A monument to Annie Darracott’s fantasies; not Lakeland’s soldiers

Meet Annie Hanna Darracott, founder of the Lakeland chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). That’s her above, standing with a bunch of little girls in front of the Confederate monument in Munn Park some time after its 1910 dedication. You can read all about her on the helpful website of Lakeland’s Annie […]

Ledger’s Bill Thompson: Bureaucratic suckerpuncher for a ridiculous institution

You probably didn’t see this, judging by how little response I received. But The Ledger dedicated essentially its entire Saturday editorial to me and my ongoing writing about how police deploy state power. I assume that Ledger Editorial Editor Bill Thompson, whom I have never met, wrote the piece. The first half went on and […]

Johnson Avenue is 38 percent “better” than it was in 1999

I’m quite pleased with the Lakeland Police Department’s response to my series of articles concerning the killing of Mario Acosta on Johnson Avenue last month — and a series of other unpleasant events in the previous year. I’ve had long, productive discussions with Chief Larry Giddens and Asst. Chief Vic White. Giddens and White led […]

The Johnson Avenue Stabbing, part 3: Of Mario Acosta’s pride and not knowing your neighbors

The night before he died, Mario Acosta cooked fajitas with strips of steak too large to fit on a tortilla. He doused the meat in hot sauce he picked up from some anonymous taqueria near his workplace. And then apparently, he hoisted the steak up on a big fork and chomped down joyously. When the […]

Some answers to Lake Morton/Johnson Avenue questions

My last post asked a series of questions related to the murder of Mario Acosta and LPD’s handling of crime in the Lake Morton area — and specifically Johnson Avenue in the last year. This includes a shoot out in August of last year; a mysterious and heavily-armored drug raid in May; and of course, […]

The Johnson Avenue Stabbing, part 2: a year’s worth of questions for LPD Chief Larry Giddens

After I posted my first dispatch on the Johnson Avenue stabbing, I got some pushback from a Facebook friend. She quoted an anonymous law enforcement officer suggesting very reasonably and non-specifially that I just don’t understand all the intricacies of police work and public communication in aftermath of an event like the stabbing. Fair enough. […]

The Johnson Avenue Stabbing, part 1: LPD’s relentless, discouraging, epic fail

At 10:57 p.m. Friday night, Lakeland police responded to a brutal double stabbing at a house at 720 Johnson Avenue. That’s at the north end of Johnson, near Mr. Fish and the library complex. I live at the other end of Johnson Avenue, where it meets Florida Southern College and Frank Lloyd Wright Way. This […]

Motivations and facts: a quick response to Gene Strickland and supporters

The day after The Ledger quoted me in a story about the executive mayor push, former City Manager Gene Strickland called me to ask if he could come by my house to talk about it. I was very busy that day; but I happily made time. We had a nice chat at my dining room […]

Moral arcs, part 1: Grant us the grace to fight Grady Judd’s American battle flag

“I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Dylann Roof reportedly said that before he massacred a Bible study class at Denmark Vesey’s church. We know this because he let one woman go so that she could tell people about his reasoning. Thus, […]

How Southwest Middle rescued a child from the cruel, incompetent indifference of a choice school

Today we have a guest post. I’ve known the Olson family for a long-time. My son Ian and their son Luke have grown up with each other. We are all dear friends. I had known about the story Sara Olson is about to tell you; and I encouraged her to tell it. I’m grateful that […]

Gigabit Lakeland, the Fire Fee, and Downtown: Why I’m flipping on strong mayor

I still hold all of the concerns I raised a while back concerning the push for a strong mayor system of government. Badly implemented, it could sow structural chaos and give disproportionate power to organized voting blocs. But my reading and observation in the past month or so have changed my mind about the cost-benefit […]

1926: The lasting points of Lakeland’s violent, troubled birth

On the night of Sunday, August 22, 1926, 17-year-old Ed Attenburg went to visit a girl on West Hollingsworth Street. When he came back, he found a cross burning next to his car. Attenburg kicked it down — either in defiance or because he feared it would set his car on fire. Accounts differ. As […]

Kelli Stargel is helping Joe Negron gut Polk State College — and every other state college. Why?

Lakeland Local readers will know that Polk State College is probably our county’s best-functioning, highest value institution. You will also know that parent-grading, beer entrepreneur-hating state Sen. Kelli Stargel is likely the worst legislator we’ve ever produced. Now the two have collided in predictably awful ways. And this could produce far more lasting damage than […]

The 6,500-vote strong mayor: How to empower unions, wealthy heirs, and self-important writers

I empathize with the people pursuing a strong mayor government structure. I really do. I’m not sure anyone in this town so relentlessly articulated his or her frustration with organizational stagnancy in Lakeland city government as I did through 2013 and 2014. I believe this passage appeared in this space just more than a year […]

Of blasphemy, abortion, the gods we believe, and the men we know

I wonder how the global reaction to the awful murders of Parisian cartoonists would have changed if the victims were the staff of a Paris abortion clinic. In the aftermath, people on virtually all sides of the American political and cultural scene have taken to insisting on wide republication of the cartoons lampooning the central […]

It’s deeply immoral to treat college football players like politicians

You hear this lament often in modern politics: “The public scrutiny of every aspect of a candidate’s private and professional life discourages good people from running and serving.” And it’s true to a point. When you freely choose to pursue state power and a paycheck through the political process, you do become the property of […]

Lockdown drills and our illusions of order

At my kid’s school, which is very small, lockdown drills consist of herding the children into two rooms, turning off the lights, and remaining quiet for five minutes. That’s fine as far as it goes. But knowing the size and layout of the school, I severely doubt the adults will have any time at all […]

Don’t scapegoat Jacquelyn Moore: What Jewett says about organizations, leadership, and judgement

Finally, we’re beginning to get a granular level account of how the Jewett drill came to occur–and the information vacuum that followed. It is a generally depressing (but in some ways encouraging) portrait of how human nature, hierarchical organizations, and state power too often interact with each other. Here’s The Ledger/NewsChief story from Thursday. At […]

Full text of LeRoy’s answers to Lakeland Local’s questions

Credit where due, Polk Supt. Kathryn LeRoy (I understand she goes by Kathy; I’ve used both) answered the pointed questions I asked in yesterday’s post about the ill-fated drill at Jewett Middle Magnet. I don’t have time to parse them right now; but I will. But I wanted to get her answers up in their […]

Steve Wade is a peculiar kind of victim advocate, Mr. Mayor

Remember when Steve Wade sent me this. Well, I had intended never to mention this again, but…very briefly: Wade showed up at the City Commission again on Monday to have himself a pity party about lying about the sexual virtue of black girls and to defend his take on the general near animal status of […]

Questions that Kathy LeRoy needs to answer about the Jewett mock execution

Can you imagine Eileen Holden or Tom Phillips hiding behind their flacks over an issue of deadly seriousness that occurred at a facility under their command? We’re going on 5 days since the mock execution at Jewett. The Ledger, inexplicably, hasn’t managed to get the leader of Polk School District on record about this great […]