Here’s What Local Folks Are Saying About Today’s Supreme Court Decision

By on June 26th, 2015 | Last updated: June 26, 2015 at 3:45 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision today that states must recognize same-sex unions citing 14th Amendment protections.

Here are some reactions from Florida:

Sen. Bill Nelson

“Today’s ruling reaffirms one of the paramount principles of America that we’re all created equal and have the right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.”

Nadine Smith, CEO of Equality Florida

“We are thrilled and relieved. Most of all we are secure — knowing that our relationships and our families will be respected in every part of America.

    “We’re also glad that marriage equality, which we worked so hard to achieve in Florida, is now extended to every state in the country. Since same-sex couples began marrying in Florida, we have seen the beauty of love and commitment. We have seen the joy. We’ve seen how it brings families together. We’re happy that people in other states will get to experience this too.

    “A majority of our Supreme Court, appointed by both Republicans and Democrats, has reaffirmed this most basic premise of our democracy, that all of us are created equal. As Harvey Milk once said, ‘No matter how hard you try, you can never erase those words.’

    “We must remember too that our work is not done.

    “Marriage equality won’t help a 15-year-old kid who is being bullied in school because of his sexual orientation.

    “It won’t help a transgender person facing derision and exclusion.

    “And it won’t help anyone who can still be legally denied a job, a place to live, or equal treatment in public spaces, because of discrimination based on  sexual orientation or gender identity.

    “Today’s victory is a sign of what’s right in America — that all of us matter, that all of us deserve the same freedoms and legal protections.

    “It is also a sign of how broadly and quickly public opinion has changed on this issue. Now we need to harness that energy to finish the work that remains undone.”

Former Gov. Jeb Bush (and Republican candidate for the presidency)

“Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage.  I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision.  I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments.  In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side.  It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”

Sen. Marco Rubio

“I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

“While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

“The next president and all in public office must strive to protect the First Amendment rights of religious institutions and millions of Americans whose faiths hold a traditional view of marriage. This is a constitutional duty, not a political opinion. Our nation was founded on the human right of religious freedom, and our elected leaders have a duty to protect that right by ensuring that no one is compelled by law to violate their conscience. 

“I firmly believe the question of same sex marriage is a question of the definition of an institution, not the dignity of a human being. Every American has the right to pursue happiness as they see fit. Not every American has to agree on every issue, but all of us do have to share our country. A large number of Americans will continue to believe in traditional marriage, and a large number of Americans will be pleased with the Court’s decision today. In the years ahead, it is my hope that each side will respect the dignity of the other.”

Terry Fleming, co-president of the Pride Community Center of North Central Florida

“It’s an historic day, we are so excited , it’s been a long time coming and we’re so glad the supreme court has recognized the basic dignity of all human beings with this ruling.  Now same sex couples can get married across this country no matter where they live.  Their relationships will be recognized with the full respect as their straight counter parts.”

Pam Bondi, Florida Attorney General

“We have always sought finality on this important constitutional issue, and today the United States Supreme Court provided the clarity our state and country was seeking. Our country has vigorously debated the issue, with good people on all sides. Many on both sides feel strongly about the issue, having deeply held and sincere beliefs. Legal efforts were not about personal beliefs or opinions, but rather, the rule of law. The United States Supreme Court has the final word on interpreting the Constitution, and the court has spoken.”

Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Florida 3rd District

“The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision today is a clear demonstration of legislating from the bench. The ruling today is disappointing not only for the fact that the court has now forced states to redefine marriage but it removes  millions of Americans from the democratic process of choosing – for themselves  – what defines marriage.

“Chief Justice Roberts makes a valid point in his dissent that I am sure is shared by many Americans, “Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority’s conception of the judicial role…And they certainly would not have been satisfied by a system empowering judges to override policy judgments so long as they do so after a quite extensive discussion.”

“With this type of legislating from the bench, what is the point of States’ rights? If we continue to go down this path what would be the point of state elections and state legislatures? I’m deeply disappointed that the Supreme Court ruled against the Constitution twice in the last week. I agree with Justice Antonin Scalia when he stated in his dissent, “A system of government that makes the People subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy.”

“We cannot allow our Constitution to be eroded. I will continue to fight for States’ rights and to stop this continued Federal power grab.”

Michelle Cretella, MD, president of the American College of Pediatricians

“This is a tragic day for America’s children. The SCOTUS has just undermined the single greatest pro-child institution in the history of mankind: the natural family. Just as it did in the joint Roe v Wade and Doe v Bolton decisions, the SCOTUS has elevated and enshrined the wants of adults over the needs of children.”

Harry Mihet, vice president of legal affairs at the Liberty Council

“We believe that every child in America deserves the right and the joy of growing up with both a mother and a father. This decision legalizes relationships that will forever deprive America’s children of that opportunity and that right. The institution of marriage fundamentally, by its very core and definition, is the union of one man and one woman and it predates The Supreme Court. The Supreme Court didn’t create it and therefore it’s powerless to change it or redefine it. Just as, for example, the Supreme Court cannot change the law of gravity, The Supreme Court cannot change the law of marriage. Marriage ceases to be marriage when it is applied to anyone other than a man and a woman.”

 “Everyone has the right to their own opinion, but just because the five unelected judges on the Supreme Court decide to call a same-sex union a marriage that does not make it so. The Supreme Court has no authority or power to change the law of nature.”

John Stemberger, president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council

“When you remove the gender requirements for marriage, there’s no end to the combinations. What about polygamists, what about group marriage advocates, what about the triplet? Are we going to draw any line at all? And when marriage can mean anything, marriage means nothing.”

More to be added as they are received.

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Commissioners Discuss Creating New County

By on June 24th, 2015 | Last updated: June 24, 2015 at 8:00 pm
The red line shows the new county line on State Road 121, where the boundaries of Springs County and Alachua County would meet. Jonathan Munoz / WUFT News

The red line shows the new county line on State Road 121, where the boundaries of Springs County and Alachua County would meet. The idea of creating a new county was discussed at a joint meeting held on Monday. All five county commissioners were present. Jonathan Munoz / WUFT News

Newberry City Commissioner Tim Marden wants to create a new county.

Marden proposed drawing a line through Alachua County, making the western portion its own county.

The idea was discussed at a joint Newberry-Alachua County meeting Monday where all five county commissioners were present.

“It’s about time that we have a more serious discussion,” Marden said.

Residents in smaller towns, like Newberry, are in support of the idea.

“The county commission is very Gainesville centric,” said Newberry resident Tony McKnight. “The smaller municipalities don’t feel like they get the representation they deserve.”

McKnight says initiating single-member districts might solve the representation issues

The envisioned county, called Springs County, would include the cities of Alachua, Archer, High Springs and Newberry.

The line would run through 34th Street in Gainesville. It could mean the west section of Gainesville might be a part of the new county.

“34th Street just seems to be a good natural barrier,” Marden said. “It runs all the way through the county and you’re not kind of going in between property lines and things like that. It’s very definitive.”

Alachua County Commissioner Ken Cornell wants to see the county stay intact as is.

“It is my hope that we can work out any issues or problems that prompted this direction. I believe we are stronger as a community when we work together,” Cornell said.

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Student Teaches Herself To Skateboard, Rises To “Queen”

By on June 24th, 2015 | Last updated: June 23, 2015 at 4:19 pm
Neena Schueller takes a break from practicing tricks on her longboard in the parking lot of Gainesville’s FreeRide Surf & Skate Shop. The nineteen-year-old is sponsored by the local shop, which provides her with clothing and whatever other equipment she doesn’t receive from her other sponsors.

Neena Schueller takes a break from practicing tricks on her longboard in the parking lot of Gainesville’s FreeRide Surf & Skate Shop. The nineteen-year-old is sponsored by the local shop, which provides her with clothing and whatever other equipment she doesn’t receive from her other sponsors. Victoria Messina / WUFT

Neena Schueller is in the middle of an intense, five-year relationship with her skateboard.

Whether it’s beneath her feet while she shreds her hometown streets of Gainesville, in her suitcase as she travels to contests or under her desk as she sits in engineering classes, it’s always within arm’s reach.

A sophomore at the University of Florida, Schueller masters the ultimate balancing act. While learning physics equations and Spanish definitions, she also spends time pounding the concrete to master new tricks on her longboard and satisfy her unquenchable love for the sport.

Those four wheels have opened more doors than she could’ve imagined when she first began skating in the winter of 2009. Her progress over the years has garnered her hard-earned respect and prominence within the longboarding community. And it all started with a YouTube video.

The Power Of YouTube

Bored and browsing the depths of YouTube, Schueller stumbled upon a video in the website’s sidebar titled “Go Longboard 2009.” A compilation posted by Original Skateboards, it featured more than seven minutes of pure shredding.

Schueller was hooked.

“In my mind, I thought all you did was just stand on a board and cruise, but they were doing tricks, they were going super fast, and they were doing slides,” she said. “Slides were what really caught my attention. After seeing that one video, I decided I was gonna do it.”

She hit the streets of Gainesville, determined to teach herself how to mimic the longboarders in the video.

Using a simple analogy, she described the difference between longboarding and skateboarding.

“All squares are rectangles but not all rectangles are squares. All longboards are a type of skateboard, but not all skateboards are a longboard,” she explained.

Starting from square one, Schueller practiced longboarding like it was her job.

She zipped through the slight hills of Gainesville and cruised through the University of Florida campus wearing her usual uniform: jean shorts, skate shoes, a skateboarding company T-shirt and a helmet.

Along the way, she endured more cuts and bruises than the average teenage girl will get in a lifetime. But for Schueller, scars aren’t a bother at all.

“I don’t really care. After my 500th scar, I was like ‘I’m just gonna stop caring even in the slightest because who cares?’” she said. “My entire body is scars because I just skate so much, but whatever.”

The worst scar of all? The one on her chin.

She recalls riding the concrete course at Kona Skate Park in Jacksonville.

Her face collided with the ground, causing an injury that she admitted probably deserved stitches. Tears were shed, but even that didn’t stop her from continuing.

Other scars line her shoulders, shins and knees, a visible testament to the infinite hours she has spent learning the art of longboarding from freestyle to downhill racing.

But sliding is her latest obsession. She cruises downhill. Gains speed. Twists her body and board 90 degrees. And relishes the delicate balance between fear and delight when her wheels lose traction with the ground.

“It’s like a controlled loss of control,” she said.

And those few moments spent mid-slide are pure, adrenaline-filled bliss. It’s her happy place.

“Nothing else crosses your mind when you’re skating, so there’s no room to even be unhappy,” she said. “It just helps you not to dwell on things and live in the moment.”

Spotted, Young Talent

In a matter of two years, Schueller went from watching YouTube videos to producing her own to showcase her abilities. She soon worked up the courage to send her footage to the guys at Original Skateboards — the same company whose YouTube video sparked her initial interest in the sport.

This move landed her the first of many sponsorships.

After that, the sponsors rolled in as smoothly as her wheels. She nonchalantly recites an impressive list of companies who provide her with equipment: Skateboard trucks from Bear, slide pucks from Holesom Boards, wheels from Fresh Wheel Co., wheel bearings from Rush.

“It’s nice because it could get costly,” she said. “I definitely ride the shit out of everything I have until it breaks.”

Whatever she doesn’t get from these companies, she gets from Gainesville’s FreeRide Surf & Skate Shop, her local sponsor.

After coming across Schueller’s videos on YouTube, Peter Harter, FreeRide’s manager, said he knew he wanted her on the team. What caught his eye was she filmed her videos by herself, a feat that would only take a few hours with the help of someone else.

After noting her determination and “steez” — the blend of style and ease with which she skates — Harter met her in person in the shop. He started sponsoring her when she was only 17.

“If you can produce the videos and you’ve got a good style, I don’t care how old you are,” Harter said.

When it comes to skating, age and gender don’t have a huge effect on skills or toughness. In terms of the latter, Schueller’s tough as nails.

“If she gets scratched, if she is bleeding, she gets back up and walks right back up the hill again,” Harter said. “It’s more of like, ‘Where’s the camera? Look at my scar. Now I’m goin’ back up.’”

I Dub Thee Queen

After only three years of skateboarding, Schueller managed to become one of the top women in the longboarding community.

As the only girl sponsored by FreeRide, Schueller holds her own in the male-dominated world of skateboarding and she’s got the name recognition to back it up.

She has won the female division of Kona Skate Park’s King of Kona contest for the past two years, securing her the nickname “Queen of Kona.” But that hasn’t been the most defining point of her skateboarding career.

A year and a half ago, Schueller was invited to Israel to film a documentary about women who longboard. She was one of 14 women from around the world who were chosen by the Longboard Girls Crew, an international community of female longboarders.

Schueller’s parents didn’t let her participate in the documentary filming because the timing conflicted with her first week of college. The honor she felt after the invite, however, still hasn’t faded.

At a majority of the contests she competes in on the weekends, she’s the only girl. That doesn’t bother her.

Harter, her FreeRide manager, said she has gained adequate respect from male competitors, but most of them underestimate her because she’s a girl. That only lasts until she straps on her pads and barrels down the hills alongside the guys, Harter said.

Schueller’s fellow FreeRide team member, Ehrin Flintroy, agreed that male riders who haven’t seen her tear up the concrete before may not expect her to shred as hard as she does.

He knows she’s a threat, though.

“When we go to competitions, I don’t look at her like ‘oh, she’s a girl. No worries.’” Flintroy said. “No, I look at her like ‘Oh, that’s competition.’”

The two skate the streets of Gainesville together when they aren’t competing against each other.

What started as a bond over skateboarding nearly three years ago has morphed into true friendship. Flintroy said Schueller once came to the rescue at 2 a.m. when his car got towed.

A Balancing Act

In the midst of helping friends in the wee hours of the night, shredding in weekend skate contests and practicing her slides and tricks any chance she can get, Schueller somehow manages to squeeze in time for school.

A sophomore studying engineering — a program that typically takes five years to complete — Schueller is on track to get her degree in four years.

Balancing her passionate love for skateboarding with her time-consuming coursework is quite the feat, she said. She always prioritizes school, only rarely missing class for a contest.

While studying physics equations in the library, she daydreams of her escapades from last summer studying abroad and skating the hills of Spain, but she understands the importance of school, and she said she never regrets picking such a difficult major because engineering is the only thing she can see herself working in after graduation.

She’s not too sure what lies ahead, except for longboarding, obviously.

With the ultimate goal is having a stable life, she wants a job that allows her to travel and skate on the side. Maybe doing something that has to do with manufacturing skateboards for a small company.

For now, she’ll concentrate on passing her physics class and shredding the competition at her next contest. She motions to her nearby skateboard with a subtle nod.

“Now I do this thing where you just show up somewhere with a skateboard and a backpack, and you just do what you gotta do and meet people and have a great time,” she said.

She retains a calm, self-assured composure. While she hasn’t mapped out a set plan for her future, it’s the same composure she somehow keeps while nailing 30-foot slides or trying new tricks.

“I’ll go wherever life leads me,” she said.

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Gainesville: A Popular Destination For Homeless Travelers

By on June 24th, 2015 | Last updated: June 25, 2015 at 10:30 am

The brace Amanda Goines wears on her left leg and the rickety wheelchair she sits in hide the fact that not so long ago she made her way from West Palm Beach to Gainesville on foot.

After trouble with her landlord, Goines and her boyfriend found themselves homeless in the Tampa Bay area. The couple hitchhiked their way toward Stuart, and eventually West Palm Beach, in search of a job. Then, they found their way to Gainesville.

That was about eight weeks ago. Now, Amanda is one of the many homeless Floridians who are living in Gainesville, which is seen as a safe haven for those without a home; a rest stop on the mother road.

One place travelers stay at is Dignity Village, the homeless tent camp that has sprung up outside GRACE Marketplace on NE 39th Avenue.

Tygur (left), the 40-year-old lead advocate coordinator of Dignity Village, and Michelle DuBois, 40, a community advocate, collect waste from around the camp that hosts about 200. A popular travel site for homeless people around the state, Dignity Village's population fluctuates on any given day.

Tygur (left), the 40-year-old lead advocate coordinator of Dignity Village, and Michelle DuBois, 40, a community advocate, collect waste from around the camp that hosts about 200. A popular travel site for homeless people around the state, Dignity Village’s population fluctuates on any given day. Andres Leiva / WUFT News

Mimi Adrija, a resident at Dignity Village, has lived on and off again in Gainesville for 10 years and said she sees plenty of travelers come through the area.

“People do come and stay. Every now and then you’ll meet somebody and then like a month later you’re like, ‘Oh where is so-and-so?’ They’ve moved on to wherever they were going,” Adrija said.

Adrija said one of the reasons Gainesville is so popular among traveling homeless people is because of the city’s large homeless community.

According to a report by former Alachua County Manager Betty Baker, there are about 1,300 homeless people in Alachua County, of which about 200 live in Dignity Village.

“We get two meals a day here, there are showers available, there are washers and dryers available,” Adrija said, referring to the services provided by the nearby GRACE Marketplace, Gainesville’s homeless center.

Another reason homeless people often travel to Gainesville is because other cities in Florida are much less friendly to those without homes, she said.

Goines said in her travels she found homeless people were treated acceptably in West Palm Beach, but other cities weren’t as tolerant.

Orlando City ordinances, for example, prohibit panhandling in most public areas during the day, and completely prohibit panhandling at night. Panhandling is only allowed in specially designated areas downtown, and even then people may not directly solicit passersby.

Gainesville city ordinances do not outright ban panhandling except for pedestrian-to-motorist panhandling. Pedestrian-to-pedestrian panhandling is sometimes prohibited when under certain circumstances, like when close to an ATM, or on private property.

The particular arrangements in Dignity Village may be another reason the city attracts so many homeless travelers, Adrija said. Other homeless encampments around Florida, like Pinellas Hope in St. Petersburg and Nothing Lost Outreach in Escambia County, are not self-governing on the scale Dignity Village is.

Both Pinellas Hope and Nothing Lost are run by religious organizations. Unlike those two homeless camps, Dignity Village has no formal rules and few requirements to live there.

The influx of homeless travelers has sometimes been problematic. Adrija, who is one of the Dignity Village residents and in charge of loaning tools, said shortages of certain supplies like tents are not uncommon.

Travelers tend to arrive to Dignity Village during the winter months and usually clear out by the summer, she said – but those extra residents in the winter can strain camp resources. Community advocates keep a tent filled with supplies, such as cords, personal hygiene items and tools, that were donated to Dignity Village by groups like Helping Hands.

Learning more about travelers’ journeys is also problematic.  Bob Woods, spokesman for the city of Gainesville, said there was no method at the moment of collecting information about homeless people’s origins and destinations. The City of Gainesville/Alachua County Office of Homelessness’ yearly point-in-time surveys do not ask about travel plans.

Adrija said travelers range from young to old, and they come from all walks of life. Many are military veterans. Families with children are not seen in Dignity Village, however, because the camp does not allow anyone under the age of 18 to live there.

Frankie Withey, a 44-year-old resident of Dignity Village, said he found travelers to be educational. Withey, who’s lived in Gainesville since the 1980s, said travelers have taught him about the conditions for homeless people in other towns around Florida.

For Withey, Gainesville represents a place where there are support systems for people who are homeless. He admits to a violent criminal record that has resulted in several arrests over the years, but he said he’s paid his debt to society and is determined to live a quiet life in Dignity Village.

Whether it’s long-time residents or people passing through, Withey believes one thing:

“In here, we’re safe.”

Editors note: This story was updated to accurately reflect Bob Woods as the spokesman for the city of Gainesville. 

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Gainesville High Teacher Cultivates Student Creativity

By on June 23rd, 2015 | Last updated: June 23, 2015 at 1:29 pm
Tony Malo reviews "Beyond Thought," one of his students' films in his classroom on May 21. His class has just finished their end-of-the-year projects.

Tony Malo reviews “Beyond Thought,” one of his students’ films in his classroom on May 21. His class had just finished their end-of-the-year projects. Elizabeth Brown / WUFT News

Tony Malo’s advanced video production students shuffle around putting the finishing touches on their collaborative end-of-the-semester projects. Some wield cameras, others tweak video on Mac computers.

Two students sit at a news desk in front of a green screen in the back room of the lab with their eyes locked on a camera lens. They will record, edit and broadcast announcements to the entire student body.

It’s 9 a.m.

Malo’s classroom at Gainesville High School is a colorful workplace. Soft rock music echoes throughout the large lab-style room. Posters of The Beatles’ “Abbey Road” and John Belushi in “Animal House,” cover the walls along with Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival fliers. A little jar behind his desk — a high table in the back of the room — reads “ashes of obnoxious teenagers.”

Malo, with his long black hair, purple athletic shirt and bright sneakers, meanders around the room checking on his students.

If they need help or have a question, they just yell, “Malo!”

They don’t sit still. They huddle in small groups making decisions about their stories. Teamwork is the name of the game. Everyone has something to do. The atmosphere is relaxed but professional.

This is a typical school day for Malo. He focuses on crafting a different teaching style. He lets his students explore their creativity and hone marketable, job-worthy skills, rather than making them memorize vocabulary words from a textbook or trying to keep their attention glued to PowerPoint presentations.

“It’s a great gig,” Malo said.

But getting the gig was a rocky road.

Tough Beginnings

Malo, 39, originally set his sights on developing software for students with disabilities. His brother had a spinal problem that resulted in paralysis and had trouble making it to class every day, putting dents in his educational progress.

Malo said the software would have included different keyboards, microphones and screens that would make learning easier for people with physical disabilities.

But right before Malo applied to a Tampa software business, his path took a different turn.

Malo took a job teaching information technology at Job Corps.  He dropped off his resume at Gainesville High School’s front office, scored an interview that same day and landed his dream job.

He’s been making waves at the school since 2001.

Class In Session

Students from all walks of life gravitate to Malo’s class. There are no cliques in his room. The drama kids, math whizzes and football players all come together to get the job done.

Malo’s approach is out of the ordinary, but effective. And of course, he keeps it fun.

He looks at the left wall of his classroom proudly. It’s covered with student projects from his “Photo-chop” contest. The assignment required students use Photoshop to put Malo’s face onto famous pop culture figures, such as Willy Wonka and Miley Cyrus.

“The Pulp Fiction one is one of my favorites,” he said, smiling.

The art of cutting photos is just one part of Malo’s lesson plan. He teaches photography, animation, graphic design, filmmaking, broadcasting and basic HTML coding in his multimedia production classes.

Malo ensures his students are ready for jobs and learn qualities that are attractive to employers instead of focusing on test preparation.

Some students landed jobs and started careers right after graduating from high school. Others snatched up coveted spots in top film schools like Florida State University and the prestigious Tisch School of the Arts at New York University.

Chaz Chester, a 19-year-old sophomore at NYU’s Tisch, submitted a portfolio of work from Malo’s class that landed him an acceptance letter to its film and TV production program.

His mother, Suzanne Chester, agrees that Malo’s class not only strengthens students’ creativity, but teaches them responsibility and punctuality.

“Tony Malo’s class changed my son’s life,” she said. “I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

Suzanne said she hopes more teachers will adopt a classroom style like Malo’s.

Malo fosters a democratic environment, and students execute projects collaboratively.

“It’s a student-driven class,” he said.

But once in a while, it becomes challenging.

Paying Attention

Like other teachers, Malo sometimes has an outspoken student who is a little harder to handle. His disciplinary style, just like his educational method, is different. Malo confessed to being a problem child in school, so he knows what to do.

He doesn’t lose his temper or write up referrals.

“What good will that do?” Malo said.

Instead, Malo meets one-on-one with the student. He said having a conversation usually solves the problem.

Malo said he teaches this way partly because of his own experience with Attention Deficit Disorder. It also contributes to his way of dealing with students who give him a hard time.

Malo had difficulty adapting to structured classroom spaces when he was young, so he saw a doctor who told him he had all the symptoms of ADD.

It wasn’t great news, but Malo eventually channeled it into a teaching method.

And while Malo loves his job, he said there are a few drawbacks.

“The money part is a big hindrance,” he said. He teaches an extra class period to make more.

He also said state-level lawmakers pressure teachers like him to focus more on test preparation.

But for now, Malo likes where he is. As for a long-term goal, he said he would like to someday be a college professor.

“I want to teach teachers,” he said.

His Impact

Thomas Moseley, a 19-year-old University of Florida telecommunication sophomore, is a former student of Malo. He said the multimedia production class sparked his passion for media. Moseley enrolled in the class at a friend’s suggestion and found his chosen career field.

“It’s really a hidden gem in the school system in Alachua County,” Moseley said.

Malo helped shape Moseley’s goals and gave him a head start on his college classes.

Gainesville High principal David Shelnutt agrees. He said some of Malo’s students earn industry certifications before college because they possess competitive skills learned in his class.

Shelnutt maintains that Malo shows students what life beyond high school is like and what they need to be successful. Malo’s class is very different from typical high school classes, but it works.

Malo is just as fond of his students as they are of him. He forms good working relationships with them, and keeps in touch after graduation.

Carrie Carusone, a 17-year-old Gainesville High School junior, said she plans on taking one of Malo’s classes next year. She took beginning video production her sophomore year and said she had nothing but a positive experience.

She said the class helped her discover her desire to be a filmmaker. She has even produced a documentary.

“This is what I’m going to do with my life,” she said. “I’ve never met a teacher who cared so much…It’s changed my life drastically.”

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Protestors Voice Concern Over Proposed Bear Hunt

By on June 23rd, 2015 | Last updated: June 23, 2015 at 10:28 am
Avery Cobbs protests the proposed bear hunt in front of the Ocala office of  the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission. FWC is expected to vote Wednesday on legalizing bear hunting. Jonathan Muñoz / WUFT News

Protesters stood in front of the Ocala office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission on Monday to protest a proposal to legalize bear hunting in the state.

The protests were organized by Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

“We think that the FWC is premature in opening a bear hunting season,” said Bryan Wilson, Central Florida Coordinator for ARFF. “Given that the bears were just D-listed three years ago and their own studies have shown the bear population has not rebounded rapidly, really a hunt right now is premature and ill-advised.”

The Florida Black Bear was removed from the state’s threatened species list in 2012.

The group held signs and banners that read “Stop The War On Wildlife” and  “Tell FWC No Bear Hunt!”

The animal rights group fears the number of bears is still not at the level it needs to be, despite the fact that numbers are rising.

“The sustainable population that exists in the wild for bears has been established as much higher that the current population,” Wilson said.

“This is not a population control issue. It really is an unnecessary trophy hunt.”

A statement released by Nick Wiley, Executive Director of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commissions, refutes this claim.

“There is a misconception circulating that suggests the reinstated bear hunt would be nothing more than a ‘trophy’ hunt,” Wiley stated in the release. “The primary purpose of a limited bear harvest is to mange the bear population while providing carefully regulated hunting opportunities, and the proposed hunt has been aligned accordingly.”

The FWC commissioners see a growing bear population and a diminishing number of methods to try and control them.

“It’s really to the point where the bear population is in the state of Florida that relocating bears is not the best option anymore, we’re running out of spaces to put bears,” said Greg Workman, FWC Public Information Coordinator for the Northeast region

FWC did say that the proposed hunt was not a direct response to recent bear attacks or increasing human-bear conflicts, nor would a hunt be the solution to these conflicts. They cite the most effective measure for minimizing human-bear conflicts is effective management of garbage and food attractants.

Similar protests occurred simultaneously at four other FWC offices around the state in West Palm Beach, Lakeland, Lake City and Panama City.

FWC is expected to vote Wednesday on legalizing bear hunting during a meeting in Sarasota.

If approved, it will be the first time bear hunting will be legal in 20 years.

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Gainesville Punk Scene Provides Creative Outlet Beyond Traditional Norms

By on June 22nd, 2015 | Last updated: June 24, 2015 at 2:53 pm

A microphone cord hangs from a pipe in the ceiling of a warehouse. It hangs directly above a drum set and is held in position by a black string tied to a cinder block.

The aroma of cigarette smoke fills the room. Bass and guitar quickly accompany the sound of a snare.

UV-TV identifies as some form of a punk band. They hold strong views about creating music based on social constructs rather than focusing on emotions.

The front person of the band is a recently graduated 24-year-old woman.

UV-TV records their album in their warehouse studio on May 26, 2015. Rose Vastola, 24, began playing bass a few years ago with her boyfriend and UV-TV guitarist, Ian Bernacett, 25, and 22-year-old drummer, Matt Brotton.

UV-TV records their album in a warehouse studio on May 26. Rose Vastola, 24, began playing bass a few years ago with her boyfriend, UV-TV guitarist Ian Bernacett, 24, and 24-year-old drummer, Matt Brotton. Camila Guillen / WUFT News

Rose Vastola, UV-TV singer and University of Florida fine arts graduate, said her experience as a woman in a punk band is one of the most rewarding she’s ever had.

She was first attracted to the music scene because there didn’t seem to be a place for her to fit in, Vastola said. She wanted to find a place in the male-dominated subculture.

“I’ve always been drawn to very physical things,” she said. “Punk and skateboarding are two worlds that are traditionally male-dominated and you’re only as good as you make yourself be.”

Vastola believes feminism is paving the way for women in these subcultures. More girls step on to the stage and play because they see other women being successful.

“Gainesville has a huge support group that is unlike any other community I’ve ever been a part of that welcomes friendliness and creativity regardless of gender,” Vastola said. “People come back to Gainesville because of that support and that openness to creative projects.”

Generations before her cannot understand this new music era, she said. Her family questions her decision to remain in Gainesville to pursue a future with the band.

“I find it more important to pursue what you want rather than get the job straight out of college,” Vastola said.

UV-TV is not the only band in Gainesville carrying educated, passionate women into the music field.

Vastola’s twin sister, Claire, is also heavily involved in Gainesville’s punk scene. Claire Vastola’s punk aesthetic is more apparent than Rose’s, so the two are easily distinguishable.

The 24-year-old has a pierced nose and most of her hair is shaved, except the back. Claire is working toward her associate’s degree while playing drums in Vermin, another local punk band.

“I was always interested in alternative lifestyles, but getting into the punk scene was very intimidating at first,” she said. “There were a lot of men and people that knew how to play their instruments really well.”

She said the energy of the music and the women in the scene empowered her to begin playing the drums.

“As an active punk member, I feel like I have the responsibility to correct people when they say that I’m a really good drummer for a girl,” Claire said.  “Having a platform that supports your ideas and decisions makes it easier for women to express themselves, and I feel that the punk scene in Gainesville is the perfect subculture to do that in.”

The Vastola sisters have company. Leann Averell, 30, graduated from the University of Central Florida eight years ago with a degree in romance languages. Tattoos cover her petite body.

She was born in Gainesville and has been involved in the punk scene for as long as she can remember. She is starting her own project called Exit Dust.

“For the longest time I had a mental block before I actually decided I wanted to play music,” Averell said. “It’s been an outlet for me that I’ve never had or experienced.”

She said Gainesville is an ideal area for the punk scene compared to cities like Miami, Tampa and Orlando. The punk musicians she remembers from when she was younger now own various businesses downtown like The Top, Boca Fiesta, Pop A Top and The Atlantic, she said.

“Punk is embedded in the culture.” Averell said. “Gainesville is so easily accessible and has such a huge sense of community that wants to help each other out for cheap or no money at all.”

Alexandra Casuso, a Ph.D. candidate in the department of sociology at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, researches the punk subculture.

“The elite create a mainstream culture to create society’s ideas and values,” Casuso said. “They do it to try and dominate the population.”

Casuso said society usually tells everyone to get ahead by obtaining a job and living the American dream.

“Some people, because of their past experiences and their socioeconomic status, cannot have access to the same resources that others may have access to,” Casuso said.

Parents of the millennial generation could identify with and find comfort in the working world, according to Casuso. More women may be involved in punk now because they are unable to find a job after graduation. The financial instability also means they may want to defer having children and identifying as mothers.

“Music is a ridiculous sense of identity,” she said. “Especially in Gainesville, because the small community is available and wanting to assist recent graduates who can’t get jobs with creative alternatives.”

“Punk music is completely anti-system.” Casuso said. “The more education you get the more issues you can talk about in your lyrics.”

Editor’s note: The headline on this article was updated from an earlier version.

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City Commission Passes Ordinance To Regulate Uber

By on June 19th, 2015 | Last updated: June 30, 2015 at 1:05 pm

The city is taking steps to level the playing field between traditional taxi services and transportation networks like Uber.

City commissioners voted unanimously Thursday afternoon on an ordinance that will create a new set of regulations for the app-based transportation service, which was introduced to Gainesville in August 2014.

Uber, unlike taxis, was not initially subjected to Chapter 28 of Gainesville’s Code of Ordinances, which addresses everything from the driver-screening process to how cars should look. Local taxi drivers protested against this imbalance.

Gainesville Regional Airport passed its own set of regulations in December requiring Uber drivers to secure a permit in an effort to even the scales.

“Many cities feel it’s an either/or,” said Allan Penska, CEO of Gainesville Regional Airport. “We are trying to get both to live together.”

The ordinance passed by the city commission will modify regulations on basic health, safety and welfare concerns in taxis and create rules for companies like Uber that will address insurance requirements, inspections, vehicle identification and operation details.

For example, Uber drivers will not be able to solicit passengers or pick them up via a traditional street hail — only prearranged pickups will be allowed.

Uber drivers voiced concerns at the commission meeting, speaking to the thoroughness of Uber’s own background checks and pointing out vague language.

Uber driver John Rohan objected to language that addressed careless or reckless driving outside the context of causing bodily harm. He said the wording of the ordinance could allow Gainesville police to make subjective calls on what constitutes careless or reckless driving.

Rohan said he recently spent a day contesting a reckless driving charge, which was later cleared. Had the charges stuck, he said, the police could have reported it to Uber, potentially jeopardizing his job. Rohan said he has heard similar stories from fellow Uber drivers, many of whom are unaware they can effectively contest the charges or simply do not have the time to do so.

Uber driver Adam Kucharski said that although he is mostly satisfied with the ordinance, he believes taxi services should catch up to companies like Uber, not the other way around.

“Taxi companies are forcing us to dial back the clock,” he said. “They’re operating in analog. We’re operating in digital.”

Melissa Mihm contributed to the reporting.

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June 19, 2015: Afternoon News in 90

By on June 19th, 2015 | Last updated: June 19, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Desirae Lee produced this update.

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Columbia County Upgrading Plumbing To Conserve Springs

By on June 19th, 2015 | Last updated: June 19, 2015 at 3:03 pm

Live Oak plans to cut costs and improve water usage efficiency with the Columbia County Water Conservation project.

The program encourages commercial buildings to decrease water usage by upgrading to high efficiency plumbing models. This will reduce the amount of water used per flush in a toilet, which can save about 90,000 gallons each day and 32.8 gallons per year.

The Suwannee River Water Management District is directing the project for the Ichetucknee River and surrounding springs.

“We are encouraging all businesses in Columbia County to consider applying for this program, if they qualify,” said Carree Olshansky, SRWMD water conservation specialist. “We’re looking to replace older inefficient toilets that use anywhere from three to seven gallons per flush.”

Olshansky explains because toilets have such long lifespans, businesses and households could still be using models installed prior to 1994.

Plumbing in participating commercial buildings will be upgraded to high efficiency models that can save about 20 percent more water per flush.

Faucets will also be upgraded with aerators that attach to the spout and increase the airflow, reducing the amount of gallons used per month.

“Right now this program is available for the business community,” said Olshansky. “However, we encourage water conservation practices among all water users.”

This project is one of nine supported by Governor Rick Scott’s Florida springs restoration funding.

The entire cost for Columbia County’s project is $350,000. More than 70 percent of the funding will come from The Department of Environmental Protection. Additional contributions come from SWRMD, with $30,000, and Local Cooperators, with $70,000.

“We have projects emphasizing water quality and water quantity,” said Olshansky. “This is emphasizing the quantity aspect.”

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