New Tampa police chief to be sworn in today
The Tampa City Council is set to confirm Lee Bercaw as the City’s new police chief today. Bercaw, who joined the force in 1997, has been serving as TPD’s interim chief since December after being tapped by Tampa Mayor Jane Castor following the resignation of former chief Mary O’Connor. Castor said she was confident in forgoing a national search as she watched Bercaw perform the job over the last few months. The Council is expected to vote unanimously for Bercaw’s new appointment.
Florida death row inmate set for execution today
One of the longest-held inmates on Florida’s death row is set to be executed today for two separate killings in 1984. Duane Owen is scheduled to receive a lethal injection at 6 p.m. Florida State Prison in Starke. He drew death sentences for the rape and murder of two Palm Beach County women, the fatal stabbing of a 14-year-old babysitter and a hammer attack on a mother of two. All four attacks occurred just before – and after – Owen’s 23rd birthday. Now 62, Owen is one of 293 people on Florida’s death row and one of the longest residing there.
Owen’s lawyers argue that he should not be executed on grounds of insanity. The state Supreme Court rejected his latest appeal last week and the U.S. Supreme Court rejected it yesterday. If the execution is carried out, it will be Florida’s fourth this year. Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis signed each of the death warrants in the months before announcing his run for president.
Fertilizer and phosphate mining company fundraises with Republican lawmakers
Fertilizer giant Mosaic hosted and paid for a fundraising event at a prestigious golf getaway for the state lawmaker who sponsored the controversial “radioactive roads” bill recently approved by the Florida Legislature. The Tampa Bay Times reports Mosaic picked up the nearly $25,000 tab for a fundraiser for Plant City Republican Rep. Lawrence McClure, who sponsored a bill that would allow the FDOT to study the use of phosphogypsum, the radioactive waste from Mosaic’s phosphate manufacturing process, in road construction.
The bill was approved during the last legislative session but has not yet been signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis. Meanwhile, state environmental groups are urging him to veto the bill, arguing it could put public health at risk. In addition to last month’s 25 grand, the Times reports Mosaic gave McClure’s “Conservative Florida” PAC a $5,000 check in August of 2020 and another $19,000 in food, drink and lodging just last year. Cris Costello, a senior organizing manager at the Sierra Club, says it’s no surprise Mosaic is funding a state lawmaker, adding “Mosaic gets what Mosaic wants because they spend the dollars to make it so.”
UPS drivers to receive air-conditioning in vehicles
UPS drivers are set to get air-conditioned trucks next year as Tuesday’s tentative agreement between the Teamsters Union and UPS would require air conditioning in most UPS delivery vans bought in 2024.
Studies find Polk County as Florida’s fastest-growing county
A new study from the United Community Needs Assessment finds that Polk County is the fastest-growing county in Florida as of the 2020 census. As WFLA reports, the UCNA said it looked at the needs and assets that impact the lives of Polk County residents in six areas: employment opportunities, housing, education, food security, transportation and quality of life. Between 2010 and 2020, the population in Polk County grew by 20.4 percent, making it the seventh fast-growing in the nation. The population is expected to grow by more than 20 percent by 2030.
The study also finds that the rising cost of living in the county has forced more than half of the households below the Federal Poverty Level and ALICE thresholds. The study finds 30 percent of Polk County residents qualify as “housing cost-burdened”, meaning they are paying more than 30% of their monthly income on rent or mortgage.
Additional rounds of strong to severe thunderstorms are in the forecast for our area today. Meteorologist Megan Borowski with the Florida Public Radio Emergency Network urges us to stay weather aware throughout the day today and to be prepared to seek appropriate shelter if a warning is issued for our immediate area. She says the potential for strong storms lingers throughout the day tomorrow.
Information from the Florida Public Radio network, News Service of Florida, and Associated Press was used in this report.