Mitch Perry - 3/293 - 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 mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

Rene Flowers endorses Barclay Harless in St Pete City Council District 2 race

Pinellas County School Board member Rene Flowers is backing Barclay Harless in his bid for the St. Pete City Council District 2 seat this year.

“Serving on the R’Club and Louise Graham Board of Directors, I can attest to Barclay’s leadership abilities and his dedication to service. Having worked with Barclay on a number of important initiatives in the Midtown area, I know that he is committed to ensuring that every child has access to a quality education,” Flowers said in a statement released by the Harless campaign. “He understands that the only way to achieve this goal is for all levels of government to work together. Barclay has the vision, the plans, and the fresh perspective we need to lead St. Pete in the right direction. I look forward to working with him on making our city a better place for all of its residents.”

“We are running a grassroots campaign powered by small businesses, St. Pete residents, and community leaders who want a fresh perspective to get things done in city hall,” said Harless. “The challenges that face our city may seem daunting, but they are man-made, so we have the power to solve them. We will not find solutions in finger-pointing or empty political rhetoric. Rather, our problems require bold, decisive action.”

Flowers has served on the school board since 2010. Before that she served on the St. Pete City Council for two terms, from 1998-2006.

Harless is a banker and a former aide to Democrat Darryl Rouson when he served in the Florida House.  He is running against real estate agent Brandi Gabbard in the District, which represents the Gateway and North St. Pete areas. It is the first time running for public office for both candidates.

 

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Hillsborough County calls for advisory board to study creating housing trust fund

Concerned that the price of living in Hillsborough County is becoming increasingly unaffordable, the Board of County Commissioners approved a motion on Wednesday calling for its affordable housing advisory board to explore potential sources to create a Housing Trust Fund.

The vote was 5-1, with Commissioner Al Higginbotham dissenting.

“A trust fund is easy to create, but it’s impossible to fund,” Higginbotham said, referring to a similar proposal the board rejected less than a year ago. “That was the bottom line then, and the bottom line now.”

The motion was presented by Commissioner Victor Crist, who kicked off the discussion by citing a Housing and Urban Development report that said the average cost of rent in Hillsborough County was $992 a monthCiting the rule of thumb maxim that one shouldn’t spend more than a third of their income on housing, Crist said that amount to having to make more than $46,000 annually.

The Tampa Bay metro area comes in last among its 25 peers with the only median household income below $50,000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Higginbotham asked where would the money come from? “We could take it from a transportation project. We could take it from Head Start. I don’t know where we take this money from?”

Commissioner Les Miller agreed. “Where do we get these dollar funds?” he asked, dismissing any chance of raising taxes to do so.

Commissioner Sandy Murman emphasized that affordable housing is different than housing for the homeless where there is currently a $30 million to $40 million deficit for the homeless.

The county has asked for more funding from the state for affordable housing, but that could be problematic. Governor Rick Scott’s proposed budget would shift nearly 77 percent of the $293.4 million earmarked for low-income housing next year to other state priorities.

Last year, the Tampa Housing Authority said that there were 14,000 low income people on a waiting list with them.

For the past few years,  the Hillsborough Organization for Progress and Equality (HOPE) has come before the board requesting that the county make a larger commitment to affordable housing. Members of that group came before the BOCC last May, where they made the argument that there are more than 700 city and county governments with a similar housing trust fund.  They offered proposals to create such a revenue source, including public service taxes, an increase in ad valorem taxes, or funds taken from code enforcement violations.

Crist advocated for his proposal by telling commissioners that there was a “ticking time bomb” going on with the price of housing in the county.

“How are we going to ever support and sustain what investors like (Jeff) Vinik want to do, if half the employees aren’t going to be able to live close to where they want to work?” he asked.

 

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Hillsborough Co. Commission to explore paid parental leave for full-time employees

Following the recent move by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and other municipalities around the state and the country, the Hillsborough County Commission unanimously voted on Wednesday to explore the possibility of providing paid parental leave to its more than 5,000 full-time employees.

The idea was proposed by Commissioner Sandy Murman, who said passing such a measure will give a clear message to county employees and millennials that, “You can come to work for government and have a great job, and your benefits will also be in line with the job that you are seeking.”

“We should be a leader on the parental leave issue and doing what we can for employees of the county and for quality of life,” added Pat Kemp, the only other female on the board.

Commissioners Stacy White and Ken Hagan requested for County Administrator Mike Merrill to study what the costs would be to the county and how that it would compare to similar local governments and private companies of similar size.

Two weeks ago, Buckhorn announced a new policy for city of Tampa employees that will provide primary caregivers with eight weeks and secondary caregivers with two weeks of paid leave after the birth of a new child or placement with the employee of a child for adoption or foster care.

Commissioner Victor Crist, who recently became a new father, said it was important to not only look at the financial need such a policy, but also the psychological aspects of it.

“If a family member with a new child returns back to work before that child is really prepared for that family member to leave the household, there is a huge psychological impact, and that affects productivity,” Crist said.

Murman agree, saying the current county policy of having only one week of paid leave off for a primary caregiver can undoubtedly create anxiety. “We all know that the first months are the most nurturing months for a young mother, a young father with their new baby or adopted baby.”

“It’s not seen on a piece of paper as a finite, but it’s absolutely part of the equation,” Murman added. “They shouldn’t have to decide between working because they can’t afford to take the time off, or taking care of their baby.”

In St. Petersburg, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced a paid family leave policy giving primary caregivers six weeks off in back in 2014. A similar policy was approved in Miami Beach last fall.

Earlier this week, the Seattle City Council voted to expand their previous family leave policy for city employees, going from four weeks to 12 weeks, as well as creating a new four-week family leave policy for employees who need to care for sick family members.

Three states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — have paid family leave policies in place, while 18 other states are considering similar measures.

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Charlie Crist signs on to letter calling on GOP to refrain from cutting family planning funding

St. Petersburg Representative Charlie Crist is adding his voice to a collection of House Democrats opposing a vote scheduled this week that would ban funding for Planned Parenthood and other family planning organizations under the Title X National Family Planning Program.

“Title X-funded health centers, like Planned Parenthood, provide birth control, mammograms, cancer screenings and family planning services for millions of women across the country,” Crist said in a statement. “These attempts to restrict a woman’s access to comprehensive reproductive care – disproportionately impacting low-income women – cannot stand. We must stand up for women’s rights and the women’s health organizations that provide this much needed care.”

The letter was signed by members of the Congressional Pro-Choice Caucus. Other Florida Democratic House members signing on to the letter sent to House Speaker Paul Ryan include Kathy Castor, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, Ted Deutch, Val Demings and Darren Soto.

The letter criticizes the GOP in the 115th Congress for several other measures, including passing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act of 2017, which would, among other provisions,  effectively make the Hyde Amendment permanent. That’s the 1977 law that has banned any federal funding for abortions. That bill would also ban federal funding for health benefits plans that cover abortions and ban federal facilities and federal employees from providing abortions.

Throughout his political career, Crist has at times referred to himself as both “pro-life” and “pro-choice,” but has consistently touted a pro-choice agenda since becoming a Democrat in December of 2012.

Here’s the letter sent to Speaker Paul Ryan:

Dear Speaker Ryan:

We write to express our grave concern for efforts to undermine Title X family planning.  Despite promises to focus on jobs and the economy, Republicans have started the 115th Congress with a total assault on women’s choices, access to care, and economic security by:

  • Charging ahead to sabotage and dismantle the Affordable Care Act (ACA) while making no promises to preserve vital protections for women;
  • Providing little to no details on their plans to replace ACA, while making a point to announce that their ACA repeal package will block access to Planned Parenthood, a high-quality, long-trusted provider of reproductive health services;
  • Rushing to impose and dramatically expand the global gag rule, harming women around the world; and
  • Advancing the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act(H.R. 7) through the House, effectively banning private insurance companies from covering comprehensive reproductive health services.

Now, with their most recent effort to weaken the Title X national family planning program through the Congressional Review Act, Republicans have demonstrated that they will stop at nothing to limit women’s access to vital health care.  Sadly, this includes contraception and family planning services that all women need.

For more than 40 years, Title X has served as a cornerstone of safety-net care. As the only dedicated source of federal funding for family planning, Title X allows a diverse network of providers to deliver high-quality care to low-income, uninsured, or underinsured individuals and to those seeking confidential care. In 2014 alone, Title X-funded clinics helped prevent approximately 904,000 unintended pregnancies, 326,000 abortions, and 439,000 unplanned births.  In addition to direct clinical care, Title X also supports critical infrastructure needs for health centers, including new medical equipment and staff training that are not reimbursable under Medicaid and commercial insurance. This infrastructure is vital to ensuring safe, quality care at health centers which serve and provide basic health services to high-need populations.

Throughout both Democratic and Republican administrations, Title X has been interpreted to prohibit state actions that block providers or classes of providers from participating in a Title X project based on factors unrelated to a provider’s qualifications to perform the required services. The networks include providers ranging from state, county, and local health departments as well as hospitals, family planning councils, Planned Parenthood affiliates, federally qualified health centers and other private non-profit organizations.  In fact, in instances when states have passed laws to limit provider participation in Title X, federal courts have consistently held that those state laws are contrary to, and preempted by, federal law.

In response to a growing number of states targeting family planning providers for exclusion from key federal health programs, including Title X, the previous Administration proposed the regulation “Compliance with Title X Requirements by Project Recipients in Selecting Subrecipients.”  The regulation, which was finalized in December 2016, helps ensure patient access to family planning services and supplies through qualified providers by reiterating that “no recipient making subawards for the provision of services as part of its Title X project may prohibit an entity from participating for reasons other than its ability to provide Title X services.”  During the rulemaking process, the Department of Health and Human Services received more than 145,000 comments, the vast majority of which supported the rule.

Women across the United States, and the men who support them, have had enough.  It is unconscionable that this common sense clarification has become a political football for members of Congress who want to limit women’s access to comprehensive reproductive health care. We urge you to stand in support of women and oppose this assault on contraceptive access and care.

Sincerely,

 

 

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Tampa Bay Times acknowledges its recent stories on Mosaic spill are inaccurate

Last week, the Tampa Bay Times quoted two retired hydrology experts who slammed the phosphate giant Mosaic and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection over the massive sinkhole that exploded under a gypsum stack at Mosaic’s New Wales plant in Mulberry last summer, resulting in 215 million gallons of radioactive wastewater released into the Florida aquifer.

Don Rice and Mary Hrenda told the Times that a full year before the incident, monitoring wells around the stack showed a sinkhole was developing, and that both Mosaic and the DEP should have been aware of the sinkhole at the time. The information was also presented at a news conference last Friday with environmental groups in Manatee County.

“They should have seen this 2016 sinkhole coming,” Rice told the Times last Thursday. “Alarm bells should have been going off — danger, danger!”

Now the Times acknowledges that Rice and Hrenda have retracted their statements.

“News organizations routinely cover disputes between two credible sides, and that’s what we did in our original story,” says Jennifer Orsi, managing editor of the Times, in an email. “Mosaic, which declined to discuss the allegations for that story, responded the next day, and we covered that as well. Now, the hydrologists quoted in our original story have retracted their findings and expressed regret, which we will cover in a story on the front page of Wednesday’s Tampa Bay Times. Stories evolve, and we routinely cover those steps as they happen.”

Upon publication of the story Friday, both the DEP and Mosaic strongly disputed the report, and on Tuesday the first independently affiliated group, a relatively new organization based in Florida called the Center for Sustainability and Conservation (CFSC) weighed in.

The group released findings from an independent, Florida-licensed geologist, which also contradicted information originally published in the Times about the genesis of last year’s spill.

“Our geologist concluded that the increase in water levels were due to a grouting program in the area and not the precursor to a sinkhole. In his opinion, an indication of a sinkhole would have produced a drop in water levels, not an increase,” said Dave Gray, founder and Executive Director of CFSC.

Gray said he had his own independent Florida-licensed geologist, Abner Patton, reviewed the data and information Rice provided to environmental groups at last week’s news conference.

In his report, Abner writes that the “significant rise in water levels” in the three recognized aquifers near the New Wales facility “is not related to an event associated with the 2016 sinkhole collapse. In fact, our interpretation would be just the opposite response, significant decline in water levels would have occurred as the sinkhole was developing.”

Abner also refers to a grouting program conducted in the spring and summer of 2015. He notes that it is his interpretation that significant level changes in the three wells “are the result of a successful grouting program within the confining unit.”

“The data and information surrounding Florida’s natural resources and geology are complex and multidisciplined,” Gray said. “It is imperative that everyone understands such data can be used to draw false claims and manipulate conclusions to different outcomes, especially if examined by someone who is not licensed in Florida and does not have a thorough understanding of Florida’s unique geology.”

Rice and Hrenda, who is his wife, both worked as hydrologists in New Jersey, not Florida.

The Times report was challenged last week by the DEP, which said that the data in question have “nothing to do with the formation of the 2016 sinkhole.”

“The data the Tampa Bay Times provided is referring to monitoring wells under the closed North stack at the New Wales facility, which was closed in 2005, not under the South stack where the 2016 sinkhole formed,” the DEP said on Friday.

“I don’t think they did their diligence on evaluating the data, I think they chose some data they thought could carry a message and ran with it, whether or not that message was correct,” said David Jellerson, Mosaic’s Senior Director of Environmental and Phosphate Projects.

At the news conference in front of the Manatee County Commission last Friday, a host of environmental groups called for an investigation of the DEP, and said they were sending a letter to Gov. Rick Scott and State Attorney General Pam Bondi. It was signed by Suncoast Waterkeeper, the Center for Biological Diversity, People for Protecting the Peace River, ManaSota-88, Sierra Club Manatee-Sarasota and Saving the Face of Florida.

They said that the agency was “negligent, possibly criminally negligent” when it failed to recognize warning signs of a sinkhole and taking preventive measures to drain the stack.

On Wednesday, Mosaic officials are set to go before the Manatee County Commission over the proposal to approve the expansion of a phosphate mine on a 3,600-acre plot in Myakka City. The environmental groups strongly oppose the plan.

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Activists are pushing for Pinellas to be declared a sanctuary county

Despite a published report listing it as a sanctuary county, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri adamantly rejects classifying Pinellas  with such a designation. But a group of activists who held a news conference in St. Petersburg on Tuesday want the County Commission to call themselves a ‘welcoming’ county.

They met in front of City Hall to call on the members of the City Council to support a resolution, calling on the Pinellas County Commission to give themselves that title. Although there is no formal definition of a sanctuary city or county, it’s generally recognized as a community that has advised its law enforcement officers not to cooperate with the federal government when it comes to detaining undocumented immigrants unless they have committed a crime other than legally entering the country.

A report issued out on Tuesday by the liberal Center for American Progress said that contrary to President Trump’s recent claims, low-income immigrants access fewer public benefits than U.S.-born individuals. Activist Kofi Hunt cited that report in making his case for Pinellas to become a sanctuary county.

“When you have policies that basically treat undocumented people who live in the community as residents, you don’t hunt them down, and they feel comfortable integrating into society, that it’s better for the community and that’s one reason we’re saying this,” Hunt said.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman recently got himself into a slight kerfuffle with Gualtieri after making a statement earlier this month where he declared that “While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws.”

The editorial page of the hometown Tampa Bay Times also criticized Kriseman for the statement, writing that “Kriseman’s statement was a well-intended message of inclusion during a time of uncertainty and division over immigrants’ place in American society. It’s a shame he muddied it with poorly chosen words.”

Hunt applauds Kriseman’s intentions, saying it reflects the character of St. Petersburg and the values of the people who live in the city.

Marc Rodrigues is with the West Central Florida Labor Council. He says that people who risk everything to make it to this country so that they could feed their families or find better opportunities “are not our enemy.”

“As the Florida labor movement we stand in opposition to Trump’s recent executive orders concerning immigration and we are also troubled by the fact that lawmakers in Tallahassee – with all the problems in this state that need to be addressed, from our embarrassingly low wages to our public school system and infrastructure – are wasting precious time and resources on trying to pass laws that would actually punish local municipalities that decide to take a “welcoming” or “sanctuary” stance toward immigrants and other vulnerable communities,” Rodrigues says in an email. “We stand with our community partners here in Pinellas and Hillsborough and elsewhere who are trying to pass such statutes and call on our local leaders to heed these efforts.”

Hassan Shibley, the executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations Florida, said President Trump’s executive orders on immigration, as well as comments made on Sunday by senior White House adviser Stephen Miller that the President’s power on national security and how it will “not be questioned” are very concerning.

“The President thinks he has authority that is not granted by the constitution,” said Shibley. “The president holds these beliefs and it is up  to the states and the counties to protect their residents against a President who clearly doesn’t respect the constitution.”

Given Gualtieri’s previously very public stance against being considered a sanctuary county, Shibley admits it won’t be easy to persuade the County Commission to override their own sheriff. But he says they must.

“It’s a challenge, but I think more people are recognizing  that we need to unite to build communities where all of our residents feel safe, and I think the more we see aggressive policies coming out of the White House that show a total disrespect for the rule of law, the Constitution, and the limits on authority, that the more support we’ll see at the local level to take action that make people feel welcome and feel safe,” he says.

” I think we live in a time of a fast growing civil rights movement and I think my hope is that voices that stand in the way of that will  further be  marginalized as time goes on,” Shibley added.

“I’m sure the Sheriff will have his position, but from the energy that you’re seeing after the election, a lot of it is in tune with solidarity with immigrants,” says Hunt. “It will take some political ppressure, but that’s why I myself and others work as activists and organizers on the grass roots level,to let local residents about the issues at hand and how we can address them, and once  we get the people active and engaged in the topic, will see which way the political winds blow.”

The Center for Immigration Studies has also listed Hillsborough as a sanctuary county, a charge that Sheriff David Gee denies. Two weeks ago, a large group of citizens addressed the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council to recommend to the County Commission that Hillsborough become a sanctuary county. BOCC Chair Stacy White says he has no interest in doing so.

Last week in Tallahassee, Fernandina Beach Republican Aaron Bean and Yalaha Republican Larry Metz introduced companion bills ( SB 786 and HB 697)  that would ban “sanctuary polices” in Florida and create fines and penalties for state agencies, local governments, or law enforcement agencies that use those policies and don’t cooperate with the federal government.

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Documentary on status of women in U.S. to screen at Tampa Theatre on Feb. 20

The Equal Rights Amendment, an amendment proposed to the U.S. Constitution in the 1970’s designed to guarantee equal rights for women, fell three states short of ratification.

A 2016 documentary that makes the case for the ERA, “Equal Means Equal,” will get its first screening in the Tampa Bay area next Monday night, February 20, at the Tampa Theatre, hosted by the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality and We are Women.

It will be a full evening, as a panel discussion will follow the screening, featuring former Dr. Carolyn Collins, the former President of the Hillsborough County branch of the NAACP, Dr. Diane Price-Herndl, the Chair, USF Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s Janelle Irwin and Susan Smith, the president of the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida.

There will also be a limited number of tickets are available for a pre-show VIP reception, hosted by the Law Office of Jo Ann Palchak, P.A. The reception will feature remarks from Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, and public defender Julianne Holt.

“Equality under the Constitution would benefit women, men and families, and we are delighted to participate in this screening and discussion with the Tampa community,” said Jessica Neuwirth, President of the ERA Coalition/Fund for Women’s Equality and author of the book Equal Means Equal.

“Thank you Tampa for joining us in continuing to learn and support the key aspects of the Equal Rights Amendment. Collectively, we are a great nation and with our continued effort we will eliminate the barriers amongst all in favor of a more equal America for our children and generations to come,” said Wendy Cartwright, President of We Are Woman.

For more information on attending the screening and reception, you can go the Tampa Theatre’s website.

 

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Kevin Jackson takes over the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission

Six weeks into 2017, the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission finally has a new executive director to succeed the controversial Kyle Cockream. It’s Kevin Jackson, who is expected to remain with the troubled agency as it transitions into obsolescence at the end of the year.

Jackson’s contract is only good for the end of the year. Legislation pending in Tallahassee would dissolve the PTC, and there is already work being done to transition the infrastructure of the PTC onto the Hillsborough County Commission. Unlike every other county in the state, the county commission in Hillsborough has not regulated the use of for-hire vehicles. Instead, the Legislature through a Special Act created the Hillsborough County PTC in the 1970’s. That means only the Legislature can dissolve the PTC.

The local Hillsborough delegation voted in December to support a bill sponsored in the Florida House by Tampa Republican Jamie Grant calling for the agency to die by December 31 of this year.

“We have a very unique opportunity as the Special Act is repealed, a clean slate and start over, and start moving those responsibilities into the county in some way, shape or form,” Jackson told PTC members, adding that he’s “highly motivated to get this done by December 31.”

This is not the first time that Jackson has served the PTC. In 2013, he served a seven month stint as interim director, filling in between the time that former PTC director Cesar Padilla resigned and before Cockream was hired.

PTC board members unanimously approved the terms of Jackson’s contract, which will pay him $130,000, retroactive from Monday. He will undergo a background check and is required to attend classes on ethics as part of the contract.

Jackson had been the chief investigator of Hillsborough County’s Consumer Protection Agency when County Administrator Mike Merrill recommended he succeed Padilla in September of 2013. His selection came after Padilla’s tenure had become untenable after it was revealed he was moonlighting as a security guard at a used equipment auction.

Cockream’s hiring in early 2014 was supposed to help clean up the agency’s troubled reputation, and for awhile, it did.

He came in with a sterling reputation coming off of a 28-year career with the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s office, but things were changing with the agency, as ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft  began operating in Hillsborough County in April of 2014. Cockream (initially along with former PTC chairman Victor Crist) became the faces of the agency as it began cracking down on Uber and Lyft drivers, who were operating illegally by not agreeing to be regulated by the PTC.

Litigation ensued shortly thereafter, before an agreement to have the ridesharing companies operate legally was finally signed in late 2016.

Cockream announced shortly thereafter that he would be resigning for good at the end of the year as his tenure had become increasingly controversial, after revelations about some of his actions as PTC chairman caused discomfort with some members.

It was not the first time that he  announced he was leaving the agency. In April of 2016, Cockream said he would be stepping down in July, shortly after Florida Politics reported Cockream had met with Palm Beach County commissioners regarding issues related to the ridesharing companies.

He continued to stay on the job, but a series of released email exchanges with officials from the taxicab and limousine industry in Tampa prompted new criticism, none more damaging than the report he had used employees from local taxicab and limousine companies to assist in PTC-led sting operations to issue citations to Lyft and Uber drivers. That development prompted the Florida Dept. of Law Enforcement to open up an investigation into those charges, but it ended with no action.

However, last month the FDLE opened a new inquiry into Cockream, this time regarding his handling of public records. On Monday, Cockream repeatedly pleaded the Fifth Amendment during a deposition into whether public records were deleted from agency cell phones, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

Meanwhile, also at Tuesday’s meeting, the PTC board opted to reject the recommendation by PTC staff to hire Gray Robinson to investigate Cockream’s actions as head of the PTC.

“I think the expectation is that this board will no longer be in existence so to some degree it’s a moot point,” said Nate Kilton, a PTC board member and Plant City Commissioner. “I think potentially it’s a waste of dollars. I think we need to be looking forward and not backwards.”

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On MSNBC, David Jolly wonders how serious Donald Trump is taking the presidency

David Jolly is in New York this week, making the rounds at the cable news networks as one Republican not afraid to criticize Donald Trump.

On his latest appearance on MSNBC’s The Last Word (with guest host Joy Reid), the former (and possibly future?) congressman from Florida’s 13th District called Trump’s first month in office “his JV moment,” specifically referring to Stephen Miller’s performance on the Sunday morning shows.

Miller is the 31-year old senior adviser to Trump who is reported to be working alongside Steve Bannon in crafting the President’s messaging.

Among Miller’s most provocative comments was on CBS’ Face The Nation, when he said, “The media and the whole world will soon see, as we begin to take further actions, that the powers of the president to protect our country are very substantial and will not be questioned.”

“The first month of the Trump administration has been his JV (junior varsity) moment,” Jolly said on MSNBC. “Get the 31-year-old sweaty kid off the TV, and bring in the steady senior hand.”

Jolly compared the beginning of Trump’s presidency with that of George W. Bush’s, the last president elected without winning the popular vote. Jolly said that Bush 43 surrounding himself with senior Washington officials like Dick Cheney and Andy Card, who, he said, “whether you liked them or not, we’re a steady hand.”

“We will see turnover, and frankly, this 31-year old should not have been the voice of the president on Sunday morning TV when we’re in such a pivotal moment,” Jolly said.

Jolly also questioned how seriously Trump is taking his job as the most powerful man in the free world.

“I think this is the very quiet anxiety of most Republicans, including congressional Republicans, is how serious is the president taking this job?” he asked. “He is our president. President Donald Trump. Like him or loath him. But how seriously is he accepting this responsibility and the anxiety we have is based upon the decisions he made in the first 30 days, the people he is surrounding himself with?” Jolly asked.

Jolly appeared Monday on CNN’s New Day as well and is scheduled to make another appearance on MNSBC later this week.

The 44-year-old Jolly has been increasing his media profile in recent weeks (complete with stylish glasses and a new beard) as he keeps his options open regarding 2018. Jolly lost by 3.8 percentage points against Charlie Crist, in the race for Florida’s 13th Congressional District last fall.

He engendered speculation that he was considering another run for the seat in 2018 when he hired former Crist staffer Vito Sheeley last monthThe circumstances behind Sheeley’s departure from working for Crist remain shrouded in mystery, part of was has led people to wonder about Crist’s somewhat rough beginning in his short time in Congress.

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At USF, Kathy Castor touts legislation to address growing need for more nurses

Nursing is one of the fastest-growing occupations in the country.

But despite that growth, the demand is still outpacing the supply. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.2 million vacancies will emerge for registered nurses between 2014 and 2022.

And according to Dr. Charles Lockwood, the medical dean of the University of South Florida’s Morsani School of Medicine, the gap may be even worse than anticipated. He says because the demand for nurses is going to expand with our changing health care delivery systems, “we don’t know what the number is, really.”

That’s why Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor says she became a co-sponsor on a bill last week (H.R.  959) that would extend education nursing grants to support clinical nurse specialist programs.

“It provides a pathway to good paying jobs and nursing all across the country and is especially important in a state like Florida that continues to grow and have such needs for a nursing work force,” she said at a news conference held at the newly revamped USF College of Nursing George & Marian Miller Center for Virtual Learning on Monday. “The bill allows for certain scholarships and repayment programs and encourages nursing professionals to go into underserved neighborhoods and to learn clinical skills.”

Although noting that the Tampa Bay area’s unemployment numbers are impressively low, it is still a struggle to bring higher paying jobs to the region. Nursing, Castor said, is a direct pathway to a good paying job for someone in a hospital, doctor’s office, or as a teacher.

Dr. Lockwood agreed, saying that the real problem in the nursing industry is a loss of faculty members to teach the nurses of tomorrow.  “That’s really the primary job that I think we face at USF, to make sure the faculty pipeline is filled,” he said.

The statistics bear him out.

According to an American Association of Colleges of Nursing report, “U.S. nursing schools turned away 79,659 qualified applicants from baccalaureate and graduate nursing programs in 2012 due to insufficient number of faculty, clinical sites, classroom space, clinical preceptors, and budget constraints.”

“A lot of our students have to work and go to school at the same time so they can go to pay their college tuition, and by having this type of program, that allows them to have their education paid for, (and) they’re able to concentrate more on their studies,” said Dr. Teresa Gore, Director of Experimental Learning at the USF College of Nursing.

“Investing in our nurses is an investment in our health, an investment in our community, and an investment in our sustainability as a vibrant society,” added Dr. Donna Petersen, Dean of USF College of Public Health, the Interim Dean at the USF College of Nursing.

 

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