Mitch Perry - 5/282 - 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.

Dennis Ross says he opposed original GOP vote to gut ethics office

Following the uproar Tuesday morning over a private vote by House Republicans to gut the independent Office of Congressional Ethics, the GOP conference voted to restore rules that have been in existence for the past eight years.

However, the PR damage has been substantial.

A spokesperson for Polk County Republican Dennis Ross says the GOP Representative opposed Monday night’s vote to gut the OCE, created in 2008 after several members of Congress were convicted of crimes and sent to jail. The office has the power to conduct investigations of House members and employees who have been accused of violating laws, rules or congressional norms.

“Rep. Ross opposes the change to the rules. Conference is meeting now in a special session. I suspect it will be stripped,” emailed Jodi Shockey, Ross’s communications director, late Tuesday morning to FloridaPolitics. As she predicted, the House Republicans reversed their vote shortly afterward.

The Florida Democratic Party said they wanted to know which Republicans did vote to support gutting the OCE.

“Floridians deserve to know which of their Republican members of Congress voted to gut the Office of Congressional Ethics last night,” said spokesman Max Steele. “If they would like to offer any justification whatsoever for why they feel there should be no ethics oversight for members of Congress, we’re all ears. After turning a blind eye to Trump’s historic corruption and conflicts of interest, it’s no wonder Republicans want a piece of the action.”
The Miami Herald reported that Carlos Curbelo and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen did vote in support of killing the OCE on Monday night.

Tuesday’s reversal came after President-elect Donald Trump tweeted his disapproval, as did Democrats and even the head of the conservative-leaning group Judicial Watch.

The House GOP vote on Monday night effectively killed the OCE, stripping it of its independence. It would have reported to the House Ethics committee, meaning that Congress would ultimately control the investigations of its own members.

The office would no longer take anonymous complaints and would not be authorized to make public statements or hire a “communications director or press spokesperson” to speak with news outlets. And it’s name would change from the Office of Congressional Ethics to the Office of Congressional Complaint Review.

Two members of the Florida Democratic Congressional delegation blasted the move earlier in the day.

“Shameful move by House GOP on first day of new Congress” tweeted Tampa Democratic Representative Kathy Castor.

In a similar vein, the move was blasted by South Florida Democratic Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who tweeted: “Day 1 & wants to gut the ethics process. Governing under a cloak of darkness is not how to .”

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Vern Buchanan begins new session of Congress by introducing seven new bills

Returning for his sixth term in the House of Representatives, Vern Buchanan is hoping to for significant change in the 115th Congress, announcing that he is introducing seven new bills just hours before he is being sworn back into office.

The Sarasota-based Republican says his top priorities over the next two years include tax reform and reducing burdensome regulations to create jobs, preserving Medicare and Social Security, protecting America from terrorists and balancing the federal budget.

“As the new Congress gets underway we have a historic opportunity to move the country forward with policies that encourage economic growth and restore fiscal sanity to Washington,” Buchanan said.

The seven bills Buchanan will introduce today include:

— The Main Street Fairness Act, a key feature of the tax reform blueprint released by House Republican leaders, ensures that small businesses never pay a higher tax rate than large corporations.

— The Social Media Screening for Terrorists Act, which directs the secretary of Homeland Security to vet all public records, including Facebook and other forms of social media, before admitting foreign travelers and visa applicants into the country.

— The Support Our Start-Ups Act, which makes it easier and less costly for an entrepreneur to start a new business. The bill would quadruple the amount of startup costs small business owners can deduct from their federal income taxes, raising it from $5,000 to $20,000.

— The Emergency Citrus Disease Response Act, which passed the U.S. House last Congress but not the Senate, aids Florida orange growers in their battle against citrus greening, which is decimating the citrus industry. The legislation provides tax incentives for farmers who cannot afford to replace trees affected by citrus greening.

— An amendment to the Constitution of the United States that requires Congress to balance the federal budget. Balancing the budget is an urgent priority as the U.S. is nearing $20 trillion in federal debt.

— The Thin Blue Line Act, which toughens penalties against anyone who murders police and other first responders. The bill would make the murder or attempted murder of a first responder an “aggravating” factor in death penalty determinations.

— The SAFE Act, which permanently bans the killing of horses for human consumption in America. The bill also bans the export of live horses to Mexican and Canadian slaughterhouses where the animals are killed and then shipped overseas.

Buchanan represents Florida’s 16th Congressional District, which now includes parts of eastern and southern Hillsborough County, in addition to Sarasota and western Manatee counties. He defeated Democrat Jan Schneider last fall.

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Activists cheer Andrew Warren’s swearing in as new Hillsborough County State Attorney

As Andrew Warren was being sworn in as the new Hillsborough County State Attorney early Tuesday morning, approximately a dozen activists stood outside the at the George E. Edgecomb Courthouse to cheer his ascension.

“Our purpose this morning is to welcome change into this Hillsborough County criminal business system!” declared Life Malcolm through a megaphone.

In what was considered a major upset in Hillsborough politics, Warren defeated 16-year Republican incumbent Mark Ober by less than one percentage point (50.44 percent vs. 44.66 percent) on November 8. A former federal prosecutor with the Dept. of Justice in Tampa and Washington D.C., the 40-year-old Democrat campaigned on a platform opposing what he said was Ober’s aggressive prosecution of low-level drug crimes, to the detriment of fighting violent crime.

“We have been so focused on the one goal, retribution and punishment,” he said at one point of the campaign, “that we have lost sight of the other goals: reducing recidivism, rehabilitation, and victims’ rights.”

“He challenged the African-American communities, the poor communities, and asked, ‘what can I do to help?’” said Malcolm. “And he laid down his plan for change, told us that he would be a voice for us who have historically been disenfranchised, and the people showed up for Andrew Warren, just like Andrew Warren showed up for us, and so today on his swearing-in day, the people showed up again to greet him.”

During his monologue, Malcolm cited examples of what he said was the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s office under Ober of unequal justice, citing the high profile cases like Deborah Lafave and Jennifer Porter. 

Porter was the former school dance teacher who fled after killing two black children and injuring two others with her car in Tampa in 2005. Though Ober’s office did aim to send Porter to jail, Circuit Judge Emmett Lamar Battles sentenced her to two years of house arrest and three years of probation.

Lafave, the former Greco Middle School teacher whose case made national news, was sentenced to three years of house arrest and seven years of probation after pleading guilty in 2005 to having sex with a 14-year-old boy.

“Under Mark Ober’s tenure, Debra Lafave came to this courthouse right here and admitted to raping her students more than one time,” said Malcolm. “Her lawyer stood in front of a judge and said, ‘judge, this woman is too pretty to go to prison.’And she didn’t go. That was the defense!”

“Go in and tell your lawyer to tell the judge that you’re too pretty to go to prison! You do that, and see how that works for ya!” he added.

“We want equality for everyone,” said Yvette Lewis with the Hillsborough County NAACP. “We reached out to the other state attorney and didn’t get anywhere, so now we have a new person in, and we’re letting him know the community voted him in.”

Lewis and others at the demonstration stressed that it was the black vote in Tampa that was crucial in helping Warren narrowly edge out Ober, who rarely if ever had faced an opponent in his previous elections.

“We put him in office,” Lewis asserted, saying that while Ober won the vote outside Tampa, Warren won in the city with its large percentage of African-American voters.

For years, Hillsborough County under Ober was among the leading counties in the nation in incarcerating juveniles in adult jails and prisons, something noted on Tuesday by longtime Tampa activist Connie Burton. “We want to turn that all around,” she said. But she cautioned Warren that she isn’t acting under any “false hope.”

“This is not a love fest. We’re talking about reform now. Stop the prosecution of these low hanging drug charges,” Burton said.

Burton also says the activist community wants a Citizens Integrity Board, similar to a citizens review board that has been established in Tampa to review policies and procedures by the police dept.

At approximately 8:20 a.m., Warren exited out of the Edgecomb Courthouse after being sworn-in by Chief Judge Ronald Ficarrotta, he greeted the activists individually.

“We’re looking forward to you keeping your promise, just like we kept our promise to you,” Malcolm shouted out to him through his megaphone.

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Mitch Perry Report for 1.3.17 – Remembering Justice Perry’s words

With Republicans in control of all branches of state government for what is approaching nearly two decades, one check on their levers of power has been the Florida Supreme Court, which has at times has served as a safeguard to what some would call the Legislature’s worst excesses, such as redistricting and the death penalty.

Until last month, Gov. Rick Scott hadn’t been able to do a damn thing about the state’s highest court, but that changed when Justice James E.C. Perry was required to step down on Saturday because of a constitutional requirement that judges leave at the end of their term after they turn 70.

Perry’s successor is Alan Lawson, who had been the chief judge of the 5th District Court of Appeal. But while Lawson is Scott’s first opportunity to shape the state’s highest court in his own image, he’s been keeping busy doing so at the lower levels for years. As the News Service of Florida’s Brandon Larrabee reported, all of the state’s five district courts of appeal now have GOP-appointed majorities.

Scott alone has appointed nine of the 15 judges on the 1st District Court of Appeal, which is based in Tallahassee and hears most of the cases challenging the authority of the Governor and the Legislature.

But before we forget about Perry, it’s worth revisiting some of his provocative comments he gave to the Miami Herald’s Mary Ellen Klas in an exit interview published in the Times on Saturday, particularly on the emphasis by conservatives on the whole “originalist” judicial philosophy (he gave a similar interview to the News Service of Florida, of which some of the most provocative comments were excerpted in a column by the Florida Times-Union’s Tia Mitchell).

“They say that the Constitution is stagnant and I don’t think it is. I think it is living — like the Bible is living,” Perry said, referring to the “originalist” argument that first received a broad hearing when Robert Bork was nominated to the Supreme Court, and what is considered the abiding judicial philosophy of Antonin Scalia. “Should I want to be an originalist and go back to the original thinking of the Founders? No. Never. I’m not enamored by places called plantations. That doesn’t give me warm and fuzzies.”

Perry considers the Founders, “flawed people” who were wise but not omniscient.

“They were slave owners,” he said. “These people didn’t have divine intervention. They had some great ideals, but it didn’t include poor whites. It didn’t include women. We weren’t even human beings; we were chattel. It didn’t include the Native Americans, and it didn’t include merchants. It included land owners, or planters they called them.”

He noted that slaves were not allowed to marry, and black men had to submit to their owners at all costs: “They’d come in and want to have favors with your wife — whatever you call her — you would have to stand outside the door. Think about it, just in terms of human sense. How debilitating, how dehumanizing can you get?”

He believes he would “be a fool” to want to turn back the clock to the originalist intent of the founders.

“I’m not trying to divine what they might think about me,” he said. “They didn’t have computers. They didn’t have airplanes. They didn’t have cars. How could they have thought about even putting that in the Constitution?”

Something to consider as Donald Trump decides on his first justice to the U.S. Supreme Court — and when Scott tries to pack the court when he leaves the governor’s office in two years. But that’s a different discussion for a later date.

In other news …

The Florida Republican and Democratic parties will be voting for their state chair in a week and a half. Sarasota state committeeman Christian Ziegler is challenging incumbent Blaise Ingoglia.

Meanwhile, it’s a wide open race with the Democratic Party. Tampa (or should we say Hampton’s) Democrat Alan Clendenin informed state committee executive members over the weekend about his plans to reform the party.

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Alan Clendenin details how he will attempt change in Florida Democratic Party culture

With the Florida Democratic Party chair election slated for the middle of this month, jockeying for the position begins this week.

On New Year’s Eve, Alan Clendenin sent a memo to Florida Democratic Party State Executive Committee members on immediate reforms he would implement if elected to succeed Allison Tant.

Clendenin lost to Tant for the party chair position four years ago, and the Tampa Democrat (who relocated to Bradford County two weeks ago to make him eligible to run this year) is determined to take the top spot this time around.

And with the party having lost 17 of the last 18 elections for statewide cabinet or Governor, there is plenty of work to be done.

Since moving from Tampa to Hampton, Florida, last month, Clendenin says he’s spent considerable time listening to the concerns and frustrations of party leaders across the state and has determined that “it’s clear that the FDP’s leadership culture needs to change.”

The longtime DNC and state committeeman says that while state committeemen and committeewomen in each of the state’s 67 counties are the elected leadership of the Florida Democratic Party, those members have “virtually no influence on decisions related to resource allocation, hiring practices or vendors. Most members feel ‘out-of-the-loop.'”

“This is unacceptable,” he asserts.

To change that direction, Clendenin is vowing to work with the State Executive Committee to have them become more empowered and engaged.

“As Chair, I will provide State Executive Committee members with regular opportunities to participate in the processes of setting policy, strategic planning and oversight,” he writes.

He says that means holding monthly meetings of the State Executive Committee that will be held via conference call and online. That’s in addition to the quarterly in-person meetings currently taking place.

Clendenin says that if he’s in charge, the FDP will provide regular training for State Executive Committee members on communications and fundraising.

He vows to also provide Finance Committee members with copies of budgets in advance of the meetings at which they are submitted for approval.

“I will open meetings of the FDP’s Finance Committee to any State Executive Committee members that wish to attend,” he writes.

Clendenin says he will ensure that Committee members be given access to all FDP budgets, not just the operating budget.

Regarding the party’s relationship with outside vendors, Clendenin says that upon taking office, he will order an immediate review of the FDP’s relationship with outside providers and issue a report to State Executive Committee members. Clendenin vows that he his staff will create a request-for-proposal process for future vendors that rewards contracts based on electoral results, “not relationships.”

Furthermore, he says that he’ll institute an immediate ban on staff and contractual vendors from receiving commissions or kickbacks from other vendors for work done on behalf of the Florida Democratic Party, and prohibit staff from participating in outside employment or contractual work that “presents a real or perceived conflict of interest.”

Clendenin is one of five candidates vying for the FDP position. Others are Stephen Bittel, the Coconut Grove developer who some media outlets described as a leading candidate; former state Sen. Dwight Bullard (who, like Clendenin, had to move to a different county become eligible for the position), Duval County Committeewoman Lisa King, and Osceola County Democratic chair Leah Carius. 

The election takes place January 14 in Orlando.

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Charlie Crist says “God would be pleased” if Donald Trump shows more heart towards Dreamers

Charlie Crist is one congressional Democrat who appears to be greeting the incoming Donald Trump administration with an open mind.

“Whatever it is that we come to help American workers get back to work and help the middle class and our country, we need to do it together and do it in a spirit of cooperation,” the St. Petersburg Democrat told CNN’s Jake Tapper in an interview broadcast on “State of the Union” on Sunday.

That spirit of cooperation includes embracing a Trump proposal to place a 35 percent tax of tariff on U.S. businesses wanting to take American jobs overseas.

“It’s all about jobs and making sure that we have American jobs protected, we protect the American worker, give them the opportunity to be able to provide for their families, get a college education,” Crist said.

Last month, Trump tweeted that he would impose such a tax on products sold inside the United States by any business that fired American workers and built a new factory or plant in another country.

Crist participated in a discussion with three other members of Congress speaking with Tapper about some of the proposals that Trump has made both during the campaign and in the transition period.

Trump officially takes office in 19 days.

Trump’s hardline stance on immigration helped galvanize his support with the GOP base, but he recently indicated a reappraisal of how to contend with so-called Dreamers, the children of undocumented immigrants brought to the United States as children.

In the interview naming him “Man of the Year” last month, Trump told Time Magazine that, “We’re going to work something out that’s going to make people happy and proud,” when it comes to dreamers, adding that “they got brought here at a very young age, they’ve worked here, they’ve gone to school here. Some were good students. Some have wonderful jobs. And they’re in never-never land because they don’t know what’s going to happen.”

When asked by Tapper if that appeared to be a backing away from his earlier stance, Crist said yes, and he said he’s glad that’s the case.

“Being a nation of immigrants, I think it’s important we embrace that kind of hope,” Crist said. “I would say to the president-elect, I appreciate you showing your heart. And if it’s a little softer, what’s wrong with that? God would be pleased.”

The former Florida governor then made it personal by referring to his grandfather as an original dreamer.

“My grandfather Adam Christodoulos immigrated in 1914 when he was 12 and when he got here he very soon joined the army, and he fought World War I, he was honorably discharged, and as a result of that, he was able to gain his citizenship, that’s sort of a latter-day dreamer, if you will,” he said.

Crist said that “as a nation of immigrants” it was important for the country to continue to embrace that type of opportunity.

Crist defeated Republican incumbent David Jolly in November. He will be sworn into the 115th Congress on Tuesday.

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Mitch Perry Report for 1.2.17 – Praising Dalvin Cook

Happy New Year!

Today in Tampa, the Outback Bowl takes place, one of four college bowl games on tap on this national holiday.

Traditionally, New Years Day is college football’s big day, but that has changed in recent years, with the College Football Playoff semi-final games on Saturday night taking center stage (also, the NCAA bowed down to the NFL on Sunday to allow them to finish up its regular season).

We’re now a week away from Tampa hosting the third annual National College Football Playoff game, which will feature Alabama vs. Clemson, a rematch of last year’s game.

USF and Florida State won their respective bowl games late last week, and can I personally give it up to FSU star running back Dalvin Cook?

Unlike some other star running backs who opted to eschew playing with their teammates in their final game before they go pro, Cook played in the Orange Bowl on Friday night, saying that he never contemplated sitting it out. And he was a huge part in the ‘Noles thrilling victory over Michigan.

Let’s look at Cook’s stats over his time at FSU: He nearly eclipsed 4,500 career rushing yards while rushing for his 19th touchdown for the second year in a row. Add 900+ career receiving yards. He finished only ninth in balloting for the Heisman Trophy, however.

The debate about whether stars with serious NFL aspirations should sit out their bowl game was ignited last month when first LSU’s Leonard Fournette, and then Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey announced that they would not participate in their team’s bowl games, ostensibly so they could prevent being injured and preserve their potential high NFL draft status

As far as I could tell though, there really wasn’t much “debate.” Most people who weighed in seemed to agree that it made sense that with future millions at stake, it’d be foolhardy for them to participate.

Dramatically, moments before Friday night’s Orange Bowl, it was announced that Michigan start Jabril Peppers wouldn’t play in the game, with skeptics immediately said he was doing a Fournette/McCaffrey to preserve his potential NFL draft status. However, Peppers said that he injured his hamstring on Thursday, and couldn’t not play. He emphatically denied that he sat the game out intentionally.

Look, the way that these stars don’t get to share in the financial profits of their universities certainly makes it understandable that they wouldn’t want to hurt themselves and their potential earnings in the game.

Michigan start tight end Jake Butt injured his knee early in Friday’s game in what was later diagnosed as a MCL or ACL injury. As a possible first round pick himself, Butt could be used as an example of why McCaffrey and Fournette did what they did.

But Butt said that wasn’t the case with him at all.

“Never once crossed my mind to sit this game out and I would never change that mindset,” Butt tweeted after the game. “I play this game bc I love it, my teammates, coaches.”

With all due respect to the players who sat out, I think Butt and Cook endeared themselves to a lot of folks by playing in the Orange Bowl on Friday night. And something tells me that if Stanford and LSU had been playing in one fo the Top 6 New Years Bowl games, they’d be playing too.

The best part of all of this is that on Saturday, Cook announced via his Instagram account that he would go pro next year. Here’s to seeing him moving up in the draft compared to his more cautious future NFL mates.

In other news…

Well, we’ve been off for 12 days, so the only story we’ve written of late was regarding Charlie Crist’s appearance on CNN’s State of the Union.

 

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Mitch Perry’s Top Ten films, books and music events of the year

Self indulgence warning.

As I’ve been doing since my first year with Creative Loafing (2009), I’ve assembled a top ten list of my favorite movies, music and books of the year.

When it comes to movies, I remain a stalwart in seeing moving pictures on the big screen. Living within a couple of movie houses helps considerably, but it also hurts — I’ve seen far too many terrible comedies on some weekends because I just wanted to get out of the house – regretting it deeply afterward.

I mean, seeing Robert DeNiro in “Bad Grandpa” – specifically in one scene with his pants around his ankles – was legitimately disturbing, and was a sight that nobody deserves to see.

As someone who goes to the cinema probably an of fifty times a year, I can also honestly say that until the fall season came around, this really was a bad year for Hollywood’s line of products. And there seemed to be less interesting foreign movies/documentaries making their way into the market. I suppose if you have a Netflix membership you can get around that, but I’m limiting this list to movies seen in a cinema, which is why Ezra Edelman‘s,” OJ Simpson Made in America,” won’t be getting any love from this corner.

When reading the top ten movie list, as always, it comes with a caveat that some of the most acclaimed films of the year haven’t been released in the Tampa Bay area market as of December 20, and thus the list can and probably will change in another month or so.

Best Movie

1. Loving directed by Jeff Nichols

2. Manchester By the Sea by Kenneth Lonergan

3. Hacksaw Ridge by Mel Gibson

4. Moonlight by Barry Jenkins

5. Christine by Antonio Campos

6. A Bigger Splash by Luca Guadagnino

7. Nocturnal Animals by Tom Ford

8. Weiner by Josh Kriegman and Elyse Steinberg

9. The Hologram for a King by Tom Tykwer

10. The Eyewitness by James Solomon

When it comes to music and books, I probably saw less live music than I ever have in my life, and that is not a good thing. Part of that has to do with the fact my work prevented me from going to some weekday shows I might want have checked out, but there were also fewer shows I was into seeing. It didn’t help that my annual trip to see a festival – this past year, the Governors Ball in New York — was marred by bad weather that resulted in the final day of the event being canceled.

However, I think I’ve probably never read more fiction that in the past year, and that’s something that will continue.

Best Music

1. David Bowie – Blackstar

2. M83 – Go

3. Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool

4. Beck in concert/Governors Ball, NYC June 4

5. DIIV – Is the Is Are

6. Savages – Adore Life

7.  Wild Nothing – Life of Pause

8.  Hope Sandoval and Kurt Vile – “Let Me Get There” single

9. Car Seat Headress — Teens of Denial

10. Peter Hook doing New Order’s Substance Nov 19, Ritz Theatre Ybor City

Best books

Fiction:

1. The Nix by Nathan Hill

2. Here I am by Jonathan Safron Foer

3. Innocents and Others by Dana Spiotta

4. Sweet bitter by Stephanie Danler

5. Bright, Precious Days by Jay McInerney

Nonfiction:

6. American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin

7.  Strangers In Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild

8. The Accidental Life by Terry McDonnell

9. Disrupted by Dan Lyons

10. The Last Innocents by Michael Leahy

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As 2016 closes, Hillsborough’s transportation problems still mostly unsolved

Another year of our lives is about to become history, and that means another year where little tangible was accomplished in terms of addressing the transportation needs of the citizenry in Hillsborough County.

But a whole lot of people did get angry with each other over the process, anyway.

At this time a year ago, the biggest concern was: What would come out of the Hillsborough County Sheriff Department’s investigation into Go Hillsborough, the two-years-in-the-making transportation plan that called for a 30-year, half-cent sales tax increase?

“The Sherriff’s Office has completed most of the work in its investigation of the Go Hillsborough transportation plan but the results won’t be made public until mid-January,” the late and lamented Tampa Tribune wrote in December of 2015.

But it would not be released in January. Nor in February.

When it was ultimately released in March, the 1,974 page-report from the Sheriff’s office and State Attorney Mark Ober found no evidence of any criminal wrongdoing in how county staff, commissioner and private consultant Beth Leytham acted in the months leading up to the selection of Leytham’s client, Parsons Brinckerhoff, to the project. But any momentum for what was always a rather large lift had been severely thwarted, thought it didn’t mean it was DOA, at all.  The referendum always required a simple majority of commissioners to vote to put the half-cent plan on the November 2016 ballot.

However, some Tampa liberals – considered to be the base of support for the tax – balked at what they said was a plan with too heavy an emphasis on roads and a lack of transit in the city.

On April 27, after hearing more than 60 people speak during a four-hour hearing, the BOCC rejected the plan on a 4-3 vote. The proposal died after Commission Victor Crist, always considered the swing vote on the seven-member board, said he was going with his “gut feeling” in opposing the measure.

But like Freddie Krueger, Go Hillsborough wasn’t quite dead yet.

Flash forward to six weeks later, when another 67 people came before the BOCC to give their views on a slightly revised measure. In this case, the tax would have gone for 20 years instead of the original 30 year-plan. But the vote tally on the BOCC was still the same. Go Hillsborough was dead. Again.

Several months later, the board ultimately voted to approved dedicating $600 million over the next decade to fix roads, bridges, sidewalks and intersections. But not much for transit, which upset newbie Commissioner Pat Kemp.

There is no talk about a referendum going up anytime soon.

While the county went nowhere on addressing transit, the Florida Department of Transportation’s ambitious plan to add toll lanes to Interstate 275, Interstate 4 and Interstate 75, as well as overhauls to the Howard Frankland Bridge moved forward. Sort of.

Opposition to the $6 billion plan Tampa Bay Express project has come most prominently from the areas that would be directly impacted, in Tampa’s Seminole Heights, Tampa Heights and V.M. Ybor neighborhoods, and it’s been lasting and sustaining for more than a year-and-a-half.

The single biggest public hearing on the project took place on a summer night in June, when the Hillsborough County Metropolitan Planning Organization held a public hearing on whether the TBX plan should be placed in its Transportation Improvement Plan for the next five years.

The 12-4 vote in favor of the plan came after eight hours of public hearing and 180 people signed up to speak, with the meeting concluding at 2:18 a.m.

Considered the biggest public works project in the history of the Tampa Bay area, the vote showed that while there are some lawmakers who strongly oppose the plan, the majority of the political and business establishment still remained solidly behind it.

In December, FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold said that he was hitting the “reset” button on the project, bringing in new staff to manage the project, “and work more intensively with the local communities.”

According to a Tampa Bay Times investigation, 80 percent of the registered voters living at properties that FDOT aims to raze for TBX are in black and Latino households.

Another ongoing story that began in 2014 and lasted through most of this year was the continuing drama playing out at the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

At one point during the acrimonious negotiations regarding the level of severity on background checks for ridesharing drivers, Uber pulled out their “Work with us or we’ll leave” card, which carried some real force after they literally did leave the Austin, Texas market over a similar disagreement with local regulators. And in this seemingly never ending saga, the public has, for better or worse, always been on the side of Uber/Lyft, and against the perceived stuffy bureaucrats not willing to adapt to a “disruptive” new mode of transportation.

At times, it got very ugly – and that was just between PTC Chair Victor Crist and his executive director, Kyle Cockream. Neither man ended up looking great at the end of it all, with Cockream first announcing his resignation, then postponing, then resigning again.

Crist, meanwhile, did a 180 from his previous stance in support of going hard on Uber and Lyft, and seemingly overnight became their ally, much to the consternation of fellow PTC board members David Pogorilich and Frank Reddick.

By the end of the year, the beleaguered PTC was barely standing, after a vote by the Hillsborough legislative delegation may ultimately give the agency just twelve more months to find a graceful way to exit the scene, with presumably the regulatory duties being handled by the BOCC, which is the case virtually everywhere else.

And oh, yes, Uber and Lyft drivers are now legally good to pick up and drop off passengers (not that their illegal stance did much to deter them previously).

And then there was the Cross-Bay Ferry pilot project taking residents from Tampa to St. Petersburg and back, a plan spearheaded privately by former County Commissioner Ed Turanchik and publicly by St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, who, hat in hand, was able to procure $350,000 each from the local governments of Hillsborough, Pinellas, Tampa and his own City Council in St. Pete, respectively.

And while there was a lot of fanfare when the rides began, with seemingly every local official being captured on Facebook Live taking a maiden journey, WFLA- Newschannel 8 reported in mid- December that one recent day, only two people had taken the ferry, and a week before, only one passenger was on a trip from Tampa to St. Petersburg.

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Deborah Tamargo re-elected as Hillsborough GOP chief

Deborah Tamargo has won re-election as chair of the Hillsborough County Republican Party.

Tamargo withstood a challenge from Jonny Torres, the second vice chairman of the party, winning 94-58 over Torres on Tuesday night at the party’s reorganization meeting at MOSI in North Tampa.

Torres ran an insurgent campaign against Tamargo, who was narrowly elected in 2014 over former chair Debbie Cox-Roush. He claimed party membership and interest had dropped in recent years, and that local candidates weren’t really helped by the REC in the most recent election cycle.

Tamargo challenged those assertions, and ultimately the rank and file voted to stand by her.

Other elected races were not contested: Jeff Lukens was unanimously re-elected first vice chair, and Bob Emerson was re-elected party treasurer.

Jeanne Webb was elected secretary.

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