Back in August 2020, at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and just a few months after the murder of George Floyd by now-convicted former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, I organized a Zoom Town Hall meeting about racism and asked Dist. 63 State Rep. Fentrice Driskell (which includes all of New Tampa and some of Wesley Chapel )to co-host it with me. 

The Zoom meeting (photo, above) went exceedingly well, with about two dozen local residents participating, and a lot of great discussion on the specific subject of systemic racism. During the meeting, I promised to organize another Zoom and/or in-person meeting with the New Tampa community in the future.

Well, it’s been a crazy nine months since then, to be sure, but now, Rep. Driskell has invited me to co-host a Zoom Virtual Town Hall meeting with her on Wednesday, June 16, at 6 p.m., and I’m really looking forward to connecting again with her and even more residents of our local communities.

Since it is a Town Hall, anyone who registers to participate (at bit.ly/driskelltownhall, see ad below) can sign into the meeting to hear our State Representative discuss some of the bills that passed during the 2021 Legislative Session, including education, criminal justice reform, the environment, bills related to Covid-19, health care and the state budget. Rep. Driskell also will discuss the bills that she got passed during the session, including police reform and a bill that will create a task force to address the issue of abandoned African-American cemeteries throughout Florida.

We also plan some time during the Zoom meeting for participants to and ask questions about life in their community, from traffic to development to what the state legislature is doing to help improve life in our area.

And, because Rep. Driskell wants to be involved in all of the communities she serves in Dist. 63, whether you miss that first meeting or not, you can connect with both Rep. Driskell and our District 7 Tampa City Council member Luis Viera (see stories on pages 6 & 8 of this issue) at an in-person New Tampa Town Hall the following week — on Tuesday, June 22, 6 p.m., at Compton Park at Tampa Palms. 

As if that isn’t enough, Rep. Driskell also is hosting Virtual Office Hours on both Tuesday, May 25, noon-2 p.m. (the day this issue is certain to arrive in your mailbox, although it could arrive by May 24) and on Wednesday, July 7, also noon-2 p.m. To participate in either or both of these virtual office hours, email Lucile.Malone@MyFloridaHouse.gov or call (813) 936-0854.

As someone who has lived and/or worked in both New Tampa and Wesley Chapel since 1994, all I can say is that there have been very few state representatives — or elected officials in general, regardless of party affiliation — doing as much to be responsive to the needs of our communities as Rep. Driskell (or, of course, Councilman Viera).

My thanks go out to both of them.

No More Masks?

Even though Jannah and I have been fully vaccinated for some time, it took Gov. DeSantis’ repeal of all mask mandates in Florida for us to start going out in public without them.

Although it has been taking a while for us to get used to not having to wear our masks when we go out, I give Gov. DeSantis a lot of credit for taking the lead on this issue throughout the pandemic.

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