FEA Retired e-Advocate - Winter, 2018


 



  ||   PRESIDENT'S MESSAGE  ||   VICE-PRESIDENT REPORT   || 

 ||   2018 DELEGATE ASSEMBLY NOMINATION FORM  ||   MOVING AHEAD  ||  MONEY MATTERS  ||   COMMUNITY   ||   

 ||  GRANTS FOR GROWING  ||     SPECIAL FEATURE  ||




President's Message

Marilyn Warner


Judge Judy wrote, “I believe in the power of the individual.  I believe that one determined, skilled person can do just about anything.”


Politics and elections will be an important part of our lives in 2018 on local, state and national levels.  Again, students, educators and retirees will be affected by the outcomes of the elections.  Each of us is determined and skilled and it is important for us to be involved and to make our voices heard.  We must work collectively; think what a difference it will make if all of our FEA-Retired members, all 4,100+ of us, were active participants this year. 

 

I realize our members are on all sides of the political spectrum - Democrat, Republican, and Independent.  What is important is that we all work together to ensure that the right people get elected, people who will represent our values and our stance on issues. 

 

It all begins with our local elections.  Be knowledgeable about what is happening.  Volunteer in schools where students can be tutored and educators can be mentored.  Our schools are having an influx of students from Puerto Rico following the devastation from Hurricane Maria. These children come here not knowing the language and separated from their families.  What can we do?  We know what is happening in the schools and we need to make sure that our elected officials are not sitting in ivory towers ignoring the truth.  We need to make sure they are realistic.  We need to be voices in our communities and make sure that members of the community are aware of the issues.

 

Our Florida elections are extremely important this year.  We will be electing a new governor since Governor Scott is term-limited. We also have a Senator race as well as electing many congressmen/women.  Please plan to work on the elections by phone banking, canvassing neighborhoods, preparing mailings, etc.  And remember that every vote counts!

 

Recently I attended a town hall meeting held by Representative Chris Latvala.  The Representative holds this every year prior to the start of the Legislative session.  At the meeting, I asked two questions:  “Since charter schools and public schools draw funds from the same pot, so to speak, will anything be done in the session to assure that they are equitable and held to the same standards” and “What can we expect regarding charter schools this year.”   Representative Latvala proceeded to discuss schools and education for 10-15 minutes, but he never answered my questions.  Hopefully, your representative will be more forthcoming. 

 

We need to make sure that our congress members know and respect our views and we need to stand up and speak out loudly for public schools. Nationally, we are looking at the CHIP program, the Dream Act and the outcome of the Janus case. 

 

Since 1997, due to the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the number of uninsured children has dropped nearly 70%.  Unfortunately, this program expired on September 30, 2017.  By the end of January, 16 states will run out of money to fund this program to be joined by 21 more states by the end of March.  This has always been a bipartisan issue.  Congress needs to stop dragging their feet and fully renew and fund CHIP.

 

The Dream Act is the most inclusive plan for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).  Imagine waking up each day not knowing if you will be deported. This is what thousands of children face and the number of children grows each day.  We have all taught these children.  This reminds me of a very special student I taught named Hiruye.  His mother escaped from Sudan to Ethiopia and somehow made her way to Clearwater.  The mother spoke very little English and worked two low-paying jobs in order to support her sons.  Hiruye and his brother would be undocumented students and they would be at risk of being deported.  And, yet, the only “crime” that their mother committed was that she wanted a better life for her sons. 

 

Keep your eyes open for the Supreme Court’s arguments and decision concerning the Janus case.  Janus vs. AFSCME is a high-profile case challenging the legality of union fees.  This case argues that public-sector unions should not be permitted to require non-members to pay so-called fair share or agency fees to cover their costs associated with collective bargaining in the workplace. Supreme Court arguments are scheduled to begin on February 26. 

 

Concerning the national elections, it is interesting to note that all 435 seats in the US House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the US Senate will be decided in the November 6, 2018 election.  We may see changes in the US Congress that will greatly benefit us as educators and as retirees.

 

We have our work cut out for us.  We have always stood together to help students and educators.  We have visited and written our Senators and Representatives.  We have written letters to the editor and been vocal in our communities.  We are experienced and knowledgeable and our voices must be heard.  Are we up to the task?

 

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rules of democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government  officials but the voters of this country.”

— Franklin Delano Roosevelt


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Mattie Johnson

FEA-Retired Vice President


As FEA-Retired Vice President, one of the charges includes that of collecting and tallying the number of volunteer hours of retired members throughout the state.  The final tally is presented at the FEA Delegate Assembly held in October; this will show some of the many involvements the retired member are participating in.  These hours are an indication of community as well as involvement with the active educators and their many plights.


In an effort to give a FEA- Retired Lifetime membership to a FEA member, raffle tickets are available for sale.  The tickets are distributed at the January Executive Committee meeting which includes FEA-Retired Officers and State Local Retired Presidents.  The person winning the FEA-Retired Lifetime membership will be announced at the FEA Delegate Assembly in October.


I serve as the FEA-Retired Silent Auction Chairperson.  We collect items which are auctioned at the FEA Delegate Assembly; the proceeds from the Silent Action go toward Education Grants which is distributed by the FEA -Retired Districts.


We as retirees will continue our involvement in the schools and ours communities.


 



Florida Education Association Delegate Assembly

2018 Nomination Form


The nomination form, which is self-explanatory, is included in this newsletter.  This is a statewide election; we select retired members to represent us at the FEA Delegate Assembly. The DA is a wonderful experience; please consider being a candidate!

 

Please note that being elected to the DA does not mean you are an automatic delegate to the FEA-Retired Annual Meeting; attending the FEA-Retired Annual meeting is a decision made by individual locals.


2018 NOMINATIONS FOR FEA-RETIRED DELEGATES TO THE FEA DELEGATE ASSEMBLY,NEA-RETIRED ANNUAL MEETING & NEA REPRESENTATIVE ASSEMBLY

 

Nominations for FEA-Retired members to attend the annual FEA Delegate Assembly and the NEA-R Annual Meeting and NEA Representative Assembly as delegates are now open. YOU MUST BE A MEMBER OF FEA-R AND YOUR RETIRED LOCAL TO BE NOMINATED. You are responsible for all costs related to these meetings.



FEA Delegate Assembly

Based on our membership, FEA-R is entitled to 33 delegates to attend the 2018 FEA Delegate Assembly scheduled for October 11 - 13 in Orlando. This includes 31 delegates elected by the members and two automatic per the FEA-R by-laws.  Two others will represent FEA-R automatically because of their position on the FEA Governance Board.  Delegates are requested to make a $75 donation to the PAC.


NEA-R Annual Meeting and NEA Representative Assemblies

FEA-R is entitled to 4 delegates to attend the 2018 NEA RA and the NEA-R Annual Meeting. This includes 3 delegates elected by the members and the FEA-R president, who is an automatic delegate per the FEA-R by-laws.  The election covers both meetings to be held in Minneapolis, MN —the NEA-R Annual Meeting on June 27-28 and NEA RA from June 30 to July 5. FEA-R has allocated $4400 to be equally divided among the 4 delegates.


Nomination Form

You may nominate yourself or any other eligible FEA-R member (with their permission) on the nomination form printed below.  Members are eligible to run for both assemblies. Please refer to FEA-Retired Policy #17 concerning Delegate expectations printed on the back of this form.   ALL delegates are expected to attend all sessions of the assembly and be seated with the FEA-R delegation.


Be sure to provide all necessary information.

Please return this form POSTMARKED NO LATER THAN FEBRUARY 17.  Forms mailed after this postmarked date will not be considered.  Nominees will be notified by e-mail (or phone) when their applications are received.

Election Process

If the number of candidates exceeds the number of delegates to be elected, FEA will mail a ballot to eligible voters.  Marked ballots must be returned to the Election Committee for counting and certification of the results. 


 

 



CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD THE


2018 DELEGATE NOMINATION FORM 

 


 

Moving Ahead:  Our Connections 

Leadership Training 2018

January 24, 2018

Haines City, Florida


Sixty of our members gathered for our 2018 Leadership Training.  This project is funded by our NEA Grant for our MORE (Mobilize, Organize, Organize, Recruit and Engage) program and helps our members become knowledgeable about issues that concern us.

This year, the sessions were:

 

 How We Connect with the 2018 Legislature lead by Linda Russell, FEA PPA Staff

 

How we Connect with our Members and Develop Leaders lead by Charley McClaren, FEA Regional Specialist

 

How We Connect Effectively with Actives lead by Marianne Capoziello, Polk Education Association President

 

How We are Connected with Social Justice lead by Hilario Benzon and Makeda Harris, NEA Human and Civil Rights Team for Social Justice

 

We were pleased to welcome to our meeting George Sheridan, NEA Executive Committee, who greeted us and spoke about NEA priorities.


So we are looking at a retirement that is far brighter than those who now struggle under all of the new work rules and testing while looking at vanishing step systems, replaced with performance pay.  I’m certain that it sickens all of you as much as it does me.  What scares me more than the reality is the number of educators who are unaware that their financial income and stability in retirement has been changed.  I attended the FEA convention two years ago and surveyed many of the activists who participated.  They generally had no idea what their pension originally was, let alone how it has been systematically reduced.  Most of us are teachers.  Imparting knowledge was what we are all about.  I believe that it has become an obligation upon all of us to make sure our working colleagues know what has happened.  We need to help make them aware that every vote they cast is critical toward restoring not just respect, but the lives they are “EARNING” in retirement.


This needs to become our mantra.  We all want our children to have better lives than we did.  Shouldn’t we work on behalf of our colleagues as well? Let activism become a part of our legacy.  At the very least we need to share what we all know about retirement and the importance of being aware of what is going on.


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 Money Matters

from Artie Leichner, UTD-R

 

I usually write about retirement and other money issues, so I’m going to start with that.  Unfortunately, we all went through a hurricane event this year.  My family fled northwest from the Redland to Pensacola, continuously monitoring the news, waiting in Ocala before deciding where to wind up.  We were completely out of harm’s way.  The fact that the storm turned and brought minimal damage to my home will not make me hesitate to do so again.  As an Andrew survivor who lost a home, I will never take that risk. What does that have to do with money? There were some special rules that are in place for anyone who lives in an Irma designated disaster zone.  They involve retirement accounts and tax deductions.  Of course, I am not a financial professional so always verify that I write before doing it.  I am just very conscious of benefits and sharing then, much as I did as a UTD steward and Vice President.

 

On September 29, President Trump signed into law the “Disaster Tax Relief and Airport and Airway Extension Act of 2017.”  Among other provisions, the Act provides temporary tax relief to victims of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Personal casual losses which arose in the Hurricane Irma disaster area on or after September 4, 2017, and which are attributable to Hurricane Irma will qualify.

 

10% limitation:  For taxpayers claiming a new disaster loss, the Act eliminates the current law requirement that personal casualty losses must exceed 10% of AGI to qualify for a deduction.

 

Relief available to non-itemizers: The Act also eliminates the current law requirement that taxpayers must itemize deductions to access this tax relief for losses – it does so by increasing an individual taxpayer’s standard deduction by the new disaster loss. What this means is that it will be easier to deduct these hurricane losses and you don’t have to itemize to take the deduction (again, talk to a professional).

 

Additionally, Eased Access to Retirement Funds: The Act eases a number if rules to follow to allow victims to make “qualified hurricane distributions” (below) from their retirement plans of up to $100,000. As it relates to Hurricane Irma, the Act defines a “qualified hurricane distribution” as any distribution from an eligible retirement plan made on or after Sept. 4, 2017, and before Jan. 1, 2019, to an individual whose principal place of abode on Sept. 4, 2017, is located in the Hurricane Irma disaster area and who has sustained an economic loss by reason of Hurricane Irma.

 

Penalty Relief: Significantly, the Act accepts qualified hurricane distributions from the 10% early retirement plan withdrawal penalty.  However, subject to exceptions below, income tax must still be paid.

 

Eased Inclusion Rules: The Act allows taxpayers to spread out any income inclusion resulting from such withdrawals over a 3-year period, beginning with the year that the amount is required to be included (or elect out).

 

Favorable Re-contribution Rule: The Act also allows the amount distributed to be re-contributed at any time over a 3-year period beginning on the day after the distribution was received.  That should allow you to take a larger than usual amount from a retirement account and spread the taxes over three year.  Maybe it will make a project you’re hesitant about more doable.  You’ll also be able to put it back.

 

I am writing this so you are aware of some special options.  Often we don’t know questions to ask, so we can miss out on opportunities.  Now you have food for thought.


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Phyllis Compton

UTD-Retired President

 

AS RETIRED MEMBERS OF OUR UNION, WE ARE ALWAYS SEEKING WAYS TO BUILD COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR OUR ISSUES AND CONCERNS.  THERE IS GREAT VALUE TO CONNECTING WITH GROUPS AND INDIVIDUALS WHO SHARE COMMON INTERESTS OR WHO ARE AFFECTED BY SIMILAR CONCERNS.  MAIL CAMPAIGNS, MEETINGS, NETWORKING AND VISITS TO POLICYMAKERS ARE BUT A FEW METHODS USED TO CREATE COMMUNITY SUPPORT. 


THERE ARE MANY AVENUES WHICH WE CAN INCORPORATE IN ORDER TO ACHIEVE COMMUNITY SUPPORT. RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS, DEVELOPING PARTNERSHIPS AND BUILDING COALITIONS ARE BUT A FEW.


RAISING PUBLIC AWARENESS OF THE VALUE OF YOUR ISSUES PROVIDES AN OPPORTUNITY TO GAIN SUPPORT FROM THE GENERAL COMMUNITY.  THE FOLLOWING ARE A FEW WAYS TO REACH THE GENERAL PUBLIC NO MATTER HOW LARGE OR SMALL YOUR COMMUNITY.

 

  1. ARRANGE FOR EDUCATION EXPERTS, BUSINESS LEADERS, AND LAWMAKERS, TO SPEAK AT FORUMS (FOR MEMBERS AND NON-MEMBERS) TO DRAW ATTENTION TO ISSUES.
  2. ARRANGE TO ADVOCATE AND PARTICIPATE IN PUBLIC SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS.
  3. NETWORK WITH OTHER ORGANIZATIONS WHO HAVE SIMILAR CONCERNS (UNITED WAY, OTHER SENIOR ADVOCACY GROUPS, GREY PANTHERS, RETIREE ORGANIZATIONS FROM LOCAL COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES, FLARA, AFCSME
  4. WRITE-IN CAMPAIGNS TO LOCAL NEWSPAPERS (OPINION PIECES, LETTERS TO THE EDITOR)
  5. VISITS TO YOUR POLICYMAKERS/CORRESPONDING WITH POLICYMAKERS
  6. ADVOCATE YOUR POSITION THROUGH PUBLIC DEMONSTRATIONS WHERE PERMITTED

ALWAYS HAVE SOME ACTION ITEMS AND MATERIALS PREPARED THAT EXPLAIN YOUR ISSUES!!

  • DEVELOPING PARTNERSHIPS WITH DIFFERENT ORGANIZATIONS AND INSTITUTIONS CAN INCREASE IMPACT AND OFFER FRESH IDEAS AND INSIGHTS.  THIS MAY REQUIRE MORE COMMITMENT FROM PARTIES INVOLVED TO ADDRESS PROBLEMS AS THEY MAY ARISE, BUT YOU MAY BE ABLE TO REACH A LARGER AUDIENCE.  SOME SUGGESTIONS MIGHT BE RETIREMENT ORGANIZATIONS FROM OTHER LOCAL UNIONS, UNIVERSITIES, LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS, LAWMAKERS WHO ACTIVELY WORK TO SUPPORT EDUCATION, PTA.   POTENTIAL PARTNERS SHOULD HAVE THE ABILITY TO DISSEMINATE INFORMATION TO THE COMMUNITY.

IT IS IMPORTANT TO DEVELOP ALLIANCES THAT CAN FOCUS AND DEVELOP A CONSISTENT MESSAGE.    WE NEED OUR RETIREES AND THEIR ADVOCATES TO HELP EDUCATE OUR COMMUNITIES.


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FEA-Retired offers grants to educators each year to help them work on a project they otherwise might not have money to do.  Congratulations to our 2017 winners:

 

  • Allison Pulliam, Ft. Walton Beach
  • Michale Bostic-Jones, Jacksonville
  • Sherrie Barker, Ft. Walton Beach
  • Holly Pittman, Spring Hill
  • Michael Chandler, Jacksonville
  • Barbara Wilcox, Merritt Island
  • Ellen Chinnery, Scottsmoor
  • Rebecca LaBelle-Petrie, Port St. Lucie
  • Susan Corn Anderson, Tampa
  • Amy Janicki, Port St. Lucie
  • Richard Deardurff, Riverview

 

LIFE

Life is precious, do not destroy it.

Life is life, fight for it.

 



 

…FROM Mother Teresa

 

Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.

 

Life is beauty, admire it.

 

Life is a dream, realize it.

 

Life is a challenge, meet it.

 

Life is a game, play it.

 

Life is a promise, fulfill it.

 

Life is a song, sing it.

 

Life is a struggle, accept it.

 

Life is an adventure, dare it.

 

Life is luck, make it.


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Special Feature

 

 

On 2017, Seminole Heights, Florida, was the scene of a serial killer.  This made news not only in Florida, but also nationally.  Frank Roder, President of United School Employees of Pasco-Retired and Retired Social Justice Chairman for the Florida Education Association , lives in Seminole Heights.  This is his firsthand report of the events in Seminole Heights.


A Neighborhood in the Crosshairs....A Neighborhood Under Siege.....A Neighborhood Unites...A Neighborhood Bounces Back...


In March, 1986, my partner Michael and I bought our 1918 bungalow in Southeast Seminole Heights. At that time the neighborhood had fallen on hard times and was a true inner city neighborhood. However, we both fell in love with our bungalow and saw the potential in the rebirth of the neighborhood. Seminole Heights is a historic neighborhood and district located in central Tampa including many 20th century bungalow homes and historic buildings.

Unfortunately, Southeast Seminole Heights had an economic downturn marked by increased crime, neglect, prostitution and decreased quality of life. Our neighborhood soon became the little neighborhood that could! I organized our first neighborhood watch which quickly became two, then four and finally six active neighborhood watch groups. Those groups led to the birth of the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association in 1989. I served as the first president of the association for 5 years; after that I served as vice president for the next 25 years. Our neighborhood bounced back beyond anyone’s wildest dreams! One example of our neighborhood’s commitment is Tampa’s Paint Your Heart Out Tampa (PYHOT) program. On this day 110 homes of Tampa’s elderly, disabled or those on fixed incomes are painted in one day by teams of volunteers usually made up of cooperate teams. Our neighborhood, however, organized a neighborhood paint team to paint a neighbor’s house. For the first 25 years of PYHOT, I served as paint captain for our team. PYHOT has just completed its 28th year and Southeast Seminole Heights is the ONLY neighborhood association in Tampa to have a paint team every year for PYHOT.



In 2002, our neighborhood was a finalist in Neighborhoods USA as the National Neighborhood of the Year by Neighborhoods USA. The following year, Southeast Seminole Heights was named as 2003 National Neighborhood of the Year! In 2004, we had 700 people tour our house during our first neighborhood home tour. That home tour was replaced, for the last 8 years, by the Taste of the Heights.  All if this forward progress stopped and our neighborhood was under siege for 51 days! However, this year’s Taste of the Heights which was held on November 5th set new highs for both attendance and neighborhood participation!


On October 9, 2017 Benjamin Edward Mitchell, 22, was fatally shot while waiting for a bus. Two days later, Monica Caridad Hoffa, 32, was killed while walking home from the bus stop. She was found 2 days later in an overgrown city-owned lot. October 19th, Anthony Naiboa was killed in front of the home that Benjamin Mitchell grew up in. November 14th, 60 year old Ronald Felton was shot and killed while going to his volunteer job at his church food pantry. Four senseless murders only connected by one similarity – the shooter.

Our neighborhood also sprung into action! On Sunday evening, October 22, over 400 of us walked from memorial to memorial in a candlelight procession. The next day 500 0f us showed up to meet with the mayor and police chief at our elementary school to discuss the murders. Our neighborhood quickly established a $10,000 reward for the killer. That reward quickly climbed to $110,000. As four families were left heartbroken and trying to heal, our community united to help these families including locating a neighborhood church, setting up and paying for the memorial service for Anthony Naiboa . Through the help of the Seminole Heights Foundation, the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association helped families with raising monies to create funding for scholarships and grants in the victims memory/name and so much more.

 

 

For 51 days our neighborhood was on the edge, constantly listening to police updates or news reports, hoping to hear that our nightmare was over. Our neighborhood quickly became a police state. We were told to stay indoors and, if we went anywhere, travel with a group.

Our neighborhood became saturated with a police presence. The FBI, ATF and TPD searched every house, every alley, behind every business looking for a person of interest that had been seen on a neighbor’s home security video after the first murder. The officers went door-to-door making sure they didn’t miss any information that could lead to the arrest of the shooter. Tampa police received over 4,000 tips but had fallen short of solid leads. Our community remained on edge but was determined to stand tall. This was still OUR neighborhood.

How were neighbors supposed to be outside after dark and feel safe? How were moms and dads going to protect their children? The questions weighed heavy on citizens as October 31st approached, and, for one mom, it was too much. Tammy Brooks decided she would take her daughter to another neighborhood. It was a difficult choice that would halt the yearly tradition she shared with her daughter. Little did she know that Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Police Chief Brian Dugan had a plan. They would bring Halloween to Seminole Heights with officers, and the city leaders themselves, walking house to house to trick or treat. Extraordinary things happened. People walked outside and stayed there, including Tammy. “We’re not going to stay hunkered down and stay locked up in our homes. We’re going to get out and have a good time and be a community again,” said Tammy. Neighbors were no longer nervous. Halloween, once again was a fun event.

A record-breaking turnout was expected for the Taste of the Heights as community members looked to the annual block party as a show of strength. Organizer, Stan Lasater, says this year’s event was  especially important as locally-owned restaurants who are  now experiencing a financial hit. “We’ve gone from Hurricane Irma to the shootings,” said Lasater. “Now they re suffering because people are a little nervous to sit outside or come to the restaurants.” This year’s event sold out in 90 minutes. Over 1,000 attended the three-block party.

Many in the neighborhood thanked law enforcement, first responders and volunteers by preparing a massive dinner at the Seminole Heights United Methodist Church. The neighborhood is drenched in fear but the goal of unity and support of those who protect and serve had been unwavering. “Hopefully this is the meal that gives them fuel to catch the bad guy,” said Joe Parker, an Army chef and resident of Seminole Heights who volunteered to cook. Parker says they were prepared to serve 250 people.

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor lives in Seminole Heights and also attended the dinner. She says the community is a place where people stick together and support the work of law enforcement officers. “They know the officers are out here every day to get this killer off the street and they just want to help out in any way that they can and what better way than to feed police officers,” Castor said.

After the forth murder, on November 16, Governor Scott ordered the Florida Highway Patrol, in addition to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, to assist the Tampa Police Department. For the first time there was a witness to this killing. A witness was able to describe the suspect in Felton’s murder as a black male about 6-feet tall with a thin, strong build. Shortly thereafter police released a suspect description following these killings.

"We will hunt this person down until we find them," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said during a press conference. Detectives released surveillance video of a person who was walking near the area where the first victim, Benjamin Mitchell, was murdered. Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said the video shows a "person of interest" running "just seconds after" Mitchell was shot. On Wednesday, November 22, TPD released surveillance video of a person who was walking in the area just moments before the fourth victim, Ronald Felton, was killed. TPD said that they believe it was the same individual in both videos.

They also began calling the man in the video a "suspect" rather than simply a person of interest

On November 27, Police arrested the man they say shot and killed four people over a span of six weeks in the Seminole Heights neighborhood. A tip about someone with a gun at an Ybor City McDonald's led police to 24-year-old Howell Emanuel Donaldson III. On Wednesday morning, Donaldson was booked into jail and charged with four counts of First-Degree murder in connection to the murders of Benjamin Mitchell, Monica Hoffa, Anthony Naiboa and Ronald Felton.

According to the arrest report, a Tampa police officer was at the McDonald’s in Ybor City when the McDonald’s manager came up to her and said Donaldson had given her a McDonald’s food bag with a .40 caliber Glock inside of it. The witness also told the officer that Donaldson said he wanted to leave the state. During a news conference on Wednesday, Chief Dugan said he cannot thank that employee enough. Donaldson had left the restaurant before police were notified, but returned and was detained by officers. After being taken into custody, Donaldson gave officers permission to search his car and his phone and allowed them to examine his gun.

“Donaldson admitted he owned the gun, but did not admit to the murders,” Dugan added. During his conversation with officers, Donaldson said he was unfamiliar with the Seminole Heights neighborhood and didn’t have any association with anyone in the area.


Investigators who searched Donaldson’s cell phone found location data storage known as “significant locations.” The data revealed an address on East Frierson Avenue and indicated three days of recorded times and activities that correspond with when the first three murders happened.  Call detail records were also obtained and showed that within minutes of the first three murders, Donaldson’s cell phone was geographically associated with cell towers in the area. Officers searching Donaldson’s car found clothing similar to what was seen being worn by the suspect in surveillance video taken the night of the first murder. The arrest report says officers also found a suspected blood stain on the clothing. When officers showed Donaldson evidence from the investigation that indicated his ties to the murders, Donaldson denied an explanation and requested an attorney’s presence.

The person in handcuffs on the news as Tampa’s most notorious killer seemed unrecognizable to many of Howell Emanuel Donaldson III’s closest friends. Even the name seemed strange to friends. They all knew him as "Trai." The new label was even harder to comprehend: serial killer.

Donaldson had randomly gunned down four people in Seminole Heights, investigators said, leaving the neighborhood terrified for 51 days. His friends from high school remember a different kid. They described him as quiet, cocky, easy-going. He was just an average kid and always had a basketball in his hands. He then went to St. John’s University in New York City, where he practiced for a brief time with the Division I team. He graduated from there in January and return to Tampa. He also worked at the McDonald’s in Ybor City where he was arrested.

"Everybody is in such great spirits since the killer is off the streets. You kind of hear a collective sigh of relief." said Stan Lasater, the President of Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association. "It's to where you see the dogs walking again and you see people out walking with their kids again."

Light Up the Heights first started as a plan to help catch a killer. The South Seminole Heights Neighborhood Watch along with the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association lead the effort to turn fear into joy. The Christmas spirit in Seminole Heights was still in full effect with volunteers going door-to-door installing Christmas lights. In the tense 51-days where Tampa Police searched for their killer, they complained this neighborhood was just too dark. A burden was lifted off this community when Howell Donaldson was arrested for killing four people in separate incidents in Seminole Heights. Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association President, Stan Lasater, says folks as far as Brooksville have driven up to donate lights and  leading lighting company even donated 100 light strands.

"Everybody kind of stepped up and said we're not going to let this make our neighborhood feel unsafe or bad," said volunteer Patrick Guyer. Neighbors responded to their efforts. "People started to call us saying either, we don't have the money or the ability or the resources to hang lights," said Lasater. On Saturday and Sunday they brought light to more than 20 homes and hoped to add more homes to the list . "In every single case, the person was so grateful, almost in tears," said Guyer.

A big finale happened on December 10th. A motorcycle ride honored the victims. Volunteers kept installing lights throughout the week.

On Saturday night, December 9th the Southeast Seminole Heights Civic Association Holiday Party was held. Over 150 neighbors celebrated a return to normalcy to our neighborhood. After our 51 day nightmare, we no longer lived in fear.

Southeast Seminole Heights is a great place to call home.


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