With city elections nearly four months away, the campaign to change Lakeland’s city government to a strong-mayor system has amassed $231,193, by far the largest war chest in any Lakeland election campaign ever. Read on to see how each of the 15 announced candidates for city office are financing their races and who the biggest donors are.
Commissioners decided this morning that the property tax rate for 2018 won’t go higher than the 5.56 millage rate set in 2015. The city will still get a bump in revenue because of rising taxable values.
LakelandMom.com checked out the new Rotary Park at Hernando’s Landing and put together a user’s guide, complete with photos and videos.
Brian Goding is stepping up the live music at his cozy Hillcrest Coffee in Dixieland. Tonight’s 6:30 p.m. lineup features the Margaritaville vibes of John Frinzi, a nationally touring singer-songwriter based in Lakeland, and the guitar virtuosity of Carlton Music’s Joe Gavin as well as Hillcrest’s Hannah Dobson.
HOUSING: A $1.2 million grant will help construction of modern apartments for seniors at the 1950s-era West Lake public housing complex.
SCHOOLS: Three Lakeland elementary schools — Crystal Lake, Dixieland and Philip O’Brien — are among eight in Polk under consideration to pilot the community school concept.
CANDIDATE: Prayer inspires the candidacy of Terry Clark, who is running for the School Board seat now held by Kay Fields. Fields, also a prayer proponent, hasn’t decided whether she’ll seek re-election.
THEATER: The musical “Rock of Ages” plays at Lakeland Community Theatre this weekend and next.
The discovery was made after an FSC resource officer arrested a man suspected of stealing lawn equipment from a contractor working at a college housing site. If your lawn gear was stolen recently, LPD suggests you call Detective Alex Urra at 863-834-8951.
Thanks to Michael Maguire and Lakeland District 8 for capturing highlights of this morning’s 1 a.m. radio appearance by four candidates for mayor of Lakeland. Christopher Diaz, James Green and Bill Mutz joined Patrick Jones on his heavy-metal show on WMNF community radio.
ALSO: View a photo from the studio | Read Ledger coverage
It took firefighters three hours to contain a blaze reported at 12:30 a.m. at Precision Wallboard on Winter Lake Road near U.S. 98 S. No injuries were reported, but offices, equipment and a boat were destroyed. The fire briefly closed traffic on Winter Lake Road. (Check video from Polk Fire Rescue.)
The Kmart at 4717 S. Florida Ave. was on a list released today of 43 Sears and Kmart stores slated to close by October. The troubled chain has announced several rounds of closings this year totaling more than 300 stores. A manager at the Lakeland store told The Ledger he wasn’t authorized to answer questions such as how many people work there.
ENTERTAINMENT: Executives with the venue formerly known as The Lakeland Center explain why they favor nostalgia acts over contemporary music: They can sell more tickets in this market.
The vehicle, stationed at station 3 on North Florida Avenue, uses a pickup truck as its base and costs about $50,000 less than the unit it replaced.
It’s a good weekend for jazz lovers in Lakeland. Friday sees Jazza-nova at Posto 9 and B&B Jazz Quartet at Lakeland Loft. On Saturday, hear a Miles Davis tribute featuring Paul Butcher at LkldLive, Zemsemble (including Philip Booth and Rick Runion) at Fresco’s and Shawn Villanueva Jazz Trio at Lakeland Loft. See more music listings after the jump.
UTILITY: Lakeland Electric’s leaders are looking for a new manager for the McIntosh power plant as they reorganize duties there in the wake of mechanical failures.
VOTING: City commissioners are sending a letter urging Florida’s secretary of state to resist a presidential commission’s request to turn over private voter data.
Deputies say a man kicked out of Mason’s Live for groping women returned to the bar, targeted people with his car and fired a shotgun into the air.
The WESH report shows some of the training given by the Polk Sheriff’s Office to nine Southeastern University staffers to neutralize active shooters. Rep. Carlos Smith, an Orlando Democrat, says the school employees shouldn’t be allowed to carry weapons on campus as special deputies because they’re not on the sheriff’s payroll.
HEALTH CARE: Tops execs at Lakeland Regional Health say the GOP health care bills would curtail access to preventive care and disable the hospital’s ability to upgrade technology.
SEU: Southeastern University’s student development veep, Chris Owen, became the public face of Grady Judd’s effort to arm staff against potential active shooters when he was deputized as a “sentinel” on Monday. The other eight SEU employees who went through the training were sworn in privately to maintain anonymity, a key element of the program, according to Judd.
The tips about Red White & Kaboom includes a map of food vendors.
HOLLINGSWORTH: A quartet of articles explores Lake Hollingsworth as a popular spot for running and other activities while reviewing car/bicycle safety initiatives and the stalled effort to add public restrooms.
S. FLORIDA AVE.: The proposal to slim down Florida Avenue through Dixieland and downtown has prompted business and government leaders to plan a trip to Orlando to check out a similar project along Edgewater Drive.
Spent the day with two modern masters of light and space. . #franklloydwright #santiagocalatrava #architect #famous #architecture #architecturelover #architecturelovers #modernarchitecture #inspiration #motivation #whatarchitectsdo #ilookup #storyofmyday #roadtrip #lakeland #florida #design #designlover #architectlife #architects #ig_architecture #architecturedesign #architecturewatch #creative_architecture #light #space
Architecture at Florida Southern and Florida Poly by Frank Lloyd Wright and Santiago Calatrava enthralled Jeff Echols of Indianapolis, whose Instagram profile says he helps architects “build better businesses and a stronger profession.”
Reporter Brady Fredericksen takes a hyperlapse bike tour of Lake Hollingsworth, stopping to ask folks why they like coming there.
Joe Cash didn’t know the theme park ride operator was joking when he said there was a seatbelt malfunction as the Slingshot ride started.
CITY MANAGER: Mayor Wiggs compares Tony Delgado’s salary with administrators in similar-sized Florida cities and concludes Lakeland’s manager deserves a raise.
CHARTER: When the strong-mayor push was brewing, city commissioners appointed a group to study the city charter and recommend changes. With the strong-mayor group’s version of a new charter on the Nov. 7 ballot, commissioners decided to hold off on putting their group’s proposals to a vote on the same day. Now they’re debating whether a spring special election is needed and when a decision should be made.
A Florida Southern student who’s running for mayor learned that professors are correct when they warn to watch what you post on social media. The Ledger reports that after James A. Green announced he’s running for mayor, people started posting screenshots of his Facebook posts (private to most people) that express contempt for liberals, Democrats, transgender people and those who denounce racism. Green, who has since deleted two Twitter profiles, told the newspaper those posts were written during the heat of last year’s election campaign and don’t reflect his current views.
CRASH: An LPD sergeant responding to a shoplifting incident crashed his cruiser into a tree at Lakeside Village. The Ledger
PORN: Polk detectives filed child porn charges against an army specialist stationed at Fort Bragg in connection with an incident that occurred when he was visiting family in Lakeland. News Channel 8
When the city of Lakeland communications staff overhauled the city website for the first time in 10 years, they set out to make it easer for users to find information and navigate the site on mobile devices.
Crews today demolished the false front on the building overlooking Lake Mirror that will become the Catapult 2.0 small business incubator. The facade, added more than a quarter century after the structure was built in 1924, will be replaced with a dramatic steel-and-glass entryway. Next steps in the renovation project will be interior work to replace the concrete floors, according to Steve Scruggs, president of the Lakeland Economic Development Council, Catapult’s parent organization.
Expect fireworks this holiday weekend. Jimi Hendrix’ explosive music will be recreated at LkldLive Saturday night as David Brimer and his band of gypsies perform “Are You Experienced.” And real fireworks light the skies following Monday’s Lake Mirror performance by reggae band Jah Movement at Red White & Kaboom and also after a Bob Seger tribute band plays on Independence Day following the Flying Tigers baseball game. Check more music listings after the jump.
“My whole life is tragic now. Everybody is looking at me funny. And my respect now is endangered because nobody will trust me,” Utpal Patel told NBC’s Kerry Sanders. Patel is in hiding after some people beat him up at Lakeland’s Southwest Complex and smeared him on Facebook. They claim he was trying to abduct a 2-year-old girl but Lakeland Police say Patel was a good Samaritan trying to help a lost child find her family.
Kathleen Middle School, under threat of shutting down, missed its goal of improving from a D grade by one point, according to scores released by the Florida Department of Eduction today. Meanwhile, Socrum Elementary jumped two grades from an F to a C, while two Lakeland schools dropped a letter grade: Southwest Middle and Kathleen Elementary went from C to D.
ALSO: View statewide results | Polk Schools news release
The race for mayor of Lakeland has attracted a fourth candidate: Christopher Diaz, a 33-year-old former Polk Sheriff’s detective and current co-owner of a children’s goods retailer. He told The Ledger he doesn’t have a position on the strong-mayor ballot issue: “It’s up to the voters. I’m looking to be a representative of their voice. … I’m not running for mayor to put my ideals in them. They tell me what do to, and I will serve them to the best of my ability.”
The chain, whose five locations are on Florida’s west coast, is hoping to open by the end of the year at Lakeland Park Center, just north of Interstate 4.
It’s a story of mixed signals and frayed tempers. Police say a 39-year-old Lakeland man is a good Samaritan who was trying to help a lost child find her family. But the child’s 22-year-old father isn’t buying it and told reporters he has no regrets about punching the older man. His friends and family took to social media to post the 39-year-old’s photo and call him a child predator. Police say they’re convinced he was trying to be helpful and warned on Facebook (link) against posting untrue information. Fox 13 | The Ledger
Lakeland resident Heather Robertson, 41, started a podcast called “Half-Size Me” and a company by the same name to offer weight-reduction advice after dropping nearly half her body weight.
Jason Montgomery (LinkedIn), a 43-year-old Lakeland resident who works in Manatee County as the school district’s athletic director, has filed to run as a Democrat for the Florida House District 40 seat currently held by Republican Colleen Burton. He faces another Democrat, Shandale Terrell, in the August 2018 primary.
CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTIONS: Candidates in Nov. 7 Lakeland City Commission races who collected the most campaign dollars so far are Stephanie Madden ($23.8k) in an at-large race, C. Scott Franklin ($21.9k) for the Southeast district and Larry Durrence ($18.9k) for the Southwest district | ALSO: Charts by Chris Guinn track campaign funding | Lists compiled by Michael Maguire show who’s contributing.
OPEN GOVERNMENT: A scorecard compiled by the Florida Society of Newspaper Editors graded state legislators on public records and open meetings votes this year (overview.) Scores for lawmakers with Lakeland-based districts were: Sen. Kelli Stargel, C-; Rep. Colleen Burton, D+; Rep. Neil Combee, D+
POLK THEATRE: The 1927 landmark reopens Sunday after undergoing a renovation paid largely with state grants.
BRYANT STADIUM: The city of Lakeland is asking for $1.2 million as it negotiates with the Polk School Board for the 76-year-old home of the LHS Dreadnaughts. Proceeds would go toward a North Lakeland park.
- First up: A mandolin takes on the violin solos in Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” at the ISO‘s 5:30 Classical Cocktail Hour at Lake Gibson Village.
- Brian Sutherland kicks off a national tour and debuts a new CD at LkldLive at 7 p.m. Gypsy-jazz storyteller Dean Johanesen opens.
- Elsewhere downtown, David Brimer picks jazz guitar at Lakeland Loft and singer-songwriter Bryan Rivers plays Fresco’s, both at 8 p.m.
- Dan Signor‘s keyboards pair with Kelly Halloran‘s fiddle at The Pink Piano at 9 — and rumor has it some musicians may wander over from LkldLive to jam.
BRYANT STADIUM: City officials confirm they are in talks with the Polk County School Board to sell the 1941 football stadium that’s home to LHS Dreadnaught games and youth leagues. If terms aren’t reached, there’s interest from Florida Southern College, which bought neighboring Henley Field from the city two years ago.
After sewage backed up in a shed-turned-dwelling at 535 W. Belmar St., the 74-year-old tenant was forced to sleep outside and says the owners still wanted rent. The city has ordered the building vacated, saying it never should have been a residence; owners Belmar Properties LLC (link) did not respond to WFLA’s calls for comment.
DIGITAL DIVIDE: Panelists at a public meeting at City Hall at 5:45 Thursday will discuss ways to provide fast Internet access to poorer homes, including a possible expansion of the SurfLakeland public wifi network and Spectrum’s new low-cost Internet Assist program (info).
FINAL ADVENTURE: When 70-year-old Lakeland electrician Richard Douglas hiked the top of Mount Vesuvius last month, the steep grade was his last conquest. He collapsed afterward and died of heart failure June 9.
MEDICAL POT: The city of Lakeland is redrafting its marijuana dispensaries regulations now that the state Legislature has said land-use rules can’t be stricter than those applied to pharmacies. The new rules could come up for a vote July 17.
TRANSIT HUB: A center for city buses, carpooling and soon-to-start Megabus service has opened on U.S. 98 near I-4 and named for former Mayor Gow Fields.
BUSINESS HUB: The Lakeland Chamber discusses its plans for a center housing multiple organizations that serve entrepreneurs, modeled on the National Entrepreneur Center in Orlando.
CALL HUB: Sykes Enterprises Inc. has moved 100 employees from Lake Parker Avenue into a new call center at 2525 Drane Field Road.
City commissioners on Tuesday raised stormwater fees and parking ticket fines. They got updates on medical marijuana dispensaries, Chamber of Commerce plans, the Lakeland Magic and a Simpson Park teaching garden. They also chose a firm to coordinate a homeless strategy and delayed hearing a land-use dispute between a boat storage facility and homeowners. Check meeting highlights below as shared on Twitter.
Jim Hendrick, an entertainer and WONN morning host, has died.
GOING UP: City commissioners are set to vote Monday on a proposal to increase the stormwater fee on utility bills by one-third. For private residences, it means a monthly boost from $6 to $8. The extra revenue will allow the city to make infrastructure improvements.
AND UP: Commissioners will also consider a proposal to increase penalties for downtown parking violations, a move aimed at changing the behavior of habitual offenders. (An infographic by reporter Christopher Guinn illustrates the problem.)
Initial accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges came six months faster than other universities, Florida Poly President Randy Avent said. (Early this morning, the online version of this article was far shorter than the one in print.)
Lydia Pogu, 19, and Joy Bishara, 20, who will attend Southeastern University this fall, were among 300 Nigerian girls kidnapped by a terrorist group in 2014.
Some chances to rock this weekend: Classic Albums Live delivers Rush’s “2112” at The Lakeland — I mean, RP Funding Center — tonight; the Ellie Lee Band brings blues to the Music Ranch Saturday; the Sofa Kings crown Frescos Underground with a Play It Forward Polk benefit. See more listings after the jump.
OLIVO: Rick Olivo has put his acting on display for years, but has been reluctant to expose himself by exhibiting his visual art. That changes Friday evening at Tay’-cho Gallery in Bartow.
YOUTH SPORTS: Highland Park Church is getting a donation of $10k worth of equipment for its youth sports program, serving about 3,000 kids.
Painters recently covered a 53-year-old mosaic at the shopping plaza formerly known as Searstown. A petition at change.org (link) asks the Clearwater-based owners to either remove the paint or allow the mosaic to be removed.
Remember Abraham Shakespeare, who won a $17 million Florida Lottery jackpot and fell victim to homicide? His son’s mom just won a $1 million in a scratch-off game she played from a Lottery ticket bought at a Circle K at 7250 U.S. 98 N.
Drew Lausman’s Explosionism art involves controlled explosives and acrylic paints.
Lakeland residents Tracy Dean Tronco, 51, a DOT transit coordinator, and Alejo Tronco-Diaz, 50, face charges of conspiracy, mail fraud, and federal program theft.
I’m traveling for the next week, but will continue curating news about Lakeland and posting it on lkldnow.com. I don’t plan to file in-person reporting while I’m away.
– Barry Friedman, Editor and Publisher, lkldnow
MUSEUM: More details emerge about the affiliation agreement behind the institution that’s being renamed the Polk Museum of Art at Florida Southern College.
POLK STATE: A last-minute legislative deal preserved funds Polk State College needed to keep its Lake Wales center open.LEGISLATORS: Seventeen months before the election, political action committees are already promoting the re-election of two Republican state legislators from Lakeland — Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Colleen Burton — as possible opponents are being discussed.
Lakeland Regional Health and its trauma center is the largest in the nation without a teaching program, a hospital official says. That could change under legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson that would close what’s being called a Medicare glitch that is keeping the University of Central Florida from supplying residents to LRH.
You’d hardly know summer is starting based on the number of musicians playing around town this weekend. One sign of summer is Caribbean Chillers, a Jimmy Buffett tribute act, playing after the Flying Tigers game Friday. Other highlights include Bite Size Boom, LkldLive’s lunchtime percussion smashup Friday (check the rehearsal video) and a seven-band rock festival at Mason’s Live Saturday. More listings after the jump:
GROCERY DELIVERY: Publix announces it is rolling out online ordering through Instacart (link), but it’s unclear when the service will come to Lakeland. Said company spokesman Brian West: “We know it will happen. We just don’t know when. For us in Lakeland, it can’t come soon enough.”
Patrick Shawn Jones, a 52-year-old heavy metal DJ and certified sterilization technician (Facebook profile), has filed (document) to run for mayor, offering a strong contrast with businessman Bill Mutz, the only other announced candidate. “I know how it is to ride a city bus to work and have to walk home because the bus doesn’t run at night. I know what the price of bread is at Walmart — I can’t afford Publix,” he told reporter Christopher Guinn.
RADIATION: In the face of a lawsuit that alleges high radiation levels in Oakbridge and Grasslands neighborhoods, a scientist with the Florida Industrial and Phosphate Research Institute (link) told nearly 400 residents Tuesday night that “the average radiation dose attributable to mining practices … is zero.”
MALLESS: An urban planner by training, City Commissioner Jim Malless is taking on city planners in his re-election bid, saying they have been too restrictive in dealing with creative development ideas.
PENSIONS: City commissioners are moving toward a one-time $750 payment to city retirees with pensions of less than $40k per year to help keep up with inflation.
Lakeland Regional Health Medical Center is one of at least 11 hospitals in the U.S. that would be given a path to establish a residency program under legislation co-sponsored by U.S. Bill Nelson, D-Florida.
The 2.93-mile path around Lake Hollingsworth ranked 20th on a list of mostly big-city runs compiled based on the number of times the routes were recorded by users of the MapMyRun app. The lake is particularly popular at 7 a.m. Saturdays, and 57 percent of MapMyRun users there are women.
Also: Ledger coverage
An urban pioneer uncovered a big surprise when she started converting a commercial building on Munn Park into her residence: The white plaster in her spacious living room had been hiding a well-preserved Coca-Cola sign that was painted on a brick wall more than 100 years ago. There was a Bull Durham tobacco sign, too.
SUSHI: Downtown Lakeland is getting the third location of Winter Haven’s Tsunami Sushi (web). The 4,000-square-foot restaurant will be on the ground floor of the BB&T Bank building, which is on the Tennessee Avenue side of Munn Park and just a block and a half from the recently announced Screaming Tuna restaurant opening on Bay Street in the NoBay complex.
AUDITOR: City commissioners agreed with their staff in a 5-2 vote to retain the outside auditors they’ve used for at least three decades even though the firm was the most expensive of three finalists.
CANNABIS: City commissioners fine-tuned proposed land-use regulations for medical marijuana dispensaries in preparation for a June 19 public hearing and July 5 vote on the issue. The commission voted 4-3 to allow drive-through sales, but a motion that would reduce the distance between dispensaries failed.
MOSAICS: Large mosaics at the Searstown Publix generated a lot of affection since the store opened in 1964. So Lakelanders were sad to learn that the owners of the plaza, now called Town Center, painted over the mosaics at what is now a a Sav-A-Lot.
CANDIDATE: Retired Circuit Judge Bob Doyel, a Democrat, has announced he will oppose Republican state Sen. Kelli Stargel next year, and the battle lines are already being drawn. He says Stargel is out of touch with people back home; she’s calling him a liberal.
POLY: Florida Poly fired its new Title IX coordinator after discovering he failed to disclose he was dismissed from a similar job at the University of Florida for using campus email to buy porno. And the UF dean who gave him an effusive recommendation has resigned, the Gainesville Sun reports.
Lakeland’s homeless people would be better served with more focus on “rapid re-housing” (info) and less on transitional housing, according to a consultant recommended to guide the city’s strategy on homelessness. Commissioners are scheduled to decide June 19 whether to award a contract to Tallahassee-based Florida Housing Coalition (link).
The Hurricane Hunters, who dedicated their new quarters at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport Friday, get a $2 million budget boost as their parent agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, faces a cut from of about $1 billion to $4.8 billion. U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross of Lakeland, attending the ceremony, wouldn’t say whether he supports President Trump’s proposed NOAA cuts.
City commissioners will decide Monday whether to stick with their staff’s recommendation to rehire the firm that has audited city books for 40 years even though theirs was the highest of three bids.
It was 50 years ago today
Sgt. Pepper came to stay and stay.
Come and hear the album played in style
at Lakeland Live; you’re guaranteed a smile.
So may I introduce to you the band that’s gonna play the tunes:
Jason, David, Sumner, Shane — and the ISO
To celebrate today’s 50th anniversary of The Beatles’ landmark “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band,” 17 local musicians are staging an ambitious concert Saturday reproducing the entire album from start to finish.
Brian Sutherland and Craig Morby bring both humor and intensity to Fresco’s tonight. On Friday and Saturday, jazz lovers and curiosity seekers who weren’t invited to last weekend’s grand opening can check out Lakeland Loft (after checking the dress code.) But the big music event this weekend is Sgt. Pepper Redux at LkldLive, where 17 musicians will recreate the classic Beatles album from beginning to end. We’ll have more on that later today. Check more listings after the jump…
Soraya Carmen Matias-Roth, the 53-year-old Lakeland woman who died in a head-on crash in Orlando early Monday, was a YMCA swim coach who worked at the Achievement Academy and had adopted five children.
Youngsters using fire to try to kill fire ants started a blaze that destroyed a house in the 1200 block of Sycamore Street, displacing two adults and four children. A relative has started a GoFundMe drive to help the family.
“I know they’re doing things with robotics, for example, that we could learn from,” Capt. Michael Silah of the NOAA Hurricane Hunters told WUSF News, referring to local higher education institutions. “And so our intention is to bring some of their expertise over and hopefully start growing the next generation of employees, which I think will be from Lakeland.” Crews are working quickly to prepare their new building at Lakeland Linder Airport for Friday’s ribbon cutting (info). The story is part of a larger overview (link) of the 2017 hurricane season, which starts Thursday.
Harold Truman Spears Jr., a theater company executive who bought Lakeland’s 1940s-era Silver Moon Drive-In after his company told him to close it, died Sunday of multiple myeloma at age 87.
LkldNow, the news site I started, wasn’t the first; I believe LkldTV gets that honor. But I was there when some early Twitter adopters decided more than eight years ago to formalize use of #lkld to identify posts about Lakeland.
LIBRARY: Even as its number of E-books is increasing, the Lakeland Public Library has trimmed 12 percent of its physical books during the past year. The library is reconfiguring its space and has discontinued placing books on ground-level shelves.
MEMORIAL DAY: Nine Polk soldiers who died in Iraq and Afghanistan were honored Monday during a Memorial Day Tribute at Lakeland Funeral Home and Memorial Gardens.
Soraya Matias-Roth, 53, of Lakeland, died about 12:30 a.m. Monday when her northbound Dodge Durango was hit head-on by a southbound Mitsubishi Lancer that had crossed a grass median, the Orlando Sentinel reports. The accident took place on State Road 417, also known as the Central Florida GreeneWay, near University Boulevard in Orlando.
The 20-year-old Orlando woman driving the Lancer also died; her identity has not been released yet. Three passengers sustained injuries, including a 10-year-old boy who was taken to Arnold Palmer Hospital for Children, according to WKMG Orlando.
MEET RP: Entertainment writer Paul Catala profiles Robert Palmer (LinkedIn), the 1998 LHS grad and super successful real estate entrepreneur behind the rebranding of The Lakeland Center into the RP Funding Center.
PAYING FORWARD: Rodney Snow, a family nurse practitioner, was honored by Blake Academy for his role in a program that provides school yearbooks to students who can’t afford them and encourages them to pay it forward later in life | Video
Check out photos (below and here) and a video from Saturday’s VIP grand opening for Lakeland Loft, Solomon Wassef’s jazz and cigar bar opening Tuesday on the second floor at the corner of Main Street and Tennessee Avenue. Live music is planned for this Friday and Saturday. If you go, check out the dress code.
SMART GALS: It’s all in the family for Mary Claire Madden, who graduated as LHS’ valedictorian Thursday. Her sister, mother and maternal grandmother were all vals at their high schools.
Grady Judd’s deputies have a suspect and the stolen truck that was used, but they’re still looking for a large Swansation sculpture that was hauled away from a local business. One thing’s for sure: This story’s gonna put Lakeland back in the tabloids, despite the lack of a gator playing dress-up or terrifying tourists.
Deb Hunseder, half of the folk-pop duo Halcyon (anybody else remember when they played one of Joe Prine’s early Lakeland shows?), performs at Fresco’s tonight. Tomorrow night following the Flying Tigers game, expect a few rebel flags as Nuthin’ Fancy rocks a tribute to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Check listings after the jump.
Grady Palmer has been found in good health and reunited with his family, Lakeland police report. Earlier:
STORM: Yesterday’s wind and rain felled an oak on West Pine, toppled a sign on Memorial and left nearly 600 Lakeland Electric customers without power.
FREDDIE: Lakeland entertainment maestro, dance artist and character-about-town Freddie DeJesus heads the cast of “ButchQueen and the Bad Habits” (Facebook), playing three times this weekend at the Orlando Fringe Festival.
The colorful street mural marks the East Main Street gateway to downtown Lakeland in an area that city planners envision as Lakeland’s design district. It was painted Sunday by students from Harrison School for the Arts and Rochelle School of the Arts.
The usual warnings apply: Lock your car and keep valuables out of sight.
KC’s Artisan Pizza (web) in south Lakeland gets a 3 1/2-star review from dining critic Eric Pera, who praises its appealing rusticity and says Lakeland needs more eateries similarly “informal and moderately priced, with food that’s freshly prepared and tilts to the exotic.”
The Lakeland philanthropist is the 18th person named a Notable Member of the Association of Junior Leagues International (see a list) since the organization was founded in 1901.
Robert Palmer, whose high school graduation took place at The Lakeland Center 19 years ago, announces that the building will carry his initials now that its name is being changed to the RP Funding Center. Palmer's mortgage-lending company has signed a five-year naming rights deal for the building that opened in 1974 as the Lakeland Civic Center. RP Funding is also founding partner of the Lakeland Magic NBA D-league team that will be headquartered at the renamed center.
The Ledger: The five-year naming rights deal was part of a larger package involving the building, the Lakeland Magic and the Orlando Magic likely exceeding $5 million.
Video: Lakeland Magic | Full news conference
“People have been calling all morning wanting to donate their tools,” an official with First Presbyterian Church says.
A bungalow-turned-coffee-shop, an urban residence with a balcony on Munn Park and a mammoth Florida Boom building restored to its former glory were among structures recognized by Historic Lakeland Inc. Monday night. The organization also gave a lifetime achievement award — only its second ever — to city planning chief Jim Studiale. Check below for then-and-now photos of the winning homes and businesses.
CRIME: Burglars took more than $5k in tools used by a First Presbyterian Church ministry to fix bicycles and give them to children and adults in need | A drunk driver who kept going after hitting and killing a motorcyclist was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
EVENTS: Bruce Dube, The Ledger’s new marketing director, coordinated events with major league teams when he was a Tampa Tribune exec and will bring big events to Polk, Publisher Brian Burns said.
Nobody was home when the vehicle hit the residence after the driver lost control. The driver suffered minor injuries, police said.
TOYS FOR TOTS: David Waller, a career law enforcement officer, is working to revitalize the program that provides Christmas toys.
LAKES: Maintaining the quality of lakes is all in a day’s work for Laurie Ann Smith, the city’s new stormwater director.
FIRE: Firefighters extinguished a blaze at Wood Mulch Products Inc. in East Lakeland that could be seen for miles Sunday morning.
BOLO: Police are looking for endangered adult Richard Jones, a disabled 44-year-old who lives off Prescott Loop and was last seen Friday.
Students from Harrison School for the Arts and Rochelle School of the Arts painted a mural on the roadway at the intersection of East Main Street and Ingraham Avenue Sunday to mark Lakeland’s emerging Design District | Background
Projects include Easton Drive bricks, the Westgate Central Trail, Robson Street and the Main Street Parking Garage storm water vault — and, boy, is that last one noisy.
An 86-year-old man died Wednesday when his car veered off Morgan Combee Road and sank in a lake at Saddle Creek Park.
Lawyers for the developers of Oakbridge and Grasslands said in a U.S. District Court motion that the plaintiffs showed no current data or evidence of harm to homeowners.
Anti-bullying activist Jaylen Arnold, 16, is flying to the UK to accept a Legacy Award from Prince William and Prince Harry that is given to 20 young people who have made a “monumental impact” on society.
Charles Custer, 86, was awake and talking but unable to remove his seatbelt as his pickup truck started sinking in a lake at Saddle Creek Park this afternoon, witnesses told deputies. The truck sank, and the truck with Custer’s body was later pulled from 30 feet of water, according to the Polk Sheriff’s Office.
10:30 P.M. UPDATE: A 25-acre brush fire under the George Jenkins Boulevard overpass west of Kathleen Road has been contained, the Lakeland Fire Department says. All the department’s engines responded to the smokey fire and were assisted by the Florida Fire Service and Polk County Fire Rescue. Train traffic had been discontinued but was allowed to resume around 8:20 p.m., and the overpass r-opened to traffic around 10:30.
Three new candidates for Lakeland City Commission share a desire to speak for citizens they say have been marginalized:
- Kathy Barsotti, the 58-year-old co-owner of Django and Friends Dixieland Emporium, wants to represent people who work and pay taxes but are never asked their opinion: “small businesses, artists, the creators in town, the people all through Dixieland and the lower elements of Lakeland.” She enters a four-way race for an at-large seat.
- Laurel Pullo, a 42-year-old who’s had a career as a manager and supervisor in the hospitality sector, is also running for the at-large seat. She said she wants to bring a blue-collar voice and also end red-light cameras, increase littering penalties, help fund schools and curb interferences on property rights.
- Pablo Sologaistoa, a 28-year-old with a background in social services and volunteerism, is the fourth candidate in the race for the southwest district seat. He wants to make sure north Lakeland residents have an equal voice and supports both the strong-mayor move and plans to test a South Florida Avenue “road diet.”
The interior makeover will reclaim space that’s now part of a large, open atrium.
County officials will discuss the findings of a study from the Florida Department of Transportation at a 6 p.m. meeting tonight at George Jenkins High School.
Woodturner John Mascoll of Safety Harbor won the $5,000 best-of-show award at this weekend’s Mayfaire-by-the-Lake. The annual art festival on Lake Morton, sponsored by the Polk Museum of Art, continues today through 4 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Other winners, their booth numbers and a map follow:
CITY RACES: Larry Durrence pushed attracting high-wage jobs as he launched his campaign for City Commission. The article catches up with finance of all city races and reveals that Gregory Fancelli has donated another $50,000 to the strong-mayor effort.
SEU SCHOLARSHIPS: Two young women from Nigeria who were among the 276 students kidnapped by Boko Haram in 2014 will enter Southeastern University’s freshman class this fall under full scholarships.
EASTSIDE ODOR: Polk County has no grounds to shut down BS Ranch & Farms and hasn’t proved it’s the cause of odors, a special magistrate ruled. (Note: There’s a longer version in print and eReplica.)
CITY RETIREES: Commissioners are considering a $500 one-time payment to 985 retirees or surviving spouses because pensions have not kept up with inflation.
QUEEN AT WAL-MART: Gary White pens a delightful feature about the mad dash to find a copy of “Stone Soup” for Queen Noor of Jordan to read to students when she spoke at a Roberts Academy benefit. My favorite scene: the queen searching the aisles of the Dale Mabry Wal-Mart on the way from the airport.
TONIGHT: Pink Floyd’s “Dark Side of the Moon” and “Animals” gets the Classic Albums Live treatment at the Lakeland Center, and the Harrison Symphony Orchestra wraps up its year with its spring concert.
FRIDAY: Broadway show tunes are the focus of the Imperial Symphony Orchestra’s free Pops by the Lake concert at Lake Mirror, and a benefit featuring the Fleetwood Max tribute band follows the Flying Tigers game.
SATURDAY: Orlando’s Mpire returns to Mayfaire Saturday Night at Lake Mirror. See more listings after the jump:
NEW BUSES: The Citrus Connection unveiled its first new buses in more than a decade Wednesday. They replace slightly larger vehicles that were at least 15 years old with more than 500,000 miles each. After voters turned down a transit tax in 2014, the agency turned to service cuts to fund new equipment.
Ledger dining critic Eric Pera is impressed with the creative menu and its execution at the first restaurant effort from Marco and Grace Franca, and he pooh-poohs social media criticism of the Brazilian gastropub’s prices.
An abbreviated version of “Masterwork” by veteran actor Karissa Barber is being performed this week at the Tampa International Fringe Festival. The article does not mention that local audiences will get to see the play May 20 at LkldLive, a venue The Ledger has chosen to ignore.
Greg Williams, a 12-year Lakeland resident who teaches graphic design at Keiser University, is one of four Democrats running for the congressional seat held by Dennis Ross, a Lakeland Republican.
Funded by a $750k state grant and named for former Mayor Gow Fields, the facility at U.S. 98 and I-4 will include parking for car-pooling commuters, a bus transfer station and charging stations for electric vehicles.
Andrew Learned, 30, is the fifth Democrat in the race and the only one from Hillsborough County.
Forrest Cunningham, who had been an athlete and homecoming king at Lakeland High School, has persevered through a 2013 crash that burned 40 percent of his body.
Polk Detective Jonathan McKinney got consent before entering a house to arrest a young teen following the suicide of a 12-year-old Lakeland bullying victim, a jury ruled.