Anne Lindberg - 6/48 - SaintPetersBlog

Anne Lindberg

State transportation agency names Patti Johnson elected official of year

The Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged has named Pinellas Park City Council member Patti Johnson elected official of the year for 2016.

The honor goes to the local, state, and/or federal elected official who has demonstrated his/her support to those who are transportation disadvantaged. This official, the CTD says, has supported his or her constituents by working to ensure mobility options remain available to those who depend on them. This elected official has demonstrated a commitment to assisting individuals maintain independence and quality of life.

Johnson, who has served on the Pinellas Park City Council since 2012, serves on both the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and Local Coordinating boards. She was nominated by Forward Pinellas. Forward Pinellas is the county agency formed by the merger of the Pinellas Planning Council and Metropolitan Planning Organization.

“Johnson is a strong advocate of the transportation disadvantaged through her work as an elected official and as a court-appointed guardian and elder care consultant,” the nomination says.

It also recognizes, among her other accomplishments for the transportation disadvantaged, Johnson’s success in convincing the Legislature to allot more funds to programs for the transportation disadvantaged:

“Upon learning of the need for more transportation disadvantaged funding in Pinellas County, council member Johnson met with other elected officials to try to secure additional funding.

“When she learned that some (agencies) had returned over a million dollars in TD funds unused to the TD Commission which went back to the state, council member Johnson went to TD Day in Tallahassee in 2016. She was the first Pinellas County LCB member in many years to participate in TD Day.

“While there, and after her return, Councilmember Johnson advocated for the needs of the transportation disadvantaged and informed the Legislators of these returned funds and Pinellas’ need for them. At the end of the session, the Legislature had allocated additional funds to serve the transportation disadvantaged.”

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St. Pete City Council raises eyebrows at $14M in Pier ‘enhancements’

St. Petersburg council members had mixed reactions Thursday to a progress report on the new Pier.

They generally liked proposed “enhancements,” including family friendly recreation facilities. But the $14 million price tag for those enhancements was another issue.

So far, the city has earmarked about $12.5 million for the Pier approach and about $33.6 million for the Pier itself. Pinellas County had agreed to kick in about $20 million, bringing the price tag to $66 million. If all the enhancements were financed, the total cost could reach about $80 million.

“I feel fairly certain I will not support a $14 million figure,” council member Steve Kornell said.

Kornell noted that adding $14 million to the price tag would increase the overall cost between about 20 percent to 30 percent. He, like other council members, questioned spending that money on the Pier when there are other needs in the city.

 “As a council member, there’s an entire city to look at,” Kornell said. “We have other needs in our city.”

They were also concerned about the costs to maintain and operate the Pier. Council member Jim Kennedy noted that one problem with the old Pier was the approximately $1.5 million the city had to spend each year to keep it running. He wondered if city staff had estimated the annual subsidy the city would have to make for the new Pier — a much larger space with more activities.

“That subsidy could be a whole lot more,” Kennedy said. “I want to have an understanding of that before moving forward.”

No figure was forthcoming on Thursday.

Staff members and designers said some of the proposed enhancements came from comments the council had made during previous updates. Others came from comments St. Petersburg residents raised during public presentations.

Among the proposed enhancements are a kayak rental site with a boathouse and launch, playground equipment and an upgraded splash pad.

The current proposal would have 12 jets of water that children could run through. The project would improve the splash pad to 36 jets, which could include music and lights.

An estimated cost for the upgraded splash pad is about $300,000.

“We can have a splash pad or we can have a signature water feature,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said.

If done right, Kriseman said he suspected adults would also want to run through the fountains as they spurted water.

Kriseman told council members that the $14 million price tag was the outside amount for the enhancements. It’s likely, he said, they would not cost that much, but it is safer to have the money earmarked and not need it than to need the money and not have it available.

Kriseman proposed taking the $14 million from the tax increment financing, or TIF, money derived from the city’s downtown community redevelopment area. That’s tax money that is collected in that area that is set aside to be used only in that section of the city.

Council member Karl Nurse said he was concerned that some of the downtown TIF money should be spent on fixing sewer pipes in that area rather than on the new Pier.

But Kriseman said fixing those pipes would not help solve St. Petersburg’s real sewer problem, which is a lack of capacity. Fixing that, he said, requires work on the Albert Whitted and Southwest sewer plants. Both of those are outside the downtown CRA so the funds could not be used there.

Amy Foster was also concerned about having to use TIF money not just for the enhancements but also to make up future costs of the Pier.

“I know you have numbers you’re not showing yet,” Foster said about the price of possible subsidies to keep the Pier District operating.

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Madeira Beach City Commissioner Elaine Poe resigns

Elaine Poe, who served four years on the Madeira Beach City Commission, has resigned.

Poe turned in her resignation in a three-sentence Dec. 6 email to City Clerk Aimee Servedio:

“Due to more bad news today on my husband’s medical condition I am left with no alternative but to resign.

“Please make this effective as of Friday. That will give me time to get any city materials, i.e.: IPAD, budgets, etc.  returned to the city.”

Poe was up for election in March. However, the city charter requires the commission seats within 30 days after a commissioner leaves office. The city is taking applications for someone to fill the seat until the March 14 election.

If Poe’s replacement wants to serve past March 14, he or she would also have to file paperwork to run in the March election, Mayor Travis Palladeno said. That person, he said, would likely have an advantage over other candidates for Poe’s District 3 seat.

Poe’s is not the only seat up for grabs in March. So are the mayor and District 4 seats. Palladeno said he has already picked up paperwork to run for reelection. Qualifying opened Wednesday and runs through Jan. 13.

Housh Ghovaee holds the District 4 seat.

Poe is the second Madeira Beach commissioner to resign this year. Last summer, Pat Shontz, who represented District 4, abruptly resigned in the midst of a contentious commission meeting. Some residents were objecting to the redevelopment of two parcels of land at the causeway entrance to the city from the mainland.

Shontz supported both projects.

The battle over the proposed developments sparked lawsuits as well as the filing of ethics complaints with the state and with professional groups.

Palladeno said he received news Wednesday that a judge had ruled for the city in one of the lawsuits.

“That is very large,” Palladeno said. “That was just great news.”

That’s the second lawsuit in which the city has prevailed, Palladeno said.

“We’re two for two,” the mayor said.

In other news related to the proposed developments, Palladeno stated that one of the developers is coming back with an altered design. Palladeno said he had not seen it yet but believes that it is one to two stories shorter than the previous layout, which won the commission’s approval.

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Pinellas County Commission moves toward moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

Pinellas County Commissioners unanimously voted Tuesday to hold a public hearing Jan. 10 to decide a possible moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries and treatment centers.

The moratorium would remain in effect for 180 days to give the commission time to pass an ordinance regulating such issues as the location of dispensaries and treatment centers.

A proposed ordinance is expected to come before the board in April.

If the moratorium is adopted, Pinellas County will join other governmental bodies across the state that are trying to figure out how to handle the medical marijuana industry. The sale of medical marijuana became state law with the overwhelming passage in November of Amendment 2.

Locally, the city of Largo and Hillsborough County have already passed moratoria. Madeira Beach passed an ordinance last year requiring anyone who wants to open a dispensary to go through an approval process. Among the items that city officials would look at — compatibility with neighbors and how close the dispensary would be to schools, churches, parks, day cares and the like.

Pinellas commissioners wondered Tuesday if they could pass a countywide ordinance that would apply everywhere unless cities opted out. However, board attorney Jim Bennett said they could not because the location of dispensaries is a zoning issue and the county cannot control zoning within city limits.

Commissioner Karen Seel suggested working with the cities to come up with ordinances that would be adopted by all governments to make the rules uniform across Pinellas.

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County commission approves BP spending list that includes ‘love letter to Pinellas’

Pinellas County commissioners unanimously approved a list of projects that will be funded by about $7.07 million of BP settlement monies.

Among the 30 projects: $1 million each for sewer lining/sewer/stormwater capacity/upgrades and affordable housing. Other projects include $150,000 for a metro wellness center, $294,000 for land preparation for a Palm Harbor recreation center, and $250,000 for a pedestrian-bicycle bridge at Phillippe Park in Safety Harbor.

Commissioners also approved $500,000 for “arts support.” The exact form that might take is unclear, but it’s likely to be some kind of a “traveling sculpture or installation,” which was one of two ideas proposed by Barbara St. Clair, executive director of Creative Pinellas.

County officials had asked Creative Pinellas to submit ideas for the money.

The idea behind the traveling sculpture, St. Clair said, was to create an iconic art piece that would be moved from place to place in the county. Ten sites would be chosen, and the sculpture would remain in each of them for three months.

At the end of the three years, the installation would have a permanent home. The concept would be a sort of interactive “love letter to Pinellas County.” It would be created by a local artist.

St. Clair’s other suggestion was to artistically light the Bayside Bridge with LED bulbs. The Bayside was chosen because it links north and south Pinellas counties. Concerns over costs of maintenance and electric bills and fears of vandalism clouded that idea.

Several commissioners said they liked the traveling sculpture idea better.

“I like the idea of a love letter to Pinellas,” Commissioner Dave Eggers said. “That’s just perfect.”

Commissioners also questioned the $589,000 earmarked for an electric bus charging station in St. Petersburg. Although still supporting the idea, they set aside $118,000 of the line item to give St. Petersburg a chance to contribute that amount to the project.

 

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Baseball Santa has been benched in St. Pete

For almost two decades, the holiday light fest at Straub Park celebrated baseball as well as the season with a display showing Santa Claus playing baseball.

But last year, baseball Santa was sent to the dugout. And he’s not back this year. It appears that, at least for the future, Santa has been benched.

City officials say baseball Santa’s disappearance has no hidden message about the future of the Rays in St. Pete.

“Oh, no, no, for heaven’s sake, it’s Christmas,” St. Petersburg recreation supervisor Polly Brannon said. “I’m a huge baseball fan myself. There was no hidden message.”

Baseball Santa’s absence, she said, has everything to do with novelty. And a bit to do with his price tag.

Baseball Santa had first been put on display around the time the Rays moved to St. Pete. That was 1998. Over the years, Brannon said, the novelty wore off.  Eventgoers got tired of the same old displays.

That meant baseball Santa and other displays, such as bells and a bear in a box, were also mothballed to make way for new displays like a filigree tree, toy soldiers and a new Santa sleigh. Baseball Santa was also a large display, she said, and carried a price tag to match. City officials thought they could get more displays for the same price and, in that way, expand the light show.

And the city was right, Brannon said. No one complained that baseball Santa had disappeared. Instead, festival goers were happy to see new displays. That doomed baseball Santa to permanent benching.

“He didn’t come back because we got compliments on changing (the displays),” Brannon said.

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Janet Hooper resigns from commission to run for Safety Harbor mayor

Safety Harbor commissioner Janet Hooper turned in her resignation Monday to run for mayor.

She’ll still be sitting in Seat 1 on the commission for a while. Her resignation is not effective until March 21, the week after Safety Harbor’s municipal election. State law requires officeholders to resign to run for a different office.

“It has been an honor to serve as a commissioner these past two years and I look forward to the opportunity to serve the residents of this great city in whatever capacity the residents so choose,” Hooper wrote in her resignation letter.

Hooper is in her first term on the Safety Harbor commission. She becomes the second candidate to enter the race. Former Mayor Joe Ayoub is also running.

“I believe I offer something to the city,” Hooper said. “I believe the people should have a choice. There was only one other candidate.”

Although Hooper made it official Monday, she’s been planning to run at least since Oct.28 when she filled out a “Statement of Candidate” form and appointed a campaign treasurer.

Hooper also spent November fundraising. A campaign finance report filed Monday indicated she received a donation of $1,000 from David Becker on Nov. 28. She also loaned herself $300 on Nov. 22 and another $400 on Nov. 29.

Hooper also scheduled a kickoff fundraiser for Monday evening, an event publicized Dec. 7 on the Saving Safety Harbor Facebook page.

“Now is the time for all good citizens to come to support Janet Hooper for mayor,” the Saving Safety Harbor page reads. “Janet’s kickoff party is set for Monday 12/12 at the Eighth Avenue Pub from 6-8 p.m. This is your opportunity to get to know our candidate and meet other supporters. Janet’s commitment to Safety Harbor is demonstrated by her strong voting record as a commissioner. Her thoughtful input shows that she has done her homework, understands the issues, and always votes with the interest of the residents coming first.”

However, as of Monday afternoon, Hooper had not gotten around to updating her campaign website or Facebook page, which makes it appear she’s running for Seat 1 on the commission – a seat that’s not up for grabs in March.

Hooper said Monday that she had given her webmaster the information necessary to change both the website and Facebook pages. Her webmaster, a campaign volunteer, had not gotten around to it yet.

“She said she would get it done” this week, Hooper said. “I will get that straightened out.”

The Safety Harbor election is March 14. Candidate qualifying begins at noon Jan. 3 and ends noon Jan. 10. The mayor’s office and Seat 4 on the commission are on the ballot. Incumbent Carlos Diaz and Cameron Boozarjomehri are running for Seat 4.

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Rick Kriseman sets next steps to reach 100 percent clean energy goal

St. Petersburg became the first Florida city last month to sign on to the Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign, which seeks to convert the city to 100 percent renewable, green energy.

Mayor Rick Kriseman on Friday set out the first steps the city is taking to reach that goal. It’s an initiative he calls the Integrated Sustainability Action Plan. The city has earmarked $250,000 for the ISAP.

First on the ISAP list is an overall energy audit to help discover the city’s problem areas. That data will be used to create a long-range plan and set target dates to get to interim and ultimate goals. That could take about a year.

City officials are not waiting a year to get started, they’re partnering with a professor at the University of South Florida in Tampa to have students perform mini-energy audits on departments that seem to consume a lot of energy. The idea is to be able to quickly solve problems where St. Pete officials know they exist. The city has allocated another $250,000 for audits and retrofits.

St. Pete is also collaborating with Pinellas County in developing a vulnerability assessment and modeling program that will allow the two to estimate the risks and impacts from potential future impacts, such as sea level rise and direct hurricane hits. The city has $300,000 set aside for this project.

The total $800,000 comes from BP settlement money.

The Sierra Club’s Ready for 100 campaign is an attempt to convince cities across the U.S. to lead the way in moving from electrical power to renewable, clean energy. St. Petersburg is the first in Florida and the 20th city in the U.S. to take the pledge.

Kriseman said the decision to become a part of the Ready for 100 campaign was an outgrowth of a 2015 executive order he made to net zero energy usage.

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USF St. Pete announces climate action plan

Sophia Wisniewska, the regional chancellor at USF St. Petersburg, announced Friday that the campus has created a climate action plan to help the university reach its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Wisniewska made her announcement as part of a press conference at St. Petersburg City Hall with Mayor Rick Kriseman. Kriseman set out the city’s next steps for converting the city to 100 percent renewable energy.

USFSP’s action plan, or CAP, will serve as a guide to help the university reach its sustainability goal of 50 percent carbon neutrality by 2035 and 100 percent carbon neutrality by 2050. The plan, a set of goals and strategies that were developed by USFSP staff and students to reduce carbon emissions, reflects an extensive analysis of the campus’s 2014 greenhouse gas inventory and daily use forecast.

On Earth Day 2013, USFSP became a signatory of the American College and University Presidents’ Climate Commitment in recognition of the challenges that will be faced by waterfront communities as a result of global climate change. Meeting ACUPCC expectations and ranking in the Princeton Review Green Colleges guide are among the key performance indicators outlined in the university’s Vision 20/20 Strategic Plan, which the CAP aims to help satisfy.

“The creation and implementation of this plan is a huge step—not only for USFSP, but for the entire St. Petersburg community,” said Brian Pullen, sustainability coordinator at USFSP. “What is so special about the CAP is that it has taken a lot of hard work over the course of two years from several students, staff, researchers, and specialists within their respected fields.

“Together, we developed a feasible, yet aggressive, plan for guidance on how the university will foster innovative solutions to mitigate and adapt to 21st century global and environmental issues.”

The St. Petersburg City Council recently approved the city’s own Integrated Sustainability Action Plan (ISAP), which will serve as a road map to help the city transition to 100 percent clean, renewable energy. St. Petersburg will become the first city in Florida and 20th in the nation to commit to this goal.

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Patti Johnson named a finalist for Transportation Disadvantaged’s elected official of the year

Pinellas Park council member Patti Johnson has been named a finalist for the title of 2016 Elected Official of the Year.

The award is given annually by the Florida Commission for the Transportation Disadvantaged. The winner will be named Dec. 14 at a banquet in Jacksonville.

The award is designed to recognize an elected official who has demonstrated his/her support to those who are transportation disadvantaged. The winner will be someone who has worked to ensure mobility options remain available to those who depend on them so those individuals can maintain their independence and quality of life.

Johnson has served on the Pinellas Park City Council since 2012. She has a long history as a community servant, resident, business owner and advocate for the elderly and disabled. She was vice chair of the Metropolitan Planning Organization transportation disadvantaged committee.

She serves as Pinellas Park’s representative on the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. Johnson serves on that group’s legislative committee and is the alternate member on the PSTA planning committee. She is vice chair of

Before Johnson was elected to the Pinellas Park council, she served on the city’s board of adjustment for five years, one year as chairperson, and for six years on the code enforcement board.

Johnson is also on the Florida League of Cities legislative and finance, a board member for Greater Pinellas Country Fair and has served as a member of the Boys & Girls Clubs of the Suncoast board of directors and the Pinellas Park Boys and Girls Club unit advisory council. Patti is a former member of the Pinellas Park Police Department Volunteers Mounted Unit, the Florida Alliance for Main Street Fairness Tampa Bay executive committee and a past member of the Pinellas Park/Gateway Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

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