Mitch Perry - 7/282 - 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.

Mitch Perry Report for 12.19.16 – Florida electors feel the heat while the rest of the nation freezes

Florida’s 29 Republican presidential electors gather in Tallahassee today to vote for well, presumably for Donald Trump, who defeated Hillary Clinton by 1.2 percent in the Sunshine State on November 8.

While the world awaits to see if there’s any movement with the 290 nationwide Republican electors, our electors will be voting in perfect conditions, with the forecast set for 65 degrees today in the Capitol.

That’s a far cry from the weather conditions of electors from much of the country today, and should be noted.

More than three dozen record low temperatures were set in the Midwest and Plains this past weekend with actual air temperatures in the 20s and 30s below zero, while wind chills plunged into the minus 40s and even a few 50s at times in some cities. Subzero low temperatures were observed as far south as Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle Sunday morning. Huron, South Dakota and Marshall, Minnesota each set a record yesterday at 31 degrees below zero.

I’ve got the air-conditioning running in my home this morning, which, let’s face it, sort of kills the whole Christmas/holiday feeling. But I’ll refrain from complaining when I see the images of multi-car pileups and outright deaths around the nation due to icy road conditions.

Back when this presidential season really kicked into high gear – this past February in New Hampshire, I dealt with an inclement weather situation that, well, not to be dramatic, could have killed me.

On the Friday before the first primary in the nation, New Hampshire was rocked by a blizzard that, frankly, freaked me out. Considering I’ve only lived in San Francisco and Tampa, I haven’t dealt with a lot of snow conditions. Sheltered yes, but the fact is, I almost died driving down a turnpike from Manchester to Nashua, when I hit my brakes and went skidding over the road.

Yes, it’s annoying not to really get into the Christmas spirit when you have to turn your air conditioner on, but considering what it’s like in 80 percent of the rest of the country, those of us waking up today in Florida are damned fortunate folks.

As far as Florida’s electors? Yes, their feeling some intense pressure to reconsider voting for Trump. But none of them say they’re going to flip, so while there will be a lot of press coverage on this today, is it really that big of an event?

In other news..

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission is closer to extinction after a vote by the local state delegation.

South Florida Democrat Tim Canova says he may run again against Debbie Wasserman Schultz in 2018.

Hillsborough Clerk of the Circuit Courts Pat Frank got in the local delegation’s face on Friday calling for more funding for her office.

And Alan Grayson is not completely done in Washington. On Friday he announced two bills trying to hold Donald Trump accountable.

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Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission likely doomed after local delegation approves bill to kill it

The troubled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission received a terminal diagnosis Friday after members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation voted unanimously for a local bill that would eliminate the agency on December 31, 2017.

After that, the County Commission would pick up its regulatory duties.

“The public has lost complete faith in the ability of this agency to regulate credibly, equitably and efficiently,” said bill sponsor James Grant said before the entire delegation vote in support of his bill.

The proposal was similar to a previous bill Grant brought to the local delegation in 2013 that sought to put a stake through the heart of the agency, but with a significant difference.

The local bill approved on Friday gives the county and the PTC a full year to contend with the transition.

“It’s not about moving fast. We want to make sure we avoid any unintended consequences,” Grant said. That was in notable contrast to the 2013 version, which would have killed the agency immediately, making it a bridge too far for other legislators to support, even with noted PTC critics like Dana Young

“I think the plan is to subcontract the regulation out to Uber, isn’t it?” asked Brandon Senator Tom Lee, eliciting the largest round of laughter of the morning.

Although meant for humorous effect, there’s no question that the addition of Uber and Lyft into the county ultimately was the beginning of the end for the PTC, which was already burdened with a toxic reputation well before the emergence of ride-sharing in Hillsborough County.

Among the previous lowlights that had saddled the PTC came in 2010, when Cesar Padilla, then the executive director of the agency, resigned after it was reported that he had been moonlighting as a security guard.

There was also the case of former County Commissioner Kevin White, was busted in 2008 for taking bribes for helping tow company operators to get permits in his role as PTC chair. White ended up serving three years at the U.S. Penitentiary in Atlanta.

The PTC caught the attention of lawmakers like Grant and Jeff Brandes after the PTC went after Uber when it introduced its Uber Black limo service during the 2012 Republican National Convention in Tampa. The PTC shut that effort down quickly.

Those lawmakers became incredibly irritated with the PTC and its (now former) chairman Victor Crist over the past few years, as Uber and Lyft refused to comply with PTC regulations. That led to PTC agents citing those drivers, leading to court actions and more than two years of fighting before an agreement bringing both companies into compliance occurred last month.

At Friday’s meeting, County Commission Chairman Stacy White said, “the county stands prepared to take over regulation of this industry and create a meaningful regulatory framework.”

“I think that those types of things would be able to be implemented by the county with relative ease,” White said. “We do stand prepared to create a lean, regulatory framework.”

The PTC has been funded by fees paid by the taxicab and limousine companies, not directly by taxpayers. Plant City Republican Representative Dan Raulerson asked White if the county would continue to fund their regulatory efforts in the same fashion.

“We certainly do have the ability to charge various permitting fees to offset the costs of the regulatory process,” White said.

“It seems like a good move in broadening out transportation options,” added recently elected Commissioner Pat Kemp.  

“I support it, and I realize that there are 66 other counties in the state of Florida that have figured out how to do this,” said Tea Party activist Sharon Calvert. “Let’s get it done.”

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Pat Frank again attempts to make her case for more $ for clerks office at delegation meeting

Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court Pat Frank made an impassioned plea to the members of the Hillsborough County Legislative Delegation Friday to give her office more money.

It’s a speech Frank has repeatedly done to state lawmakers in recent years, and she once again cited statistics reflecting how much her agency is doing with so much less since the Great Recession of 2008.

At that time, Frank said the Clerk’s office had 954 employees and a $78.2 million budget. Now it’s a $58.8 million budget with 699 employees.

“We have done everything that we can possibly do to economize, to modernize, to customize the office to the technology that’s needed,” Frank said. “Our customer service has been improved. Everything is working well. But we’ve suffered budget cuts for nine consecutive years.”

Frank’s office is not the only one with major complaints about the lack of funding from Tallahassee. Earlier this year, the Broward County Clerk of the Court sued the state regarding the issue, calling on a Leon County circuit judge to declare “funding of the offices of the clerks of the circuit and county courts performing court-related functions” as unconstitutional.

Clerks of the Court from some of Florida’s biggest counties have been making the argument for years that the state doesn’t give back what is owed to the individual offices. The South Florida Sun-Sentinel reported last year that overall, the 67 clerks of court take in more than a $1 billion, but their allocation from Tallahassee in 2015 was less than half of that — $444 million to be precise.

“I find it confounding that as the legislature in its wisdom back when we had Article V say we were to be fully funded, as the Constitution says that we are to be fully funded,” Frank said. She added that her office sent back $10.8 million more to the state’s general fund last year than they took in.

She said the Legislature is free to spend the money they’re keeping from local clerk’s office in any way they fashion, naturally, but questioned spending $6 million to upgrade the state Senate chamber.

“I was there when the Capitol was constructed,” Frank told lawmakers, referring to her previous career in the Legislature.

“And I don’t need a face-lift yet,” she quipped.

Following Frank to the podium was Andrew Warren, the just elected State Attorney in Hillsborough County. After he too complained about a lack of funding for his office, Brandon Republican Sen. Tom Lee, the head of the local delegationwas sympathetic, acknowledging that the reduction in foreclosures and fines has hurt the funding for those offices.

 

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.16.16 — Friday follies

Good morning to you all on this, the last Friday MPR I’ll be filing in 2016 …

Good news for those of us on the Affordable Care Act: While the GOP-led House of Representative promise to repeal the ACA within the first 100 days of the Trump administration, the date that the provisions of the act will be delayed, according to a report in today’s New York Times, by as “short as two years or as long as three or four years.”

The GOP always said it would repeal and replace — they just didn’t say how long it would take.

With just three days left before members of the Electoral College vote for president, time is running out for those Democratic electors who want Director of National Intelligence James Clapper to brief them on the latest news about the Russian email hack.

Ain’t going to happen, obviously, and that’s the way it should be, says Florida Senator Bill Nelson. At a news conference in Tampa yesterday, he said, “They’re going to have to go on and do their constitutional duty, regardless of them being able to be briefed on intelligence matters. Just to be able to receive classified information, a person has to go thru an extreme vetting process to make sure that there’s nothing in their background that would then compromise that information in the future. That’s simply not going to happen between now and next Monday.”

Matt Drudge has a link to a Daily Caller story this morning regarding the fact that six Hispanic surnames were among the top 15 common last names in 2010, according to figures released by the U.S. Census Bureau. Deal with it, America — the country is getting browner by the day.

Keith Ellison, a leading candidate to run the Democratic National Committee next year, is throwing his support behind real estate mogul Stephen Bittel in next week’s race for Miami-Dade County party chair, Patricia Mazzei reports in the Miami Herald.

Speaking of Bittel, though he says he’s trying to be low-key about it all, the above mentioned Senator Nelson seems dead set behind Bittel taking over the Florida Democratic Party next year as well. 

In other news.

Nelson and Kathy Castor reacted with strong rhetoric yesterday regarding the reported Russian intrusion into hacking DNC emails.

Will St. Pete Pride move from the Grand Central District to downtown St. Pete?

Deb Tamargo and Jonny Torres are in a torrid contest to see who leads the Hillsborough County Republican Party over the next two years.

And in Tampa yesterday, union activists say its time for Wal-Mart to start having to pay for all of those calls for service to the police.

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St. Pete Pride officials say they intend to move event downtown

The St. Pete LGBT Pride Parade is moving to downtown St. Pete.

But is it a done deal?

Traditionally held in the Historic Kenwood neighborhood and Grand Central District, officials with the annual festival now say the parade in 2017 will move to a downtown staging location, beginning at Albert Whitted Park and proceed along Bayshore Drive to Vinoy Park.

Officials say this route crosses fewer intersections than the current route, which will make it easier to secure and provides fewer points of potential intrusion. They also say it will provide additional space for parade viewing.

“In 2016 we had an independent economic impact survey conducted that found 50 percent of attendees come from outside of Pinellas County and stay an average of 2.6 nights,” says Eric Skains, executive director of St. Pete Pride. “Since the change from a one-day to a multiday event, the economic impact has grown from $10-million to over $20-million. By giving more options to attendees, we hope this impact will continue to grow as the event becomes more accessible to them.”

In a statement issued Thursday, St. Pete Pride officials say that the current parade staging area at 31st St. N. and Third Avenue N. is slated for redevelopment. Multiple new locations were reviewed, including an option utilizing the Tropicana Field parking lot for parade staging.

“With a focus on security of attendees, production costs, and the potential for growth, the St. Pete Pride Board was presented with the downtown St. Petersburg option for consideration at December’s board meeting,” says the statement.

Organizers say the three-day celebration will include a Friday night event in the Grand Central District, a Saturday evening parade along Bayshore Drive, and a Sunday Festival in Vinoy Park.

“It was extremely important to the board that the Grand Central District remain part of St. Pete Pride Weekend,” says Skains. “Grand Central will always be a special place for the LGBTQ community. We fully intend to work closely with the district to ensure the Friday night event is supported by our sponsors and marketed equally with the parade and festival.”

Not everyone is down with the move.

Former City Councilman Jeff Danner wrote on his Facebook page: “It is a shame this Board has abandoned its roots and the community that started Pride. Grand Central and Historic Kenwood supported it back when others did not.”

His page was filled with comments from residents who live in Kenwood and the Grand Central District who are not pleased with the decision, and many apparently will be taking up City Council Chair Amy Foster’s comment that people should contact Mayor Rick Kriseman to oppose the move.

“I recommend everyone make their voice heard on this issue to the Mayor,” Foster wrote. “I have had one conversation with him yesterday, and he opposes the move but needed to have more discussions on Pride’s contract.”

 

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In Tampa, Bill Nelson calls Russia hack on DNC email server “closer to an act of war”

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson Thursday called the Russian hacking into the Democratic National Committee’s email system an unprecedented outrage that is “closer and closer to an act of war.”

Speaking to reporters at his Tampa district office, the Florida Democrat made his most outspoken comments yet about the continuing-to-evolve story.

Last Friday, the issue reached a new level of attention, after The Washington Post reported that a secret assessment by the CIA concluded Russia intervened in the 2016 election to help Donald Trump win the presidency, rather than undermining confidence in the U.S. electoral system.

“Not only is this an outrage,” Nelson said. “This is unprecedented. This is crossing the line, closer and closer to an act of war.”

Nelson added that hacking information to influence an election is damaging to the integrity of an election.

“I think there’s going to be serious ramifications of this, regardless of where you hear that different people in the intelligence community have differing opinions,” he said. “Listen: When there is a high consensus of high confidence, that’s the highest level of acceptance of intelligence. And that consensus is out of the CIA? I believe it.”

U.S. Representative Kathy Castor was also condemning the hacking into the DNC and Hillary Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta’s email server account on Thursday.

“The United States must hold Russia accountable for cyber attacks against our country, our electoral system and the private intellectual property of American businesses,” she said in a statement. “These Russian cyber attacks were not a move against any one party, they were a move against our nation and all Americans. The United States also should consider broader sanctions against the Russian government following a robust, bipartisan investigation to confirm the extent and identities of responsible individuals, including Vladimir Putin himself. “

Castor also lashed out at President-elect Trump’s laissez-faire attitude toward the Russians in this story.

“President-Elect Trump should reassess his knowledge and rhetoric toward Russia and be more circumspect in maintaining the dignity of the office upon which he is about to enter,” she said. “America must stand strong and not capitulate to Russia and President [Valdamir] Putin and their often malicious ends.”

At his news conference, Nelson was asked by this reporter if any of Trump’s selections to his Cabinet gave him pause. Nelson referred to Arizona Senator John McCain’s concerns, but not his own.

“You take John McCain — he’s got some serious problems so we want to see what through the examination of the testimony to what degree does his friendship and past business dealings with Russia and Putin how would that possibly affect him in representing the national security of this interests as Secretary of State, and I look forward to that inquiry.”

There are now at least 54 of the 232 Democratic presidential electors who are now calling on national intelligence director James Clapper to authorize a briefing ahead of the Electoral College meeting on Dec. 19 to choose the next president.

Only one Republican — Texas’ Chris Suprun — has joined their call.

Nelson said it wasn’t going to happen, and that it shouldn’t happen.

“The electors are not going to be granted access to the deepest secrets of this country,” he summarily declared Thursday. “They’re going to have to go on and do their constitutional duty, regardless of them being able to be briefed on intelligence matters. Just to be able to receive classified information, a person has to go thru an extreme vetting process to make sure that there’s nothing in their background that would then compromise that information in the future.

“That’s simply not going to happen between now and next Monday.”

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Union activists want Wal-Marts in Tampa Bay region to pay price for offshoring security costs

Although retail giant Wal-Mart is known for low prices, it’s increasingly earning a reputation for offshoring security costs to local law enforcement agencies.

Earlier this year, the Tampa Bay Times reported that law enforcement in four counties logged 16,800 calls to Wal-Marts in one year alone.

It’s much the same around the nation. An Arizona Republic investigation published this month revealed that between 2011-2016, three of the top five addresses to which Phoenix police officers responded were Wal-Mart stores.

In Beech Grove, Indiana, city officials in 2015 declared Wal-Mart a public nuisance, after a local news station reported that Beech Grove police had been called to the store more than 1,000 times in the last two years.

“We’re very concerned about this issue,” said Marc Rodriguez of the West Central Florida Labor Council. Rodriguez was gathered with activists with the Fight for $15! movement in front of the Wal-Mart store on Dale Mabry Highway in Tampa.

“We know that Wal-Mart is a tremendously profitable corporation. They’re the largest retailer,” he said. “The largest private sector in the world, and with all of that we feel that a basic level of responsibility should come with that as well.”

Jenny Divish, an organizer for Making Change at Wal-Mart, said that they’re working on trying to get the Tampa City Council to pass an ordinance that would penalize and fine a property owner or tenant $2,500 for every call that exceeds more than 10 calls to the police per month.

“Until we get them to the city council until we pass this resolution like Beech Grove, Indiana and all these cities,” Divish said, “Wal-Mart’s not going to be held accountable and they’re still going to take these public dollars, until they’re held accountable at a higher level.”

Divish said in her discussion with council members, there is a desire for more hard data on calls to service before they come forward with any resolution.

Making Change at Wal-Mart is affiliated with the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union.

 “The reason why this issue exists its part of a pattern on the part of Wal-Mart in terms of irresponsible business practices and in terms of trying to cut corners,” Rodriguez said. “We know that in recent years Wal-Mart has eliminated a lot of positions. They’re eliminating cashiers and replacing them with machines. It gives people the message that Wal-Mart doesn’t care about what’s going on in their stores.

“This is part of a pattern, the same way in which Wal-Mart cuts corners and passes the cost of securing their stores onto the public in terms of relying on the police and straining the resources of communities, that’s the same way that they pass the cost of their low wages and lack of benefits on to the public as well.”

Making Change at Wal-Mart said this television ad (shown below) is running in Tampa and other cities Thursday:

 

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Bill Nelson lauds Florida Democratic Party chair contender Stephen Bittel

Controversy continues to swirl around the selection process to determine who is eligible to run next month for the job of Florida Democratic Party chair,

Sen. Bill Nelson is now weighing in with his most effusive comments to date about Stephen Bittelthe Coconut Grove real-estate magnate and major political donor seeking to become the next chairman of the FDP.

Bittel is slated to face former state Sen. Dwight Bullard for a position in the Miami-Dade Democratic Party next Tuesday, with the winner expected to run for the party chair position made vacant after Allison Tant announced she would not run for another term last month.

There has been an uprising among some Democrats, however, who contend that the system is being rigged to allow him to be eligible for the position.

To run for FDP chair, one has to be an Executive Committee member of a county DEC.  To qualify for that, one must be a precinct captain.

Bittel was one of more than 100 people formerly sworn in as a member of the Miami-Dade County Democratic Executive Committee last week, but critics contend that there was not a quorum present, and thus not binding.

Business consultant Bret Berlin was voted to be a state committeeman at the same event. However, Berlin then stepped down from his position, making it possible for Bittel to run for his seat and subsequently for FDP Chair, and leading to more not so wild conspiracy theories.

Many Democrats smell something nefarious in the machinations. Officers with the Brevard County DEC are requesting that the FDP launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding that Miami-Dade DEC reorganization meeting held last week.

“Based on reports in POLITICO and the Miami Herald, and first-hand accounts from fellow Party members in Miami-Dade, we believe there is reason to suspect rules violations that may inhibit our Party’s ability to fairly elect a Florida Democratic Party (FDP) Chair who truly represents the people of Florida, and may instead lead to the backdoor ascendancy of a big-money candidate for the office,” reads a letter sent to Tant by Brevard County officials.

There has been speculation that Nelson is backing Bittel for the party chair position.

During a news conference Thursday at his Tampa district office, Nelson was asked about this by FloridaPolitics.com.

“I have kept a low profile,” Nelson said. “Because I do not want to inject any thought that I am trying to strong-arm anybody, which I am not.”

He then continued by saying Bittel is now eligible to run for chairman.

“Having said that, it’s time for us to get a very professionally run Democratic Party that has a chance of standing up against a very organized and very well-funded Republican Party,” Nelson added. “As we go into this next cycle in electing a governor, a state cabinet as well as my position in the Senate. Not even to speak of all the other offices that are more local and district in nature.”

“I think Stephen Bittle would bring that type of professionalism to the organization,” Nelson concluded, making it pretty clear who the senator thinks he should run the party moving forward.

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Deb Tamargo battles Jonny Torres for future control of Hillsborough County Republican Party

November 8 was a pretty great night for Florida Republicans.

For the first time since 2004, the Sunshine State went red in the presidential race; Marco Rubio easily won re-election in his race for the U.S. Senate. And despite the redistricting of every state Senate seat, the GOP lost no seats in the Legislature’s upper chamber.

One not so bright place for the GOP was in Hillsborough County, where Hillary Clinton won decisively against Donald Trump, putting a dent into the county’s reputation as a reliable bellwether for the presidential race.

Now Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee Chair Deb Tamargo is being challenged in her bid for another two-year term by her second vice chair, Jonny Torres. The two engaged in an hourlong debate Wednesday night at La Teresita Restaurant, sponsored by the Hispanic Republican Club of Hillsborough County.

It began amicably enough, with Tamargo confessing that while the party could have apparently fared better in the election, it’s never been in better shape when it comes to issues like transparency and accountability. Torres agreed with her that party members have a stronger voice than under previous party chairs. But that would be the last time the two agreed on virtually anything the rest of the evening.

“The reason I’m running is there are candidates who were unsuccessful and elected officials who really felt that they were on their own,” Torres said flatly. “They weren’t getting the kind of support financially or with volunteer efforts.”

“I have to disagree with Jonny that we did not provide candidate support because we provided more candidate support than in previous years,” Tamargo replied. And she challenged Torres to name names of unhappy Republican candidates.

Torres responded that he has been endorsed in the race by Hillsborough Republican state House members Ross Spano, Dan Raulerson and Jamie Grant and said there were more“Out of respect to Chairwoman Tamargo, not everyone is willing to step forward,” he said. “What I keep hearing from the campaigns and the consultants time and time again is that they saw little to no members from the REC supporting their efforts.”

Tamargo strongly disagreed, saying that she knew that virtually everyone in the room had worked on the campaigns of at least one of the several Republicans who were on the ballot last month. She boasted of having the ability to fund first-time candidates for the first time, as well as providing slate cards, messaging and campaign “walkers” who went door to door to advocate for Republicans.

There are approximately 39,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans in Hillsborough County today. Some of that is attributable to the growing Latino population in the county, a demographic that both candidates agreed needs more attention from the Republican Party. But that led to another dispute about how much of that outreach has already occurred.

Tamargo said that the Hillsborough County REC for the first time had purchased airtime on urban radio and Spanish-language radio, and made those spots available for all candidates. “Some made themselves available, some did not,” she added.

Torres, who worked on Hispanic outreach in the Tampa Bay area for the Republican National Committee in 2015, said the most important thing was for the party to simply show up at events designed around the Hispanic community.

Approximately 50 people gathered to watch the debate, with the crowd occasionally making remarks indicating their support for a specific candidate.

During the Q&A session, the two candidates were asked how much time they would have available to chair the committee each week (the position is a voluntary one).

“I dedicated more than 40 hours a week to the mission,” said Tamargo. “I’m a workaholic. I can’t balance very well.”

With a full-top job and a family, Torres said he couldn’t specify exactly how much time he’d have available. He said he looked up to other GOP chairs like Blaise Ingoglia (the chair of the Republican Party of Florida), Joe Gruters or Nick DiCeglie, but then attempted to put the focus back on Tamargo. “No one can take away the hours, but what do we have to show for it? My philosophy is that we work smarter, not harder.”

The two also voter registration numbers, with Torres saying that Tamargo waited too to begin an all-out effort this year. Tamargo said she actively began those efforts a year-and-a-half ago. Torres says he would hire a political director to concentrate on those efforts year round.

Members of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee will decide between Tamargo and Torres on December 20.

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Mitch Perry Report for 12.15.16 — Pier politics, part VIII

St. Pete City Council members are scheduled to receive a report on the progress of the St. Petersburg Pier at City Hall this morning.

Architects from ASD Architects, Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers, representing the Pier and W Architecture and Landscape Architecture and Wannemacher Jensen Architects, representing the Pier Approach will present updated renderings of the new Pier. According to a news release, City staff will report on timing, budget and next steps.

Not covering St. Petersburg on a regular basis these days, I have to admit I wasn’t aware where we all were in the process. Otherwise occupied, I didn’t realize that there has been an additional $20 million added to the budget from Pinellas County. For years the top line had been $46 million, which it remains in terms of how much the city will allocate to it.

As reported in yesterday’s Times, now Mayor Rick Kriseman wants the county to cough up an additional $14 million that has been earmarked to build an intermodal transportation center for light rail and buses. That now pushes the budget up to $80 million.

“I don’t want us to have any regrets down the road,” the mayor tells Times columnist John Romano this morning. “I want to be able to give the community something really special.”

When I closely covered the saga of the Pier in 2012-2013, I learned that while removes the element of the downtown crowd was all in for “The Lens” and couldn’t be bothered to hear arguments for maintaining the now razed inverted pyramid Pier, many people in the community felt otherwise. Though Councilman Wengay Newton was depicted as just being eccentric in supporting the 1973 model, he was actually onto something with his resistance to making such a change.

So, yes, people, the Pier is a complicated thing.

Like the never-ending saga of the Tampa Bay Rays, it’s still hard to predict how this whole Pier thing is going to work out. Though there is a sentiment within the same circle of folks who liked the Lens to just quash the whole damned thing, that won’t work.

So maybe Kriseman is on to something. It’s hard to say when it comes to the Pier. City Council members in the past year have found their voice in confronting the administration regarding the sewage crisis — will they as a whole resist the urge to keep on spending on something “really special”?

In other news …

In a health care committee meeting in the Florida Senate yesterday, some health care providers say this whole managed Medicaid system isn’t working out so well for them.

While Tampa Bay area lawmakers try to pass a law that removes the suspension of driver’s licenses for a series of crimes unrelated to driving, they don’t do so for drug crime.

Hillsborough County Commission Pat Kemp heard from some Tampa-based constituents not happy with the low salaries that are so prevalent in the area.

The Tampa Bay History Center is about to go through an $11 million expansion.

And critics of the Tampa Bay Express project aren’t surprised to hear FDOT Secretary Jim Boxold call for a ‘reset,’ but they want the whole thing killed.

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