WUFT News

Get To Know Some Of The 2015 TEDxUF Speakers

By on March 20th, 2015 | Last updated: March 20, 2015 at 6:30 pm

This year a total of eight speakers will take the stage at the Philips Center as part of what has popularly become known as “TED Talks.”

The locally organized annual event, a branch of TED known as TEDx — the “x” standing for independently organized events — brings together what they call “ideas worth spreading.”

These talks can be as long or as short as they need to be and vary on topics.

The Speakers

Jill Sonke is a researcher and Assistant Director of the UF Health Shands Arts in Medicine program.

Her topic is on art and medicine, and how the combination of the two can be used to help heal.

Chris Hass is an Associate Professor in the Department of Applied Physiology and Kinesiology at the University of Florida. He directs one of the most dynamic clinical-research programs in Parkinson’s disease and Movement Disorders in the country.

His topic is on empowering those with Parkinson’s and the people around them.

Michael Morris is the Academic Director for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He founded the Entrepreneurship and Empowerment in South Africa program in 1997 at the University of Cape Town.

He’s discussing the possibility of “what if” everyone starting a venture.

Participants will have an opportunity to tell their story at “The Lab,” which will allow them to record a message for an interactive time capsule.

You can read more on them and the other five speakers on TEDxUF.com

You can watch the live stream of TEDxUF here on March 21st.

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Hawthorne Community Welcomes Fire Station’s Return

By on March 20th, 2015 | Last updated: March 20, 2015 at 6:00 pm

Hawthorne residents might notice lower insurance rates now that a local fire station moved back into town.

The station, at 7405 SE. 221st St. in Hawthorne, opened on March 9. Alachua County Fire-Rescue Station 25 is 5 miles closer than the previous station at Grove Park, which had been serving the community for six years.

The new location of Alachua County Fire Station #25 is now in a community in hopes that they can respond to calls quicker. The Hawthorne station is three miles west of its old location, said Bill Northcutt, Alachua County fire rescue chief.

The new location of Alachua County Fire Station #25 is now in a community in hopes that they can respond to calls quicker. The Hawthorne station is five miles west of its old location, said Bill Northcutt, Alachua County fire rescue chief. Rebecca Rubin / WUFT News

Those who live within several miles of a fire station could potentially see lowered insurance rates because of the quicker response times, said Ellen Vause, Hawthorne’s city manager.

Vause explained that timing is key and said the more centralized downtown location will hopefully offset costs from the Grove Park location, which is farther away. 

Firefighters hope to respond to calls from city residents quicker now that they will be in a neighborhood, said Bill Northcutt, Alachua County fire rescue deputy chief.

The Grove Park station was a doublewide mobile home that was not able to weather storms, Northcutt said. Now, the new brick building can endure the severe storms, meaning firefighters can stay on location regardless of the weather conditions.

Amos Mayes, who has lived in Hawthorne for over 40 years, said he appreciates the fire station being back in the community.

“It’s closer,” he said. “It’s more convenient that it’s right here in Hawthorne. I prefer it being up here than back in a trailer.”

The 8,475-square-foot facility offers fire and medical services, which will benefit the large elderly population in Hawthorne, Vause said.

“We have numerous senior (citizen) calls, so we are really excited to have that station occupied again,” she said.

The city of Hawthorne site closed in 2009 due to insufficient funding during the recession.

Now, Alachua County has funded a remodel of the abandoned station with money earmarked for fire rescue services, Vause said. Northcutt said they spent around $800,000 on renovations.

“There are certain pots of money that can only be used for the Fire Department,” he said. “We didn’t compete with anyone for those funds.”

The renovations focused mainly on hardening the building, including adding a backup generator and hurricane-proof windows, Vause said.

“We’re really glad to know that during a major event, the county made preparations for the units to be able to stay in the building,” she said.

The centralized station also has new air conditioning and the latest technology.

The initial stages of design took a little over a year, and the actual construction took about six months, Northcutt said.

“It was completely gutted,” he said. “Everything was stripped all the way down to the walls. In essence, it is a brand-new building.”

The Hawthorne station was initially built in the 1970s with a grant for the volunteer Fire Department. A few years later, Alachua County used the building to house a fire department but left in the early 2000s to open the Grove Park unit, Vause said.

The city of Hawthorne then started its own department, which had to close down in 2009 after the poor economy affected the population’s tax base. The department stayed vacant until the city and the county entered into an agreement in 2013 to give the county the building. It remains a county building today, Vause said.

“It actually puts us back in a community,” Northcutt said. “Grove Park was not really a community.”

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UF Organization To Host Barrels For Boobs Surfing Competition For Breast Cancer Charity

By on March 20th, 2015 | Last updated: March 20, 2015 at 5:59 pm
Marley Boerema (left) and Jenna Curtis talk about what they look to accomplish with Barrels for Boobs while sitting under a covered half pipe.  Curtis said the hope is that the philanthropy will be something carried down for years in Wahines of the Waves.  RJ Schaffer/WUFT News
Marley Boerema (left) and Jenna Curtis talk about what they look to accomplish with Barrels for Boobs while sitting under a covered half pipe. Curtis said the hope is that the philanthropy will be something carried down for years in Wahines of the Waves. RJ Schaffer/WUFT News

 Jenna Curtis was sitting at home on winter vacation when the name came to her: Barrels for Boobs.

“The title came to me and I go, ‘Marley, what do you think?’ and she loved it and said, ‘Let’s make it happen,’” Curtis said.

Marley Boerema is one of the co-creators of surfing competition Barrels for Boobs along with Curtis. The event will be held on March 28 at Butler Beach near St. Augustine. All of the proceeds will go to the Florida Breast Cancer Foundation.

Boerema and Curtis are part of an organization called Wahines of the Waves, an all-female surf, skate and wakeboard club at the University of Florida. The group has never had any kind of official philanthropy until Boerema started brainstorming.

She based the idea off a friendly surf competition the women have competed in with the UF surf club in the past. She wanted to mimic the relaxed attitude of that competition while still being able to raise a sizeable amount of money.

“I assumed it would be as easy as that to plan because that gets thrown together in a week. Then I realized because we have sponsors, we owe a lot to those sponsors and [fulfilling those obligations is] the part that becomes a problem,” Boerema said. “We felt the stress to constantly get the word out and to constantly be contacting the sponsors to make sure they don’t forget about us.”

The sponsors were necessary to add the extracurricular parts of the event. The competition itself has identical divisions for both genders in the categories of beginner, short board, longboard, tandem and even the category of “weirdest thing you can surf.”

Curtis said they have also considered adding a division of “best wipeout” to encourage those who are new to surfing to come out to try the sport.

Before the 9 a.m. event, there will be a session of beach yoga, led by Boerema’s mother. It will also feature a raffle with items donated from sponsors such as Salt Life, Flomotion, O’Neill, Serengetee and LUV SURF Apparel, among others.

Locking down those sponsors came under the guidance of Dixie Smith, the president of Wahines. Smith learned how to interact with sponsors after her work with other organizations at UF such as the wakeboarding club, of which she is also the president.

She said the inspiration to create a philanthropic event for the organization stemmed from the steady growth they have had the past few years. The group now has up to 80 active members. Curtis said the Wahines membership nearly tripled at the start of the fall semester, which she attributed to a great freshman class filled with women looking to get involved in action sports.

Advanced registration to compete is $15, but the event is open to the public. Curtis and Boerema called and emailed their favorite brands in hopes of soliciting donations. Some of the prizes that will be raffled off include three Penny skateboards, two $200 Fugoo speakers, a $60 boogie board and possibly a longboard surfboard.

An after party will follow the competition with the chance of live music and food, depending on what sponsors donate.

​Curtis noted they had issues going through the county government to rent the beach, which is in St. Johns County. The first problem stemmed from a $300 fee the county said is needed to host it, which the women hope will be waived since all of the proceeds are going to charity.

​“We had to find a place where we could have a lot of people,” Smith said. “There were so many legalities. … The biggest thing has been trying to work with the county and not be held back by the rules.”

The county told them if more than 150 people come, police will need to be hired for the event. Because it is the first time they are doing this, the Wahines are unsure of how many people will come out, though they are confident they will break that threshold with help from other surfers like those that Boerema knows from home and surf clubs from other universities.

However, coordinating with the county can be difficult. Boerema and Curtis’s schedule doesn’t always match up with the county’s representatives’ schedules. St. Johns County representatives only work Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m..

“There’s a lot of not knowing,” Boerema said.

Curtis would prefer to focus on other issues like getting Gainesville citizens to the venue via carpooling, which they are promoting on the event’s Facebook page.

“Breast cancer is a huge problem,” Curtis said. “We’ve seen so many improvements in breast cancer research and treatments over the past however many years, so we definitely think this money will go to good use. If we can’t cure cancer, we can always learn more about it.”

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Therapy Dog Shadow Remembered By His Owner, Those He Helped Volunteering

By on March 20th, 2015 | Last updated: March 20, 2015 at 5:58 pm
Even in passing, Shadow's influence in the Tower Road library will not be forgotten by those he helped.

Shadow, a 12 year old therapy dog, passed away in February. His owner and those he helped will volunteer honoring his memory  Photo by Joann Alam.

Shadow wasn’t in the library, but those who knew him could feel his spirit.

The black Labrador retriever, a therapy dog with the Read With A Dog program at the Tower Road branch of the Alachua County Library District, passed away Feb. 4. At twelve years old, Shadow had worked as a therapy dog for over a decade.

Barney, a 5-year-old terrier, will fill Shadow’s spot in the program after he becomes a certified and insured therapy dog later this month. Joann Alam, his owner and trainer, said this is the culmination of a year and a half of training.

A dog must go through obedience classes, supervised visits and the 10-step Canine Good Citizen test to become a certified therapy dog.

The young dog acts more like an old man. Barney sits patiently while kids play with the purple flower bandanna around his neck and show him pictures in the books they’re reading. Even when a fascinated toddler grabs a chunk of his fur a bit too hard, he is only startled, not moving more than a few inches away.

Alam, 69, was also Shadow’s handler.  He became a part of her family in 2002, when he was a 6-week-old puppy. She said he had been her rock ever since.

Alam lost her mother, father and husband all around the same time. She said Shadow helped her get through it by giving her something to do: volunteering.

“He was my therapy,” Alam said.

Alam had already been involved in therapy dog organizations for a few years. After Shadow’s adoption, she started training him to work as a therapy dog. In 2003, he was certified to work with schoolchildren, in libraries, hospitals, nursing homes, assisted living facilities and veteran hospitals, Alam said. When she moved to Florida from Colorado, she started the North Florida chapter of Love on a Leash.

“The owners of these dogs volunteer so much more than just their time,” Alix Freck, a children’s librarian at Alachua County libraries, wrote in an email. “Getting certified costs money, and since they are volunteers, they never get reimbursed for those costs. The people who take the time to get their animals certified truly believe in the benefits of sharing their pets’ ‘talents’ with others.”

Abby, 6, reads to Magic, a German pinscher, while his handler, Tina Bassi, 51, looks on. Tower Road Branch Library hosts Read with a Dog on Wednesdays from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Photo by Taylor Bello/WUFT News

Abby, 6, reads to Magic, a German pinscher, while his handler, Tina Bassi, 51, looks on. Tower Road Branch Library hosts Read with a Dog on Wednesdays from 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Taylor Bello/WUFT News

Lee Anne Privette said her daughter didn’t like to read out loud. The pair started coming to Read With A Dog when it started at Tower Road about one year ago. There, the then-5-year-old Abby befriended Shadow.

“If him and Joann couldn’t make it, her face would drop because she was so excited to see him,” Freck said.

Shadow became Abby’s favorite dog. She even wrote letters to him.

When Abby stumbled over words, it didn’t matter to Shadow. He was just happy to be there and hear the story, Privette said.

Shadow provided a judgment-free zone for Abby to practice.  Week by week, she became much more confident, and now she even volunteers to read aloud in church, she said.

Once struggling with books that had two words on each page, she now flows through pages with two or three sentences with little trouble.

“I feel like Shadow taught Abby how to read,” Privette said.

Alam, although greatly missing Shadow, has two other dogs she loves: Barney, a 5-year-old terrier and Wolly, a 10-year-old yellow lab. She said they are her support now.

“Shadow was a very special dog and always seemed to have been born to make a difference in the lives of people young and older,” Alam wrote in an email.

Freck said she was worried that Alam wouldn’t have another dog ready to fill the void Shadow left behind. But she is pleased with how well Barney has risen to the occasion.

“These dogs bring lots of joy to many people,” Freck said.

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March 20, 2015: Afternoon News in 90

By on March 20th, 2015 | Last updated: March 20, 2015 at 4:16 pm

Rebekkah Mar produced this update.

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In The News: FHP Trooper Under Investigation, DEP Proposed Self-Sustaining State Parks, FEMA To Fund Climate Change Plans, Epcot Changing Exhibitions

By on March 20th, 2015 | Last updated: March 20, 2015 at 2:01 pm
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March.20, 2015: Morning News in 90

By on March 20th, 2015 | Last updated: March 20, 2015 at 11:22 am


Shahd El Lamey produced this update.

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Controversy Surrounds Better Place Plan Renewal in Putnam County

By on March 20th, 2015 | Last updated: March 23, 2015 at 12:35 pm

After Putnam County commissioners unanimously voted on February 25 to send the Better Place Plan renewal to the April 7 ballot, controversy broke out.

County residents are expressing their concern about changes in the plan’s wording and how soon the renewal would need to be voted on by the public.

The original Better Place Plan was created in 2002 in order to improve county roads, public facilities and recreation over the course of 15 years.

In order to pay for the improvements, a 1-cent infrastructure surtax was placed on the entirety of Putnam County. An oversight committee, which approves and tracks money spent on the project, consists of 15 citizens who don’t hold public office and live in different municipalities.

Putnam County has more dirt road miles than any other county in the state of Florida, according to Chris Evers, the past president of the American Public Works Association. Photo by WUFT.

Putnam County has more dirt road miles than any other county in the state of Florida, according to Chris Evers, the past president of the American Public Works Association. Nicole Wiesenthal/WUFT News

About 160 miles of roads have been either paved or resurfaced since 2002. According to the Putnam County Land Development Code, road improvements are chosen based off of traffic volume, annual maintenance cost, road function and safety needs.

The plan also funds public works projects, such as the purchasing of soccer fields for the Triangle Recreation Facility and the creation of the Emergency Operations Center in Putnam.

If approved, the plan would be extended for another 15 years, but slight changes in the wording have residents like Tom Williams, an Interlachen car repair shop owner, unhappy.

Williams spoke out against the plan at a county commission meeting in February.

“Is Putnam County a better place?” Williams asked. “If you can answer that question legitimately, you’ve got to say ‘no.’”

There are two word changes in the plan’s renewal: one pertaining to the oversight committee’s power and the addition of a clause, which would allow the plan to “implement other public projects authorized by law.”

Karl Flagg, a Putnam County commissioner, said the added clause would only allow the county to use the money for grants.

“There are two key words there: ‘public’ and ‘authorized by law,’” Flagg said. “How can you be out of bounds with that? The language doesn’t alter anything that we have been doing, but it has given us the privilege, if a situation comes up and becomes a priority, to act on the emergency.”

Stan Owens, a member of the Putnam County Tea Party Patriots, said he knows many people who aren’t against the tax, but are against the changes in wording, specifically the one about the powers of the oversight committee.

“A lot of people who would be for the tax, they’re really against how they changed the wording, so there’d be little or no oversight as to how the spending is going to be done,” Owens said. “We’re more concerned about the lack of transparency and the way it is going to be handled.”

Ron Jones, the chairman of the Better Place Plan oversight committee, said the new wording wouldn’t change the oversight committee’s job.

“Nothing in the language prohibits it from doing what it’s been doing for the last several years,” he said. “The language taken out was not entirely clear or meaningful and didn’t contribute to what we were doing. The language put in said the committee will continue what it’s been doing for the last 12 years.”

Another matter that bothered both Williams and Owens was the April 7 voting date.

Owens said he had a problem with how the county seemed to be rushing the voting by putting it on a ballot that only had one other election on it: a new District 6 senator.

Bardin Ranchette Road

Bardin Ranchette Road in Putnam County was paved with money from the Better Place Plan. Yvonne Parish/WUFT News

“Our concern is that the way it is being put across, they’re trying to have it voted on at an election which is expected to have a small turnout,” Owens said. “They’re going to slip it in without educating the public.”

Flagg, however, said he sees more benefits in having the renewal on the April 7 ballot.

“The difference between this time and the previous time is the previous time you were trying to sell the unknown and make some promises,” he said. “This time around we have a track record of what we have done.”

He said the commissioners wanted to save the county from a ballot that was lengthy and from the issue becoming a stand-alone, which would lead to problems with cost and turnout.

Even without the plan changes, some people like Craig Sherar, from East Palatka, said the plan is useless without a clear path.

“Why are we paving roads that we’ve abandoned?” he asked. “You need to come up with some kind of objective standard so we know the mistakes in the past won’t be repeated.”

But Ben Bates, a Putnam County business owner, said all the changes he’s seen from the plan have been positive.

“It’s one of the few (plans) that the government has implemented that every penny has been spent exactly the way that it has promised to have been spent,” he said. “It’s been a big boost for our county, and it has allowed the county to make some improvements that otherwise haven’t been made without it.”

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Supreme Court Decision Reopens Juvenile Sentences

By on March 19th, 2015 | Last updated: March 19, 2015 at 5:36 pm

By DARA KAM
THE NEWS SERVICE OF FLORIDA

©2015 The News Service of Florida. All rights reserved. Posting or forwarding this material without permission is prohibited. You can view our Terms of Use on our website.

THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, March 19, 2015 – Florida inmates serving life sentences for crimes they committed as juveniles should be resentenced under guidelines that went into effect last year, the Florida Supreme Court unanimously ruled Thursday.

In four separate cases, the justices ordered lower courts to apply the 2014 law to inmates who, as juveniles, were sentenced in the past either to life in prison or to terms that would have effectively kept them behind bars until they die. Two of the inmates were convicted of murder.

The highly anticipated rulings settle the question of whether two seminal U.S. Supreme Court decisions that found life sentences for juveniles violate Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment should apply retroactively. Lower courts were divided on the retroactivity issue.

In a 2010 case, known as Graham v. Florida, the U.S. Supreme Court banned life sentences without a “meaningful opportunity” for release for juveniles convicted of non-homicide crimes. And in a 2012 ruling known as Miller v. Alabama, the high court barred mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of murder. Juveniles can still face life sentences in such cases, but judges must weigh criteria such as the offenders’ maturity and the nature of the crimes before imposing that sentence.

Under the Florida law passed last year, a juvenile convicted of a murder classified as a capital felony could be sentenced to life in prison after a hearing to determine whether such a sentence is appropriate. If a judge finds that a life sentence is not appropriate, the juvenile would be sentenced to at least 35 years. Also, juveniles convicted in such cases would be entitled to reviews after 25 years.

In Thursday’s ruling, the Florida justices concluded that the Miller and Graham rulings constitute “a development of fundamental significance,” the standard for retroactivity.

“The patent unfairness of depriving indistinguishable juvenile offenders of their liberty for the rest of their lives, based solely on when their cases were decided, weighs heavily in favor of applying the (U.S.) Supreme Court’s decision in Miller retroactively,” Justice Barbara Pariente wrote in an opinion ordering a lower court to consider a new sentence for Rebecca Lee Falcon.

Falcon is serving a life sentence for a 1997 murder committed during a botched robbery in Bay County, when she was 15.

Anthony Duwayne Horsley, who was convicted of first-degree murder in the 2006 shooting death of a convenience-store owner in Brevard County when Horsley was 17, was also granted another review.

“It’s definitely a victory for child advocates who’ve been asking to get the Graham decision implemented in a widespread fashion,” 2nd Judicial Circuit Public Defender Nancy Daniels said.

The justices also ordered a resentencing for Leighdon Henry, who was tried as an adult for multiple non-homicide offenses, including sexual battery, committed when he was 17, and was sentenced to life in prison plus 60 additional years. After the Graham decision, Henry’s sentence was reduced to 90 years.

But even the reduced sentence would not give Henry the opportunity for reform, Justice James E.C. Perry noted in a 12-page opinion.

“We conclude that Graham prohibits the state trial courts from sentencing juvenile non-homicide offenders to prison terms that ensure these offenders will be imprisoned without obtaining a meaningful opportunity to obtain future early release during their natural lives based on their demonstrated maturity and rehabilitation,” Perry wrote.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, a former prosecutor who was instrumental in crafting and passing the juvenile sentencing law last year, said legislators intentionally left the issue of retroactivity to the courts to decide.

“We did our job. The court did their job today. The system moves forward. Clearly, by adjudicating these cases, that then becomes precedent and other courts will take the precedent set and apply it to other cases throughout the state,” Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said.

Thursday’s rulings should not have any impact on the 2014 law, Bradley said.

But the retroactivity could present an onerous task for judges, prosecutors and defense lawyers, said 8th Judicial Circuit State Attorney William Cervone.

According to a staff analysis of last year’s bill, Thursday’s court action means that at least 300 inmates could have their sentences revisited and possibly reduced. The Falcon decision gave inmates who were sentenced to life as juveniles two years to ask the courts for a new sentence.

“We’ll have to contact victims, reanalyze what the sentencing options in light of Graham and Miller are as to each applicable case,” Cervone said. “It’s a big deal individually and it’s a big deal collectively. But by their nature, they are complicated, bad cases. So each case individually is going to be, I assume, a very contested, intense kind of hearing. It’s going to be very work-intensive for everybody.”

But Daniels, the public defender, embraced the opportunity to revisit the sentences.

“It’s a welcome burden,” she said.

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In The News: Unemployment May Continue To Fall, Bill Passes Allowing Private Agencies To Refuse Adoptions, Negotiations Between Seminole Tribe And State Halted, Former DCF Investigator Arrested

By on March 19th, 2015 | Last updated: March 19, 2015 at 4:36 pm
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