Anne Lindberg - 7/48 - SaintPetersBlog

Anne Lindberg

James Museum to be one of few in south devoted to Western art

When the James Museum of Western and Wildlife Art opens in about a year, it will help cement St. Petersburg’s place as a destination for art lovers from around the world.

The prospect has caused a buzz in the art world and Thursday morning, Emily Kapes, art collection curator at Raymond James Financial, gave a short preview of what’s coming to local art lovers. The event was sponsored by the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance.

Tom and Mary James, the donors whom the museum will be named after, began collecting art while they were dating in the 1960s, Kapes said. The collection at first concentrated on modern art but as the Jameses traveled out west to go skiing, they became more and more familiar with and enamored of modern Western art.

Now they have about 3,000 works of art that’s housed in office space at Raymond James Financial in the Carillon area of Pinellas County. The bulk of that — about 1,800 pieces — is Western art. The “gallery,” which comprises all walls of the office space, is open to the public for tours.

“They’ve never sold a piece in over 50 years of collecting,” Kapes said. “We have it all.”

It’s that collection that will be the basis of the James Museum, which will be located on two floors at 100 Central Ave. in downtown St. Petersburg. Between 400 and 500 pieces of art are expected to be transferred from Carillon to St. Pete. Also coming will be a collection of Native American jewelry.

The new museum will be about 130,000 square feet and will not only have gallery space but also a sculpture court, classroom space, a theater, café, museum store and rental space for weddings and other events.

When complete, Kapes said, the James Museum will be one of only a few art museums in the south that’s devoted to Western Art. The nearest is in Georgia.

“We’re excited to bring Western art to Florida,” Kapes said.

The new museum was not the only good news for art lovers at Thursday’s get together. The other good news — the art that will be left at the Raymond James Financial Center will remain on display to the public, even after the museum opens.

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PSTA sets its legislative wish list

It’s the time of year when everyone seems to be making a list, from shopping lists to wish lists.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is no different. Members unanimously adopted their four-item wish list at Wednesday’s meeting. But, in this case, they want the State Legislature to be generous.

No. 1 on their wish list for the upcoming state Legislative Session: A letter of support from legislators to the Florida Department of Transportation asking that the state agency include funding for express bus service from Clearwater Beach to Tampa International Airport. The service is expected to be provided by a private company at an estimated cost of about $2.1 million a year.

No. 2: State support for transportation disadvantaged programs in urban areas. The PSTA is urging the Legislature to increase transportation disadvantaged grants to urban counties like Pinellas so the neediest can get to the jobs and services they need to be productive members of the community.

No. 3: The Clearwater Beach Way. The PSTA is asking for $1 million for updating a previous study and preliminary design of the raised median on the Memorial Causeway Bridge that would convert the raised median to a one-way reversible bus lane. The goal is to Improve the efficiency of existing services, especially during tourist season, and to allow future services to benefit from congestion-free travel.

No. 4: Approve an agreement between PSTA and HART, the Hillsborough County transit authority, to collaborate and coordinate to create regional transportation plans.

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PSTA climbs on board Janet Long’s ‘regional council of governments’ idea

Members of the governing board of Pinellas’ bus transportation authority voted unanimously Wednesday to develop an agreement to coordinate with the Hillsborough transit authority.

The agreement, which would be forwarded to the State Legislature, is a step to creating a regional council of governments that’s been proposed by Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long.

Long said the proposal is a “framework” for merging several governmental agencies into one regional organization that can provide regional solutions to transit, land and economic development, affordable housing and other region-wide issues. Such a group, Long said, could provide “better, more nimble” solutions to problems.

“This is not my plan. I’m not married to it,” Long told PSTA members. “This is a compilation of dozens of meetings over the last year and a half. … If we can do this, we will save money.”

Long’s proposal comes at a time when e Federal Department of Transportation has proposed rules that would mandate no more than one metropolitan planning organization for each “urbanized area.” That would, at the least, require the Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco metropolitan planning organizations to merge.

Alternatively, the proposed federal rules would require each urbanized area to have a single long-range transportation Plan. Tampa Bay has three such plans.

Long’s proposal casts a wider net.

Long would fold PSTA, HART, and other transportation providers such as the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority, ferryboat operations and others under the regional council of government. Certain functions, or entire organizations, could be consolidated within the council of governments concept.

The regional council of governments membership would include mayors, county commissioners, council members, business/private sector leaders and advisory staff members from Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco counties.

Long’s concept is getting support. The Tampa Bay TMA (Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco MPO representation), TBARTA, and the three MPOs have approved a scope of work for a regional governance study that will develop more details of Commissioner Long’s proposal. The MPOs are requesting state legislative support to fund this six- to 12-month study,

HART, the transit authority in Hillsborough, voted in November to develop a written interlocal agreement with the PSTA that would commit the two to continuous collaboration and coordination for the region’s benefit.

It’s that process – the development of such an agreement – that PSTA board members agreed to at their Wednesday meeting.

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St. Pete takes first steps to comprehensive plan to handle climate change, rising seas

About a year ago, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman signed an executive order establishing an office of sustainability.

Now, a group of experts from New Orleans, Miami, Boston and Tampa Bay have come together in partnership with St. Petersburg officials to set strategies that can be used in developing a comprehensive plan to answer the problems presented by climate change and rising seas.

The two-day conference, spearheaded by the Urban Land Institute of Tampa Bay, did not limit itself to the effect of storms, droughts and other emergencies on real property. Members of the group also considered the impact of climate emergencies on people and businesses. They also considered the disparate impact on some members of society who are older, poorer or who, for other reasons, are less able to cope with problems caused by the climate.

The real challenge, they said, is to raise climate change to an issue that’s in the front of peoples’ minds.

Among the strategies they recommend St. Pete consider in coming up with a plan:

Communicate with and educate residents about the need for such a plan. This should include people from all areas of the city.

Communicate with and educate businesses about the need for a plan and the wisdom of preparing to survive climate emergencies and to recover afterwards.

Think regionally and create partnerships with all stakeholders. This could include other governments, businesses, schools, homeowners’ associations, among other groups.

Demonstrate what’s possible with city projects: Consider, for example, including resiliency as a part of the redesign of Tropicana Field.

Be sure to budget for resiliency.

“There have been some really good takeaways,” St. Petersburg Council member Darden Rice said.

She added that resiliency in the face of sea rise and climate change is “not just an esoteric greenie subject about how to build neat buildings.”

Rice said she was especially struck by the need to include resiliency as a part of the city budget. And, she said, the issue of resiliency for all St. Petersburg residents is extremely important.

“It’s hard to be resilient when you’re broke,” Rice said.

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Pinellas County launching educational campaign to renew Penny for Pinellas

Pinellas residents can expect to hear a lot next year about the number of roads, fire stations, parks, buildings and other projects the county and cities have constructed during the past 30 years.

Residents will also hear a lot about construction planned for Pinellas’ future.

It’s all part of an education campaign that the county and municipal governments will undertake as they try to persuade Pinellas voters to renew the Penny for Pinellas sales tax for the fourth time. If approved, the renewed Penny would be collected from 2020 through 2030. The current Penny will end in 2020.

“Job No. 1 in 2017 is to educate the public, so when they cast their ballots, they will make an informed decision,” Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard said Tuesday.

He was speaking during a Pinellas County Commission workshop that was devoted in part to the Penny for Pinellas.

Pinellas County commissioners agreed.

“The Penny is so precious,” Commissioner Ken Welch said. “We have to be very clear what these dollars are used for.”

Commissioner Dave Eggers said, “It’s critical in so many ways.”

The Penny for Pinellas was first passed by voters in 1990. Since then, three major bridges have been built, more than 1,000 miles of roads have been resurfaced, more than 20 fire stations and emergency facilities have been constructed, and water quality and drainage projects have been completed, county records show.

“They Penny for Pinellas has been a ‘good news’ story for the city of Clearwater,” said Bill Horne, the Clearwater city manager.

Among the projects Horne said could be traced to the Penny: Fire Station 45, Pier 60 and the Countryside Library.

It’s unclear how the future Penny money might be used. County commissioners will develop a wish list next year as will the 24 municipalities, each of which gets part of the Penny.

The Penny referendum is Nov. 7.

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SPC forum to focus on suppression of free speech

The threat to First Amendment rights posed by overzealous political correctness will be debated at a public forum at St. Petersburg College on Jan. 19.

The event, part of the SPC Institute for Strategic Policy Solutions’ Dinner Series, is titled You Can’t Say That: Free Speech and the Social Sensitivity Movement. The forum will be from 6 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. in the Conference Center at SPC’s Seminole campus, 9200 113th St. N. Advance registration is required. Admission is $20 for students and educators; $25 for the general public.

The free-speech-suppression movement is a 180-degree shift from the college protest scene of the 1960s. In their day, members of the Baby Boom generation staged mass rallies to protest free-speech suppression. Today’s Millennial generation stages mass rallies to block fellow students and faculty members from expressing views they find offensive.

But it isn’t just on college campuses that free speech is under attack. During the presidential election campaign, dissenters were jeered, even pummeled, at political rallies even as candidates denounced “political correctness.” News reporters were ridiculed for doing their job. And post-election, there is a push to have protest rallies labeled as acts of terrorism if they cause “economic disruption.”

Where is the balance? When does free speech become hate speech? Is the First Amendment’s guarantee absolute? A distinguished panel will explore the implications for academic and political freedom from this movement and engage with the audience in a frank exploration of the First Amendment’s protections – and its limitations.

Opening speaker will be Susan Kruth, program officer for the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education of Philadelphia. She will be joined by Dr. David Liebert, professor and academic department chair for Social and Behavioral Sciences at St. Petersburg College. Moderator will be David Klement, executive director of the Institute.

Advance registration is required at solutions.spcollege.edu. For information: (727) 394-6942.

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Rick Kriseman: St. Petersburg’s economy is ‘vibrant’

No matter where you look in St. Petersburg, you see signs of a thriving, growing economy, Mayor Rick Kriseman said Monday.

That’s true, he said, whether you look at south St. Petersburg, the Tyrone area, the Skyway district or the Gateway area. Every section of the city is showing signs of economic growth.

“It isn’t just in downtown,” Kriseman said. “A vibrant city has economic development happening all over.”

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin agreed, saying, “St. Petersburg’s economic landscape is on fire. … We’re only on the cusp of what’s possible.”

Kriseman and Tomalin were talking Monday to a room full of business and political leaders at the mayor’s second annual state of the economy presentation. The presentation looked at the city’s economic growth from the standpoint of data as well as projects in the city.

A snapshot of St. Pete’s population shows a 5 percent increase in growth – or about 28,000 more residents – since 2010. Those residents, and the population as a whole, tend to be well educated and younger than in the past. St. Petersburg has pockets of poverty throughout its municipal area, but overall, it has the second lowest poverty rate among Florida’s major cities.

That population growth has spurred a residential building boom – of the $654 million in permitted new construction during the past year, almost half – 42 percent – was residential.

Kriseman said some have questioned the amount of residential development in light of the city’s sewer issues. The city has been fined for dumping thousands of gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into the bay during two tropical storms this year. And the city is facing a multi-year, multi-million dollar program to remedy the problems.

The mayor said the residential development has no impact on the city’s sewer issues.

“We don’t have a sewer problem,” Kriseman said. “What we have … is a rainwater and groundwater problem.”

Had there been no new development, he said, the city’s sewers still would have overflowed this past year because of the infiltration of rainwater and groundwater into cracked and broken pipes.

He added that the residential construction is needed because it will bring in more tax money to pay for repairs and upgrades to the system.

Kriseman again touched on the sewer issue when he spoke about redeveloping the Pier. The city has already sold bonds to finance the new pier and has put about $62 million in escrow. Laws prohibit the city borrowing for one item and spending the money on another. And, he said, it would cost St. Petersburg about $35 million to buy back the bonds prematurely. That, he said, makes no sense.

“We will have a pier,” Kriseman said. “We are going to build a pier.”

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St. Petersburg plans major overhaul to city marina

City officials are looking for residents to provide ideas for updating the St. Petersburg Municipal Marina.

They’re holding a public session from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the Sunshine Center, 330 Fifth St. N.

“We’re taking the first baby step,” project manager Rick Hermann said. “We’re at the very beginning of this.”

The docks at the marina were built in the 1960s and 1970s and are starting to show their age, Hermann said. Also, the demand for docks has changed to meet changes in boat styles. In the ‘60s and ‘70s, he said, people had smaller boats. Nowadays, the boats are larger and wider so larger docks are needed to accommodate them.

The city is creating a new master marina plan to upgrade worn out infrastructure and to meet boatowners’ needs and interests. The actual implementation of that plan will take years and likely be done in phases.

The master plan is expected to include replacement of the Central and South Yacht Basin docks. And other upgrades, such as the inclusion of Wi-Fi, snack bars, public showers and restrooms are also likely to be included in the master plan.

That’s what Tuesday’s meeting is about, to give residents an opportunity to learn about current conditions at the Marina and hear an overview of the regional market. Residents will also be able to offer suggestions and ideas on improvements to boating conditions and efficiency at the Marina, in keeping with the city’s Downtown Waterfront Master Plan.

This will be the first of three meetings on updates to the Marina master plan. Two other community meetings are planned. The dates will be announced.

St Pete Municipal Marina Map

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Alex Sink, Neil Brickfield endorse Joe Ayoub for Safety Harbor Mayor

In a show of bipartisan support, former elected officials Alex Sink, a Democrat, and Neil Brickfield, a Republican, have endorsed Joe Ayoub for Mayor of Safety Harbor.

Ayoub launched his campaign just a few weeks ago and is gaining strong momentum. Ayoub says he brings a record of balancing the city’s budget, working with fellow community leaders to solve issues and a commonsense plan for managing progress while maintaining Safety Harbor’s small town charm.

“I support Joe because he has a public servant’s heart for serving the people of his community. He is a fiscal conservative who has the background and experience to keep taxes low and the budget balanced while also providing an exciting vision to energize the downtown and preserve the small town charm that Safety Harbor families cherish,” former Florida CFO Sink said.

“I have known Joe a long time and partisan politics stop at the mayoral level. Joe is qualified, committed and capable. I know he will lead Safety Harbor in the right direction. I proudly support Joe and look forward to working with him as our Safety Harbor mayor,” former Pinellas County Commissioner Brickfield said.

“As the mayor and as a licensed CPA I’m proud to have passed the first balanced budget in 2013 that didn’t dip into reserves for the first time in seven years. Going forward I’ll continue being laser focused on keeping taxes low and spending in check,” Ayoub said.

Ayoub graduated Countryside High School and earned an accounting degree from the University of Florida and a masters degree from the University of South Florida. He is the chief financial officer (CFO) at Data Blue. Joe lives in Safety Harbor and enjoys biking and running.

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Pinellas Legislative Delegation to consider changes to construction licensing board

Responding to a request from Charlie Justice, the Pinellas Legislative Delegation will consider changing the way members of the Construction Licensing Board are chosen.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, the delegation chair, called on state Rep. Larry Ahern to come up with a plan by the delegation’s Jan. 31 meeting. State Sen. Jeff Brandes said he wanted Ahern to consider dissolving the board so it would come under control of the Pinellas County Commission.

The licensing board, created in 1973, regulates some construction and home improvement contractors practicing in Pinellas County. It also provides countywide certification and registration of contractors.

It has come under fire in recent weeks because of the way the board members are chosen. Certain organizations and others, named in the statute, suggest members and the chair — currently Justice — of the Pinellas County Commission is responsible for appointing them.

Justice explained the problems in a Nov. 16 letter to Latvala and the delegation:

“When the request to appoint various positions of the PCCLB came before me this fall, I noticed some discrepancies as to the number of appointees provided by the various appointing organizations … In addition, some of the appointing organizations no longer exist or have been adopted under the umbrella of another, similar organization.”

Justice concluded, “I would ask that the Pinellas Legislative Delegation review the laws that pertain to the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board and consider amending them to reflect the makeup of the appointing organizations as well as the process by which the Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners chair would go about appointing/reappointing board members to the PCCLB.”

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