A Pinella’s County Elementary School Teacher was found with a Loaded Gun and Knives in School yesterday.

The Tampa Bay Times reported yesterday of Pinella’s county arrest of Starkey Elementary School forth grade teacher Betty Jo Soto, 49.

Ex-Elementary School Teacher, Betty Jo Soto, 49, of Pinella’s County’s Starkey Elementary School. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office via Tampa Bay Times]

Soto is facing two counts of misdemeanor conceal weapons charge, after being found with a Glock 9mm pistol and two knives in a backpack. According to WFLA’s interview with Desoto on why she brought weapsons into her classroom, Soto responded by telling them to “Ask Desantis.” Revelations made on her Facebook Page was also reported to include a message indicating that she was conducting a “revolutionary act.”

Soto’s timely arrest arrives on the heels of the passing of the controversial State Bill 3070 on arming teachers, signed by Gov. DeSantis on May 8 and strongly advocated for by Pinellas County Sheriff, Bob Gualtieri.

School district would have to opt into the “Guardian’s Program” in order for teachers to receiving the training. As of this time, both Sarasota and Manatee counties have opted out, despite Manatee school board member, Scott Hopes, advocating for the district’s inclusion into the program.

What we don’t know:

  • Soto’s psychological evaluation, if any.
  • Soto’s Motive

Rep. Vern Buchanan Releases Statement on Russian Election Hacking via Twitter

On Thursday, U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, released a public statement strongly condeming the Russian cyber-hacking of two florida county voter databases after attending a classified briefing via Twitter.

U.S Rep. Vern Buchanan’s public statement in response to attending an FBI briefing on Russian cyberhacking of two Florida county voting systems on Thursday. (Via Twitter)

In the release, Buchanan describes the alarming nature of the cyber security threats posed to state voting systems, stating ‘Vladmir Putin is not our friend’ and called on a bipartisan approach to deal with future election inteference.

Buchanan’s response comes after the revelations of Russian cyber interference from Governor Ron DeSantis earlier this week.

Gov. DeSantis told reporters that he was not ‘allowed to disclose’ information related to the FBI investigation due to signing a non-disclosure agreement in exchange for a private briefing. via Politico.

Buchanan’s response comes after his public statement last month on the Mueller Report, stating that ‘America needs to move on.’ (Via Zac Anderson, Sarasota-Herald-Tribune)

As of this time Thursday, none of the two counties has been identified.

Do you feel Vern Buchanan’s response is adequate? Please comment below.

Sick Day Part 2: More Sick Child, More Unreleased Content

My boy is sick yet again today, so it’s time for some more unreleased content in lieu of not being able to get out there and find some scoops for your fine people of southwest Florida.

Today, I present to you the unreleased PSA video I created a few month’s back in my graduate program for ThinkProgress.org. What follows is a one-minute piece on the expensive failure, the Avrocar: A joint top-secret U.S. and Canadian military flying saucer built in the 1950’s and 60’s.

The Avrocar, which Avrocouldn’t. (Video: Alex M Buono)

Despite it’s failure to ignite a new fleet of cold-war era saucers, the lifting fan prototype designed for the Avrocar found it’s way into the future Lockheed X-35 fighter jet in order for it to vertically land, as described by MIT Technology Review back in August 2015.

My point? Fail to go forward. And despite the loftiness and hyper-inspirational public domain imagery of this video, I still think the sentiment resonates with me.

Hope you are all having a great Thursday!

See you tomorrow, hopefully with a healthy child.

-Alex

Sick day today, so why not watch a spec video I made?

In lieu of fresh content for today due to Sammy getting a double whammy stomach virus and mild ear infection, I bring to you a spec video I created while shooting for the “Seen on Scene” for the St. Jude’s Foodlosophy 2018 event in November of last year. Foodlosophy is an annual charity event hosted by St. Jude’s Research Hospital that brings together some of Sarasota’s best chefs to create meals inspired by child patients of the hospital.

In this video, I spoke with Chef Christian Hershman of Sarasota’s The Overton. We spoke about his philosophy driving the event as chef-chair, and how the event continues to resonate with him.

Please keep in mind the final audio was never mixed down, hence all the “clicking and clicking,” of pans and dishes. It’s annoying, I know.

Also keep in mind that this video below is spec, and is no way affiliated with the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

Spec video of Foodlosophy interview with Chef Christian Hershman of Sarasota’s The Overton. (Video: Alex M Buono)

Would love to hear feedback and comments on it!

Hope you’re all having a good day, and I’ll hoping I’ll get this boy into better shape!

-Alex

Trump’s Trade Battle unsettles local Bradenton Business Owner

The Chinese government announced a new set of tariffs on American goods upwards of $60 Billion dollars on Monday, according to The New York Times. The tariff increase is reportedly in response to the Trump Administration’s $200 million dollar tariff hike on imported Chinese goods.

John Wong runs Wong Kai Imports in Bradenton, a family-owned specialty store of ethnic food products that he has owned for the last 38 years.

From Chinese pork buns, hard-to-find vegetables, teas, and condiments, Wong Kai import’s ethnic food goods from China and other Asian countries for retail and wholesale customers.

Despite the good business he has received of late, Wong claims that he is already witnessing the negative impact on local businesses due to the potential trade war with China.

“This lady I talked to today, and it hasn’t even started yet, her container is coming in is already 25 percent on top of normal before she paid for it,” Wong said.

“It’s not right,” he added.

Wong Kai Imports Owner John Wong speaks with a customer. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Wong is not alone in his concern, as media reports reflect this week:

  • The Washington Post reported the fears expressed by U.S soybean farmers are witnessing the effects of stalling exports to China.
  • We’re Freaked.” CBS News quoted the official statement by the American Apparel Association in response to the prospect of retail price hikes.

In 2016, Wong voted for the president.

Going into 2020 as of this moment, he’s lost confidence in the president’s ability to focus on the plight of the American people, equating his dispute with China to a petty family squabble.

“The way I look at it is, you are helping the people of the United States, and now you are trying to, you know, ‘you don’t do this for me, I’m not going to do that for you’,” Wong said. “It’s like a sibling, your kid, your brother and sister.”

Wong Kai provides a plethora of ethnic food goods as a supplier for local restaurants. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

The potential impact of Trump’s potential trade war and immigration focus having a chilling effect on Asian-American voters are already being felt according to Vox.com’s Li Zhou, where exit-poll data indicated a 77 percent increase in Asian-Americans who voted for Democratic house candidates in the 2018 midterm election.

President Trump continued his justification via Twitter on Tuesday with claims that the 25 percent increase on imported Chinese and foreign “dumped” steel will help save the American auto industry.

In one year Tariffs have rebuilt our Steel Industry – it is booming! We placed a 25% Tariff on “dumped” steel from China & other countries, and we now have a big and growing industry. We had to save Steel for our defense and auto industries, both of which are coming back strong!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 14, 2019

Despite President Trump’s continued hostile tone on the web, John Wong hopes that cooler heads will prevail.

“This trade war, hopefully both sides talk about it,” Wong said. “Not just the United States and China, but the whole world.”

For more information and updates on products from Wong Kai Imports, visit their Facebook page.

Happy Mother’s Day

There’s a lot resonating with me on this Mother’s Day at this point in my life.

To: Mom

My mother, Valerie, circa 1980-something with a fierce bob.

I absolutely appreciate the continuing love and unconditional support I’ve received from my mom, Val. Thank you for demonstrating how to continue to grow, explore, and engage life at every stage. I use those tools every day, and for that I love you.

To Nan:

That catch is my grandmother, Marion.

love you too, Nan (my grandmother), for being a steadfast, hilarious, and compassionate grandmother to me and great-grandmother to Sam!

To Julia:

Julia and Sammy in the motel, 2017.

Julia, you’ve been a wonderful support to Sammy and me and I appreciate how well we’ve done with raising Sammy so far. I know we will be great partners in the years to come, and I look forward to developing the bright, sweet, goofy, curly-haired boy that we love. I will never forget your strength, care and resilience through the difficult times (as it was in this photo). Sammy will no doubt be better for this.

To Laura:

My mother-in-law Laura, with Sammy.

Thank you for the constant support you have given to Julia and me throughout the years. You have been so crucial in making Sammy’s day to day a better experience, and I will never, ever, not be appreciative of that.

To Rosa:

Rosa (left) hands off guava and cheese empanadas to Sammy in the “One Butt” kitchen.

You are the master of gift giving and no doubt about it, Sammy plays in that lovely kitchen every day and makes food for us. With any luck, he’ll be as capable as you in the “one-butt.”

Side note:

I took Sammy to the pool this morning, where we met a little boy who loved playing with Sammy. We all played together in the pool, where he and Sammy grabbed onto each arm as I launched them both in the air.

In playing with this other friendly little guy, I could feel that something was missing by the urgency of him wanting to have me interact with him. My gut feeling was confirmed as his babysitter told me that his father past away, the boy was no more than four.

It made me think about his mom.

It made me think about his dad.

What is each day like after that?

Enduring all of the emotional freight of a child wanting his daddy and perhaps feeling helpless, yet carrying on nevertheless.

I admire that strength- and realize that no matter the frustration, exhaustion, and ambiguity we enter into, through the different seasons of our lives, we have to keep going.

Happy Mother’s Day to you all, and to those I deeply care about.

-Alex

Celebrating the 10th Annual Harvey Milk Festival 2019 in Sarasota

The 10th Annual Harvey Milk Festival celebrated it’s 10 year anniversary this Saturday, May 11 in Sarasota. The festival honors the enduring activist legacy of pioneering LGTBQI political activist and San Francisco politician, Harvey Milk.

This year’s celebration brought together a diverse array of emerging local artists, musicians, roller derby bombers, food trucks, jello shots, and an array of political activist groups and vendors.

(Photo: Alex M Buono)

The festival crowd was young and old, with fishnets or chest-mounted baby (or leashed fur-baby), teal-haired or bald. That said, everyone was flawless.

The stated mission of Festival organizers is by “fostering emerging talent in musicians and artists who support diversity and reject discrimination. While we promote equality for LGBTQ people through supporting equal rights legislation.”

Harvey Milk’s historical mark being the first openly gay politician in America was tragically cut short, when November 11, 1978 Milk and then San Francisco Mayor George Moscone were assassinated by Dan White, a rival city supervisor.

The festival’s impact continues throughout the year with youth outreach and scholarship programs, performance art and other events.

For more info, visit www.harveymilkfestival.com.

Southwest Weekly Roundup

Here are some headlines that you may have missed this week:

  • Kathryn Varn delivered a great profile on controversial Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri in this week’s Tampa Bay Times.

Varn’s profile digs deep into Gaultieri’s tenacious rise through the ranks of law enforcement and his recent forays into advocacy for arming Florida’s teachers and introducing the Warrant Service Officer Program for several county law enforcement agencies to serve ICE warrants to the undocumented in jail.

Don’t worry, it’s not the dreaded one.

  • Manatee County Commissioners decided this week to place the future location of a Confederate memorial statue on the 2020 ballot for Manatee voters. Via the Sarasota Herald-Tribune.

In other news…….

Anything I missed? Let me know, and I’d love to hear your comments below.

-Alex

Hello Again…Again.

So, it’s been a while since I’ve published here. I am derelict of my public duty.

I know it’s this. A great indicator is whenever I change my branding image.

Feelin’ more ‘beachy’. Perhaps a little more casual. Relaxed is probably a better word.

In an effort to be a bit more conversational and above all, consistent, I want to reach out today to say that I’m starting fresh yet again.

I’m hoping I can share more of me with you.

In this reboot, I’m hoping to capture local southwest Florida stories and present them in multimedia features in the upcoming months. Stay tuned.

Most importantly, I want to know what you care about, what stories you have, and what I can help shed some light on. Please reach out to me on social media for tips at @alexmbuono.

Also, I aim to publish much more frequently, hopefully on a daily basis with musings, commentary, and recaps of what’s happening locally and nationally.

To start here’s something truly…Florida. It happened right down the road from me.

Stay tuned and hope to hear from you.

Onward and upward,

-Alex

Oscura Cafe & Bar serves up craft culture to Downtown Bradenton

As evidenced by the ongoing “revitalization” of new storefronts populating the 13th street and 6th Avenue west corner in downtown Bradenton, native Bradentonians Keith Nasewicz and Ben Greene of Oscura Cafe and Bar are hoping to make Oscura the hub of local, craft culture.

“I think we’re trying to create a cultural outlet for people here, something for the artists, and the musicians, and the people who are interested in that,” said Nasewicz. “We want to be the flagship for it and see where it grows, and hopefully we’re trying to get this street really developed and turned into the ‘mecca’ of trend and art and music for 13th street in Bradenton.”

Nasewicz and Greene’s journey towards building their own “mecca” in Bradenton began years before in 2005, as the two Manatee High School students would orbit the now-closed V Town Surf and Skate III skateboard shop where Greene worked. The two cite the V Town’s casual meeting spot atmosphere as a precursor to what is now Oscura.

Oscura Cafe and Bar (Photo: Alex Buono)

The two spent years apart as Nasewicz went off to college to study psychology, briefly flirting with becoming a psychologist before pursuing a photography career that rekindled his creativity. Greene’s post-high school years were spent traveling nationwide with a touring “metal-core” band at 19, where his curiosity in the music business inspired him to start his own music label.

Coffee being prepared at Oscura Cafe and Bar. (Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura prepares various menu items, including a Cuban sandwich. ( Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura Cafe and Bar. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

After his time in the music business, Greene’s interest in business grew into becoming a full-fledged serial entrepreneur in recent years, where he launched several startups locally. Nasewicz meanwhile was burning out on the heavy traveling of his photography career, where he later transitioned to launching tech startups of his own centered around application development.

According to Nasewicz, it was around this time Greene approached him about starting a business in Bradenton.

“Growing up, I mean, you would hear it so often your friends saying, ‘Oh, I can’t wait to get out of Bradenton, Bradenton’s lame, there’s nothing to do here,’ when in reality there’s so much opportunity here,” Greene said. “We have some of the best beaches in the world, we still have that small-town feel, everybody’s friendly, everybody’s cool here. And so coming back to that as an adult and seeing its potential was exciting,” Greene added.

In conceptualizing their vision for what would become eventually become Oscura as their business, Nasewicz and Greene knew that they wanted to start a cultural trend for other businesses in the area to blossom.

“When we did our research we found that a meeting place, something like this, where there’s more of a curated experience; whether it’s the high quality of the coffee or the food or the drinks that we offer, things like that, and it developed more into a coffee shop as the primary focus,” Nasewicz said.

When trying to figure out what they would eventually name this new business, the idea of coffee as a ‘dark matter’ that gives energy that “binds the universe” became a prominent theme. Greene credits Nasewicz with the trending idea of changing the language, where they discovered the Latin translation of dark matter as “materia obscura.”

Oscura Cafe and Bar owner Keith Nasewicz chats with customers. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Formerly the location of Foster Drugs and Surgical Supplies that bookended the 13th street west corner for over fifty years, Oscura’s bright white exterior storefront and DIY aesthetic was self-financed and designed by Greene and Nasewicz themselves. According to Greene, Nasewicz’s preoccupation with interior design has been evident since the beginning of their friendship.

“He will straight up be reading an interior design catalog when we’re playing Call of Duty or just goofin’ off,” Greene said. ” He’s just so into that and so good at it.”

The exterior of Oscura Cafe and Bar on 13 Street and 6th Avenue West (Photo: Alex M Buono)
Oscura’s ornamental DIY design features vintage box cameras and a variety of vegetation. (Photo: Alex M Buono)

Oscura’s DIY aesthetic also influence their approach to their ever-changing menu. Greene and Nasewicz do not have formal culinary training but credit their research in traveling to the cities on the forefront of contemporary restaurant and coffee culture. From experimenting with the coffee soda to new tasting and pairing menus as well serving beer and wine trivia nights for the over 21 crowds during the evening, Greene and Nasewicz explained that Oscura’s goal of being the craft destination for Bradenton includes a plethora of upcoming events.

“We want to develop our own market in our area, something new for the craft person to get plugged in with,” Greene said. “We’re definitely trying to shake things up, get people excited.”

A lunchtime business meeting held at Oscura (Photo: Alex M Buono)

In looking towards future expansion, including an outdoor wine and beer garden, to partnerships with local breweries for Oscura-brand beer and friendly city flea market on Feb. 23, Greene and Nasewicz praise their longtime friendship and their connection to the local business community for Oscura’s continued success.

“If you’re looking to start a business, surround yourself with the people who have the experiences and have the strengths, and realize you have weaknesses that you need those people as a team to help you with,” Nasewicz said. “And work with your community, don’t fight them. That’s a big part of it.”

For more on Oscura Cafe and Bar’s list of events and updates, visit Oscuracafe.com.

Cafe Oscura owners Keith Nasewicz and Ben Greene. (Photo: Alex M Buono)