News Bites: Flower Power; The Stories Were True; Dodging the Taxman


In the hurly-burly of modern life, we all need to take the edge off every now and again. And it turns out serenity is just a bud away. No, we’re not talking about marijuana; flowers are evidently potent enough to calm those pesky nerves.

Sarah Smith of The Florida Times-Union summarized the results of an experiment carried out by Erin Largo-Wright, an assistant public health professor at the University of North Florida.

“The study was conducted over 12 days,” Smith wrote in the Oct. 11 story. “In it, 170 women received either a delivery of flowers, a candle, or nothing on the fifth or sixth day. Every day, each participant would fill out a survey that measured their levels of stress and the results were analyzed. Participants’ questionnaires showed an average of nine percent reduction of stress on the Perceived Stress Questionnaire when they had flowers delivered and in their home.”

The study is the latest in a series whose objective is to identify environmental and behavioral factors that influence health. Largo-Wright’s results suggest that a minor change in surroundings can be a major balm for the soul.

“It’s exciting to me because it’s a simple behavior,” the researcher is quoted as saying, “Something like this is a way to improve your health without a tremendous amount of effort.”


On Sept. 12, Clay Today’s Nick Blank sketched the contours of an investigation into sexual misconduct by an unnamed Clay County Fire Rescue battalion chief. The details were shrouded in confidentiality. What we knew: The accused sent suggestive text messages to a female employee, who promptly reported them to Clay County Human Resources Department. The HR investigation ended July 9, with a recommendation for termination by Clay County Fire Chief Lorin Mock. The final decision, however, rested with Clay County Manager Stephanie Kopelousos, whose verdict was not forthcoming. The accused remained “on administrative leave with pay” months after the conclusion of the investigation.

Well, folks, the process has now come to term, and—gasp!—the stories were true. Blank’s Clay Today follow-up on Oct. 3 revealed that Kopelousos has at last ended the battalion chief’s paid vacation. He is now terminated. He has a name, too.

The Clay County Manager stated that Raleigh Zike, the Fleming Island Station 22 battalion chief in question, “acted poorly for a county employee in a leadership position” and that “[a]nything less than termination would signal a degree of tolerance on the part of the county regarding such offenses that would be entirely inappropriate, insupportable and inconsistent with the mission of the Department and the County.”

The original investigation, of course, had voiced the same conclusion months earlier.


We’ve heard of so-called “sovereign citizens,” but sovereign school systems may be one passive-aggressive tax revolt too far.

On Sept. 30, Beaches Leader editor Kathleen F. Bailey regaled us with a tale of tax avoidance by Duval County Public Schools. The district, it seems, “will not pay Beach cities the stormwater fees associated with schools here. That decision not to pay, made by staff last spring, is not sitting well with Beach cities, whose lawyers argue that the schools are not exempt from the stormwater fees levied on all utility customers.”

Neptune Beach City Attorney Patrick Krechowski, who “is leading the fight to get the fees paid,” went on record to describe his city’s frustration. In the absence of any response from Duval Schools, however, the lawyer must resort to conjecture. “From what I can determine,” he is quoted as saying, “Duval Schools appear to believe that the stormwater fees are, in fact, assessments that they are not obligated to pay. Further, Duval Schools maintain that because of sovereign immunity, the city has no power to file suit against Duval Schools to collect any such fees or assessments.”

Bailey ended her story with a reminder that “[s]tormwater fees are used to fund projects to reduce flooding throughout the community.”