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Caitlin Johnston, Times Staff Writer

Caitlin Johnston

Caitlin Johnston covers transportation, breaking news and features in Hillsborough County. She is a graduate of Indiana University, with her master's from the University of Maryland.

She's always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (813) 226-3401

E-mail: cjohnston@tampabay.com

Twitter: @cljohnst

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  1. Jurors hear from firefighter who filed sex discrimination case

    Civil

    TAMPA — The firefighter suing the city of Tampa for discrimination took the stand for the first time Tuesday, telling the courtroom how other firefighters slammed the door in her face, refused to let her pump breast milk and propositioned her for sex.

    Tanja Vidovic told a judge and seven jurors at a discrimination trial in U.S. District Court that she did not want to file formal complaints because she "didn't want to be seen as a complainer." She said she was afraid of retaliation if she did speak up. Several of the people who harassed her, she said, were the people to whom she was supposed to report such activity....

    Former Tampa firefighter Tanja Vidovic is suing the city of Tampa for sex discrimination.
  2. Tampa Fire Rescue says pregnant firefighter insisted on working in the field much longer than others

    Civil

    TAMPA — Tampa Fire Rescue had never before had a firefighter in her third trimester of pregnancy who could get called into a hazardous situation at any moment.

    Former Personnel Chief Jace Kohan told a judge and seven jurors Thursday at a sex discrimination trial in U.S. District Court that Tanja Vidovic insisted on working in the field much longer than other pregnant firefighters before her. ...

    Tanja Vidovic worked into her third trimester.
  3. Witness in lawsuit tells of inconsistent treatment of Tampa female firefighter

    Civil

    TAMPA — In August 2015, a firefighter broke protocol and went outside his chain of command to email then Division Chief Jace Kohan.

    In a regimented organization like Tampa Fire Rescue, chain of command is part of daily operations. But Kohan told a judge and seven-person jury Wednesday that firefighter Mark Pattison wasn't reprimanded for his email, or even scolded.

    Two months later, he was promoted. ...

    Former Tampa firefighter Tanja Vidovic is suing the city in federal court, alleging sex discrimination. [Times (2014)]
  4. Fired Tampa firefighter's sex discrimination case opens with talk of shower peepers

    Civil

    TAMPA — The highest ranking woman in the history of Tampa Fire Rescue said Tuesday that she has been peeped on while showering. She said it in front of a judge and seven jurors at a sex discrimination trial in U.S. District Court, while describing the perils of a shared workplace bathroom.

    "The biggest struggle is when you're the only female and there's a bunch of men," Division Chief Susan Tamme testified at a former colleague's lawsuit against the city of Tampa. "One gender is going to get to use the restroom first and the other person is going to wait and hold it."...

    Vidovic
  5. The Cross Bay Ferry won't come back this fall. What about 2018?

    Mass Transit

    Still waiting for the Cross Bay Ferry to return? It's going to be a while — say, 2018 at the earliest.

    The ferry's supporters, most notably St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, had hoped to bring the boat back for another season after the first six-month trial run ended in April.

    But lack of regional cooperation and funding, the same things that routinely bedevil Tampa Bay's transportation system, stymied those efforts. In the end, there wasn't enough support from local governments — and by support, that means money — to run it again this year....

    The Cross Bay Ferry cruises along the Vinoy Yacht Basin after departing downtown St. Petersburg and headed across Tampa Bay to downtown Tampa. The ferry won't return for a second season this fall, but it could come back in 2018. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  6. Hillsborough loses transit leader Katharine Eagan to a better funded agency

    Transportation

    TAMPA — Katharine Eagan, the leader of Hillsborough County's transit agency, is leaving the job just a month after implementing a widespread overhaul of the county's bus network.

    She will take over as CEO of the Port Authority of Allegheny, Pa., which provides public transportation in the Pittsburgh area. Her last day at the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority will be Jan. 5....

    Katharine Eagan, who is credited with making the most a shoestring budget as chief executive officer of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit, is leaving the post after nine years. [GABRIELLA ANGIOTTI-JONES   |   Times]
  7. St. Pete Council District 2: Gabbard defeats Harless

    Elections

    ST. PETERSBURG — Realtor Brandi Gabbard will replace term-limited Jim Kennedy on the City Council, after defeating Barclay Harless by a substantial margin Tuesday.

    Gabbard beat Harless with 61 percent of the vote, wining by 12,519 votes. That was the preliminary result of all 92 precincts, early voting and partial mail ballots.

    The two first time candidates are both Democrats with ties in the community. Gabbard has been active in the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the local realtor trade organization while Harless was state policy chair for the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and a member of the Pinellas Charter Review....

    St. Petersburg City Council District 2 candidate Barclay Harless (left) greets voters outside of the Coliseum during Election Day on Tuesday. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]
  8. Speakers give mixed reviews to new Hillsborough bus-route overhaul

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Hillsborough's transit agency heard its first public comment Monday since overhauling its bus network and cutting about 20 percent of its routes last month.

    A handful of people spoke at the agency's board meeting, with one praising the new network, a couple sharing concerns for how service adversely affects those with disabilities, and others pleading with board members to return bus service to their neighborhoods. ...

    Some speakers Monday faulted Hillsborough Area Reional Transit for stranding people who depended on the bus while other praised HART's new system overhaul as more efficient. [OCTAVIO JONES   |   Staff]
  9. New ballpark in Tampa faces old issues: transportation, parking

    Transportation

    TAMPA — For decades, Tampa Bay football, baseball and hockey fans have become accustomed to driving to games and parking a few hundred feet away from the venue.

    Those days would come to an end if Hillsborough County builds a new baseball stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays on the southern edge of Ybor City.

    If it ever gets built, there will likely be no gigantic surface parking lots outside this baseball stadium. Instead, sports fans would have to park in garages, use transit and — brace yourselves — even walk to games....

    The proposed location of a new Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium in Ybor City. The area is bounded by Adamo Drive, Channelside Drive, Fourth Avenue and 15th Street. [Rendering courtesy of Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan]
  10. Expanded Tampa streetcar system gets first public approval

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The plan to extend the TECO Line Streetcar system north through downtown got its first positive reviews from the public on Tuesday night.

    The streetcar system already runs from Ybor City to the Channel District. The aim of a $1.7 million study to look at expanding service is to choose the path to reach more of downtown and extend the system north to Tampa Heights.

    The Invision: Tampa Streetcar study selected two preferred routes for the extension of the existing 2.7-mile streetcar line. Both routes travel an additional 1.3 miles from E Whiting Street north to E Palm Avenue....

    Riders take in the last few stops of the streetcar route in Ybor City during the tenth anniversary celebration of the TECO line streetcar system in Tampa in 2012. Now officials are looking for ways to expand the service north through downtown to Tampa Heights. [EVE EDELHEIT  |  Times]
  11. City Council candidates weigh in on noise ordinances, pier reconstruction

    Local

    ST. PETERSBURG — Residents of Bayfront Tower Condos peppered City Council candidates Tuesday night with questions about noise ordinances, road repairs and the multi-million-dollar plan to rebuild the pier.

    The candidates for Districts 2, 4 and 6 gathered at Bayfront Tower for a forum sponsored by the St. Petersburg Downtown Residents Association. Mayor Rick Kriseman and his challenger, former Mayor Rick Baker, also addressed the crowd. District 4 incumbent Darden Rice did not attend....

  12. St. Petersburg City Council candidates share some political views, disagree on fundraising

    Local

    ST. PETERSBURG — Two first-time candidates aim to replace Jim Kennedy as the District 2 representative on the City Council.

    Both are Democrats. Both are young — relatively. Both are navigating life as a political candidate for the first time.

    But there are differences between Brandi Gabbard and Barclay Harless, too.

    Though it's his first time as the one whose name is on the ballot, Harless, 32, isn't new to political campaigns in Florida. He served on state Sen. Darryl Rouson's staff when the St. Petersburg Democrat was in the House of Representatives. Harless later worked on Alex Sink's campaign for governor. The Bank of the Ozarks manager voted for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 Democratic presidential primary. Kennedy, he said, personally encouraged him to run for his seat. And now that he's running his own campaign, he made a pledge not to accept money from political action committees....

    St. Petersburg City Council candidates Brandi Gabbard, left, and Barclay Harless are running for the District 2 seat.
  13. Meeting lets public weigh in on Tampa Bay Next

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The state's revamped proposal to expand interstates in Hillsborough County got one of its first public vettings on Monday.

    Earlier this year, the Florida Department of Transportation reopened a federal study looking at the state's vision to add express toll lanes along Interstates 275 and 4. The move came after the department's previous plan for the area, known as Tampa Bay Express, faced significant community backlash. The DOT later scrapped the plan and replaced it with a new initiative, Tampa Bay Next. ...

    Westshore Plaza General Manager Jay Botsch (center) asks Bill Jones (left) of the Florida Department of Transportation questions about the state's plans for Interstate 275 near the Westshore interchange at a public workshop Monday at the Tampa Marriott Westshore. About 150 people attended the workshop. [Caitlin Johnston | Times]
  14. Hillsborough bus riders adjust to new realities, good and bad

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Bus riders in Hillsborough County are trying to figure out the new bus system that launched this weekend.

    Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority flipped to an entirely new network at 4 a.m. Sunday, as part of "MissionMax," — a complete overhaul of the agency's sprawling system, changing stops, times and routes on which people have come to depend.

    Sunday was a test run of sorts. But by Monday morning, the 43,000 people who typically ride the bus on weekdays were trying to make sense of new route maps and transfer points....

    (From right) Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority transit dispatcher Don Barrett explains the new bus routes to Whon Ho Lee, 59, of Tampa, at the HART University Area Transit Center on Monday, October 9, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. HART flipped to an entirely new network at 4 a.m. Sunday, October 8, 2017, as part of MissionMax -- a complete overhaul of the agency's sprawling system. [ALESSANDRA DA PRA   |   Times]
  15. New HART bus routes bring questions, headaches to riders

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Sunday was a day of questions and long waits as riders tried to figure out the new bus system that launched this weekend in Hillsborough County.

    Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority flipped to an entirely new network at 4 a.m. Sunday, as part of MissionMax — a complete overhaul of the agency's sprawling system. Sunday was a test run of sorts, as weekend ridership is lower than the 43,000 people who typically ride the bus on a weekday....

    Bus rider Martha Ottashavett, 48, talks with Marco Sandusky of Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority at the Marion Transit Center in downtown Tampa about new bus routes that started Sunday. Ottashavett is one of about 43,000 riders who have to adjust to new stops, routes and times as part of HART's overhaul of its bus system. [Caitlin Johnston | Times]