31 December 2012

The sun sets on 2012 and the sun rises on 2013

As 2012 fades into the sunset and 2013 rises at dawn, I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year! In Spanish, Feliz Año Nuevo! In Slovenian, Srečno novo leto! And in German, Glückliches neues Jahr!

Like 2011, if any year was more newsworthy, 2012 was it.  The most newsworthy - if not two of the most newsworthy - took place back in March of 2012 when Trayvon Martin was gunned down at the hands of a neighborhood watch vigilante in Sanford (a community north of Orlando), George Zimmermann.  After so much publicity in the media in the weeks that followed the shooting, George Zimmermann was arrested and charged with second degree murder and is presently awaiting trial.

God knows what kind of trial George Zimmermann will get:  Another Casey Anthony style trial?  Wasn't she found not guilty of first degree murder in an Orlando courtroom in 2011?

And another more newsworthy story, which took place just a couple of weeks ago before Christmas:  The mass shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.  26 lives, including students, faculty and administrators including the principal, were sadly lost.

In the wake of the Columbine High tragedy in Littleton, Colorado in 1999, the quick fix to make our schools safer was to enact strict zero tolerance policies that turn law abiding students into criminals for very minor transgressions of the student code of conduct as well as turn our public schools into mini-state prisons and treat students like if they were prison inmates.  In Florida, our legislators responded by making your presence within 500 feet of a school during the school day - even if you are on non-school public property - a trespassing offense.

Turning our schools into state prisons is not the answer to safety in our public schools.  The real answer here is from the source:  Better gun control, including re-enacting the federal ban on assault weapons which unfortunately expired in 2004.  After all, better gun control as well as closing the gun show loophole when it comes to selling guns and ammunition.

You know what the gun loophole is?  When you go to purchase a gun here in Florida, you pay for it but you don't get it right away as there is a three day waiting period.  During that time, basic information is collected from you for a records check with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement which includes a state FCIC (Florida Crime Information Center) and federal FBI NCIC check.  However, when it comes to a gun show, these background checks are never done, hence the gun loophole.

We had the Republican National Convention here in Tampa the week before Labor Day, in which Mitt Romney accepted the Republican nomination for President of the United States.  Unfortunately, the Republican National Convention turned out to be a fizzle according to what I heard.

A few months later, we had the general election in November for President of the United States.  Here in Florida, the ballot was two pages long with not only the President and Vice President but Congressmen, Senators, Florida Legislators and a handful of local officials, not to mention so many amendments to the Florida Constitution on the ballot.  Who will remember the long lines at the polls on election day?

Fortunately, Barack Obama was relected for a second term as President of the United States - a big relief so that our country can move forward economically.

So, if any year was newsworthy (other than the St. Petersburg Times - er, the mis-named Tampa Bay Times writing scare stories about the economy, house values and the real estate crisis, thank you Mark Puente (who now writes stories concerning St. Petersburg city government) and Jeff Harrington), 2012 was it. Did I mention the St. Petersburg Times?

Since 1 January 2012, the St. Petersburg Times was mis-named the Tampa Bay Times, further eroding St. Petersburg's identity as a city as well as a destination.  Since the newspaper got renamed, the articles have taken on a more pro-Tampa and anti-St. Petersburg flavor.

I have said this before as New Year's Day 2012 approached, and I will say it again as New Year's Day 2013 approaches.  Let me set the record straight:

1. Tampa Bay is not only a body of water, it is the name of the region that encompasses two cities, St. Petersburg and Tampa, and within two counties, Pinellas and Hillsborough.

2. Tampa Bay is not a city, period.

3. We St. Petersburg residents have been accustomed to and know our daily newspaper as the St. Petersburg Times. This assures our identity as a city for well over 100 years.

4. We St. Petersburg residents are not part of Tampa nor Hillsborough County. In fact, it is the St. Petersburg Times that championed the cause for the creation of Pinellas County from the western part of Hillsborough County in 1912.  We St. Petersburg residents are proud to be part of a county - Pinellas County - free of any influence from Tampa.

5. St. Petersburg slowly loses its identity as a city. We have been known by plenty of other monikers over the years such as God's Waiting Room among other things. Add to that the recent article in Men's Health about St. Petersburg being the most saddest city in America.

Don't the editors at Men's Health Magazine have something else to write about instead of labeling St. Petersburg in a negative spotlight? After all, depression knows no boundaries.

The St. Petersburg Times may be the Tampa Bay Times as of 1 January 2012 and it is to this day. However, it will continue to be the St. Petersburg Times in my book.

Happy new year!

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