Phil Ammann - 3/393 - SaintPetersBlog

Phil Ammann

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

Rick Kriseman heads to Tampa next week for re-election fundraiser

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman hits the other side of Tampa Bay next week for a fundraiser in his re-election effort, joined by some of Tampa’s leading Democrats, including fellow Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

Hosted by attorneys Ron Christaldi and Patrick Baskette, the event is Tuesday, June 20, beginning 5:30 p.m. at the offices of Shumaker, Loop & Kendrick, 101 E Kennedy Blvd., Suite 2800 in Tampa.

In addition to Buckhorn, event chairs include Tampa City Council members Luis Viera, Harry Cohen, Yolie Capin and Mike Suarez, as well as Florida House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, former Florida Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink and former state Senator and President of the University of South Florida Betty Castor and her husband, former state Rep. Sam Bell, founder of the USF College of Public Health.

Also heading the reception include Justin Day, former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis, Lee and Tracy Gunn, Jim Shimberg, and Gary and David Moskovitz.

According to the invite, the fundraiser will “celebrate the achievements of the last three years and the opportunity for continued progress in St. Petersburg and Tampa Bay.”

Kriseman, who officially qualified Thursday to run for re-election, faces former two-term St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker, who also has traveled outside city limits to raise funds, most recently with an event in Clearwater Beach.

Redevelopment gains momentum in Skyway Marina District

Development of a long-neglected tract of land in south St. Petersburg is closer to reality as a Tampa developer closes on the first construction project in the Skyway Marina District.

Phillips Development and Realty LLC has secured its first construction loan, just over $11 million, for a 100,000-square foot self-storage facility on the former Home Depot site at U.S. Highway 19 and 30th Avenue South.

In 2007, Home Depot paid $6.5 million for the land, demolishing the Suncoast Resort Hotel on the site, but canceled plans to build a store when the 2008 Great Recession hit. Phillips purchased the property in February 2017 for $4.2 million.

Financing for the project is through Memphis-based Jernigan Capital, a real estate investment trust that offers equity capital to private developers, owners and operators of self-storage facilities.

Plans for the 9-acre parcel include a 300-unit, mixed-use development. Construction on the storage building is scheduled to begin in July, with the rest of the project beginning the second quarter of 2018.

“This closing sets us in a forward direction,” said PDR Managing Director, Donald Phillips. “The facility we have planned is just the start of something much larger, something we hope will add even greater character to the already influential neighborhood.”

Among the other improvements to the Skyway Marina District includes an art installation spanning the entire length of the building, facing I-275.

“This addition to the St. Petersburg art scene will be one of the largest in history and will set the tone for the District’s long-term plan,” Phillips officials said in a statement. Design for the “artscape” will be unveiled this summer.

John Collins, executive director of the St. Petersburg Arts Alliance, praised the combination of public art and business development in the Skyway Marina District.

“It is absolutely wonderful to welcome a building project to St. Petersburg that incorporates art from the initial planning and that, when complete, it will add a significant mural to our city’s artful landscape,” he said.

Florida Power & Light’s sunny future, major solar expansion on track

It’s a sunny future for Florida Power & Light Co., as construction is now well underway on all eight of the utility’s planned solar power plants.

New 74.5-megawatt solar power plants, with 2.5 million panels offering a joint capacity of 600 MW, are on track for completion by early 2018, making it one of the largest solar expansions ever in the eastern U.S.

Once completed, the plants will contribute enough low-emissions energy to the FPL grid to power nearly 120,000 homes.

Officials with FPL, now the largest generator of solar energy in Florida, say construction of the plants will be cost effective — resulting in net savings for FPL customers over and above construction costs. The eight new plants are expected to generate millions of dollars in net lifetime savings to customers.

“FPL is living proof that it’s possible to generate cleaner energy and deliver outstanding service while keeping customers’ electric bills among the lowest in the nation,” said FPL President and CEO Eric Silagy. “We are proud to be advancing affordable, clean energy infrastructure in Florida in close partnership with respected environmental advocates, community leaders and our customers. Together, we are bringing the benefits of solar energy to more Floridians faster and more affordably than ever before.”

Today, about 500 people are working on construction across the eight solar sites, a number expected to grow to 1,500 during peak activity this summer.

While some plants are in various stages of early development, from ground-clearing work to infrastructure, others are further along. For example, at the Horizon Solar Energy Center, which spans both Alachua and Putnam counties, FPL workers are now installing solar panels.

“FPL continues to transform the energy landscape of the state and nation, and we are honored that North Florida is playing an important role,” said Brian Bergen, vice president of economic development for the Putman County Chamber of Commerce. “These new solar power plants are about more than just affordable, clean energy. They’re also delivering economic benefits right here, right now.”

Four of the eight FPL plants are scheduled to be online by the end of 2017: Horizon Solar Energy Center in Alachua and Putnam counties; Coral Farms Solar Energy Center in Putnam County; Indian River Solar Energy Center in Indian River County and the Wildflower Solar Energy Center in DeSoto County.

Facilities scheduled for completion by March 1, 2018, include Barefoot Bay Solar Energy Center in Brevard County; Blue Cypress Solar Energy Center in Indian River County; Hammock Solar Energy Center in Hendry County and the Loggerhead Solar Energy Center in St. Lucie County.

As the “Sunshine State,” Florida ranks ninth in the nation for solar resources — the strength of the sun’s rays — making it a beautiful place for solar. As one of the nation’s cleanest electric utilities, FPL projects solar will outpace fossil fuels such as coal and oil combined as a percentage of the company’s energy mix by 2020.

From 2017 through 2023, FPL plans to add nearly 2,100 new megawatts of solar, including the approximately 600 megawatts now under construction.

FPL — a subsidiary of the Juno Beach-based NextEra Energy — is the state’s largest rate-regulated electric utility, serving more than 4.8 million customers across Florida, the third-largest customer base in the United States.

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Law enforcement identifies congressional baseball shooter

Law enforcement officials have identified the shooter at the GOP congressional baseball practice this morning as James T. Hodgkinson of Belleville, Illinois.

The Washington Post reports that Hodgkinson, 66, owns a home inspection business. Records show his home inspection license expired November 2016 and was not renewed.

St. Clair County, Illinois records show that in April 2006, Hodgkinson was charged with battery and aiding damage to a motor vehicle. Charges were dismissed.

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and a congressional aide injured by a rifle-wielding shooter who sprayed bullets at a GOP baseball practice, before U.S. Capitol Police took the gunman down.

Ron DeSantis describes ‘strange encounter’ with man before congressional baseball shooting

U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis described a “strange encounter” Wednesday with a man in the parking lot of the congressional baseball practice in Alexandria, Virginia.

The encounter occurred moments before shots fired, injuring Republican Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Scalise was shot in the hip and is in stable condition after surgery. Some security team members were also wounded.

The North Florida Republican told FOX Business Network hours after the shooting that the “guy … Walked up to us … Asking whether it was Republicans or Democrats out there.”

DeSantis continued: “I had already taken ground balls, hit. Jeff Duncan, who I ride with, from South Carolina, he had done. So, I … and I was actually at third base he was at short. We were just shagging balls. He was at second.

“I told Jeff, hey, we got to get on the road so we beat traffic, so we left about ten after seven. I think shots began you know within 3-5 minutes after that.

“We reported to police that there was a gentleman that confronted us when we were going to our car and he wanted to know whether it was Republicans or Democrats that were out there. We said it was Republicans and he kind of started walking to the field.

“I don’t know if that was the guy, but I think it’s important to put that information out there and it was a little bit different than someone would do that. He was really interested in wanting to know who was out there.”

Police say the gunman, who opened fire with a rifle, is in custody.

St. Pete to hold 2018 budget open house next week

St. Petersburg city officials are holding an open house next week, giving residents a chance to provide input and learn more about the 2017-18 budget process.

The budget open house is Monday, June 19, starting 6 p.m. at the Coliseum, 535 Fourth Ave. N in St. Petersburg.

For the first hour, residents are invited to ask questions and share ideas with Mayor Rick Kriseman, City Council members and administrators. During that time, staff from City Development, Public Safety, Neighborhood Affairs, Public Works, General Government, and Leisure Services departments will be available to speak with those in attendance.

After the breakout session, Budget Director Tom Greene will offer a brief presentation on how the city budget is developed, followed by comments from residents and an opportunity for City Council members to share budget priorities.

Citizens citywide can do their part by way of a brief, one-question survey available through June 30 at stpete.org. The city will rebroadcast the budget open house throughout the summer on StPeteTV, Bright House Channel 641, WOW! Channel 15, and Verizon Fi0s Channel 20.

To access the survey, learn about the 2018 city budget or view budget documents, visit stpete.org.

St. Petersburg’s current operating budget stands at about $248 million. A new budget goes into effect Oct. 1.

Shawn Harrison kicks off HD 63 re-election bid at Tampa Theater June 29

Republican state Rep. Shawn Harrison is holding a campaign kickoff party later this month to launch his re-election bid in House District 63.

The event, hosted by House Majority 2016 and featuring special guest Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, is Thursday, June 29, beginning 5 p.m. at the historic Tampa Theater, 711 N. Franklin St.

Included on the extensive list of local GOP leaders making the host committee are House Speaker Richard Corcoran from Land O’Lakes, and Speakers-to-be Jose Oliva and Chris Sprowls of Palm Harbor. Also on the committee are Tampa-area state Sens. Dana Young and Tom Lee; state Rep. Blaise Ingoglia; former House Speakers Will Weatherford and Dean Cannon; former state Rep. Seth McKeel; former Tampa Mayor Dick Greco and Hillsborough County Commissioners Victor Crist, Stacy White and Sandy Murman; and Tampa City Council member Frank Reddick, among others.

Harrison first served District 7 on the Tampa City Council in District 7 in 1999, the first councilman elected to represent New Tampa since its incorporation.

Harrison next served HD 60 in the Florida House from 2010 until Democrat Mark Danish defeated him in 2012. In 2014, he won a rematch against Danish for the redrawn HD 63. In 2016, Harrison won re-election against Lisa Montelione, who resigned a seat on the Tampa City Council for a House run.

Questions or RSVP requests can be directed to (813) 774-0193.

Florida declines to appeal decision striking down ‘docs versus Glocks’ law

After six years, health care providers scored a major victory Monday when Florida officials declined to appeal a federal ruling striking down the so-called “docs versus Glocks” law.

In 2011, Florida lawmakers passed a bill which prevents doctors from asking patients about guns. Since then, a federal court invalidated several parts of the law.

The National Rifle Association supported “docs versus Glocks,” which put several restrictions on doctors and other health care professionals.

According to Lobby Tools, the bill in part prevented physicians from entering gun ownership into medical records, especially if the info was not “relevant” to medical care or safety to patients or other people. The law also forced doctors to refrain from asking about gun ownership — of both patients or family members — unless there was a “good faith” belief the information was pertinent to medical care or safety.

Doctors could not “discriminate” or “harass” patients for owning firearms.

In a 90-page decision February, the full appellate court — two majority opinions from different judges as well as a dissent — struck down the law.

Attorney General Pam Bondi‘s office confirmed to reporters that there will be no appeal filed before the deadline lapsed last month.

New social media platform Paloozoo lets users take total charge online, help charities

Anger and negativity online have soured the social media experience for many, particularly during the most recent election cycle.

A Tampa-based company is looking to change all that with Paloozoo, a new social media platform designed to “put users first,” offering direct control over what they see online – all while raising money for charity.

Debuting this week, Paloozoo is a national network that allows members to take charge of their social media by real-time content viewing, without the interference of an algorithm. Users can filter content for a customized experience.

Paloozoo co-founders Mark Reinisch and Rick Link say the idea for the network came during the 2016 elections, after being “overwhelmed with aggressive and partisan language” online.

“Rick and I agreed there was a void in the marketplace and partnered to develop a tool without the many pitfalls of other social media sites,” Reinisch says. “We developed this site to put the user first.”

“The social media space is primarily managed by algorithms that benefit companies, not users,” Link adds. “If a Paloozoo member doesn’t like the commentary by friends, relatives or others, they can filter it out with confidence that the systems won’t override their filter using mysterious algorithms.”

Paloozoo users have multiple streams of engagement through social posts, reviews, classifieds and “best of” lists through a customizable one-stop platform. Through a patent-pending content controls feature, Paloozoo members can filter or completely block content and categories from friends, family or the entire Paloozoo community.

Those who regularly frequent Paloozoo will have an opportunity to give money to charity through “Paloozoo Points.”

With each action on Paloozoo, members earn points; at the end of each month, a user chosen at random drawing can donate to one of a number of charities: Avon Breast Cancer Crusade, Doctors Without Borders, Feeding America, Operation Homefront, Ronald McDonald House Charities and The Humane Society.

Paloozoo is now available through Paloozoo.com and on both desktop and mobile internet browsers. The company is also planning an app for easier user engagement.

 

Facebook rolls out new features to help users connect with elected officials

Facebook announced three new features Wednesday aimed at boosting civic engagement in the U.S., allowing users to better connect with elected officials, candidates and staff.

The new offerings help users sort through a mountain of content on the social network and help politicians find comments and news stories that connect directly to their home districts.

First, Facebook users will have a new feature – “Constituent Badges” – that identify themselves as part of a representative’s district by securely entering a home address.

“Constituent Insights” is another feature that allows a politician to track news stories and other viral content popular with users in their district.

“District Targeting” can allow an elected official to change page settings to allow them to broadcast Facebook Live feeds and other messages only to individuals residing in their districts.

The new features come as the social media giant seeks to make over its image as a credible source of information after November’s presidential election, when the company struggled to effectively combat a flood of fake news – either misleading or entirely fabricated political stories.

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