Tag Archives: tampa bay

I-4 from Tampa to Daytona: This is where the election could be decided

The Interstate 4 corridor stretching from the Tampa Bay area through Orlando to Daytona Beach is a bellwether of the nation’s largest swing state, where candidates are campaigning vigorously.

North Florida is predictably Republican, and South Florida remains strongly Democratic, leaving a swath around Interstate 4 as the state’s primary battleground.

The 6.5 million residents living around the 140-mile highway reflect the diversity of the state, and they account for a third of Florida’s registered voters. The large bustling metros of Tampa and Orlando are broken up by the citrus and cattle fiefdoms of Polk County.

Kissimmee in suburban Orlando has become a destination for Puerto Ricans fleeing the deteriorating economy on the island. The suburbs of Orlando give way to the motors sports traditions of Daytona Beach and the gateway to the Kennedy Space Center.

More than a third of I-4 voters are registered Democrats, a third are registered Republicans and a quarter have no party affiliation.

John Long is looking for someone who will overturn the political apple cart, and sees Trump as the answer. He feels there are too many ties between Big Business and Washington politicians, and small businesses are overlooked.

Clinton is at the center of that nexus, and she hasn’t been held accountable for using a private email server as secretary of state, he said.

“That’s what I like about Donald Trump. He’s an outsider,” said Long, a former Kennedy Space Center worker, who now runs a bicycle shop on Florida’s Space Coast. “Hillary is too embedded in the political machine, in it for her own desire for power at the expense of the nation.”

Robert Thomas wants to do his civic duty and vote for president but finds shortcomings in both major-party candidates. So he is voting for Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson.

Thomas, who is African-American, worries about some of the racist views of Trump supporters. But he feels the Democratic administration of President Barack Obama only “has paid a lot of lip-service” to middle-class economic recovery from the recession, and it’s not enough for him to vote for Clinton, even though he respects her experience.

“I’m not voting for either,” Thomas, a retired soldier from the elite 101st Airborne Division who has voted Republican most of his life, said while fishing on the Cocoa Beach Pier. “I’m going to vote for Gary. Put him on the ticket.”

Donna-Lynne Dalton, who is voting for Clinton, has two things on her mind: higher wages and better benefits for her workers.

Dalton, a business agent with Teamsters Local 385, who represents Walt Disney World workers, including costumed characters, worries that a Trump presidency would chip away at workers’ rights.

Workers “don’t have a lot of rights as it is, but a union contract does protect them,” Dalton said in her union hall office in Orlando. “Trump has made it clear that he’s not in favor of any of that.”

Robin Rowbotham insists she isn’t throwing her vote away by voting for Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Rowbotham, who dances under the stage name “Tesla” at the famous Tampa strip club, Mons Venus, said she wanted to support Clinton but changed her mind after the debates reinforced her belief that the Democrat is dishonest. She calls Trump’s discussion about groping women without their permission unacceptable.

“As a dancer, I get guys say things but I do not condone it. I feel that if you say something, chances are you are going to do it,” she said in the club’s dressing room of the club. “Do we want somebody like that leading the country?”

Diana Font had been wavering about who to support for president.

The Orlando-area event planner and executive director of the local Puerto Rican Chamber of Commerce was a supporter of Marco Rubio in the Republican primary and wanted to stay true to her party. But Trump’s multiple bankruptcies raised red flags about his ability to lead the country, and the allegations that he had groped women without their permission, also gave her deep pause. The last debate was the final straw, said the lifelong Republican, since she felt he was whining “that everybody is against him.” She is voting for Clinton.

Bollywood Oscars taking place … in Tampa Bay?

The so-called Bollywood Oscars have been held in Macau, Singapore, London — and now, Tampa?

Hundreds of Indian film stars and thousands of Bollywood fans have flooded this city for the International Indian Film Academy’s awards extravaganza, four days of song-and-dance performances and movie screenings. The event caps off with the awards ceremony Saturday.

Even though Tampa has hosted four Super Bowls and the 2012 Republican National Convention, its small Indian population makes it an unusual choice for the awards. The event has been held in big cities across the globe as the success of Bollywood has grown, but it’s the first time in its 15-year history that the group has gathered in the United States.

About 800 million people will watch the ceremony on television or the Internet, according to organizers.

Shades of Bollywood are everywhere in the area. The top floor of the Tampa International Airport parking garage was transformed into a reception area for Bollywood bigwigs and autograph-seeking fans. Shahid Kapoor, an actor with 4 million followers on Twitter, arrived to a small crowd at the VIP area earlier this week. He is scheduled to co-host the awards ceremony.

Elsewhere, security was trained on how best to handle enthusiastic fans and service workers were taught how to accommodate Indian visitors (tip: “just because you don’t recognize them, doesn’t mean they aren’t famous”).

Tampa was chosen because city and tourism leaders were aggressive. Sabbas Joseph, the director of the academy and entertainment company Wizcraft International, said Tampa officials even took a few jabs at the competition, telling him: “Orlando mice, Miami Vice and Tampa nice.”

Tourism leaders are thrilled and hope to draw more wealthy Indian tourists to the area. Some 30,000 people are expected. Hollywood superstar Kevin Spacey will teach a master acting class and John Travolta will be honored at the awards show as the “Most Popular All Time International Star In India.”

Santiago Corrada, the president and CEO of Visit Tampa Bay, the area’s tourism arm, said a private donor gave about $9 million to help bring the awards to the area. The county and state provided about $1.1 million to promote the event and market Florida.

The city has shown there’s an appetite for Indian glitter and glam, despite having a small Indian-American population. Cheap seats at Raymond James Stadium, usually where the Tampa Bay Buccaneers football team plays, start at $93. Pricier options run all the way up to $3,295. Nearly all of 25,000 available tickets have been sold.

The average U.S. moviegoer might not be able to name a Bollywood flick that isn’t called “Slumdog Millionaire,” which won the 2008 Academy Award for Best Picture. But that could change, with movies such as “The Lunchbox,” a quiet romance from 2013 set in Mumbai. It won the Critics Week Viewers Choice Award at Cannes.

“We want to make people aware of Indian cinema,” said Deepika Padukone, an actor who has more than 5 million followers on Twitter and was named the “world’s sexiest Indian” by the Indian edition of FHM magazine.

That’s not to say Bollywood is struggling. With a population of 1.2 billion people, Bollywood films can quickly become a box office smash based on sheer volume. Plus, labor and marketing costs are cheap compared to U.S. films. The average U.S. flick costs $47.7 million, while the average film in India costs about $1.5 million to make, said Uday Singh, the chairman of the Los Angeles India Film Council.

“Bollywood” is the term for the film industry based in Mumbai (Bombay). Although it is used mostly to refer to the lengthy song-and-dance movies in the Hindi language, it’s become somewhat of a catchall term for Indian films. India is a large country with many different languages, religions and customs, and its films reflect those cultures _ not every movie from India is a Hindi musical.

The Indian industry makes more than four times as many films as Hollywood, Joseph said, and sells 3.6 billion tickets a year. That’s enough movie tickets to get more than half the world’s population inside a theater, and about a quarter of those were sold in North America.

“That was a factor in choosing America for IIFA,” said Joseph. “It’s extremely important to us. It’s where we believe the future lies.”

Administrators reprimand boy for makeup, parents petition for tolerance

The parents of a Tampa Bay, Fla., student have started an online petition asking for improved tolerance training after their son was castigated for wearing makeup on the last day of school.

Chris Martin decided to wear black eyeliner, eye shadow and lipstick on the last day of eighth grade at Meadowlawn Middle School in St. Petersburg, Fla., The Tampa Bay Times reported. Administrators told the 14-year-old boy he was violating the dress code.

The two women who raised the teen say they understand why his shirt’s image – an anarchy symbol and sheath – violated the code but the makeup was no different than what girls wear every day.

“When I asked what was wrong with his makeup,” his mother, Jamie Himes said, “the face the principal gave me made my blood boil.”

The Pinellas County School District backed the principal’s decision. A spokeswoman for the district said there was more to the story.

“But that would mean sharing confidential student information, which I am not at liberty to discuss,” spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra told the newspaper in an email.

The parents started a petition on moveon.org to improve tolerance training for teachers and administrators. They say their son has been beaten up, teased and had his belongings destroyed. His parents said the school’s response has been inadequate.

In addition to training, the petition encourages schools to teach LGBT history and host Gay-Straight Alliance clubs.

“Schools need to be a safe place, and kids need to know they won’t encounter intolerance there,” Himes said. “It’s not about our son anymore, it’s about intolerance.”

Pastor says prayer team sent Isaac away from RNC

A Tampa Bay pastor told the Christian Broadcasting Network her team prayed Tropical Storm Isaac away from the Republican National Convention.

Forecasts for severe weather associated with the storm forced convention officials, in consultation with local and state emergency management officials, to call off the first day of the convention in Tampa, Fla.

Then Isaac mostly proved to be a non-event in the Tampa Bay area as the storm took a northwesterly track in the Gulf of Mexico.

Tampa Bay saw some strong wind and rain, minor flooding in roads, beach erosion and surfing waves, as Isaac threatened the northern Gulf coast, developing into a hurricane on track for New Orleans.

As the tropical storm warnings were lifted in Tampa on Aug. 27, the Rev. Jesten Peters of Keys of Authority Ministries told the Christian Broadcasting Network, “We have had lots and lots of people praying around the clock that it would move, and after you watch from the very beginning where they were saying it was coming and now where they say it is going, then it has really moved out of the way for us and we appreciate God doing that and moving it for us.”

Right Wing Watch posted the video of Peters, who said she was leading one of the teams praying for the RNC, which concludes Aug. 30 with the nomination of Mitt Romney for president.

The CBN interview posted online didn’t contain any follow up about Isaac’s threat to New Orleans and other U.S. locations.

The RNC opened on Aug. 27 and then was recessed until today (Aug. 28), with a program that begins at 2 p.m. at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

The weather delay allowed delegates plenty of time to get to events outside of the convention on Aug. 27, including a party hosted by the Log Cabin Republicans, a national LGBT group; a prayer rally hosted by Focus on the Family, a national Christian right organization. U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann spoke at the Focus rally of a spiritual hurricane and called on people to suit up and pour it out “for Him.”

On the Web: www.rightwingwatch.org

Notes from the RNC in Tampa

Republican officials, after calling a rain delay for Monday, released a revised schedule for their national convention this week on the Florida Gulf Coast.

The rain delay was forced by forecasts for Tropical Storm Isaac, which late last showed the storm developing into a hurricane with Tampa in its potential path.

As of early Monday (Aug. 27), with Isaac moving on a northwest path, not even severe tropical storm conditions had materialized in the area. But concerns were high for New Orleans.

For the schedule, go to http://www.wisconsingazette.com/breaking-news/republican-national-convention-releases-revised-schedule-due-to-rain-delay.html


Aug. 27, 9 a.m.

Charlie Crist endorsed Barack Obama in one of Florida’s best-read newspapers on Sunday. Now the former governor and former Republican will address the Democratic National Convention next week, according to CNN.

Crist, after serving as attorney general and governor of the Sunshine State, left the GOP and ran as an independent for the U.S. Senate, a race he lost to rising Tea Party star Marco Rubio.

In an op-ed published in the Tampa Bay Times on Aug. 26, Crist explained why he supports Barack Obama’s re-election over Mitt Romney’s run for the White House. The decision, in part, has to do with an extreme pitch to the right by an element of the Grand Old Party.


Aug. 26, 4 p.m.

The forecast was calling for weather to intensify in the Tampa Bay area with the approach of Tropical Storm Isaac in the Gulf of Mexico. Still, the RNC welcome party at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg is a go.

The event is set to begin at about 6 p.m., with about 20,000 delegates and reporters expected for Florida-flavored cuisine and Southern-style music.

The weather – high winds and heavy rains were forecasted – could keep away those who would need to reach the stadium via a bridge or a causeway.

Earlier, an outdoor RNC concert near the Tampa Bay Times Forum with Lynyrd Skynyrd booked as headliner, was canceled.

But Log Cabin Republicans meet-and-greet with gay delegates hosted by the organization’s Florida chapters was to take place at the Rusty Pelican.


Aug. 25, 7 p.m.

RNC arrivals check in, get credentials, collect swag bags

An estimated 50,000 people assembled over the weekend for this week’s Republican National Convention – which was delayed a day due to Tropical Storm Isaac.

Many attendees arrived to the Gulf Coast on Saturday, settling into their host hotels – Wisconsin delegates are staying at the Hyatt Regency Tampa – with their newly claimed credentials and their swag bags.

What’s the swag?

Not too sweet. The press bag contained:

• A magnet paper clip for the University of Tampa.

• A can coozie for the Tampa Bay Storm.

• Two University of Tampa brochures.

• A booklet called “The Patriots Essential Liberty Companion to Our Founders’ Wisdom” that opens with Patrick Henry’s “Give me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech.

• An “Official Guide to the 2012 Republican National Convention” from the host committee.

• “No Apology: The Case for American Greatness,” a book by Mitt Romney.

• Dark sunglasses.

• SPF 30 “Vote4Energy.org” sunscreen.

• A battery-powered hand-fan from Vote4Energy.

• Mints.

• A copy of Bay Pop magazine with a male-model cover and a cover feature on “The Young Delegates.”

• And the bag itself, which promoted Busch Gardens Tampa Bay.


Aug. 25, 3 p.m.

The last of the barriers went up around certain buildings in downtown Tampa as officials prepared for the start of the Republican National Convention.

Barricades also were in place to close off streets running toward the Tampa Bay Times Forum, where the convention was to take place, and the convention center, where the working press would be headquartered.

On the street, there were a few gawkers near the forum, delegates and press looking for open restaurants and law enforcement teams – mostly packs of khaki-clad state troopers, all of them armed, including some with rifles.

Law enforcement patrolled the downtown in packs on foot, in teams by bicycle and in cars and armored trucks.


Aug. 24, 6 p.m

Southern sound to dominate at the RNC

Organizers for the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., announced the entertainment lineup for the week.

Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus said in a news release, “We’ve booked outstanding performers and world-famous acts. The convention attendees will be treated to special performances they will remember for a very long time.”

Delegates, dignitaries and the press will hear “everything from pop and rock to country and gospel,” he added.

Performers at the RNC include 3 Doors Down with the premiere of a new single “One Light,” as well as Lynyrd Skynyrd, the Oak Ridge Boys, Neal Boyd, Randy Owens, Jack Blades of Night Ranger, Taylor Hicks and BeBe Winans.

The house band is the GE Smith Band – Smith was a lead guitarist with Hall & Oates and a musical director of “Saturday Night Live.”

The schedule is:

Aug. 27: The Oak Ridge Boys, Conrad Oberg and Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Aug. 28: Philip Alongi, Neal E. Boyd, Michael Lane Turner, Randy Owen, Jack Blades and 3 Doors Down.

Aug. 29: Ayla Brown, Beau Davidson, The Katinas and Danny Gokey.

Aug. 30: The Mighty Sound of SEVEN, Taylor Hicks, BeBe Winans and the Tampa Gospel Choir led by Marvin Winans Jr.

The GOP also is planning a welcome party for the press, politicians and delegates with multiple musical acts on Aug. 26 in St. Petersburg.

Outside the convention, protesters with Occupy the RNC have set up a number of benefit concerts at much smaller venues.

The Democrats have not announced a full entertainment lineup, but performers for the pre-convention party in Charlotte, N.C., in early September include Janelle Monáe, Jeff Bridges and The Abiders and James Taylor.

To be updated.

Follow WiG at the RNC 2012 in news updates on www.wisconsingazette.com, on Twitter at wigazette and on Facebook.