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 […]

Prosecute whoever greenlit the mock execution at Jewett

By now, you probably know that a whole bunch of Polk 12-years-olds got the pleasure of thinking they were about to be killed horribly in their Jewett Middle Academy classrooms yesterday morning. Thanks, adults. I can hardly even speak about this, imagining it happening to my sixth grader. Middle school is terribly fraught to begin […]

Top 7 Reasons to Vote Yes on My Ride/My Roads

I’m about to go listen to one final debate on My Ride/Mr Roads. So I figured I would republish this on its own. Here are my top 7 reasons to support MR/MR: 1) The My Ride/My Roads plan is precisely what political conservatives claim they want: a meticulously planned, locally-designed, customized solution to a local […]

Yes on My Ride/My Roads: Join the fight against spam, spite, and despair

They’ll know you by your enemies. I think that’s an old proverb, although I can’t find the source. But it fits the debate over My Ride/My Roads really well. The organized resistance to MR/MR consists of a handful of store/business owners worried about their own bottom line — one of whom cared so much about […]

READ.THE.REPORTS: Jameis Winston is (almost certainly) innocent; and his accuser was (almost certainly) a victim

If you want to speak intelligently or responsibly about the Jameis Winston rape allegations — and thus the whole domino string of character assumption that come along with it — you owe it to decency to do the work of reading the case reports. If you haven’t, you should shut up about it. Until very […]

“Have you looked over your shoulder lately or behind you…”: Steve Wade sends me a note

This showed up in my Facebook message inbox Wednesday morning. As I mentioned a couple of weeks back, Steve Wade had contacted me on Facebook to object to/talk about the piece I wrote about his presentation at the Lakeland City Commission. He seemed to approach me in good faith. I responded in good faith. We […]

Yes on My Ride/My Roads; or Play-it-Again is no Publix

My kid plays a lot of sports. I like to play sports. And I also do a lot of coaching. Consequently, I often need to buy sporting goods — shoes, cups, $200 bats, gloves, basketballs, football, tennis balls, etc. etc. In the last year, I’ve spent probably $500 on gear at Play-it-Again-Sports, a national new/used […]

End Wadegate now: Let’s talk mercy, despair, honesty, and the future

Steve Wade is not the repository of all our sins. One need look exactly no further than the racial, class, and “achievement” segregation that we happily tolerate amongst our choice-driven school system to see that the core of his message to the Lakeland City Commission is widely held. He just made the mistake of saying […]

Defend the honor of your constituents and their children, city commissioners

I can be a tiresome person. I tend to repeat things that matter to me. Quite often. It’s a brute force effort to make them matter to you. One of these is the plunging American and Polk County teen pregnancy rate. Yes, you read that right. Across the country, including our very own teeming pit […]

All policy is personal: Why Obamacare is here to stay and Common Core is imploding

Some of you may remember Pierre Tristam and his career with The Ledger. He covered the Polk County Commission in the late 1990s — a couple of years before I came to town in 1999 to take the same job. By that time, Pierre had moved to the editorial page, where he wrote beautifully idiosyncratic […]

#Ferguson, Lakeland, and the Johnson Avenue shootout you didn’t hear about

[Update: Just had a very productive and welcome discussion with an LPD detective.] I was sitting in my interior living room Saturday evening, sipping a gin and tonic, absently watching “Angels and Demons”, and trying to avoid compulsively thumbing through Twitter for #Ferguson tweets. It’s always more soothing to watch fictional ritual torture and murder […]

The decency and moral courage of Charlie Ward

So, I wrote this giant essay a few weeks ago called “The Grace of Shame.” I wanted to work out for myself how to better reckon with the eternal questions of rape and abuse of sexual power that plague our species. About a third of it focused on the Jameis Winston case. And I ended […]

Of “bad” parents and “bad” schools, Part 2: When “choice” really means “blackmail”

Occasionally, a small story cuts through our national haze of abstract moral bullshit to reveal clearly the reality of life on the ground for much of America. So meet Debra Harrell, the South Carolina McDonalds-within-a-Walmart worker the state arrested at work for allowing her 9-year-old to play alone in a nearby park for two consecutive […]