Anne Lindberg - 7/50 - SaintPetersBlog

Anne Lindberg

At six Pinellas schools, food and education go hand in hand

A seven-year-old project seeks to combine education while helping kids from low-income families get fresh foods.

The Edible Peace Patch builds educational gardens in Title I elementary schools in Pinellas County, particularly in areas that are “food deserts,” meaning they do not have access to fresh fruits and vegetables within a 2-mile radius.

Title I school are those with a large population of low-income students. The first garden was built in 2009 at Lakewood Elementary School in St. Petersburg. Since then, the schoolyard gardens have sprouted at five other St. Petersburg schools: Melrose, Fairmount Park, Maximo and Campbell Park elementaries, as well as Sanderlin IB World School.

The Edible Peace Patch also helps maintain the garden at Johns Hopkins Middle School in St. Pete. And, it has plans to begin a garden at Lealman Elementary School in January.

The five-year plan is to build an Educational Farm in Midtown. A plan is also underway to establish an urban science and wellness classroom in the form of a replicable urban farm.

The Peace Patch plans to develop a farm to cafeteria food system that links schoolyard gardens, community gardens, and an urban farm in Midtown.

The Edible Peace Patch is the brainchild of a group of Eckerd students who are seeking to eliminate poverty as a factor in educational success and diet-related health issues by cultivating healthy minds and bodies. To accomplish that mission, the Edible Peace Patch provides education through hands-on learning in the gardens.

More specifically, the gardens serve as a platform to teach students the importance of nutrition and gardening, while cultivating healthy minds and bodies and fostering community. The lesson plans are centered around Florida’s State Standards and so-called STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) education.

The kids not only learn from working in the gardens, they’re allowed to take home the food they’ve grown and share it with their families. Lakewood has thrown “harvest parties” where all the dishes were made with at least one school-grown vegetable.

The gardens are organic and built using a mixture of compost, sea grass, soil builder, charcoal and coffee grounds from Kahwa. The mix, all locally sourced, creates a nutrient-rich foundation. The actual gardens are planted in an aboveground box.

The Peace Patch works in partnership with Pinellas County Schools, the Pinellas County Health Department, the Florida Department of Agriculture, USF St. Petersburg, the City of St. Petersburg, as well as public and private institutions around the Tampa Bay area. Donations — including a recent $10,000 donation from the Penny Hoarder, a St. Pete startup.

Pam Bondi alleges Pinellas, Hillsborough motels committed price gouging

Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi filed three actions Thursday against lodging businesses in the Tampa Bay area alleging price gouging while the area was under a state of emergency for Hurricane Matthew.

“As Hurricane Matthew strengthened into a dangerous category four storm, more than a million Floridians and visitors were urged to evacuate,” Bondi said. “Many of these people turned to these businesses for safe shelter but could not afford a room. During any emergency, it is extremely important that we come together as Floridians to ensure our citizens and visitors are safe. I personally visited one of these locations during the state of emergency and was disgusted by the way people seeking shelter were treated.”

The actions were filed against businesses in Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties.

Bondi filed a complaint in Pinellas County against Shanti CC Clearwater, LLC, d/b/a Red Roof Inn Clearwater, Shanti CC Holding, Packard Hospitality Management, LLC, and Michael Goldstein for allegedly charging unconscionable and excessive prices during the state of emergency.

According to the complaint, Red Roof, located in Clearwater, raised room rates for at least 27 guests by 80 percent and up to 200 percent, with some guests being charged $140 more than the average nightly rate charged before the state of emergency.

In the Hillsborough case, Bondi alleges Mitch & Murray Hotels, Inc., d/b/a Days Inn/MPR LLC, a business located in Tampa, and owner Jamil Kassam engaged in unconscionable pricing practices during the state of emergency.

The complaint alleges this Days Inn raised room rates for at least 23 guests by a minimum of 70 percent and up to 300 percent, charging some guests $150 more than the average nightly rate charged before the state of emergency.

Additionally, the hotel allegedly forced several existing guests who reserved rooms and checked in before the evacuation days, to vacate because they could not afford the grossly increased nightly rate.

The Polk County complaint was filed against, SKAN, LLC, a Florida corporation doing business as Sleep Inn & Suites, and Nilayam S. Patel, Suresh B. Patel and Kusum S. Patel for allegedly charging unconscionable and excessive prices during the state of emergency. According to the complaint, Sleep Inn & Suites, located in Lakeland, raised room rates for at least 25 guests by 140 percent to more than 400 percent, charging some guests $200 more than the average nightly rate paid before the state of emergency.

At the time of the alleged price gouging, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties were under a state of emergency for two storm events, Hermine and Matthew.

All three of these complaints seek civil penalties, disgorgement, injunctive relief, restitution and other statutory relief against the defendants for violation of state laws.


Pinellas Habitat for Humanity goes tobacco-free

Volunteers helping to rehab and build houses for Pinellas Habitat for Humanity will no longer be able to smoke while working.

The organization has declared its worksites, offices and its ReStore retail shop to be tobacco-free.

“Once we learned of the devastating effects of secondhand smoke and the fact that more than 50,000 children and adults die from it, we wanted to safeguard anyone having close proximity to the houses that we are building as well,” said Michael Sutton, the organization’s chief executive officer.

The move was made with technical help from the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County’s staff.

Known for assisting low-income families with housing built by volunteers, Pinellas Habitat for Humanity wanted to help ensure the health and safety of staff. But, in addition to protecting its employees, Habitat took it one step further to making the properties they are building tobacco free, too.

Each property will have a sign announcing that it’s a smoke-free site.

The Pinellas organization is the local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International, a global, not-for-profit housing organization that builds homes for low-income families.

Since 1985, Habitat for Humanity of Pinellas has been creating homeownership opportunities for low-income people and households with the help of the Pinellas County community. Habitat for Humanity works in partnership with low-income families and individuals to engage community volunteers and corporate, civic and faith organizations to help build and renovate affordable housing.

City of St. Petersburg chooses Capitol Alliance Group as new lobbyist

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has chosen the Capitol Alliance Group of Tallahassee to be the city’s lobbyist in the state capitol.

Although Kriseman has made the choice, details of the contract have not been ironed out, spokesman Ben Kirby said.

Capitol Alliance will replace the city’s current lobbyist, Peebles and Smith, also based in Tallahassee, in the upcoming Legislative Session. St. Petersburg’s contract will Peebles expired Sept. 30. The contract was worth $50,000 last year.

Capitol Alliance has a wide range of clients across the state, including the city of Key West and Leon County. Other clients include the Medical Marijuana Business Association of Florida, the PGA Tour, and Tesla Motors. The Capitol Alliance Group’s team includes Dr. Jeff Sharkey and Taylor Patrick Biehl.

Capitol Alliance was one of six firms that submitted proposals for the contract. The others were Peebles; Ballard Partners; Ron Boo, P.A.; Dean, Mead, Egerton, Bloodwork, Capouano & Bozarth of Tallahassee; and Southern Strategy Group of Tampa Bay.

It is unclear when the contract will be final. The 2017 Legislative Session convenes March 7.

Scott Long to run for Safety Harbor commission

Business owner Scott Long announced Wednesday his candidacy for Seat 1 on the Safety Harbor City Commission.

“The tone of discourse in Safety Harbor over the past few years has hurt my heart,” Long said. “We can disagree yet still be respectful. I’ve spent my life helping people with differing views find common ground so we can move forward together. And now I’d like to do that for the city I love.”

Seat 1 is currently held by Janet Hooper who has resigned to run for mayor.

Long, 44, has lived in Safety Harbor since 2001. He’s one of the founders and publishers of Ante Up Poker Media LLC, and is a member of Safety Harbor’s Planning and Zoning Board and Board of Appeals. He is the former chair of the city’s Public Art Committee. He’s also a member of the Safety Harbor Chamber of Commerce, a former president of the Harbor Woods Village Homeowners Association and a graduate of the Safety Harbor Citizens Academy.

A native of Gahanna, Ohio, he holds a bachelor’s degree in political journalism from Marietta (Ohio) College.

Beyond promoting a more positive manner of discussion, Long’s top issues include creating a more energetic downtown, making sensible zoning decisions and fostering the city’s burgeoning arts community.

“I’ve enjoyed serving my city on advisory boards for several years, and now it’s time for me take everything I’ve learned to be an active and thoughtful City Commissioner,” Long said.

Qualifying for the March 14 Safety Harbor election is Jan. 3 through Jan. 10. On the ballot are the mayor’s seat and seats 1 and 4.

Thus far, Hooper and Joe Ayoub have announced they are running for mayor. Seat 4 incumbent Carlos Diaz is facing a challenge from Cameron Boozarjomehri. Long is the only announced candidate for Seat 1.

Mayor, two commissioners re-elected in Belleair Bluffs

Belleair Bluffs Mayor Chris Arbutine and commissioners Suzy Sofer and Jack Nazario were re-elected Tuesday when they were unopposed at the close of qualifying.

Each has been reelected to a two-year term.

Arbutine first came on the council in 2000. He successfully ran for mayor the next year and has only been opposed twice since that time. He said he remembers former Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice telling him, “Chris, there’s only two ways to run – scared or unopposed.”

Arbutine said he was especially glad to be reelected at a time when a new fire station is being built. The full-service station will replace Fire Station 43 on Indian Rocks Road inside Belleair Bluff’s city limits. Like Station 43, it will serve residents of Belleair Bluffs, Largo and Belleair. It took the collaboration of all three, plus Pinellas County, over several years to reach final agreements.

Added to that were citizen concerns over the location of the new station. The city worked those out by holding public meetings to let residents quiz the architects and others about their concerns.

That apparently calmed any troubled waters, Arbutine said.

Groundbreaking was earlier this month. The station is scheduled to be completed in October.

“I’m glad to be elected when the building is going to be dedicated,” Arbutine said.

Belleair Bluffs is about one-half mile square and has about 2,200 residents. It has a mayor/commission form of government. The mayor and four commissioners each serve two-year terms. A vice mayor is elected each year by the commission and may not serve consecutive terms. Sofer is the current vice mayor.

John Morroni to chair Forward Pinellas board next year

Forward Pinellas, the transportation and land use planning agency for Pinellas County, has new board leadership and several new members going into 2017.

Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni will serve as the board’s chair; Clearwater Commissioner Doreen Caudell, vice chair; Indian Rocks Beach Commissioner Cookie Kennedy, treasurer; and Pinellas County Commissioner Dave Eggers, secretary. All votes were unanimous.

Forward Pinellas is the organization formed by the merger of the Pinellas Metropolitan Planning Organization and the Pinellas Planning Council. Forward Pinellas is charged with addressing countywide land use and transportation concerns. Forward Pinellas not only provides a forum for countywide decision-making on transportation and land use issues, but also assists local governments with technical support, regional coordination and policy advice and guidance.

A professional Realtor, Morroni has personal experience on the land use side of the Forward Pinellas mission and served on the Pinellas Planning Council from 2005 until it merged with the MPO in 2014 when he joined the Forward Pinellas Board. However, his interest in the transportation side of planning goes back much further than that. He is a former member of the MPO’s Citizen Advisory Committee.

Morroni is a three-time chairman of the Pinellas County Commission during his 16-year tenure. Before serving on the commission, he served for four terms in the Florida House of Representatives. During part of this year, Morroni was absent from commission meetings in a successful battle against cancer.

“I am looking forward to chairing the Forward Pinellas Board next year,” Morroni said. “The new chairwoman of the Board of County Commissioners and I both have transportation solutions as our number one priority, and we will continue to work with our partners in the Tampa Bay region toward that end. The safety of our residents when it comes to both driving and cycling is of utmost importance to me.”

Forward Pinellas is governed by a 13-member board of elected officials. These officials represent municipal governments, the County Commission and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.

Safety Harbor Commissioner Cliff Merz (serving Oldsmar, Safety Harbor and Tarpon Springs), Belleair Commissioner Tom Shelly (representing South Pasadena, Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Seminole, Gulfport, and Kenneth City), and Dunedin Mayor Julie Bujalski (representing the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority) all finished their terms at the end of 2016. They will be replaced in January by Oldsmar Mayor Doug Bevis, South Pasadena Commissioner Lari Johnson, and Clearwater Vice Mayor Bill Jonson, respectively representing the same areas and agency.

By appointment of new County Commission Chair Janet Long, Pinellas Commissioner Ken Welch will replace Karen Seel on the Forward Pinellas board as one of three county commissioners.

“We’ve had a great deal of cohesion and leadership among the board members and executive committee over the last 18 months,” said Whit Blanton, Forward Pinellas executive director. “I welcome the new members to our board and look forward to working closely with our new chairman on what will be a critical year for countywide and regional transportation decisions.”

Two judges side with Madeira Beach in development lawsuits

Two judges have ruled against opponents of two proposed developments on Madeira Beach.

In one case, Judge Thomas H. Minkoff said the city did not violate state law when it passed three ordinances in 2014 that changed zoning rules and paved the way for the developments.

In the other case, Judge Cynthia Newton dismissed a lawsuit claiming that the city had wrongfully failed to grant a petition to take the proposed rezoning and land use changes to a voter referendum. Newton also denied their motion to set aside her order and reopen the case.

The lawsuits are two of four filed against Madeira Beach this year by residents opposed to the redevelopment of two parcels of land at the foot of the Tom Stuart Causeway. Developers proposed to build a hotel, condominiums, restaurant and parking garage. The causeway is the city’s sole direct link to the mainland and opponents argued the developments would overwhelm the area and destroy the fishing village ambience of Madeira Beach. One proposal has since been modified.

Before the developments could proceed, the commission had to approve zoning changes as well as a development agreement.

But before the final vote, opponents submitted petitions with more than 1,000 signatures asking that the proposed development go before the voters. However, city officials disallowed the petitions, saying the petitions fell short of requirements in the city charter. The commission voted to change the zoning and allow the developments to go ahead.

Some of the opponents – Samuel Baker, Barbara Ferrell, Linda Hein, Linda McCartor and Kristal Albertson – sued Madeira Beach asking that the judge determine the petitions to be sufficient and to send the issue to the voters for a referendum.

Newton dismissed the case.

In the other case, Hein and Jennifer McCoy Parker sued asking that the judge declare the three ordinances passed in 2014 to be invalid. Minkoff disagreed and closed the case.

Mayor Travis Palladeno said he was thrilled by the news.

“That is very large,” Palladeno said. “We’re two for two.”

The other two lawsuits are still in front of judges. One of them alleges violations of the Sunshine Law. The other asks that the rezonings be declared invalid for failing to comply with its own procedures.

Rick Scott reappoints two to Pinellas Housing Authority

Gov. Rick Scott announced Friday the reappointments of Joseph Triolo and Michael Guju to the Pinellas County Housing Authority.

Triolo, 59, of St. Petersburg, is a program manager for Duke Energy. He is reappointed for a term beginning Dec. 16 and ending Jan. 21, 2018. Triolo was appointed to PCHA’s board of commissioners in 2009 and served as chairman from 2009 through June.

Born and raised in St. Petersburg, Triolo also serves on the board of directors of the Florida Green Building Coalition, the city of St. Petersburg post-disaster committee, the judicial nominating commission Sixth Circuit, the supervisory committee for the Bay Pines Federal Union, and the Pinellas County Homeless Leadership Network. He is also a member of the International Code Council and American Legion Post 273.

Triolo brings expertise in green initiatives through housing construction and rehabilitation to PCHA’s Board. Additionally, holds several licenses: state of Florida building inspector, My Safe Florida wind mitigation Inspector, and EPA lead inspector and risk assessor.

Guju, 57, of Palm Harbor, is the president of Guju Law Firm and Equity National Title. He is reappointed for a term beginning Dec. 16 and ending Dec. 1, 2020. Guju was appointed to the PCHA board in 2013.

Guju is an entrepreneur and businessman with broad management, legal and marketing experience in real estate development, mortgages and real estate-related services. An attorney, licensed in three states (Florida, Ohio (inactive) and Michigan (inactive), with more than 26 years’ experience in real estate and business law, mortgages, real estate title insurance and closings, contracts and business matters, the PCHA said that Guju’s service on the board has been extremely valuable.

His expertise is particularly helpful, officials said, as the housing authority continues its’ forward momentum toward developing additional housing opportunities for low to moderate income veterans and families in Pinellas County.

Formed in 1965, the PCHA is an independent agency, operating under state statute. PCHA is governed by a five-member board appointed by the governor.

The PCHA is the largest housing authority in Pinellas County. It provides housing and rental assistance to about 8,500 individuals through the agency-owned affordable housing, public housing, assisted living and the administration of the Housing Choice Voucher program. Its area of operation for the public housing and housing voucher program includes all unincorporated and incorporated areas of Pinellas except the cities Clearwater, Dunedin, St. Petersburg and Tarpon Springs.

In nine Pinellas cities, some are re-elected, others face the voters next year

Officials in 15 Pinellas cities are scheduled for a date with the ballot box in next March’s municipal elections.

But, with qualifying closed in nine of those, some elected can relax because they have no opposition and are considered re-elected. Others weren’t so lucky. They’ll be facing the voters March 14.

Here’s where the score card stands as of Friday.


Two seats on the five-member council are up for grabs. In Ward 2, incumbent Christine Anne Brown is facing challenger Linda Bailey. In Ward 4, incumbent Michael Fridovich is facing challenges from Richard Fried and Bobby L. Reynolds.


Two commission seats are open on the five-member commission. Incumbents Phil Hanna and Terry Hamilton-Wollin, the current vice mayor, are both running. Philip M. Wrobel and Hope Wyant are also in the race. The top two vote-getters will take office.


Indian Shores has a five-member council with two openings. Incumbents Michael Petruccelli, who ran for the Pinellas County School Board in August, and Patrick Soranno, the current vice mayor, are running. Michael Hackerson is also in the race. The top two will be elected.


Mayor Bill Queen was re-elected Friday without opposition. Commissioner Gary Curtis, who holds Seat 2, was also re-elected with no opposition. There’s a horse race for Seat 1 with incumbent Richard Bennett facing Jeff Busch.


No officials from this beach community will go before the voters on March 14. Mayor Nick Simons and Commissioner Fred Steiermann, the current vice mayor, were re-elected without opposition. Also elected was Tim Kornijschuk, who was also unopposed. Kornijschuk will take the seat currently held by Mark Deighton, who did not run for re-election.


Residents here will have two new faces on the five-member commission. Neither John Branch nor Lee Holmes ran for re-election.

One of those new faces belongs to Patrick Drumm, who ran for Holmes’ District 4 seat. Drumm won without opposition.

The story is different for the District 2 seat that Branch held. Jeffery Neal will face Jason Schrimsher on March 14.


Neither Bruce Howry nor Arthur Penny are running for reelection in South Pasadena. Four candidates have come out to try to replace them: Dan Calabria, Gigi Esposito, David Magenheimer and Cathy Wolff. Voters will have a choice of two.


Commissioners Domonick “Rick” Falkenstein, District 2, and Melinda Pletcher, District 4, were re-elected without opposition.

But voters will have three candidates to choose from in the mayor’s race: incumbent Deborah Schechner and challengers John-Michael Fleig and Alan Johnson.


Rea Seiber was re-elected without opposition to Seat 2 on the five-member commission. Three are running for Seat 1: Frank DiDonato, Jacob Karr and Tim Keffalas. There is no incumbent in the race. Townsend Tarapani has termed out.

Five other Pinellas municipalities have March 14 elections: Belleair Bluffs, Belleair Shore, Kenneth City, Madeira Beach, Safety Harbor and Treasure Island. All have different dates and deadlines for qualifying.

However, some incumbents and candidates have already thrown their hats into the ring.

In Madeira Beach, Mayor Travis Palladeno says he’s running for re-election.

And things are heating up in Safety Harbor where former Mayor Joe Ayoub is running against current commission member Janet Hooper for mayor. In the race for Seat 4 on the commission, incumbent Carlos Diaz has opposition from Cameron Boozarjomehri.

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