The Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press published financial disclosure statements from state legislators nationwide as part of a project examining potential conflicts of interest. You can see Florida legislator disclosures here or scroll down to view the forms filed by those representing Lakeland.
DOWNTOWN: The merchants group that runs First Friday and the monthly Food Truck Rally lost its non-profit status six years ago, current board members recently learned. They’re working to correct the problems as they consider ways to reorganize and implement tighter controls.
MANSLAUGHTER: A 2-year-old infant was found suffocated in her mother’s bed last May after the 24-year-old mother came home intoxicated from a night at a strip club, the Lakeland Police Department said. Now she’s charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child.
What: 37th Lakeland Christmas Parade
When: 7 p.m. Thursday, beginning with fireworks over Lake Mirror
Where: Downtown Lakeland (see the map above)
Who: 90 floats, nine marching bands and an expected 30,000 spectators. Grand marshal: Georgann Carlton. Sponsor: Junior League of Greater Lakeland
Theme: A Night at the North Pole
Watch It Live: lakelandgov.net/TV or on Spectrum 643/FiOS 43.
Chairs: Sidewalks are clogged several days in advance although participants are asked to refrain from placing chairs until the evening before the parade. Did they comply this year? Check the video below, taken 32 hours before the parade was set to start:
Spath, a 34-year-old former prosecutor who lives in Bartow, is the second candidate to announce she’s running in the special election being held to fill the Florida House 39 seat being vacated by Neil Combee. The other candidate, 22-year-old Josie Tomkow of Lakeland, issued a news release this week (article) saying her campaign raised $50,000 last month.
Add Lakeland to the list of cities where monuments to the Confederacy are being relocated following the racially motivated killings of nine people at a Charleston, S.C., church and the killing in Charlottesville, Va., of a woman protesting a white supremacy rally.
City commissioners capped a long and emotional meeting this afternoon with a 4-3 vote to relocate a monument erected in 1910 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy to a location other than the center of Munn Park.
Daniel Leviten, who built a solo pediatrics practice into a seven-physician operation, is retiring at what a partner calls a “young” 67.
DIXIELAND DINING: Marcos Fernandez, owner and chef of Nineteen61, is opening a take-out restaurant focusing on Latin American specialties in the building at Dixieland Village once occupied by Fat Maggie’s and the short-lived Crane’s Crossing restaurant.
ADVISING LAKELAND ELECTRIC: The city’s Electric Utilities Advisory Committee has two vacancies. City commissioners decided Friday that one should represent residential customers inside city limits and one should represent the utility’s residential customers outside city limits.
When city commissioners consider the future of the Munn Park Confederate monument on Monday morning, they’re expecting lots of comments from residents. So today they set some special rules for the meeting:
- People who want to speak will be asked to place their name and address on a sign-in sheet.
- Speakers will be called in the order in which they signed up.
- Comments will be limited to three minutes per speaker, rather than the customary five minutes.
Lineman Joshua Lindsey was fired following an accusation that he was responsible for the theft of memorabilia from the San Juan airport just before utility crewman flew back from power restoration work in Puerto Rico. Lindsey says he will hire a lawyer because he has “been done wrong.”
Judge Jay Yancey’s prison sentence for former mental health counselor Anthony Conti, 72, was part of a plea agreement. Conti had pleaded no contest to two counts of sexual misconduct and six counts of attempted sexual misconduct by a psychotherapist.
Lakeland votes again Tuesday. This time there’s only one item on the ballot: a City Commission race. One contestant says he brings a needed small-business owner’s perspective to City Hall. The other says he offers management and budget experience he gained as president of several colleges.
Music highlights include tonight’s Jazz Orchestra Concert at Harrison School for the Arts and a seven-band “Rockin’ for Toys for Tots” Sunday 2-10 p.m. at Ybor Lounge Live. Bands include The Brimer Trio, Most Wanted, Sgt. Shredder, Power Surge, Velvet Jones, Cross Traxx and Almost D.S.P., a collaboration of Almost There and the Dan Signor Project. More listings after the jump:
POLITICS: John Hall has decided to stay put as a county commissioner rather than run for the Florida House seat being vacated by Neil Combee. He says he plans to support a candidate entering the race soon instead of Josie Tomkow, the only person who has qualified so far.
TRAUMA PREPAREDNESS: Lakeland Regional Health will start offering “Stop the Bleed” courses to the public in January. They typically have been geared to health and emergency workers.
Suspected “acid bombs” were found this morning on the east side of Lake Hollingsworth and at Common Grounds Park, the Lakeland Police Department reports. Nobody has been injured. Members of the Tampa Police bomb squad neutralized the Hollingsworth device with an air pistol, around 1 p.m., the Lakeland Fire Department said.
CHEMICAL SPILL: CSX says a faulty bearing caused a train derailment in north Lakeland that spilled a hazardous chemical and has closed a portion of Kathleen Road for two days.
REAL ESTATE: Local home sales are up sharply, spurred by low interest rates and prices drawing Tampa commuters. Against that backdrop, the Keller Williams franchises owned by Chris McLaughlin have exceeded $1 billion in sales for a second consecutive year.
$17 MILLION VERDICT: The mother and son of a man killed when his scooter was rear-ended by a drunk driver on Shepherd Road were awarded $17 million by a jury, although a lawyer conceded they’re unlikely to see much money from the jailed defendant.
— Andrea Lyon 🎞 (@andrealyonTV) November 28, 2017
BRAND NEW VIDEO: A closer look at the derailed train in #Lakeland – This vantage point coming from a neighbor's backyard looking out at Kathleen Road. This scene is only about a football field from their homes. @abcactionnews pic.twitter.com/2y5hMmQ4OR
— Andrea Lyon 🎞 (@andrealyonTV) November 28, 2017
The Ledger: Nearby residents were told they could leave their homes seven hours after the accident.
The rail giant closely guards details of chemical shipments, but says 6 percent of its carloads in Florida contains hazardous materials.
Greta Dupuy, 38, heads associate services at Publix Supermarkets and is next in line to chair the United Way of Central Florida.
Kathleen Road will likely be closed between Galloway Road and Spivey Road until evening as hazmat crews clean up the spill. Residents of Strickland Road are being asked shelter in place, turning off air conditioners and keeping windows closed.
GOSPEL INN: The Christian bookstore has seen sales halved since the rise of online competitors, but it’s stayed in business 46 years and owners Bill and Barbara Kelly, who are in their mid-70s, have no plans to retire.
RECYCLING: Recent changes in Polk County’s rules for curbside recycling have confused residents of unincorporated areas, columnist Tom Palmer writes.
LakelandMom lists neighborhoods in Lakeland, the rest of Polk County and Plant City known for holiday light displays, and throws in a driving route to see them.
A pair of duos in Dixieland Saturday night sound interesting. At 6:30, Hillcrest Coffee hosts Rebecca Ryals, who sings about growing up on a south Florida cattle farm, with John Bois, bassist with the Australian folk-rock group The Dingoes. Jon Corneal and his band also play. A few blocks south at 8 p.m., The Pink Piano showcases Tampa harpist Seth Lynn and Lakeland pianist Erik Maleki.
Check more listings after the jump:
Feeding Tampa Bay will discuss the transition at a town hall meeting next Thursday at 8:30 a.m. at the Church at the Mall in Lakeland. Catholic Charities, which operated Agape Food Bank, said it is shifting its feed-the-poor focus to mission markets providing fresh produce.
Geo. L. Gaines Jewelers on Tennessee Avenue, which has been owned the same family for 82 years, is being sold to Realtor Dean Saunders and his wife, Gina, who will be managing the store, @LakelandDDA announces. #lkld pic.twitter.com/GrlbU5IYtG
— lkld now (@lkldnow) November 21, 2017
Gary W. Ballard, 60, retires as Lakeland’s fire chief Dec. 15 after starting with @LakelandFD 40 years ago as a firefighter. He became fire chief in 2010. His successor, to be announced in early December, will be one of two assistant chiefs: Rick Hartzog or Doug Riley. #lkld pic.twitter.com/qwqUrenq00
— lkld now (@lkldnow) November 21, 2017
Chief Ballard’s biography on the city website.
Sandy Toledo, who founded the Lakeland charity 48 years ago, said on Facebook (link) the thieves used her Social Security number to access the account and that she is working with Bank of America’s fraud department “but it does not look good.”
Douglas Park will be built on 18 acres on Carpenters Way donated to the city by Lake Gibson Village | City manager’s recommendation
Workers from Florida municipal utilities are coming home as the Montana company coordinating power restoration efforts halted work, saying it needs assurance it will be paid by Puerto Rico’s power company.
Representatives of two churches, the NAACP and other organizations asked the City Commission today to relocate the Confederate monument away from the center of Munn Park. (Ledger coverage) Here are tweets about their requests:
“We hope to be through by Christmas,” County Manager Jim Freeman said regarding the crews picking up hurricane debris. Much of the uncollected limbs and yard trash is in unincorporated Northeast Lakeland and Davenport.
FitLife Foods (website), a Tampa company that prepares healthy heat-and-eat meals at a facility on County Line Road (map), now offers delivery to Lakeland residences. The packaged meals are also available at 15 retail outlets in the Tampa Bay, Sarasota, Orlando and Palm Beach areas, but none in Polk.
City Commission is discussing a draft resolution on Munn Park monuments. After today, the resolution will be revised by the city attorney, and commission will vote on it Dec. 4. #lkld pic.twitter.com/Kwb7u8nKA6
— lkld now (@lkldnow) November 17, 2017
The resolution keeps the current Confederate monument in place but asks city staff to draft a plan to allow other monuments celebrating ethnic groups that settled here.
Commissioners are expecting a large turnout Dec. 4 from citizens who want to comment about the future of the Confederate monument in the center of the park.
As a result of today’s discussion, the city attorney will revise the proposed resolution above to say that a master plan could include additional monuments in parts of downtown outside of Munn Park.
Read Ledger coverage. Check tweets from today’s meeting after the jump.
A customs/border control office that opened Thursday will let Lakeland Linder Airport receive overseas flights with up to 20 passengers. Officials hope to begin accepting international freight next.
SCHOOL BOARD: Tim Harris says he won’t seek re-election to the Polk School Board, prompting a second candidate to announce for the seat Harris has held for three terms. David Byrd, a 64-year-old retiree who worked in the school system as a high school teacher and teacher resource specialist for more than 35 years, joins Lisa Miller, also a former teacher, in the race.
TEACHERS: Most teachers can expect raises between 2 and 3.5 percent, under a complicated formula hammered out by the Polk school district and the teachers’ union, officials said. Part of the $10 million needed for the raises will come by returning to a practice of paying maintenance workers out of the capital fund instead of the general fund.
COLLEGIATE GAMING: Competitive intercollegiate computer gaming, complete with tryouts, uniforms and spectators, is coming to Florida Southern College, a move that perplexes The Ledger’s editorial writer.
LPD EXONERATION: A complaint about three Lakeland Police employees involving an intimate relationship between two of them and possible drug use found that no policies were violated.
City Manager Tony Delgado gave an update on city activities and took citizen questions in the post-Irma, post-election edition of his quarterly Tony Talks.
ALSO: View Ledger coverage
POWER PLANT: Lakeland Electric is negotiating to buy a used generator in Auburndale that would be moved to its McIntosh site and eventually replace the Unit 2 generator, currently off-line for repair.
TEACHERS CONTRACT: The Polk school district and the union representing teachers reached an agreement on raises. If teachers ratify the contract, they’ll see bigger paychecks in February.
Local experts discussed jobs, education, health care. language and transportation needs for residents of Puerto Rico who are moving to Central Florida in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The panel on Monday at Southeastern University was moderated by Ana Rivera, president and CEO of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County. (Ledger coverage)
Apologies for some camera problems around the 42-minute and 58-minute marks. I was dealing with battery issues.
Senior lineman from Lakeland Electric working to help restore Puerto Rico’s power grid are paid $63 an hour, but the contractor who hired the Lakeland workers is billing the Puerto Rican public power company $319 an hour. Puerto Rico’s deal with contractor Whitefish Energy Holdings of Montana “has served as a cautionary note about the potential for soaring costs that are common after disasters,” The New York Times reports.
REP. ROSS: U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross hasn’t held an open town hall meeting since he faced busloads of hecklers February in what a political science professor calls an ambush. Instead, he has hosted conference calls to hear from constituents, prompting some voters to ask just who gets invited.
MUSIC/DANCE: Tuesday’s Imperial Symphony Orchestra concert will spotlight a collaboration in which Florida Dance Theatre performs new choreography telling the story of “Tom Sawyer” set to Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring.”
CRIME BEAT: A Lakeland man faces charges of exploiting a disabled person (The version currently online is less detailed than the print article) | A school bus driver was arrested on child abuse charges involving a special-needs child.
BASKETBALL: Lakeland Magic, 105, Canton Charge 100
Lakeland Linder-based Draken International, which helps train military pilots, bought 22 22 Mirage F1M and F1B jets that were used primarily by the Spanish Air Force.
“Running Down a Dream: A Live Tribute to Tom Petty” was presented to a sold-out audience at LkldLive Thursday night. Musicians on “American Girl” included Craig Morby, vocals, Shane Lawlor, acoustic guitar and backing vocals, David Brimer, lead guitar, Derrick Dietrich, bass, and Marcus McCants, drums. See the full concert after the jump.
Newly available electronic glasses allow Britny Belskis, 27, to see details that were unavailable before.
Tonight’s Tom Petty tribute at LkldLive has sold out, but there’s plenty of other music highlights this weekend:
- The guitar concert at Harrison School for the Arts tonight features sounds from Bach to Led Zeppelin.
- Hear Jazza-Nova, Patty Kenoly, Fount, Brian Sutherland, and Bully For You Saturday at The Big Event at Lake Mirror.
- Glass House Point rocks LkldLive Saturday night. Brightside and Babyblu open.
- ’90s house/club hitmakers C+C Music Factory has re-formed and plays Masons Live Saturday night.
The story about a woman arrested for DUI while riding her horse on Combee Road made national news. An attorney who agreed to take her case pro bono told News Channel 8 he’ll argue that DUI doesn’t apply to a person riding an animal instead of operating a machine.
Lakeland voters today swept three political newcomers into office while decisively defeating a measure that would have changed the form of city government to a strong-mayor format.
When Bill Mutz — who won 72 percent of the vote in a four-man race — becomes mayor in January, it will be under the current system, in which the mayor serves as chair of the City Commission and represents the city in ceremonial functions. The appointed city manager will remain the city’s chief executive.
In one of the biggest surprises of the evening, Stephanie Madden unseated incumbent Jim Malless without a runoff in a five-way race. Insurance executive Scott Franklin outpolled civic volunteer Sandy Toledo for Southeast District seat. Larry Durrence and Michael Dunn face off in a Dec. 5 runoff for the Southwest District seat.
— lkld now (@lkldnow) November 8, 2017
|Strong Mayor Charter Amendment|
|Patrick Shawn Jones||1,214||8.97%|
|*||Dunn and Durrence are in a runoff Dec. 5|
|Commission: At Large|
|Kathy Barsotti Smith||961||7.08%|
In the wake of the shooting at a church in Sutherland, Texas, that left 26 dead, Lakeland churches are increasing security, Fox 13’s Ken Suarez reports. Among other things they are self-patrolling their grounds, adding cameras and taking advantage of Polk County Sheriff’s Office services, such as security assessments and active-shooter training.
Meanwhile News Channel 8’s Corey Davis talks with a Lakeland pastor who was shot in the head while praying in his church six years ago. Pastor William Boss asks: How many massacres will it take before lawmakers change gun laws?
Sheriff Grady Judd’s solution? He says everyone who can legally arm themselves should do so.
Amazon received county incentives to build distribution facilities in Lakeland and Davenport. The tech giant hasn’t provided as many jobs as promised and some of its incentives should be docked, County Commissioner Melony Bell says. Commissioner George Lindsey tells Fox 13 that some $11-an-hour jobs are better for Polk than no jobs.
Registered voters in Lakeland go to the polls today to select a new mayor, vote in three City Commission races and decide whether to change the form of government to strong mayor. Polls close at 7 p.m. Read on to find out what’s on the ballot, where to vote, how to do last-minute research and where to get results tonight.
POWER POLE DISPUTE: Lakeland Electric leaders say it’s cheaper and more efficient to hire an outside company rather than new employees to get caught up on replacing power poles. But a labor union says the city is opening itself to a $2.6 million legal judgment if it goes ahead. City commissioners Monday delayed a decision on contracting with Pike Electric (view the contract) in order to see if their attorney can get from 80 percent to 100 percent sure they’re on solid legal ground.
IRMA FLOODING: Property owners along Pineville Lane northwest of Lakeland (map) are still tearing out wallboard with black mold after homes were flooded when Winston Creek swelled during Hurricane Irma.
Florida Rep. Neil Combee, a Republican, said he will ask Gov. Scott to call a special election for his District 39 seat, which includes northern Polk County and parts of Osceola County. He was recently named state director of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency.
CAMPAIGN FINANCE: The total raised to promote candidates and issues on this week’s Lakeland ballot has topped $1 million, with the largest sums raised by the committees for and against a strong mayor. (Gregory Fancelli has contributed $579,000 to the strong mayor effort, according to a compilation of finance reports.) | Research campaign funding and spending here
MAYOR CANDIDATE: James Green, a 22-year-old Florida Southern senior, is running for mayor on a platform centered on a plan to replace property taxes with a one-time fee on new developments.
SHOOTING VICTIM: The family of a man who was shot and killed by Lakeland police when he threatened them with a shotgun Thursday night said an empty whiskey bottle tells them he was probably drunk. Jerry Roach, 71, became confrontational when drunk, and his depression was deepened by the recent sixth anniversary of the death of his wife of 42 years, family members said.
MAYOR CANDIDATE: Christopher Diaz, a 33-year-old former law enforcement officer and current entrepreneur, is running for mayor as a voice of a new generation who will prioritize public safety and says North Lakeland can lead the city’s growth.
HOSPITAL: Lakeland Regional Health received a safety rating of A in the most recent scorecard from Leapfrog group in which other Polk hospitals got grades of C, D and F | Lakeland Regional report | What the scorecard measures
Four of the five candidates for the at-large seat on the Lakeland City Commission answered questions at a forum Thursday at Florida Southern College. The forum was sponsored by Pi Sigma Alpha (ΠΣΑ), the National Political Science Honor Society. Candidate Stephanie Madden did not participate, telling organizers she had previous campaign commitments.
First things first. Check out the calendar at the bottom of this post. There are more live music choices in Lakeland this weekend than I’ve seen before. Some highlights:
- The really big show in town this week is the return of Lynyrd Skynyrd to the RP Funding Center on Saturday. Their last gig here was 40 years ago, just two days before three band members died in a plane crash. This is one concert where you can shout “Free Bird” without irony.
- Art + Music at the Polk Museum of Art Friday night features Thoth, Patty Kenoly, Jason Baker, Conner Lockhart and Paul Catala.
- Art Crawl in Munn Park Saturday showcases musicians from noon to 3 p.m.: Patty Kenoly, Lauren Mullenax, Emilie Weiss and Brett Blondell, and Jess Kostella.
- Folkies might want to check Tampa Bay favorite Rebekah Pulley with Robert Pastore at an Among Friends Music house concert Saturday night.
MAYOR CANDIDATE: Patrick Shawn Jones is a tarot card reader, heavy metal DJ, hospital technician, champion of bus commuters and candidate for mayor. Reporter Christopher Guinn profiles Jones in what we presume is a series of features about the four candidates for mayor on Tuesday’s ballot.
INMATE DEATH: In 2006, Shamirah Johnson was a 4.0 high school graduate lauded for volunteer work and winning an essay contest. On Tuesday, she was a repeat visitor to the Polk County Jail who died as an inmate at LRMC after being arrested for violation of probation involving drug charges.
RESTAURANTS: A comment from an unnamed city officials in a Ledger story (here) brought expectations that a Pollo Tropical restaurant would come to Lakeland. It turns out that won’t be happening, but three other chain restaurants are planned for a strip along South Florida Avenue at Poppell Drive (map): Fuzzy’s Taco Shop (web), Jason’s Deli (web) and Mission BBQ (web).
TEACHERS: A year-old impasse over teacher raises faces another delay. School Board members decided Monday to wait until Nov. 14 to settle the issue so that their staff can assess the financial impact of making the proposed 2 percent raises retroactive to the 2016-17 school year.
PARK: The city park that houses Common Ground playground and the Beerman Family Tennis Center has been renamed from Edgewood Park to Publix Charities Park to recognize a $1 million donation from the charity.
SCHOOLS: Local officials question the vagueness of a law that could lead to the closure of six “turnaround” schools in Polk, including two in Lakeland: Kathleen Middle and Griffin Elementary.
DREAMER: Sayra Lozano was quiet about her immigration status when she entered Southeastern University, but became an outspoken advocate when Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) became endangered | Podcast
AD DIRECTOR: Ron Moates, the new advertising director at The Ledger, worked his way up after starting as a billing clerk 25 years ago. Personal note: Congratulations, Ron; it’s great to see a nice guy prevail.
COMMISSION RACE: Candidate Stephanie Madden seeks to differentiate herself from incumbent Jim Malless in a campaign mailer for a City Commission race that includes three other candidates.
YACHT CLUB: Construction begins Tuesday on a new Lakeland Yacht and Country Club building that’s three-quarters the size of the building it replaces on Lake Hollingsworth. A $3 million bank loan secured Friday supplements $3.2 million raised from club members.
THINGS TO DO:
It’s a good weekend to hear local acts. Take Saturday night. You can hear Jon Corneal and John Frinzi at Hillcrest Coffee, Dean Johanesen at Brew Hub, Todd Edmonds at Masons Live, Philip Booth Music at Frescos, Brimer Trio at The Pink Piano, 22N and Pickup Artist at Ybor Live, Chris Clarke Trio at Lakeland Loft or Dan Signor Project at Molly McHugh’s. See more listings after the jump.
CANDIDATES for City Commission offered ideas for improving Northwest Lakeland at an NAACP-sponsored forum Tuesday night.
RAISES FOR TEACHERS, paraeducators and support staff will be considered by the Polk School Board Monday at a 5 p.m. public hearing at the Jim Miles Center. A special magistrate recommended 2 percent raises; the teacher’s union is agreeable, though it’s less than the 3.4 percent they requested.
Transportation setbacks have delayed shipments of donated items bound for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico as well as the departure of 20 Lakeland Electric employees who will help restore the island’s power infrastructure.
ALSO: Puerto Ricans relocating to Central Florida face challenges, News Channel 8 reports.
Gregory Fancelli, who is financing the effort to change Lakeland’s city government to a strong-mayor system, has been outspoken in his emails to city officials — and those emails are finding their way into the strong-mayor debate.
David Young, a 29-year-old Lakeland High grad and financial consutant, saw an opportunity and founded Drone Launch Academy (web), which prepares an ever-growing audience of drone pilots to pass the FAA’s Unmanned Aircraft Exam.
TWO LOCAL GROUPS, the Polk County Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County and United City, are collaborating to collect goods and raise money to help Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico | Donate
POLK SCHOOLS are taking in students fleeing Hurricane Maria’s destruction, and the Citrus Connection is offering transit passes for new arrivals from the islands, but extra funding is uncertain.
LAKELAND ELECTRIC is sending 20 workers and 10 vehicles to help the effort to restore electricity to Puerto Rico.
Author Trent Saunders recounts stories he’s heard about smuggling onto Central Florida ranches in the 1980s. Sheriff Grady Judd vouches for the stories, saying he remembers staking out some of the deals when he was a deputy.
Consider the guitar. It takes many forms, and its six strings can be played in myriad ways. For example, this weekend you can hear:
- The lilt of the classical style as Midday Meditations starts its 2017-18 season Friday morning with artist Samuel Ortiz.
- The thrash of metal at “The Story of an Undead World,” a seasonal rock opera at LkldLive Friday night.
- The wail of mainstream rock as Saliva and seven other bands play Rocktoberfest 2017 at Masons Live on Saturday.
Dramatic video: An LPD officer making a DUI stop at Florida Avenue and Main Street on Sunday was grazed by the rear-view mirror of a passing driver who was later charged with DUI and leaving the scene of an accident. Remember: Move over when you see flashing lights.
CITY COMMISSIONERS were busy Monday. Among other things they:
- Sold 10+ downtown acres for $3.7 million to Framework Group LLC, which plans to build 306 rental apartments and townhouses | Staff presentation
- Donated about $94,000 worth of property and rights of way to the developers of the massive Bonnet Springs Park planned for property west of downtown.
- Awarded raises of 4 percent each to City Manager Tony Delgado and City Attorney Tim McCausland after giving them favorable performance reviews.
- Applauded as Mayor Howard Wiggs named Ana Rivera winner of the October CityMakers Award | Also: CityMakers website profiles Rivera.
THE POLK SCHOOL BOARD had a lot of Lakeland action, too:
- Nearly 9,000 employees came to Joker Marchant Stadium for a motivational event that was mandatory for teachers on a day without students | Fox 13 coverage
- Employees entering the Tigertown event passed about 15 protesters expressing displeasure with Tenoroc High School Principal Jason Looney, who has been subject of two sexual harassment investigations that both concluded there was insufficient evidence to proceed.
- Justin Troller, who is a city commissioner, reported on Facebook (here) that he’s been reinstated as a school district employee, but Superintendent Jacqueline Byrd said his new job, which hasn’t been announced yet, would not involve working with students.
Many returned today after being turned away Saturday from Irma temporary food stamp registration at the RP Funding Center.
BROADBAND: City Commissioner Justin Troller pushes to expand Lakeland’s extensive fiber optic network into a utility offering fast, affordable Internet to residents and businesses. The first step, he says, is a test project in areas just north and east of downtown.
CIVICS: Alarmed that most students no longer understand how government works, Florida Southern College and All Saints Academy are combining forces to revive civics education, Bruce Anderson writes in his weekly politics column.
ROWBOTHAM: Radio exec Art Rowbotham calls “miraculous” a procedure that suppresses the effects of Parkinson’s disease that he’s experienced.
Crowds snaked up to the RP Funding Center this morning before registration opened at 7 a.m. Also: Check a short video of the line taken after daybreak. Find out if you’re eligible and how to apply here.
Registration takes place daily 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. through Wednesday. Applicants are asked to come on a day corresponding to the first letter in their last name:
- People with last names A-F should show up 10/14
- People with last names G-J should show up 10/15
- People with last names K-O should show up 10/16
- People with last names P-Z should show up 10/17
- A make-up day will be held 10/18
MAYOR CANDIDATES: Reporter Chris Guinn looks at the four men running for mayor; the winner will find out the day he’s elected whether he’ll be a “weak” ceremonial mayor or a “strong” mayor overseeing the city’s administrative apparatus.
MAYOR QA: The candidates answer questions. Asked how they’ll vote on the strong mayor initiative on the Nov. 7 ballot, candidates James Green and Patrick Shawn Jones say they’ll vote for it, and Bill Mutz says he’s voting against. Christopher Diaz doesn’t say.
DEBRIS: For some residents of unincorporated Polk County, it could be two more months before yard debris from Hurricane Irma is picked up. An online map (here) gives a rough idea where crews are working.
Lakeland: City officials expect the first round of debris removal to be completed by the end of October.
SCHOOL BOARD: Developments surrounding an investigation into the principal of Tenoroc High School have prompted School Board member Billy Townsend to call for the resignation of his colleague Tim Harris.
LAND DEALS: City commissioners will be asked to rule on two land deals Monday: a request to donate parcels valued at $94k for the privately funded Bonnet Springs Park and a $1.65 million sale of 15 acres at Lakeland Linder Airport for Geico expansion. (A third, highly visible land deal on Monday’s agenda involves 10 acres north of Lake Mirror.)
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: The nine Lakeland physicians on the state’s list of doctors qualified to treat patients with medical marijuana (see the list here) work in small practices. Large employers of doctors, such as Watson Clinic and Lakeland Regional Health, have no employees on the list.
Florida Hospital has disclosed it plans to build a free-standing emergency room on 104 acres it recently purchased for $14.5 million just west of Florida Polytechnic University.
Violins or fiddles? Take your pick Saturday night. One concert in downtown Lakeland spotlights a soprano and show tunes. Another one four blocks away showcases twangs and bluegrass.
TRAFFIC INFLUX: Local agencies are preparing for heavy traffic to the RP Funding Center Saturday through Oct. 18 as people come to register for Irma food assistance.
CANDIDATES: The four candidates for the City Commission’s Southwest seat give their views on issues.
WINN-DIXIE: The Winn-Dixie stores at U.S. 92 and Combee and on Ariana Street will become Harveys Supermarkets next month.
HEADLINES: A house fire claimed the life of a 78-year-old man, but six family members escaped | An eight-year prison sentence is expected after Anthony Conti pleaded no contest to charges he molested women clients of his mental health therapy practice.
FOOD FOR FLORIDA: Certain families affected by Hurricane Irma (see if you qualify) will be able to apply for temporary food assistance . First, pre-register online here, then show up for an interview Saturday through Oct. 18 at the RP Funding Center’s Sikes Hall | Learn more
CANDIDATES: The race for the Southeast district seat on the City Commission gives voters a choice between business/military experience (Scott Franklin) and civic/volunteer experience (Sandy Toledo) | ALSO: Both candidates respond to questions
COGGINS: A DCF investigation concluded that Randy Coggins, who has been in the news because of troubles with the Monarch School he runs, swindled an elderly couple out of $25k, but no charges were filed, The Ledger reports.
BROADWAY TUNES: Soprano Elizabeth Burton fronts the Imperial Symphony Orchestra Saturday at the Polk Theatre as the orchestra kicks off its 2017-18 season with a “Broadway Through the Years” concert.
Both sides of Lakeland’s strong mayor issue were explored Tuesday evening at a forum at New Bethel AME Church. The forum was sponsored by the local chapters of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity and Deta Sigma Theta Fraternity. Moderator was Sylvia Blackmon-Roberts.
City commissioners heard howls of protest last week when they were about to vote on a contract to sell 10 vacant acres near the LPD headquarters to a private developer. Most of the complaints weren’t as much about the terms of sale or the developer’s intentions as much as a perception that the deal was being rushed through before members of the public had a chance to understand the plans and comment on them.
JARVIS KENDRICK: The former credit union vice president and civic volunteer was sentenced to four years in prison after pleading no contest to leaving the scene of a crash involving a fatality.
TENOROC PRINCIPAL: Sexual harassment claims against Jason Looney were “not substantiated” by a School District investigation that leaves open questions about his management style.
RELATED: School Board member Billy Townsend responds that two investigations involving Looney reveal a “comprehensive, catastrophic leadership failure” by the School District.
COAL: Lakeland Electric is continuing its plans to reduce reliance on coal despite Trump Administration plans to loosen restrictions on the fuel. (No link; the article isn’t online yet.)
Shane Lawlor performs Oasis’ “Wonderwall” at Munn Park this afternoon during a Music Munndays concert. Lawlor was in a band (Nic Armstrong & The Thieves) that toured the U.S. with Oasis in 2005. He said he almost saw Oasis before they hit it big when they performed Nov. 1, 1993, at The Wherehouse in Derby, near his hometown of Nottingham, England. The Music Munndays series, sponsored by the Imperial Symphony Orchestra and the Lakeland Downtown Development Authority, returns next Monday 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. with Sumner Curtis. Also coming up: Alex Lopez Xpress on Oct. 23, and ISO musicians on Oct. 30.
Donations came in after thousands of dollars of tools were stolen from Pedal Power Bicycle Ministry at First Presbyterian Church.
MAGIC COURT: A new Lakeland Magic-theme basketball court is unveiled at the RP Funding Center as the NBA G-League team reveals its “cornerstone partners:” Pepsi, Southeastern University, Florida Hospital and the city of Lakeland. Gone: Publix green and Publix logos | Photos | Video (provided by the team)
CASH FEED FUTURE: The city’s historic preservation specialist recommends demolishing the roof and trusses at the Cash Field building but trying to retain the outside walls as LEDC converts it into the Catapult 2.0 business incubator. The Historic Preservation Board takes up the LEDC’s building demolition request Thursday, and unlike their staff member, the board can consider economic factors | Read the report
All 15 candidates on the Nov. 7 ballot were asked the same questions and given up to 10 minutes to answer.
POT DOC: The ninth doctor’s office operated by Medical Marijuana Treatment Clinics of Florida is opening near the in-town WalMart under a sign promoting “low cost cannabis recommendations.”
LRH EMPLOYEES: A new 3-year deal between Lakeland Regional Health and the union representing registered nurses and technical workers offers enhanced educational benefits. In addition, most nurses will get 2 percent raises each year, and technical workers get two 2 percent raises this year, then 2 percent raises the next two years. (The story online now offers only a few paragraphs. Let’s hope the online version catches up with print shortly.)
PORCH PIRATE: A woman videotaped stealing packages from a Lakeland porch has been sentenced to eight years in prison.
Central Florida Development bought its first County Line Road property in 2004 after a friend asked Richard LeFrois if he’d heard about Lakeland. “I flew down the next weekend and things just felt right, like it was the right environment to expand the business.” Expansion was scarce during the recession but took off after Lakeland became seen as a logistics hub.
A couple of fresh starts:
- Among Friends Music launches its 2017-18 house concert series Sunday evening with Grant Peeples, a “self-described tree-hugger (who) watches NASCAR, and a Buddhist with a gun below the seat.”
- Music Munnday kicked off this week with Patty Kenoly, who’s suddenly everywhere, and follows up this Monday at 11:30 a.m. in Munn Park with the songster of Nottingham, Shane Lawlor. The last time I saw the son of England’s Midlands play solo, he favored tunes from the two British Invasions: the Beatles Liverpool one in the ’60s and the Oasis Manchester one in the ’90s.
Randy Borden bought a distinctive, mid-century building in downtown Lakeland to house two of his dreams: a video news-and-information service about Lakeland and a performing arts venue for shows attracting up to 200 people.
A video by Catapult members Jamie Clemens and Caleb LB Randall looks at damage inside the Cash Feed building on Lake Mirror caused by Hurricane Irma. That damage has forced the Lakeland Economic Development Council to abandon its plans to convert the 1924 building into a new home for the Catapult Lakeland small business incubator. Next step: The Lakeland Historic Preservation Board meets next Thursday to consider the LEDC’s request to demolish the building. Project manager Wesley Beck told The Ledger that LEDC hopes to build a new structure for Catapult on the 502 E. Main Street property, perhaps emulating Cash Feed’s Mediterranean architecture.
Bob Kealing, author of “Elvis Ignited: The Rise of an Icon in Florida,” (Amazon) speaks at FSC’s Branscomb Auditorium at 7 p.m. Thursday. The lecture is free and open to the public. Kealing also wrote a book chronicling the formative years of country rock pioneer Gram Parsons (Amazon) that mentions his Lakeland performances as a teen.
CANDIDATES: Reporter Christopher Guinn catches up with 14 of the candidates for mayor and city commission at a Chamber of Commerce meet-and-greet.
POLICE PENSIONS: Retired LPD employees will get bonuses of about $2,600 each under an emergency ordinance passed by the City Commission as it asserts its authority over pensions.
MONARCH SCHOOL: The private school teaching children with autism has closed.
Note to Ledger: I’da posted a link to your advance of Saturday’s Cardboard Boat Race (8:30 a.m. Saturday, Lake Hollingsworth | Facebook) if you’da put it online.
The magazine asked about strong mayor, small business, biggest community challenges and top priority. Their questionnaire went out before the last three candidates announced for office.
FSC PREZ RES: Florida Southern chief Anne Kerr has vacated the stately, red-brick president’s residence on campus as it undergoes unspecified repairs.
Two hours and forty three minutes after they began discussing the issue, the City Commission voted 4-3 today to wait two more weeks before deciding whether to sell 10+ downtown acres to a Tampa developer that wants to build 306 apartments and townhouses. And most of the people in the audience were happy for the delay.
CATAPULT: Structural damage to the Lakeland Cash Feed Building from Hurricane Irma is forcing the Lakeland Economic Development Council to abandon its plans to transform the 1924 structure into the Catapult 2.0 entrepreneurial center.
ALSO: Director’s blog post | Engineer’s letter, photos | Building inspector’s letter
LOVERS’ OAK: The director of Bok Tower Gardens, a career horitculturist, argues passionately that the city of Lakeland should preserve the conjoined live oaks at Success and Lake Morton. Instead, he said, the city should focus resources on “sound arboricultural evaluation and work” on the tree and replacement of the more precarious laurel oaks around town with live oaks. See past coverage.
A Lakeland sports bar is getting its 15 minutes of fame this week. On Thursday, the Orlando Weekly picked up on a recent Instagram photo and a year-old News Channel 8 report noting that Winners Circle owner Bill Alcock has placed decals of Colin Kaepernick’s jersey in the bar’s urinals — kind of like target practice for those who disagree with the quarterback’s National Anthem stand — um, kneel. That same day Ledger Editor Lenore Devore targeted the bar with a dining review (2 stars for food, 1 for service, 3 for ambience) that complained of skimpy bacon and skimpier service. We’re not sure how Winners Circle feels about the attention, but they probably relate to an old saying: “I don’t care what they say about me; just make sure they spell my name right!”
Lawmakers and hurricane researchers have expressed concern about the condition of NOAA’s Gulfstream IV-SP high-altitude jet nicknamed “Gonzo,” which was forced to abort its message and return to its Lakeland base Monday. It was the third aborted or scrubbed mission of the Hurricane Hunter craft in eight days, the Washington Post reports.
- The Downtown Lakeland Curb Market is coordinating with United City, a local non-profit; three kinds of help are requested: bring non-perishable goods to the Maria booth at the market Saturday; take home a box to pack and send; write a check or donate via Paypal | Ledger coverage
- Twenty-five businesses are collecting goods on behalf of the Puerto Rican Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Polk County. See the list | Bay News 9 coverage
YLakeland’s guide to ethnic markets shows where to find tastes of Mexico, the Caribbean, India and East Asian nations.
It took large cranes Wednesday to lift Gino Miles‘ large sculptures into place at the Polk Museum of Art, which features his work in its sculpture garden through Jan. 14, and at ART/ifact Studios at Mass Market. The Santa Fe-based sculptor is scheduled to give a gallery talk at the museum at noon Nov. 10.
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STRONG MAYOR: Fund-raising became a focus in a Lakeland Rotary Club forum on Lakeland’s strong mayor ballot initiative. A questioner pointed out that the vast majority of the $366,000+ to promote strong mayor came from one donor, Gregory Fancelli. Supporters countered that large contributions and campaign direction for No Boss Mayor come from a Washington-based, international organization for city managers. Strong Lakeland donors | No Boss Mayor donors
SKEETER SPRAYING: With mosquitoes in Polk tripling after Hurricane Irma, a FEMA-provided plane will spray soon over Kathleen, North Lakeland and the Green Swamp.
GUITARIST: Accomplished performer Robert Phillips (website) spreads appreciation of classic guitar through teaching. Fact check: He’s directed the guitar program at Harrison School for the Arts far less than 24 years, and former Principal Craig Collins came to the school well before 2009.
FROM OTHER SOURCES: Irma exposed electric grid weaknesses, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reports | Lakeland isn’t mentioned in this Bloomberg article about Amazon warehouses and local employment, but it could have been.
Get a hit of trippy love and peace two ways this weekend: There’s ’60s style noon today at LkldLive’s Bite-Size Beatles, where David Brimer, Shane Curtis and Shane Lawlor play an hour of Fab Four favorites. And there’s 2017 style at Earthdance Florida, a today-through-Monday festival at the Maddox Ranch. (The Ledger previewed it.) See more live music listings after the jump.
ELECTRIC BILLS: Lakeland Electric clarifies a billing issue, saying those who were billed for consuming electricity while their power was down should pay in full; an adjustment will be made on the next bill. To accommodate customers, late fees will be waived from Sept. 10 to Oct. 22 and non-payment disconnections will be suspended until Oct. 23.
IRMA AND SEWAGE: The city of Lakeland is preparing a report showing 24 sewage overflows during the hurricane, some of them damaging property.
POSTO 9: Following “some unfortunate disputes with creditors,” the owners of downtown Lakeland’s upscale Brazilian gastropub have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Co-owner Marco Franca characterized the filing as nothing more than a way to reorganize debt and said the restaurant will remain open while the case is pending.
ELECTRIC BILLS: Some Lakeland Electric customers received bills with excess charges because of incorrect estimates made when smart meters were unavailable during Irma recovery. Bills will be adjusted so that phantom usage isn’t charged, the utility said.
CITY BUDGET: City commissioners are expected to retain the current property tax rate of $5.56 per $1,000 of taxable value when they hold their final hearing on the 2017-18 budget at 6 tonight at City Hall. Because of increased property values, that rate is projected to generate an extra 5.5 percent in revenue.
As out-of-town lineman trucks left town in two groups today (video: morning convoy via City of Lakeland | afternoon convoy via News 10), Lakeland Electric said all but 300 customers who lost power during Hurricane Irma have been restored.
Those that are left “require a reconnect due to storm damage to their service line, meter box or weatherhead,” the utility added. Lakeland Electric also said it is experiencing technical difficulties with its online outage map, which was showing 1,195 outages at 10:30 p.m.