Anne Lindberg - 4/50 - SaintPetersBlog

Anne Lindberg

Safety Harbor mayor hopeful Joe Ayoub to host first meet and greet Friday

Joe Ayoub, who’s running for Safety Harbor mayor, is holding his first meet and greet of the campaign season.

It’s from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Ayoub’s home, 323 Second St. S, in Safety Harbor.

Ayoub, a former Safety Harbor mayor and commission member, said he plans to spend part of the campaign on a “listening tour,” learning about the issues that are most important to city residents. He’s also provided a 10-question citizen survey on his website to learn what concerns residents most.

Among the questions on the survey:

— Do you believe our city officials are leading our city in the right direction?

— Would you like to see the proposed 7 story condo building across from the Safety Harbor Spa be reduced in size or scale?

— What issue in town is most important to you, i.e., what would you like to see the city commission do (or address) that would increase your satisfaction as a resident?

Also included are questions on term limits, the new tree ordinance, the size of homes in the downtown area, and the quality and frequency of city events.

Ayoub is a graduate of Countryside High School and studied at the University of Florida. He is the chief financial officer at Data Blue. Ayoub lives in Safety Harbor and enjoys biking and running.

His opponent is Commissioner Janet Hooper.

The Safety Harbor election is March 14. The mayor and Seats 1 and 4 on the Safety Harbor City Commission are on the ballot.

Travis Palladeno collects a trio of endorsements in re-election bid

Travis Palladeno

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, state Rep. Kathleen Peters and Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni have endorsed Travis Palladeno who is running for re-election as Madeira Beach mayor.

“I’m very humbled,” Palladeno said Monday of the trio of Republican endorsements.

Palladeno also received the endorsement of a Madeira Beach business. Lisa’s Café has broadcast the endorsement on the restaurant sign: “Re-elect Travis mayor.”

“I am truly grateful” for the support, Palladeno said, adding that it’s small businesses like Lisan’s Café that keep Madeira Beach moving forward.

Palladeno has also scheduled his first meet and greet of the campaign season. The event is 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 7 at Mad Beach Fish House. Appetizers and beverages will be served.

Palladeno has served as Madeira Beach mayor since 2011. He represents the city on, and is current chair of, the Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board. He also represents the city on the county’s Tourist Development Council and the Barrier Island Government Council, or Big C. He is vice president of the Big C. He is the retired owner of Live Wire Fishing Charters.

He is facing a challenge from Margaret Black.

Madeira Beach has a council-manager form of government in which a professional city manager runs the day to day activities and a five-member council sets policy and passes a budget.

The election is March 14. Voters will not only have a choice of mayoral candidates, but also two commission seats are on the ballot.

Rick Kriseman will seek to deregulate the city’s taxi cabs

The announcement came toward the end of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s state of the city address Saturday: The next ordinance Kriseman plans to introduce is one deregulating the vehicle-for-hire industry.

Kriseman did not provide many details except to say it would include incentives for taxi companies and ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to comply with St. Petersburg’s system.

Let the market decide what’s best, Kriseman said, adding that, if his plan succeeds then St. Petersburg would be a leader in finding a way to resolve the contentious relationship between traditional cabs and ride-sharing companies.

“If it doesn’t work, that’s OK, too,” Kriseman said.

In the past year, St. Petersburg has sought to regulate companies like Uber and Lyft. The city wants the companies to pay the $65 per vehicle tax that cab companies pay. But Uber has resisted, saying that’s unfair because its drivers are not employees and are merely part-timers making a bit of extra money. Uber has suggested paying $5,000 per year.

For the most part, Kriseman’s state of the city address, his third since taking office, was upbeat and gave him a chance to highlight the accomplishments of his administration. Among those, he said, were having the city on a better financial footing, progress on rebuilding the Pier, a 105 percent increase in new business registrations and an unemployment rate that’s lower than the state or national level.

Kriseman also looked to the future, saying the city’s infrastructure needed repair — especially the sewer system. He noted that the city has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to revamp the system. Kriseman added that he is also revamping the city’s stormwater plan, which was last done 22 years ago.

“How a coastal city can have a 22-year storm plan is beyond me,” Kriseman said. “We have much work ahead, but we are up to the task.”

In Madeira Beach, seven seek three seats for mayor, City Commission

At the close of qualifying Friday, seven candidates are stepping forward to run in municipal elections.

Three seats are up for grabs: the mayor and two commissioners:


Travis Palladeno is seeking re-election. He’s being opposed by Margaret Black.

Palladeno has served as Madeira Beach mayor since 2011. He represents the city on and is current chair of the Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board. He also represents the city on the county’s Tourist Development Council and the Barrier Island Government Council, or Big C. He is vice president of the Big C. He is the retired owner of Live Wire Fishing Charters.

Black is married to Jim Black, a part-time volunteer coordinator with the city. She is a graduate of Towson State College and has taken banking and finance courses. She says she has been told by several people that she is the “voice of reason.”

Black adds, “I hope to be that, but mostly I want the peoples’ voice to be heard.”

District 3

This seat was held by Elaine Poe until her resignation in December. Ingrid Ferro-Spilde was chosen to fill the seat until the March 14 election when she will be one of the voters’ options. Her opponent is Nancy Oakley.

Before her appointment to the commission, Ferro-Spilde served on the Planning and Zoning board. A Pinellas County native, she is a certified clinical research coordinator.

Oakley is a former Madeira Beach city commissioner, having served on the commission for six years. She has a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University in computer science with a minor in math and business administration.

District 4

The seat is held by Housh Ghovaee, who was appointed last summer after Pat Shontz resigned.

Ghovaee, owner of Northside Engineering in Clearwater, is running to retain the seat. He is opposed by John Douthirt and David Hitterman.

Douthirt holds two bachelors’ degrees, one in business from Florida State University, the other in accounting from the University of Cincinnati. Hitterman is a business owner who has lived in Pinellas County since 1979.

The election is March 14.

Larry Ahern files bill to provide commercial sales tax relief

Larry Ahern

State Rep. Larry Ahern filed a bill Wednesday that would eliminate the state sales tax that Florida business owners pay on their commercial leases.

The legislation would provide a sales tax exemption on the total rent paid for the right to use or occupy commercial real property.

 “Florida is the only state that imposes a standard, statewide sales tax on commercial real estate leases” the Seminole Republican said. “This bill will have a positive and direct effect on the bottom line for small businesses first and larger businesses in the coming years.”

A few highlights of the bill:

— The exemption for the first year will be for businesses that pay up to $10,000 per year in state sales tax; businesses that pay up to$20,000 would be eligible for the exemption in the second year; and businesses that pay up to $40,000 would be eligible in the third year.

— It would cover all leases and contractual agreements with rent and license fees regardless of terms and length of agreement.

— The exemption would increase by $10,000 each year for the ensuing six years until the total exemption is $90,000 and the remainder repealed completely in the 10th year.

More than 300,000 businesses owners who rent space will benefit the first year and more than 1 billion in all will benefit, Ahern said.

“This will give our state another competitive advantage in attracting new businesses, and provide some much-needed tax relief for the job creators currently affected by this additional overhead,”  Ahern said.

David Jolly presents flag at Ray Neri’s memorial service

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly on Wednesday presented an American flag to Laura Neri, the widow of community activist Ray Neri, who died Jan. 3.

The flag was one that U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis had had flown over the Capitol especially for Mrs. Neri.

“Ray Neri was a special person,” Jolly said. “Ray touched peoples’ lives.”

Jolly was only one of many of Pinellas’ political leaders who came to Neri’s memorial service. Others included Pinellas County commissioners  Pat Gerard, Karen Seel, Ken Welch, Dave Eggers and Charlie Justice. Former state Rep. Jim Frishe also attended. Pinellas Commissioner Janet Long, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and former county Commissioner Neil Brickfield spoke during the ceremony.

“There will never be another Ray Neri, but we can continue what he started,” Gualtieri said.

Although most had helped Neri with projects to benefit the unincorporated Lealman area, Jolly had helped him in another way.

Neri was diagnosed with a heart ailment that the Veterans Administration could not treat. Neri appealed to Jolly, who pushed the VA into giving him permission to go elsewhere for help. A Tampa surgeon was successful in saving Neri.

Neri died Jan. 3 at Northside Hospital where he was taken after falling at home.

Neri had served on boards of the Lealman Community Association, which he headed for several years; the Juvenile Welfare Board; the Sheriff’s Police Athletic League; Keep Pinellas Beautiful; the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club; and the Emergency Medical Services Advisory Council.

Rick Kriseman, Karl Nurse urge presidential pardons to keep immigrant families together

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman and City Council member Karl Nurse on Wednesday joined a national letter from local elected officials to President Barack Obama calling on him to protect hundreds of thousands of immigrant families by issuing a pardon for lawfully present immigrants with years-old or low-level criminal offenses.

The letter is signed by 60 local elected officials. It kicks off a week in which the president’s legacy on immigration will be at stake, with confirmation hearings and a national day of action that will highlight his record of both deportation and protection, and potentially show just how much could be dismantled by the incoming administration.

The White House has rejected previous calls for pardons for undocumented immigrants, asserting that a pardon cannot be used to grant people lawful immigration status. However, for legally present immigrants who already have status, but who face the risk of deportation based on minor and old convictions, a presidential pardon could provide durable protection against deportation that could not be undone by any future president.

Many of those who would be affected by the pardon were convicted of minor offenses, such as jumping a turnstile. In many cases, the offenses occurred decades ago. The letter joins Local Progress members with over 100 immigrant rights groups who made the same request to the president late last month. Forgiving all immigration consequences of convictions would guarantee that individuals can stay with their families and in their communities. Local Progress is a network of progressive local elected officials from around the country united by our shared commitment to equal justice under law, shared prosperity, sustainable and livable cities, and good government that serves the public interest. Local Progress is staffed by the Center for Popular Democracy.

As local elected officials, the signers of the letter see the impacts of a broken immigration system up close and in their communities, every day. Indeed, localities are often forced to deal with the consequences of deportation, be it in a family, business, child or broader neighborhood.

“As an immigrant who legally came to this country as a child, I have a brother and a sister who could be deported if they had committed a misdemeanor anytime in the last 58 years.  So this is personal,” Nurse said.

Kriseman added: “I applaud Councilman Karl Nurse for joining this effort and offer my enthusiastic support. I trust President Obama will do the right thing for our immigrant families in his remaining days in office.”

There is a significant historical precedent for this type of presidential pardon.

Categorical pardons have been used to grant clemency to broad classes of people in the past by presidents ranging from Abraham Lincoln to Jimmy Carter, the latter of whom issued a pardon to approximately half a million men who had broken draft laws to avoid serving in the Vietnam War.

Gus Bilirakis named to key house health-care panel

U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis has been appointed to serve on the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health, a key congressional panel with jurisdiction over the repeal and replacement of Obamacare, as well as oversight of medical research and public health issues.

“I’m honored to have been selected to serve on this important subcommittee, where I will be working with my colleagues to solve the biggest problems facing our nation’s health care system,” said Bilirakis, a Tarpon Springs Republican. “I look forward to gathering input from constituents and stakeholders from Florida’s 12th District every step of the way. After all, we need to focus on empowering patients, not Washington, D.C.”

House Speaker Paul Ryan said: “Gus’s dedication to conservative health care solutions will help put Florida and the nation on the right path toward affordable, patient-centered care. As a member of Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee, Gus will play a critical role in making our plan to repeal and replace Obamacare a reality—I’m glad he’ll be at the front lines.”

In a speech on the House floor, Bilirakis said, “Families across Florida are feeling the burden of Obamacare. Premiums have skyrocketed an average of 19 percent in our state, and insurers are fleeing the market left and right.

“In fact, 73 percent of counties in Florida only have one insurance provider, leaving people with higher costs and less choice when it comes to their health care. House Republicans are offering solid solutions to make our nation’s health care system work for everyone, without pulling the rug out from anybody’s feet. We’re focused on a more affordable, more personalized health care plan that empowers patients, not Washington.”

In the 114th Congress, Bilirakis helped author major legislation on the Health Subcommittee, such as the 21st Century Cures Act, the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, and bills to boost research for patients with rare disease, neurological, and congenital heart defects. The panel additionally has jurisdiction over Medicare and Medicaid reform, and Food and Drug Administration policy.

Bilirakis was also appointed to the Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Communications and Technology and the Subcommittee on Digital Commerce and Consumer Protection.

Larry Ahern files bill requiring civil citations for some juvenile offenders

Larry Ahern

State Rep. Larry Ahern filed a bill Tuesday that would require the creation of civil citations or similar diversion programs for juveniles.

“We cannot continue to arrest more than 10,000 nonviolent juvenile offenders who do not have a full understanding of the consequences of their actions,” the Seminole Republican said. “We should look at this as a teachable moment and allow them the opportunity to correct their behavior.”

The bill is a companion to a Senate bill filed by Republican Sen. Anitere Flores of Miami. Flores’ bill has been referred to the criminal justice; appropriations subcommittee on criminal and civil justice; appropriations.

Ahern’s proposal is directed at juveniles who commit “nonserious delinquent acts.” Among other things, the bill would require all counties to create a civil citation program for juveniles who commit minor offenses.

The bill lists 11 misdemeanor offenses that would qualify a youth offender to be cited or sent to a similar diversion program. Among them: possession of alcoholic beverages, disorderly conduct and criminal mischief.

If a police officer decides to arrest a first-time offender who has committed one of those acts, he must provide a written reason for not issuing the citation. The bill also offers law enforcement officers the authority to decide whether to issue a civil citation for repeat offenders.

Safety Harbor draws full slate of candidates

After qualifying closed Tuesday, eight candidates are vying for three seats on the Safety Harbor City Commission.

Running for mayor are Joe Ayoub and Janet Hooper. Ayoub is a former mayor who also served on the commission. He is facing Hooper, who is in her first term as a commissioner. She resigned from Seat 1 to run for mayor. Hooper’s resignation is effective March 21, the week after the election.

Four candidates are lining up to serve the remainder of Hooper’s term on the commission: Nancy J. Besore, Cameron Boozarjomehri, Damon Lister and Scott Long. Boozarjomehri originally was a candidate for Seat 4 but switched to Seat 1.

Incumbent Carlos Diaz is running for re-election to Seat 4. He’s being challenged by Luanne Lambert.

So far, Ayoub is the fundraising winner in the mayor’s race, raising $8,770 according to the latest financial reports ending Dec. 31. One of his contributors is newly elected Democratic state Rep. Ben Diamond, who donated $150.

Hooper raised $5,233 to date.

With $1,450, Long is the fundraising leader in the Seat 1 race. Among Long’s contributors is Neil Brickfield, who served on both the Pinellas County and Safety Harbor commissions.

Lister follows closely with $1,330. Boozarjomehri raised $50. No report was available for Besore, who did not open a campaign account until this month.

In the race for Seat 4, Diaz is ahead of Lambert with $200. Lambert raised $50.

The election is March 14.

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