Mitch Perry - SaintPetersBlog

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at

Yolie Capin noncommittal about possible 2019 mayoral bid

With more than 21 months before Tampa voters will choose a successor to Mayor Bob Buckhorn, there’s no real reason for anyone seriously considering such a run to announce their intentions.

That’s why presumptive candidates 2019 mayoral Mike Suarez and Jane Castor said they don’t intend to launch their campaigns anytime soon. It’s also probably why Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin declined the opportunity to show her cards when asked about her plans during an appearance Friday morning at the Oxford Exchange.

“I was asked ‘tell me what you’re not running for,’ ” she told the crowd at the Cafe Con Tampa “I said I’m not running for governor.”

The longest-serving member of Council (she was selected by Councilmembers to replace John Dingfelder in July 2010 after 17 ballots), Capin will be term-limited in two years. Progressive Democrats are talking her up for a possible run in 2019, with enthusiasm that comes from her liberal stance on several issues, including advocating for stronger relations between Tampa and Cuba.

While that stance propelled some of that progressive enthusiasm, it put her at odds with Buckhorn.

During her speech, she spoke extensively about her five trips to the communist island.

One of the pet projects she’s most proud of is a cultural assets commission. A cultural assets advisory committee created by Capin has been working for the past six years on looking how to leverage the city’s assets, and now that idea is set to become a reality.

Capin met with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan on creating a Cultural Assets Commission, fashioned after the Tampa Sports Commission; the County has now allocated $2.1 million for a public-private partnership that should be up and running by late summer.

Among those private partners with the project is developer/hockey owner Jeff Vinik.

“If the art museum gets a blockbuster exhibit and they need a little help, we’re looking for grants,” she said in explaining how the commission would work. “So a corporation comes in and says, ‘I need $100,000 to do this, and this is the benefit, and we match it with $100,000. You have a matching partner and you have a program. That is going to benefit the community. That’s what we’re hoping to see with this.”

Capin decried the recently passed bill in the Florida Legislature that will put a ballot measure up in 2018 to increase the homestead tax exemption. If passed, the measure would take a chunk out of the ad valorem revenues of every local government in Florida. Tampa could take a $6-9 million hit, she said.

Capin championed Buckhorn’s op-ed just published in the Tampa Bay Times about the measure.

There are more than 600 jobs in the city that gone unfilled since the Great Recession hit in 2008. Audience member Jen McDonald asked if the council had plans in the future for more staffing moving forward. Capin said that the City Council had created an apprenticeship program to replace staffers with the Water Department who are aging out.

“I know we can do more with less, but I just wonder how long we can go on with that lower, leaner staff in the next three to four to five years,” McDonald said later.

Regarding the vexing issue of transit in Tampa, Capin said the issue would “take some leadership,” and said that part of the problem with the 2010 Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax was that the public was too confused about it, and “no one that was looked at a real, honest straightforward leader took the reigns. … Everybody passed the buck, they brought somebody in try to try to pass it.”

If Capin is to run for higher office, however, she’ll need to make sure she’s on top on of all the issues of the day.

When asked if there were any partnerships between USF’s CAMLS medical school and the Cuban government, Capin referred to a 2006 state law that made it impossible for colleges and universities to use public or private money to travel to Cuba (or to any other country on the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism). However, that hasn’t been the case for nearly two years, after the U.S. officially restored diplomatic ties with the Cuba, ending the last travel restrictions keeping Florida professors from visiting the island.

And while discussing local transit, she said that ridership on buses has risen “quite a bit, and that’s because of the recession.”

While ridership was up for several years, those ridership numbers have come down over the past year, both locally and nationally

At campaign appearance, Rick Kriseman says the election is all about moving St. Pete forward

To a cheering crowd of supporters Friday night, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman expressed what will be undoubtedly the predominant theme of his re-election campaign this summer.

Kriseman said the election between himself and former Mayor Rick Baker is a simple choice: whether citizens want to keep moving forward or go back in time.

“It’s about us deciding as a community who we want to be,” the mayor told more than a hundred people who crammed into a house on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd and 16th Ave. that will serve as his campaign headquarters. “What kind of city do we want to be?”

“You hear me talk about our vision of being a city of opportunity, where the sun shines on all who live, work and play (here),” he continued. “That’s the kind of community we want to be, and that’s what we’re going to be deciding in this election.”

This was perhaps Kriseman’s biggest engagement with the public since he formally declared his candidacy for re-election at Three Birds Tavern four months ago.

Even back then, rumors were getting serious that the popular, twice-elected Baker was thinking of returning to city politics, after several years in the private sector working for entrepreneur Bill Edwards.

Since he stepped down from office at the beginning of 2010, Baker flirted with running for several political offices, but never ultimately pulled the trigger on any. It led to some skepticism about whether he would even come back to challenge Kriseman.

Since entering the race May 9, he’s made an impression, starting with a fiery public takedown of Kriseman at his lengthy campaign kickoff.

After that, there have been a few fundraisers, but none bigger than Tuesday night at the Morean Arts Center for Clay, where Baker premiered a new television ad and offered supporters a copy of his 2011 opus, “The Seamless City” (apparently there were plenty of copies still sitting in boxes somewhere).

In a brief five-minute address, Kriseman touched on one of the most vulnerable parts of his record — the issues with sewage spills in 2015 and 2016 and his administration’s ability to level with the public about them. In his address, he touched upon the incident, but segued to referring to the storm’s intensity and who can best contend with acknowledging the realities of climate change.

“We experienced over an 18-month time rains that we hadn’t ever seen before, and I’m not afraid to talk about climate change and sea level rising,” he said, before getting in a dig at Baker for inheriting a sewage system that wasn’t fully funded.

“For too long though we’ve invested in our system, we haven’t invested enough because if we had, we wouldn’t be dealing with those issues today. but we’re going to fix it,” Kriseman declared. “We are committed to investing $305 million over the next five years and then beyond.”

Opening up for Kriseman at the event were members of St. Petersburg’s Democratic all-star team: City Council Chair Darden Rice, County Commissioner Ken Welch and Congressman Charlie Crist, who twice Kriseman referred to as “Governor Crist” (because it’s something that people call Crist).

Segueing from sewage to his credentials as an environmentalist, Kriseman became nostalgic over a bonding moment with Crist in 2010.

The mayor reminisced about the time when he, along with two other state Democrats, called for a special session to propose a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot to prohibit drilling for oil or natural gas within state waters.

Crist was all for it, but the Legislature didn’t agree.

The themes pounded into the crowd’s head: Moving forward as a city with a leader who is inclusive.

Welch began by saying about the current environment in Tallahassee and Washington D.C.: “Two words come to mind — regression and progress.”

You can guess who represents who in Team Kriseman’s eyes.

Welch said that in all his time in office (since 2000), city-county relations have never been better; Kriseman deserved a big share of the credit for helping to establish that level of cooperation.

Rice talked up some of the policies that have been achieved under the Kriseman administration: increased minimum wage for city workers, establishing a parental leave policy, “banning the box” on job applications,

There was no mention of Baker during the event, except for one passing comment by Rice, while praising Kriseman as an inclusive mayor: “That wasn’t the message from the other guy who announced his re-election campaign a few weeks ago.”

Although one poll shows Kriseman down by double-digits to Baker, attendees are convinced Kriseman will come out on top this year.

“The city of St Petersburg has changed a lot since Mayor Baker was in office. so the DNA in our city has become much more forward thinking and much more progressive, and that bodes well for a Kriseman re-election,” said Mark Ferrulo, the executive director of Progress Florida, a liberal activist organization.

He acknowledges, though, that the race will be extremely competitive.

Some 2013 Kriseman voters who say they’ll vote for Baker this time around say they’ve been “disappointed” by the Democrat incumbent. That includes some of the same progressive base that Kriseman believes is the key to his re-election strategy.

City Councilman Charlie Gerdes doesn’t understand that sentiment against Baker, a Republican who chides Kriseman for making the race partisan.

“If they voted for Rick they should have understood that Rick was a progressive and that the vision and values were going to change,” Gerdes said, “and to the extent that people are disappointed that things haven’t happened fast enough, I get that.”

“But if you’re going to vote for a progressive and you’re disappointed, and you go to Rick Baker, that’s inexplicable to me,” Gerdes added, shaking his head.

“I just don’t get that.”

Photo courtesy of Kim DeFalco.


City Council candidate Barclay Harless talks ‘big ticket’ plans

Rick Baker‘s entrance into the mayoral race may have sucked up a lot of the public attention in St. Petersburg’s political atmosphere this spring. However, there an interesting race is emerging between two capable candidates in St. Petersburg City Council District 2.

Realtor Brandi Gabbard and banker Barclay Harless are vying to succeed a term-limited Jim Kennedy later this year.

Although Harless holds a fundraising lead, Gabbard actually raised more campaign cash in April.

At Central Avenue’s Oyster Bar Thursday night, friends of Harless hosted a downtown meet-and-greet event.

Harless says that the voters he’s been speaking to are focused on “big-ticket” items, which he characterized as the Pier, the Rays stadium issue, the soon-to-be-constructed police station, and the city budget. He also says he’s heard a lot about the need for more affordable housing, referring to a recent conversation with a St. Petersburg police officer.

“I’m obviously interested in community policing and being part of the community,” he says, “And they tell me that they’re not living in St. Pete, that a lot of them have families, and they can’t afford it. That’s an affordable homes issue.”

Councilman Karl Nurse recently called for the city to take more than $20 million slated for Penny for Pinellas projects and put them into the Downtown Tax Increment Finance district to spend money on affordable housing and mass transit.

Another issue that Harless says he hears about is infrastructure spending. In the wake of the well-publicized sewage spills in 2015 and 2016, the city announced plans to spend more than $300 million to improve the sewer system, but Harless says that it’s important for the next council and future ones to remain vigilant on the issue.

“Everybody wants to put money toward it now, but in four to five years, we’re going to have to keep following through, so twenty years from now we’re not scratching our heads wondering why folks didn’t stand up and get it done,” he says.

Nick Janovsky, Harless’ campaign manager, says he feels “phenomenal” about how the campaign is going to date, referring to in part to the endorsements received from Republican Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni and Democratic St. Pete Councilwoman Lisa Wheeler-Bowman.

The Kennedy endorsement was another big development — and a surprising one at that.

“He normally stayed away from endorsements, but he’s seen Barclay work on the Charter Review and St. Pete Chamber of Commerce,” Janovsky says of that development.

Janovsky says that the Harless campaign has much respect for Gabbard, saying, “I think she’s a credible opponent.”

At the Oyster Bar, Kenwood resident Mark Lombardi sung Harless’ praises, calling him a “mentor and leader in the community.”

Lombardi has known Harless since they both attended USFSP; he says he immediately called Harless when he learned about the run for office this year.

“We need people who are data driven, we need people to take logic and apply it directly,” Lombardi said enthusiastically. “Barclay is taking a model of productivity, ingenuity and innovation and applying it to city government. I love that.”

The primary election takes place on August 29. As of now, Gabbard and Harless are the only two candidates in the race.

In letter, Gus Bilirakis demands justice for American attacked by Turkish security detail

Like most Americans, Gus Bilirakis was repulsed after seeing footage last week of bodyguards for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan beating up peaceful protesters in Washington D.C.

State Department officials expressed “concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms” and summoned the Turkish Ambassador for a visit.

That was pretty much it.

Now, Bilirakis is joining 39 other members of Congress in a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson demanding that those Turkish officials based in the U.S. or Turkey involved in the attacks be expelled immediately. The latter also calls for them to be barred from entering the U.S. in the future.

“I was outraged to see remorseless acts of violence carried out by the Erdogan government against individuals exercising their First Amendment rights on American soil. This is unacceptable in any situation, but even more so when Turkish leaders visit our nation and claim to be faithful allies. We must uphold the law and demand accountability from all who are responsible,” said Bilirakis, who serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Hellenic Caucus and the Congressional Hellenic-Israel Alliance.

Overall, 11 people were injured in the melee, including a police officer and two Secret Service agents.

Washington police said they arrested two people who in the D.C. Area. However, Erdogan’s security forces enjoy diplomatic immunity, which means none can be held accountable for their actions.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution Thursday condemning the violence that took place at the Turkish Ambassador’s residence on May 16. It was backed by Speaker Paul Ryan, who said: “[T]he violent crackdown on peaceful protesters by Turkish security forces was completely indefensible, and the Erdogan government’s response was wholly inadequate.”

Charlie Crist cheers Army Corps’ $30M for Pinellas beach restoration

Pinellas Democratic Representative Charlie Crist proudly announced Thursday that the Army Corps of Engineers will fully fund the Pinellas County Shore Protection Project, to restore and protect Pinellas County’s beaches.

The announcement comes after Crist worked with Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long for the past few months to secure the Corps’ approval.

“Pinellas County is a peninsula on a peninsula, surrounded almost entirely by coastline. With rising sea levels, increasing storm surges, and erosion caused by hurricanes like Hermine, the importance of nourishment projects is urgent to protect our economy, infrastructure, and coastal properties,” Crist said in a statement. “I thank Commissioner Long and the entire Commission for their commitment to our beaches, and the Army Corps for listening to our concerns. I look forward to continuing our work together, to push forward with this major project benefiting Pinellas.”

“The Army Corps of Engineers allocation of $30 million to complete the Pinellas County Beaches projects, including Sand Key, Treasure Island, and Upham Beach, is great news for our entire region,” said Long. “Thank you to Congressman Crist for his work on this issue as well as the Army Corps of Engineers for recognizing the importance of these projects to our local economy.”

According to Crist’s office, the Corps’ work plan also includes the full federal cost share of $9 million for the Port Tampa Bay Big Bend Channel navigation project, as well as a “New Start” designation for this deepening and widening project.


Popularity is part of the problem for Straz Center, with a serious lack of parking

As the Straz Performing Arts Center celebrates its 30-year anniversary, it has never been more popular.

That’s part of the problem.

With three new museums, a busier-than-ever Curtis Hixon Park, and area construction continuing, the Straz — in the heart of downtown Tampa — is suffering from a serious lack of parking, a problem that’s only getting worse.

It’s become so bad, longtime patrons are telling the Straz they will no longer attend events there.

“We are truly and deeply concerned that we, along with our city, we’ll suffer significant economic reputational harm if this trend continues,” Straz Center President Judith Lisi told the Tampa City Council Thursday.

It’s not hard to figure out why the area is being so stressed. The Poe Garage — sitting across the street from the Straz — was able to handle the 30,000 people who attended events at the facility when it was built in 1987.

Now more than 600,000 people visit the Straz annually, while the Poe remains the only nearby parking garage.

Perhaps the worst night for parking was Valentine’s Day 2017, when a 20-minute delay for a performance of “Wicked” still wasn’t long enough for 547 ticket buyers to make it by showtime.

Recently, the Straz convened a task force of board members, community advisers, venue leaders and an engineer to work with Tampa officials (including the Tampa Police Department) to come up with solutions.

The long term solution, task force chairman Doug Dieck said, is ultimately more parking spaces and a new parking garage somewhere in the vicinity of the Straz.

Straz officials said that on a short-term basis, “optimizing” the Poe and the nearby Royal Street Regional parking lot “functionality” was a top priority, as well enhancing ways to provide signage for cars and those walking to the center.

Although there are no plans to build a parking garage anytime soon, Councilman Charlie Miranda said that garages always ended up paying for themselves.

Other council members discussed the notion of having Straz customers have greater accessibility to the Downtowner, the free on-demand ride service available exclusively in downtown Tampa.

Tampa City Councilman Harry Cohen mentioned the possibility of Straz patrons parking in the Channelside area and taking a water taxi over to the Straz.

Cohen said he recently attended a performance of the Florida Orchestra at the Mahaffey Theater in St. Petersburg, where he said he saw a significant number of Tampa residents who preferred traveling across the Howard Frankland Bridge to dealing with traffic at the Straz.

Bob McDonaugh, the city’s administrator for economic opportunity, said a lot of potential remedies were “on the immediate horizon” to relieve the parking issues at the Straz, but admitted that “doesn’t cure things today.”

The Council will pick up the conversation on solutions at their June 22 meeting, where heads of the city’s parking, transportation, stormwater and economic development agencies will be asked to discuss possible short-term remedies.

Tampa Bay Next begins rocky road to consensus

A reinvention of the transportation project formerly known as TBX began Wednesday night.

A crowd of approximately 150 people from Hillsborough, Pinellas and Pasco counties gathered at the Bryan Glazer Jewish Community Center in West Tampa for the grand opening of Tampa Bay Next, the new name for what continues to essentially be the same project — the Tampa Bay Express, the $6 billion plan from the Florida Department of Transportation whose most contentious feature included 90 miles of toll lanes to existing free interstate highways.

But that’s not what Wednesday night was all about.

“Tonight is more about listening,” said Andrea Henning with Collaborative Labs, an organization affiliated with St. Petersburg College that works on executing strategic planning sessions and solving problems.

The audience was then separated into 20 separate small groups tasked with determining the common needs and problems in a transportation system. In many ways, it was similar to the outreach meetings that the sponsors of the ill-fated Go Hillsborough transit plan conducted back in 2015.

“What does success look like for our region?” Henning asked. “How do we get there?”

For all the discussion of this “reboot” as a way of starting over in coming up with a transportation plan the community can buy into, express toll lanes remain an option the FDOT is considering, but not necessarily in areas where Tampa transit activists are most concerned.

That would be the downtown interchange area just north of downtown Tampa on I-275, as well as the Westshore interchange.

“That’s all under re-evaluation,” says Danielle Moran, program consultant for FDOT on the Tampa Bay Next project. “FDOT is doing exactly what everybody asked them to do last year. They have slowed down the pace of the project to wait for the results of the Transit Feasibility plan.”

Also known as the “premium transit plan,” that study recently came up with five transit routes that are being considered a “starting point.” It will continue deep into 2018.

In an effort to be inclusive, officials from various local transit agencies were invited to the meeting, because FDOT officials say that if they’re going to build a transportation system that accommodates regional mobility, then local concerns also need to be addressed.

Some members of the public thought they would hear about specific plans, but Henning and Moran shut down that talk early on.

“This is a response for a broader conversation,” Moran said. “If you have specific questions about concepts and other options, we can set up a time to get together.”

Among the major themes emanating from the study groups last night were to put all forms of transportation on the table; to work on reducing bottlenecks around I-4; putting infrastructure in place before specific communities grow and not afterward; to have responsible land use; think about urban freeway removal, and yes, a proposal to eliminate toll roads.

“We kept on coming back to a sense of urgency, we didn’t want to have to wait, and we’re curious about how this gets paid for,” said Karen Schwarz, who added that a personal pet peeve was bus stops that didn’t have shade.

Although TBX critics didn’t seem convinced that FDOT has turned over a new leaf, Moran insists that Tampa Bay Next isn’t just a name change.

“This is a change to the approach to the program and people think we’re here to sell a project right now, we are not here to do that,” she said. “This is your chance to be part of a solution, to come to the table with ideas. We hear a lot about what people want and don’t want. This is acting to determine what do we want as a community.”

Moran elicited boos when she explicitly told the audience that “express lanes are one of the options on the table.”

“We’re happy to talk to you about the other options, but tonight is about building consensus.”

With express lanes on the table, though, true consensus might not be possible. No construction is expected to begin until at least the end of 2019.

Collaborative meetings will continue (almost daily) in parts of the Bay area over the next few weeks. A schedule is available here.

For many, Tampa’s 2021 Super Bowl is unexpected ‘big win.’ Others remain skeptical.

Members of Tampa’s political, business, media and activist communities weighed in Wednesday on the surprising news that Tampa will host the Super Bowl in February 2021.

The announcement was unexpected, particularly after the NFL snubbed a local bid last year to host the big game in either 2019, 2020 and 2021.

But major rainstorms in Southern California throughout the past year delayed construction of a new stadium for the L.A. Rams and Chargers, forcing the NFL to choose a new town for the 2o21 spectacle.

“The construction delays in L.A. are not uncommon for projects of their size, so it’s kind of lucky for us,” said Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano. “But I think this is more than luck. We’ve done this before.”

Lopano was still working in Dallas when Tampa last hosted the Super Bowl in 2009.

In addition to being shut out last year, Tampa also lost out to Minneapolis, New Orleans and Indianapolis as one of three finalists in fall 2013 to bid for the following year’s Super Bowl.

Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan said that unlike sports commissions, the Tampa Bay Sports Commission has always seen the value in bidding for major events even when it appears that other cities are going to win.

Hagan believes that philosophy allowed the city to be better positioned when the next opportunity to bid a major event occurs and that’s what led Tampa to get the chance to host the third national college football playoff championship this past January.

“We knew for sure that college football that Dallas was getting the first one,” he said, “but yet we put our best package forward, and although we didn’t get that one, we ended up getting the third, mainly because of the strong bid that we made on the initial game.”

“Most cities don’t do that,” Hagan added. “They don’t go through the effort.”

Tampa hosted four previous Super Bowls, but this is the first in 12 years. Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Ed Turanchik said the controversial Community Investment Tax that passed in 1996 for the $169 million to finance Raymond James Stadium had proved the test of time.

“Taxpayers are getting a good return on the investment that they decided to make 20 years ago,” he said.

They are still paying for it, however.

Last month, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers announced details of the third phase of over $150-million renovation project to Raymond James Stadium. Enhancements include an 18,700 square-foot home locker room — three times the size of the current one — more than 60,000 square feet of total lounge space in the West Stadium Club, 178 new 4K video monitors in the West Stadium Club and a 10,000 square-foot retail team shop to sell exclusive merchandise.

While the city will look dramatically different from when the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Arizona Cardinals in 2009, in 2021, it should look different from how it does now.

“You’re going to have, obviously, a lot more residential in the heart of the city,” Turanchik said. “It’ll be exciting to see what comes out of Channelside. St Petersburg is booming. We’ll have a water ferry system that connects some of these points together. It’ll be a very different place.”

Tampa attorney and 2016 County Commission candidate Brian Willis agrees that taxpayer investment, along with local leadership, is the reason Tampa is getting the game.

“With another big event, transit and bike and pedestrian safety will be keys for visitors and locals,” he says. “That’s why we should work right now to make sure all of our neighborhoods get a permanent boost by preparing for 2020 with leadership and real taxpayer investment focused on our neighborhoods.  This is another win for Tampa Bay. It will have a lasting impact if we use it as a catalyst to work together on the bigger picture.”

For East Tampa community activist Dianne Hart, the first thing going through her mind after reading Wednesday of the Super Bowl return to Tampa is how the African-American population will get an opportunity to take advantage of the economic impact coming to the region.

“I’m out in the community, and the community was not that happy the last time that we had a Super Bowl in our city,” she says of what happened in 2009. “A lot of people did not know how to get involved early enough. There’s opportunities for everybody to make money, so I just want to try to follow it a little closer this time to ensure that we have people in the right places.”

City Councilman Frank Reddick agrees with Hart, saying that while the jobs will only be short-term, he hopes that “this is an invitation for minorities to participate in the process and be rewarded with some jobs and opportunities that will bring in millions of dollars into this economy.”

La Gaceta editor and publisher Patrick Manteiga pointed out that there were definitely winners and losers economically who emerged from the 2012 Republican National Convention.

“There was a party atmosphere with the attendees of the RNC, but some parts of the city didn’t share in that partying,” he said.

Security concerns will undoubtedly be a primary concern, as they are at all major events held in the U.S.

Referring to this week’s terrorist attack at the Manchester Arena in England, Manteiga said: “You hope that things don’t devolve over the next few years to where hosting these things start to look like the RNC, where you’ve got empty blocks that surround the stadium because of security concerns.”

Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez remembers the security that permeated Tampa during the second Super Bowl held here in January of 1991, shortly after the Gulf War had begun, America’s first serious military intervention since the Vietnam War. “Sometimes I think these big events are the safest places you can be at, ” he said.

Tampa International Airport will look different in 2021. The current interior construction that has been going on over the past year will be done, with new restaurants and shops up and running. And the new rental car facility will be up and running (the entire master plan for the airport won’t be completed until 2026).

Food Not Bombs activist Dezeray Lyn was detained by Tampa Police for attempting to feed the homeless the weekend before last January’s NCAA college football championship.

Lyn called the event another “priority crisis for the city.”

“One being that in advance of these high-profile events, the city launches into erasure mode and enacts processes of city beautification which mean the issues of houselessness and hunger are invisibilized by displacement,” she said. “The second being that the city then profits multimillions and fund appropriation doesn’t divert in any meaningful way typically to programs that change or better the circumstances of those most struggling in our community. In short, the red carpet will roll out for tourists, while the impoverished community will either remain the same or be worse off for it.”

Former County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said: “The direct economic value is probably a wash — but the branding & opportunity to promote our economic hubs — from Vinikville to Innovation Place & Westshore is invaluable. “

USF journalism professor Wayne Garcia called the Super Bowl an event for the “one percent,” but conceded that it’s fun and will bring the community together. But Garcia doesn’t want to hear about what an economic boom it will bring to the Tampa Bay area.

“True economic development comes from real investment: in targeted and supported public education, in infrastructure and in focusing on new industries to develop. A Super Bowl doesn’t help any of those things. This state and its lawmakers have consistently turned solely to tourism and real estate as the engines of our Florida economy,” he said.

Unconventional Green Party candidate Shawn Mathis Gilliam files for HD 58 race

As a member of an alternative third party, Shawn Gilliam’s worldview and ideology are not easily explained; it could make it hard to break through with voters in House District 58.

The 32-year-old Plant City resident recently filed to run for the seat currently held by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson.

A recent convert to the Green Party, he does not agree with their stance in support of medical marijuana, saying its effects are too negative for the body.

While raised as a Christian, Gilliam converted to Islam “about three Ramadans ago.”

He says in some respects he’s quite conservative. He’s pro-life and anti-same-sex marriage.

“I would like to present a bill making the Islamic Nikah (marriage contract) a legally binding contract for marriage and any other religious marriage contract that is legally binding between the husband and wife if it pertains to religious affiliation,” he said in a follow-up email.

He is a passionate environmentalist and supports the need for more green energy.

He’s also anti-fluoride in the water, and in an email statement, said that he favors polygamy. ‘Islam recognizes Poligomy [sic], and I would like to get that legal in our state as well,” he writes.

Raulerson defeated Democrat Jose Vasquez by 16 points, 58 to 42 percent, in November.

HD 58 covers most Hillsborough County’s eastern suburbs.

Rick Baker airing first TV ad

Rick Baker is going up with his first campaign ad.

The former St. Petersburg mayor, who served from 2001-2010, wants his old job back. But to do so, he’ll have to wrest it away from incumbent Rick Kriseman. 

Kriseman’s first ad went up two weeks ago. Baker’s is going up today on local cable news stations in the Tampa Bay area. He debuted it Tuesday night at a fundraiser in Midtown.

Watch below:


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