Catching you up on overnight happenings, and what to know today.
• Overnight will see the coldest temperatures of the week, dropping to the 35 to 40 degrees range. Then expect a sunny day with highs in the mid 60s and zero chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
• Here are the top things to do today in Tampa Bay
• The best journalism in the bay area is all in one place. Check out all the Tampa Bay Times investigations and special reports.
• The effort to build a baseball stadium in Ybor City for the Tampa Bay Rays is coming to a head. Hillsborough County’s top administrator has laid down the terms and deadline for striking a deal to build the Rays a new $900 million stadium in Ybor City. And if the deal isn’t done by March, reports Charlie Frago, then it’ll never get done.
• Hillsborough County Commissioner and conservative Republican Stacy White may have filed a lawsuit to block the voter-approved transportation sales tax, but Christopher O’Donnell reports that his fellow commissioners — Democrats who now control the commission — see no reason to put the brakes on the plan. White also found himself being rebuked by residents for trying to thwart the will of the voters.
• Meanwhile that lawsuit has landed in front a judge, but not just any judge: Hillsborough County Circuit Judge Laurel Lee is married to state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, who campaigned against the transportation tax, explains Christopher O’Donnell. She was randomly assigned the case by a computer algorithm. Meanwhile the senator vowed to take this matter to Tallahassee is the lawsuit is unsuccessful.
• And if that wasn’t enough news out of the Hillsborough County Commission, the new Democratic majority also voted to reinstate the once-scrapped MacDill passenger ferry project. Christopher O’Donnell reports that the vote doesn’t guarantee the proposed service connecting southern Hillsborough and MacDill Air Force Base, but it restarts the next step in the process: a $774,000 contract with a consultant to conduct a ridership survey and a study on where to build a ferry terminal.
• The Groveland Four, the four black men wrongly accused of rape in 1949 and summarily murdered, tortured or wrongly imprisoned, is one of the ugliest episodes of racism in Florida’s history. The case is so bad that books have been written about it, and last year Florida’s Legislature voted to ask the state’s Clemency Board — led by Gov. Rick Scott — to posthumously pardon them. But in his last days, Scott did not do that. Lawrence Mower asks why the governor and the rest of the clemency board did nothing.
• The Points of Light honor was born from a famous line from President George H.W. Bush’s 1988 Republican National Convention speech. In 1990 the president started handing out the award, and resumed doing so again five years after he left office through his Points of Light foundation. The group has honored more than 6,000 people as Daily Points of Light, and Kirby Wilson introduces a few Tampa Bay residents who were named Points of Light, and miss the president who so honored them.
• • •
Read the Tampa Bay Times new online Sports page with the latest news about the Lightning, Bucs, Rays, Bulls, Gators, Noles and high school sports.
• Bucs defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul isn’t satisfied with the Bucs’ modest two-game win streak. He knows they have to win them all. “We already know we’re in our playoffs and I can’t stress it more,” Pierre-Paul said. “It’s either win or go home.” Rick Stroud explains how the Bucs have improved on defense in the past three games and how at 5-7 they’ll try to keep their slim playoff hopes alive Sunday against the Saints (10-2.)
• The latest Times coverage of the Bucs is just a click away at tampabay.com. For the latest team news on @Twitter, follow Rick Stroud at @NFLSTROUD and fellow beat writer Eduardo A. Encina at @EddieInTheYard.
• Meanwhile in New York, the XFL discussed their revival of winter/spring football and the eight area, including the Tampa Bay region, that will get teams. Hillsbrough County Commissioner Ken Hagan pledged that his region’s XFL team would be the benchmark franchise for the league. Not Dallas. Not Houston. Not Los Angeles. Not New York. And definitely not St. Louis, Seattle and Washington. And here’s what you need to know about the XFL coming to Tampa.
• The Times can keep you up-to-date on the Lightning’s quest for the Stanley Cup: Click here for the latest news throughout the season. For the latest updates on @Twitter, follow Lightning beat writers Diana C. Nearhos at @dianacnearhos and Nick Kelly at @_NickKelly.
• Check out the latest episode of the Times sports podcast Sports Day Tampa Bay led by veteran sportswriter Rick Stroud.
• • •
The Tampa Bay Times onine Arts and Entertainment page tells you everything you need to know about what to do, see, eat and experience around town.
• Metalcore veterans Under Oath are making local music history. They may be the best band to ever come out of Tampa, Jay Cridlin writes, and they are headlining their first arena show at the Yuengling Center.
• Local homes and parks are lit up for the holiday season. From Tampa to St. Petersburg and beyond, here are all the best spots for spotting Christmas lights.
• Listen to our new podcast, Life of the Party, that keeps you caught up just enough to get by in small talk. Times staffers Stephanie Hayes and Brittany Volk will discuss what’s going on, from celebrity news to movies and music, plus offbeat info that will make you the most interesting person in the room.
• Don’t just write the right way — write the Lane way. Keep up with Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Lane DeGregory’s podcast, WriteLane, and learn about her approach to the craft of storytelling.
• • •
• The University of South Florida will get its own Publix after a grand opening today. Retail reporter Sara DiNatale gives a brief preview and will check out the store later this morning and have an update.
• Once destined for the wrecking ball, the Belleview Biltmore has been reborn as an elegant boutique hotel. Said to be one of the world’s largest wooden structures, the original hotel had so deteriorated by the time JMC Communities bought it several years ago that it was considered beyond saving. Susan Taylor Martin tells what’s ahead for the venerable spot.
• Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi’s office is suing online auto lender Marlin Financial for what it says are unfair and deceptive trade practices, reports Malena Carollo.
• At 36 stories and 393 feet high, the Elevé 61 condominiums near the Florida Aquarium would be one of the Tampa Bay area’s tallest residential buildings. But the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority has to sign off because of its proximity to Peter O. Knight Airport. Richard Danielson will have a preview at tampabay.com and update the outcome later today.
• • •
The Tampa Bay Times online Opinion page has the latest editorials, columns and letters to the editor.