In this news brief: Pasco County Sheriff’s Office introduces wearable technology to find missing children; Hillsborough County commissioners approve an $812 million tax plan; Andrew Gillum joins the 2018 race for governor; USF is ranked number one in Florida for Black student success.
In this news brief: local activists are raising awareness this International Women’s Day; a bird strike forces a United flight to return to Tampa International Airport; Tampa police are investigating the shooting of two teens; Hillsborough County strikes down the cap on local medical marijuana dispensaries.
Florida Aquarium employee Eric Hovland and guest Angela Moody share a passion for marine life and the environment in which they live.
Hovland has seen The Florida Aquarium blossom into the popular Tampa attraction that it is today.
“I’ve worked here at The Florida Aquarium for going on 22 years in May and I’ve loved every minute of it,” Hovland said. “Seeing the facility grow over the years and being able to work with all of the diverse species of marine life on a daily basis has been a dream come true for me.”
Located in downtown Tampa, right next to Port Tampa Bay, The Florida Aquarium offers its patrons a unique experience that is unlike any other aquarium in the United States.
“I had no idea until I got here that you could dive with sharks at this aquarium,” Moody said. “I’ve never heard of anything like that at any other aquarium I’ve ever been to.”
The Florida Aquarium was the first aquarium in the nation to offer an uncaged dive with sharks experience.
“We have the sand tiger sharks and all of our diverse fish that you can get to know,” Hovland said. “Learning about sharks can really accelerate when you can see sharks being sharks.”
People from all over the world travel to Tampa, which in turn brings many diverse people and cultures to The Florida Aquarium.
“Whether they’re getting off a cruise ship and stopping in for a visit, we really do get a diversity of the world’s culture,” Hovland said. “It’s nice to see our impact reaches much further than just the Tampa Bay area.”
Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) is an organization that was founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver. MADD introduced designated driver programs as a solution to drinking and driving, which brought the organization more exposure and awareness to the importance of not driving under the influence. The MADD West Central Florida affiliate was created 32 years ago in Hillsborough County to further educate the community on the preventable issue.
MADD Hillsborough hosted an annual Walk Like MADD fundraising event. Their goal was to raise money for the victims of the community and to remember the lives lost. There were vendors as well as music and games to get the community excited about coming out for MADD’s 3-mile walk.
Sgt. Jason Napoli is in charge of the Hillsborough County DUI Enforcement squad; he has seen a significant response to what MADD is doing.
“Well they’re important because we’re recognizing the victims of drunk driving and celebrating the work that mothers against drunk driving does here in the community,” Napoli said.
Along with fundraising, MADD is making other strides to improve the issue. They work heavily with the Sheriff’s Office and other organizations to keep the roadways safe.
“MADD has partnered with Uber to make ride sharing a more convenient option after late nights partying,” said Daniel Mayer, an Uber representative. “Our overall mission is to just provide a safer alternative for people trying to get home safe after drinking.”
MADD has made significant progress with education and the community but their executive board feels there is a lot more work to do with regards to preventing the crime.
Hillsborough County has been cracking down on ridesharing companies like Uber and Lyft ever since House Bill 509 did not pass in early March.
This bill was presented by Matt Gaetz hoping to provide regulations throughout the state. Florida lawmakers turned the bill down and refused to side with ridesharing companies.
In the last month, over thirty drivers were given citations from the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission. There were a total of four citations that cost up to $900. One of them included a $500 citation for operating a public vehicle without a certificate.
Drivers for Uber and Lyft are not only frightened, but upset that the state is not doing anything about this— drivers like Chauncey Ball.
“I think that the people that’s really sending citations to this new procedure of transportation should just look deeper into it, because a lot of people are scared of change,” Ball said. “This is just a new generational wave that a lot of people is (sic) not accepting at this time.”
Florida State Representative Matt Gaetz wanted to reassure drivers that “Help is on the way.”
Meanwhile, Uber and Lyft are paying for the citations given to drivers. They say they are standing by their drivers.
Tampa Fla. – The Hillsborough County Anti-Drug Alliance (HCADA) is combating prescription drug misuse in a unique way. HCADA is implementing a drug disposal program within Hillsborough County.
HCADA received ten thousand bags this past month and hopes to distribute these to pharmacies and clinics in the county. This is all part of a new national pilot program.
Hillsborough is one of three counties in the entire country partaking in this program.
The purpose of these bags is so you have a proper way to dispose of prescription medicines. HCADA says this is better than throwing them away or flushing them down the toilet, which has environmental effects.
“Different medications and antibiotics are actually showing in fish in the waters, where we obtain some of our food supply.” Ronnie Crescentini from HCADA says.
These bags add another way to dispose of prescription medicine. There are usually two drug take back days in the county where the coalition and members of the community can properly get rid of their unwanted medicine.
Dr. Thomas Towers, an assistant professor with USF says, “One of the benefits too is that there is a privacy to it.”
The bags can hold up to 90 pills and any type of medication can be put in them. The bags are easy to use with clear easy-to-follow instructions on the back. All you need is water. They can be thrown away and they will not harm the environment because they are biodegradable.
The long term goal for the program is that they are used by the public and funding will be awarded to keep the program going on a wider, more national scale.
The bags are free of charge and can be picked up at HCADA. If you cannot make it, HCADA will deliver one to you.