would have a huge impact on the residential community here,” Meyer said. “It’s the kind of boost the neighborhood could use to really put it on the map as a new up and coming area for Tampa.”

Palmetto Beach sits south of Ybor, west of 22nd Street and tucked on the east side of Desoto Park. Meyer says the area has a lot of potential to be another residential hot spot like Channelside and Hyde Park have become.

However, other locals are not as convinced that a stadium located in Ybor would be good move.

“I don’t know how they are going to fit a stadium onto the lot they are interested in,” Justin Cales, a student at Hillsborough Community College, said. “The traffic would just be terrible, as if it isn’t bad enough already. A stadium over here would be chaos.”

Cales has been attending HCC in Ybor for over a year. The small brick roads have taken time for him to adjust to and the idea of stadium traffic on those streets isn’t comforting.

“Ybor is great the way it is now, I don’t why we’d want to mess up a good thing,” Cales said.

Florida Focus Nov. 28, 2017

In this news brief: A Florida law that bans people from openly carrying firearms in public stays in effect; the Pasco County dive team is searching area lakes for a missing and endangered man; Citrus County officials identify the remains of a body that was found in a trash can; Today is Giving Tuesday; Check your lottery tickets.

Saint Petersburg votes re-election in mayoral race

 Voters elected incumbent Rick Kriseman to be mayor of St. Petersburg by a slim margin on Tuesday.

According to the Pinellas County Supervisor of Elections, Kriseman won 51.64 percent of the vote. His opponent, former mayor of St. Petersburg Rick Baker, received 48.36 percent of the vote. Fewer than 2,000 votes separated the two candidates, both of whom have served time as the city’s mayor.

Kriseman campaigned with a platform that supported clean energy and LGBT equality, while openly criticizing President Donald Trump. He also emphasized his commitment to reducing crime and improving infrastructure.

Baker’s campaign also focused on reducing crime and making St. Petersburg more environmentally friendly. His campaign website’s “blueprint” also showed his desire to improve public schools, bring more jobs to the area and revitalize the downtown district.

On paper, both candidates seem to agree on most topics—but they certainly did not act like it. Baker, who was the city’s mayor from 2001 to 2010, repeatedly criticized Kriseman’s administration, blaming it for St. Pete’s “sewage crisis” which was worsened by Hurricane Irma. Kriseman called out Baker for not openly opposing Trump.

While the office is nonpartisan, political parties still play a major role. Kriseman is a Democrat and Baker is a Republican.

A columnist at the Tampa Bay Times advocated for Baker to speak publicly about Trump. For John Romano, the writer of that article, knowing a candidate’s political ideology is crucial when deciding who to vote for, and knowing whether Baker supports one of the most polarizing people in America could have swayed voters.

Kriseman embraced his political affiliation. He received an endorsement from former President Barack Obama, and made national headlines last year with his viral tweet about President Trump.

While people criticized him for the tweet, he ultimately proved that being partisan in an increasingly politically divided nation can be advantageous.

Other Democrats won seats across the United States on Tuesday, leading one Washington Post journalist to label it the “Democratic wave.”

Local politicians congratulated Kriseman after his victory.

Kriseman won despite the fact that the Tampa Bay Times, the most popular local newspaper, endorsed Baker. The Times traditionally recommends Democrats, and some have questioned the newspaper’s motive for recommending Baker.

One local news publication questioned the newspaper’s integrity after discovering that a member of the editorial board wrote the foreword in Baker’s upcoming book.

After Kriseman won the election, he tweeted a thank you to those who supported him, and promised to uphold his campaign promises.

Kriseman is the 53rd mayor of St. Petersburg.


Father’s death inspires USF student

via Public Domain

‘Ready, aim, fire’ is a phrase that one USF student is very familiar with.

Clay shooting is one of the many activities that she enjoyed with her father before he died.

Sarah Gimbel, 20, and her dad had a very close relationship. As her parents’ only child she was always spending quality time with them. One of her family’s favorite pastimes was driving their motorcycle. Gimbel’s father was a motorcycle patrol officer for the Tampa Police Department for 20 years. On May 7, 2016 Gimbel’s father, Howard, was killed in a motorcycle accident while enjoying an off-duty ride with her mother, Tonya.

“I was in the driveway when my parents were about to leave for their motorcycle ride,” said Gimbel, “I remember telling him, ‘I will stop talking and let you guys go. I will just talk to you later! I love you!’ just a little later was when I got the call from my cousin.”

This is when her life changed forever. Gimbel shared a special relationship with her parents. She always loved having a police officer as a father. Gimbel and her friends always felt safe when her father was around.

“Sarah and her dad were very close,” said longtime friend Sarah Berry, “She always had the best experiences with him. When she was younger she truly felt that her dad was invincible.”

After the accident not only did she have to stay strong, she had to grow up fast for her mother’s sake. When her mother was in the ICU for over a week Gimbel had to make funeral arrangements for her father and sign the paperwork. She had to do all this on her parent’s behalf.

“Since my mom attended his funeral in a stretcher and by ambulance, I stepped up and gave a eulogy in front of close to 500 -700 people,” said Gimbel, “I became a stronger person because I knew that my dad deserved that. I can say today, a year and a half later, that I would have never been the person I am today without that tragic experience.”

After the outpouring support from the Tampa Police Department and the Tampa community Gimbel wanted to find a way to give back. The idea to create a memorial foundation in her father’s honor was only part of her plan.

“Competitive shooting clays is a sport my dad got me into,” said Gimbel, “We enjoyed shooting monthly tournaments together. When my father passed I was trying to think of something to do in memory of him and that’s when hosting a sporting clay shoot came to mind. It is now the most important thing to me.”

The annual shoot is an event hosted, planned and organized by Gimbel. After her first memorial shoot last year, Gimbel donated the money to a competitive youth sporting clays team for their trip to nationals.

For the other part of her plan, she was able to create a scholarship for a high school senior entering college. Her goal for the foundation is to extend the scholarship program and give more opportunities to students that have parents in law enforcement.

“Sarah is so quick to help others and she never complains,” said Berry, “she really embodies all of her dad’s great qualities. I see his humor, positivity and dedication in her.”

Gimbel also participates in other volunteer events with TPD. The annual Tampa Police Memorial 5k is one of her favorite events. Gimbel says that this is when she truly feels her father’s presence.

“It makes me so proud to be her friend,” said Berry, “I know that her father would be so proud of all her accomplishments and of the woman she has become.”

Florida Focus News Brief Nov. 16, 2017

In this news brief: Tampa police and local organizations are stepping up their efforts in Seminole Heights; Two Tampa beaches close for high levels of bacteria; The USF football team has had an impressive season and tonight they’re playing in primetime; Busch Gardens is asking you to name their newest baby.


Lessening the environmental footprint

TradeWinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach is known for its eco-friendly presence in the community. From reusable hand towels in the restrooms to air-conditioning units that automatically turn off when a patio door is opened, the beach resort lives by the Green Lodging lifestyle.

TradeWinds employee, Jessica Leonard, is taking that to a whole new level. In June, Leonard created the TradeWinds Eco Team (TWEC).

Jessica Leonard helped create the TradeWinds Eco Team geared toward lessening TradeWinds Island Grand Resort’s environmental by Courtney Aurich

Leonard is an internal communications and training coordinator at the resort. She is mainly responsible for the employee culture side of Human Resources. Part of her job includes enrolling employees in the Habitat for Humanity program. She’s in charge of getting TradeWinds employees to volunteer 200 hours building a house for another employee in need. Leonard is also an active volunteer and enjoys making a difference in the community and in the environment

“I value people. I think if somebody else is in need and I have … or if I can provide for myself and someone else can’t, who am I to not help them?” said Leonard.

Leonard often gives her change to war vets begging in the street. She has picked up the tab for a homeless man at local buffet. She finds joy in helping others.

Leonard’s generosity dates back to volunteering at a local animal shelter when she was a teenager

“They always needed your parents to go and it was really hard before 16,” said Leonard. She would push her mom to come with her, just as she pushes people at work at Habitat for Humanity.

Familiar with her inspiring ways, Leonard’s co-worker, Sophie Bajack, proposed the idea of starting a beach cleanup on St. Pete Beach.

“I shut her down right away,” said Leonard. “There’s not enough trash on this beach to make a tangible result. People are going to pick up two straws, and be like, ‘why the hell did I wake up early and come out to this?’ I said no.”

She did like the eco-friendly concept, however, and the idea of helping the environment. From that, the TWEC was born.

The TWEC, as described on the organization’s Facebook page, is an organization that plans to “lessen the footprint they leave on the environment” through education, teamwork and outreach. TWEC attempts this by preserving wildlife and maintaining clean waters.

Leonard and Bajack are the founders of the TWEC with TradeWinds is the sponsor. TradeWinds provides meeting spaces, snacks and merchandise giveaways for the organization and partner, Keep Pinellas Beautiful, donates gloves, safety equipment and cleaning supplies.

“There’s food. You get a free T-shirt that says, ‘Eco Team’ on it. It’s completely free,” said Leonard.

Recently, TWEC adopted its first sea turtle nest which will hatch anywhere from 68-102 eggs. They have also created their own beach cleanup that takes place twice a month.

The first beach cleanup was June 8.

“We picked up 68.9 pounds,” said Jessica. “We had like 25 garbage bags full. It was horrifying.”

Since then, TWEC has hosted beach cleanups every second Tuesday and fourth Saturday of the month. Pickups take place from 8-11 a.m. Volunteers begin at the TradeWinds Island Grand property and end at Guy Harvey Outpost Resort. Volunteers are as young as 7 years old and any employee or community member can attend.

“Last cleanup, we found a fire extinguisher, a knife, and a rolled-up dollar bill for — it was definitely a drug-related paraphernalia. You find a lot of condoms and just weird stuff,” said Leonard.

Eco team member, Victor Cifuentes, 28, believes in “lessening footprints” on and off the beach. At the bar where he works, he cuts six-pack rings before throwing them into the trash. Cifuentes worries the plastic rings will eventually end up on the beach and hurt sea life.

“You got to respect where you live,” said Cifuentes.


US needs stricter rules for sand mining


The Earth is running low on sand and gravel. Photo courtesy of Ashley Vedral

Sand and gravel are mined all over the world and used to create concrete for the structures and streets humans take advantage of every day. Manufacturing concrete is not the only thing sand and gravel are mined for and because of the continuously rising demand for sand, the world is beginning to run out.

An article by David Owen for The New Yorker states a beach volleyball tournament held in Toronto imported 35 semitruck loads of sand. In addition to the reporters eyewitness account, he also cites a study done in March 2014 by the U.N. Environmental Programme’s (UNEP) Global Environmental Alert Service regarding the fact that Earth is losing sand faster than the environment can naturally produce more.

“Globally, between 47 and 59 billion tons of material is mined every year, of which sand and gravel … account for both the largest share (from 68-85 percent) and the fastest extraction increase,” the UNEP study said. “Surprisingly, although more sand and gravel are mined than any other material, reliable data on their extraction in certain developed countries are available only for recent years. The absence of global data on aggregates mining makes environmental assessment very difficult and has contributed to the lack of awareness about this issue.”

The world’s demand for sand and gravel in construction projects is rising as humans construct roads and buildings while working to replenishing shorelines. Alone, China constructed approximately 90,968 miles of roadways in 2013.

“[C]ement demand by China has increased exponentially by 437.5 percent in 20 years, while use in the rest of the world increased by 59.8 percent. Each Chinese citizen is currently using 6.6 times more cement than a U.S. citizen,” the UNEP study said.

The study goes on to note that sand, once mined and extracted from land quarries, riverbeds and streams is now mined and extracted from the ocean and coastlands. Resources from inland areas are declining due to the over mining.

However, sand is still extracted from these areas. This is due in part to the lack of legislation regarding mining of sand and gravel. What follows is an excerpt from which states U.S. law.

“Sandmining from streambeds in the U.S. is regulated by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under Section 404 of the Clean Water Act (U.S. Code of Federal Regulations, Title 33, Chapter 26, Subchapter IV, Section 1344: Permits for dredged or fill material),” it said. “Under this legislation, the government is authorized to deny or restrict the specification of any defined area as a disposal site, whenever it is determined, after notice and opportunity for public hearings, that the discharge of dredged or fill materials into such area will have an unacceptable adverse effect on municipal water supplies, shellfish beds and fishery areas (including spawning and breeding areas), wildlife, or recreational areas.”

The entirety of the law can be found here. The law shows that the U.S. is able to issue permits, however, there is no definite law stating punishment for over mining or making any areas illegal to mine from.

Another reason sand is still extracted from areas that are beginning to run low is that certain projects require specific types of sand and gravel.

“For concrete, in-stream gravel requires less processing and produces high-quality material, while marine aggregate needs to be thoroughly washed to remove salt,” the UNEP study said. “If the sodium is not removed from marine aggregate, a structure built with it might collapse after few decades due to corrosion of its metal structures. Most sand from deserts cannot be used for concrete and land reclaiming, as the wind erosion process forms round grains that do not bind well.”

If more strict laws are not put in place around the world, it is possible the Earth could run out of sand in the future. UNEP suggests that a lack of monitoring and regulating leads to over mining and a great deal of damage to the environment.

Over mining of sand and gravel is also drastically affecting marine life.

“The mining of aggregates in rivers has led to severe damage to river basins, including pollution and changes in levels of pH,” the UNEP study said. “Removing sediment from rivers causes the river to cut its channel through the bed of the valley floor (or channel incision) both upstream and downstream of the extraction site. This leads to coarsening of bed material and lateral channel instability. It can change the riverbed itself.”

Although this issue is one that is not widely known, it is staring to garner attention as popular news sites report on it.

The New Yorker

New York Post



New York Times

Tom Scott via YouTube

The entirety of the  UNEP Global Environmental Alert Service’s study can be found here.

Jazzy Rowe: another example of college hate crimes

On Oct. 30, Chennel “Jazzy” Rowe posted a video on her Facebook page detailing what she endured from her dorm roommate since the beginning of this fall semester.

Video from Jazzy Rowe’s Facebook page

“After 1 ½ months of spitting in her coconut oil, putting moldy clam dip in her lotions, rubbing used tampons on her backpack, putting her toothbrush places where the sun doesn’t shine, and so much more, I can finally say goodbye to Jamaican Barbie,” Rowe read from an Instagram post by Brianna Brochu, her former roommate.

Rowe first became uneasy in her living situation when Brochu was hostile and made Rowe feel unwelcome. When Rowe began experiencing health issues, one being extreme throat pain, she was forced to see a doctor.

In her Facebook video, Rowe explains she was put on antibiotics while waiting for test results. “I didn’t want to go through another sleepless night with such extreme pain,” said Rowe.

Brochu was arrested Saturday, Oct. 28, after her Instagram post was brought to the attention of local officials. According to an article in the New York Post, she was charged with third-degree criminal mischief and second-degree breach of peace. 

Brochu has also been expelled from the University of Hartford. Although, this institution has condemned the acts of Brochu, this incident is just one of the many incidents of hate crimes on college campuses today.

The violence against Rowe and her belongings seems like a parallel to the prejudices of America’s past, but studies show that these issues are alive and well today.

In a 2016 study entitled Ten Days After by the Southern Poverty Law Center, incidents of hate and discrimination immediately following the election of Donald Trump as president were detailed.

The Southern Poverty Law Center summarizes the data collection as followed: “The 867 hate incidents described here come from two sources — submissions to the #ReportHate page on the SPLC website and media accounts. Incidents were limited to real-world events; the count doesn’t include instances of online harassment. We have excluded incidents that authorities have determined to be hoaxes; however, it was not possible to confirm the veracity of all reports.”

The study continues by stating 23 percent of the reported incidents were racially charged and targeted people of color. The incidents were reported as “racial slurs, whether in graffiti or face-to-face harassment,” as stated in Ten Days After. References to lynching were also highly reported in this study.

In a 2015 report by Florida’s Attorney General, Pat Bondi, entitled Hate Crimes in Florida“Hate crimes motivated by the victim’s race/color represented 55.9 percent of all reported hate crimes.”

Graph by Kylie Buklad. Data via “Hate Crimes in Florida (2015)”

Although, the graph shows the actual number of incidents definitely decreases over the years, the percent of racially charged hate crimes continues to constitute about half of all the hate crimes reported.

Table via “Hate Crimes in Florida (2015)”

Race is a constant factor and heavy motivator for the reported instances of discrimination and bigotry, at least in the state of Florida. According to a WUSF article, “Heidi Beirich with the Southern Poverty Law Center says hate crimes have always been grossly under counted.”

The first sentenced of the 2012 Hate Crime Victimization by the Bureau of Justice Statistics states there were almost 300,000 incidents of nonfatal incidents of hate crimes in 2012. Meanwhile, the FBI’s 2012 report puts the number of incidents at less than 7,000.

By not having an accurate representation of actual incidents of hate crimes, the voices of victimize minorities are, therefore, being silenced.

Ten Days After mentions instances of racially motivated occurrences on college campuses such as “‘Noose Tying 101’ was written on a whiteboard at San Francisco State University, and a black doll was found hanging from a noose in an elevator at New York’s Canisius College.”

The USF Office of Diversity, Inclusion, & Equal Opportunity (DIEO) lists protected people as well as behaviors categorized as harassment, that are prohibited.

One of the prohibited behaviors is defined by DIEO as “Singling out or targeting an individual for different or adverse treatment with improper consideration of the individual’s race, color, marital status, sex, religion, national origin, disability, age, genetic information, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, or veteran status.”

USF also allows plaintiffs to file internal complaints or to report cases to local authorities. The office also provides outside resources to students who may be facing discrimination or violence for filing external complaints.

External offices for filing harassment cases via DIEO at USF

Two days after last years election, USF faced its own incident of a hate crime in the form of racial slurs graffitied on the wall of a resident hall.

Judy Genshaft, USF president, sent out a communication to students regarding the situation vaguely. The purpose of the email was to inspire students to stick together and promote diversity, inclusion, and tolerance during a very divisive time following a chaotic election.

“Whether or not you agreed with the outcome, the University of South Florida System remains a special place where respectful expression of one’s beliefs is encouraged. Public universities, and particularly USF, play an integral role in moving our nation forward as a united – yet diverse – community,” wrote Genshaft.

Although, USFPD did not technically consider the incident a crime– as no permanent damage was done to property– the University still promptly reached out to students to ensure that acts of bigotry would not go unnoticed.

Hate crimes and bigotry may seem to still underline much of American life today as it did throughout our country’s history, but there is hope in solidarity.

After Rowe’s story began to go viral, people all over the country and world felt outraged at the atrocities Rowe had to face. A hashtag in her honor began to trend– #JusticeForJazzy.

Tweet by Sharine Taylor (@shharine)

People on the internet have begun to use its power of contentedness to share information about abusers and harassers in order to find justice for victims.

An overflowing of support for Rowe via Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram has lead to a reversal of traditional racial inequalities in media coverage (i.e. using mugshots as the only representation of a African American subject, even if that subject is the victim).

Tweet by SpikedCider (@mellanieortiz)

It is undeniable that progress has been made to combat hate crimes and discrimination, and this progress will continue. Although, we may have a long way to go as a society, Rowe’s story should be seen as a tragedy that can lead to positive change.

With an impending trial, there is hope that Brochu will pay for her crimes, and Jazzy will see justice served. With her brave effort to share her story, and the quick actions of the university to denounce Brochu.

If you feel you have been targeted or victimized on campus, it is important to reach out. The DIEO has provided information for students and faculty for properly addressing and filing complaints.

Hobby turns into online shop, honoring autistic son

TAMPA —  Amanda Richards, owner of online shop Absolutely Adrian, and her husband Logan, craft toys that serve a very big purpose – honoring their son, Adrian, who was diagnosed with severe autism at the age of three.

“I’ve always been kind of weird and creative,” said Richards.

Her love for all things unique and exciting grew when her family did. Richards said she found her ‘crafty partner for life’ when she met her husband, who is also diagnosed with high-functioning autism. Despite Logan’s degrees in biomedical engineering and nuclear chemistry, he chooses to create.

Amanda and Logan’s hobby turned into a passion when their son was brought into the world. Richards describes her son Adrian as, ‘perfectly different.’

Richards, who previously worked in the restaurant industry as a manager, needed to find a job where she could stay home and tend to Adrian more effectively. That is when they put their craft to good use. The idea for creating the toys featured on Richards’ Etsy shop originated as a way to help her son.

“It started out with making toys and items for children on the autism spectrum and then into other things we love and enjoy doing in our downtime from all of Adrian’s therapy and school needs,” Richards said.

Adrian, now nine years old, is nonverbal.

“No words does not mean he doesn’t have anything to say,” Richards said. “That sweet boy always finds a way to communicate with us. A real gem, he is our greatest treasure.”

One of the ways Adrian communicates is through magnetic letters. He sorts through letters to form different words, even some that Richards does not recall teaching him.

Adrian also works on his communication in occupational therapy. He learns how to type words to cause actions, such as typing, ‘yes mint’ on the computer to show that he would indeed like a mint. Adrian continues to expand his communication skills by learning to use picture exchange and sign some words like ‘more’ and ‘please.’

In a 2016 press release, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that an estimated 1 in 68 children has been diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder. Richards’ and her family have worked hard to adapt their world to the adventure life threw at them.

Absolutely Adrian contains a range of items including jewelry, toy wands and autism sensory stones. Prices on the items range from five to fifty dollars.

Courtesy of the Absolutely Adrian store page on

One of the items that Richards believes is particularly helpful for Adrian is the sensory stones. They are small stones, in many different shapes such as dinosaurs and cars, that light up through sunlight and stay illuminated for up to ten hours.

“Adrian was scared of the dark and the idea of putting him to bed with a battery operated toy made us incredibly nervous as he is sensory seeking and will eat nonfood items if given the chance,” Richards said. “We create and morph a lot of our ideas together to make these nifty pieces.”

Richards and her husband do their best to allow their passion and love to reflect on everything they craft for their shop. Finding a way to work while also being able to adequately care for Adrian was everything Richards needed in her life.

“Adrian has taught us to slow down in life,” Richards said. “To be appreciative of every small thing and simply have fun and we do all the time.”