Phil Ammann - 3/389 - 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 His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for, 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 and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

Poynter President Tim Franklin resigns for role at Medill School of Journalism

Tim Franklin

Poynter Institute President Tim Franklin is resigning to become senior associate dean at the Medill School of Journalism, Media and Integrated Marketing at Northwestern University.

Franklin joined the St. Petersburg-based nonprofit journalistic foundation in 2014, leading “a financial turnaround at the Institute and adapted Poynter’s business to the changing industry,” according to the news release. Franklin’s career includes a stint at the Chicago Tribune before becoming the top editor at The Indianapolis Star, Orlando Sentinel and The Baltimore Sun.

Franklin said the decision was based on both Medill’s reputation for excellence in education and an opportunity to return to the Chicago area, where his wife, Alison, works at a law firm.

At Medill, Franklin will oversee campuses in Chicago, Washington and San Francisco. He will also head Medill’s efforts to collaborate with major media companies and nonprofits on strategic initiatives with foundations. Franklin will report to Medill’s Dean Brad Hamm.

“It has been one of the great privileges of my life to lead The Poynter Institute and the remarkably talented and hard-working faculty and staff here who every day change lives and have an impact on the journalism industry,” Franklin said in an announcement Monday morning. “Together, we’ve strengthened the Institute and broadened its reach and impact. I’ve been grateful every day to call folks here colleagues.”

Under Franklin’s tenure, Poynter enacted several improvements to its business model, including offering training to individual journalists as well as large media and technology companies such as Gannett, The Associated Press, Google, Facebook, and Univision, among others.

Poynter also is close to completing and overhaul of its News University online learning platform, as well as a new redesign of its media news website. Last year, the institute taught more than 100,000 journalists, journalism educators and journalism educators from 92 countries and all 50 states, according to

Margie Manning of the Tampa Bay Business Journal points out the changes under Franklin have had a significant impact on Poynter’s finances, with “three consecutive quarters of operating surpluses in the institute is budgeted to break even for 2017.”

Paul Tash, Times Publishing Company chair and CEO, celebrated Franklin’s record.

“While I regret Tim’s departure, I take great satisfaction in the strides that Poynter has taken while he’s been president these last three years,” Tash said in a statement. “Poynter’s work has never been more important, and its standing has never been higher. The opportunity to be its next president will attract terrific candidates from all corners.”

Franklin begins at Medill June 12. Florida Trend magazine president and publisher Andy Corty will take over for Franklin in the interim, while Poynter’s board of trustees begin a search for his replacement.

Surfrider’s passion for ‘local control’ in ban the bag debate rings false, is opportunistic spin

Local control, the notion that communities should have a certain degree of “home rule” in managing its own affairs, has become one of the hot-button issues in both Florida and across the country.

As part of the “ban the bag” movement, however, the rallying cry of “local control” is in danger of trivialization, made almost meaningless.

On one side are organizations like American Legislative Exchange Council and the American City and County Exchange — highly regarded sister groups that list Federalism and the 10th Amendment as core issues.

On the other side is the Surfrider Foundation.

Founded in San Clemente, California, Surfrider claims to be “dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans and beaches through a powerful activist network.” They seek to ban not only single-use plastic bags, but also polystyrene, balloons, plastic water bottles and even plastic drinking straws.

Also, Surfrider wants you to believe that in the debate over various plastic product bans and taxes, they are the ones to trust on matters of local control.

Forgive us for being more than a little skeptical.

In California, Surfrider championed a statewide bana measure forcing policy on hundreds of California communities that never sought out bag bans and taxes on their own.

At the time, local control was not in the Surfrider lexicon and nowhere to be found in campaign literature. And in California, Surfrider’s “local control” epiphany has yet to take root.

Only recently, Surfrider began incorporating such language like: “The ability for citizens and local government to address local pollution issues is critical. It is not only essential that we take action at the local level, but we must also protect our right to create change in our cities and communities …”

Surfrider activists apply these “local control” arguments as messages of convenience in southern states such as Florida, South Carolina, and Georgia.

Regrettably, Surfrider’s disingenuous concept of home rule is gaining traction, as the group continues its extensive, dubious and mysteriously funded nationwide lobbying efforts.

In the debate over home rule, states’ rights and federalism, Surfrider has zero credibility. Yet in the process, they actively undermine other, more legitimate local control advocates such as ALEC and Americans for Tax Reform, each with lengthy track records of standing up for individual liberty and resistance to top-down government edicts.

These organizations — guided by principle — actively reject Surfrider’s spin used to justify product bans and consumer taxes in communities around the country.

When Surfrider calls for “local control,” it is not out of a sense of principle. They’re speaking opportunistically.

Don’t fall for it. The ends do not justify the means.

What Surfrider stands for, first and foremost, is banning products they don’t like — notably single-use plastic bags. They will leverage any argument, at any cost, to get their way.

A Surfrider blog post from CEO Chad Nelson says it best: The hypocrisy is thick.”

Linda Stewart locks in $2.5 million for PTSD, psychological trauma care

State Sen. Linda Stewart locked in millions of dollars in the Florida Senate budget to help people suffering psychological trauma, including veterans and victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting.

The Orlando Democrat has secured reinstatement of $2.5 million to heal some of the lingering trauma and psychological damage.

The restored funding will be used for the UCF RESTORES Trauma Management Therapy program, an innovative treatment program at the University of Central Florida for veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“No amount of money can ever truly heal the ache and the pain and the trauma that our community suffered nearly one year ago,” said Stewart, who continues to see the after-effects residents and victims still suffer from the Pulse nightclub massacre last year, one of the worst mass shootings in the nation. “I want to commend President Joe Negron for working closely with me to put this funding back into the state’s budget.”

The UCF RESTORES Trauma Management Therapy program is planning an expansion to include first responders suffering PTSD as well as Floridians afflicted by other tragedies, such as the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016. As reinstated millions has locked in

Jack Latvala blames final budget stalemate on Richard Corcoran’s ‘last-minute switcheroo’

Working toward a final Florida state budget, news of a skirmish between the Senate and House emerges.

A war of words appears to have broken out between House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Senate Appropriations Chair Jack Latvala.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that Latvala ended budget negotiations after Corcoran “changed the deal” by insisting the final agreement link VISIT Florida’s $25 million advertising budget to new rules on the agency’s employee travel and salaries.

Details have not been released before Monday’s vote by the full Legislature.

House budget conference attendees have agreed “in front of God and everybody” to put VISIT Florida money into the final budget, Latvala said, apart from language about agency operations.

“They changed the deal last night to put it all together and I stopped everything and we argued about it for a while,” Latvala told the Times, adding that Senate President Joe Negron ended the stalemate by an “interpretation” allowing Corcoran to get his way with a “last-minute switcheroo.”

“Without a meeting, without any vote by the conference committee,” Latvala said, “they’ve done it their way.”

The Clearwater Republican senator called Corcoran’s treatment of VISIT Florida “disrespectful” to the state’s largest industry.

Corcoran, though spokesman Fred Piccolo, responded: “It’s no great mystery that the speaker has demanded accountability and transparency from VISIT Florida.”

Senate advances voucher expansion bill, goes to House for final vote

Florida senators, including some reluctant Democrats, voted to expanded two of Florida’s de facto education voucher programs that aid low-income students and those with disabilities.

The Tampa Bay Times reports HB 15 passed 27-11 Friday morning, on a vote where four Democrats joined Republicans. The bill returns to the House this afternoon for final approval of the Senate language before it reaches Gov. Rick Scott‘s desk.

The bill’s passage represents another victory for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, who made the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship a priority in 2017. The scholarship, designed to help low-income, mostly minority students obtain private school scholarships, gives dollar-for-dollar tax breaks to businesses that donate to the program.

HB 15 raises the award amounts, allowing students in the program to advance to higher-priced private high schools.

Those Democratic senators signing onto the bill were hesitant about “diverting” more money to tax credits — which could instead go to public schools — but also did not want to vote against the Gardiner Scholarship, a program helping children with disabilities. Since both programs were put in a single bill, linking the Gardiner Scholarship to tax-credit awards, lawmakers were forced to vote on both at once.

“The Gardiner Scholarship program is a fantastic program, so I want desperately to be able to support this bill because of those provisions,” Lake Worth Democratic Sen. Jeff Clemens told the Times. “But I am philosophically opposed to corporate tax vouchers and diverting money away from our general funds, which could be used to improve our public-school system.”

Supporters of HB 15, like Tampa Republican Sen. Dana Young, defend tax credit scholarships as helping children “who have no hope without it.”

Democrats breaking with the caucus to approve HB 15 include Daphne Campbell of Miami Shores, Bill Montford of Tallahassee, Darryl Rouson of St. Petersburg and Linda Stewart of Orlando.

Madeira Beach Commissioners, after questionable election, suspend city manager, fire clerk

Madeira Beach City Commissioners acted against the city’s manager and city clerk – who are husband and wife — days after questions arose over improprieties in a recent city election.

Mayor Maggi Black suspended City Manager Shane Crawford Thursday, reports the Tampa Bay Times, triggering a termination process. Commissioners also voted to fire city clerk Cheryl Crawford.

Crawford asked the city attorney to investigate the March election after Commissioner Housh Ghovaee – who had voted for it – was removed for Sunshine Law violations.

Commissioners voted 3-2 to suspend Crawford, a move that angered Commissioner Terry Lister.

Lister, according to the Times, ripped up his copy of the resolution and stormed out of the meeting.

While the board did not give reasons for firing Cheryl Crawford – who recently married Shane Crawford — Commissioner Nancy Oakley suggested in an earlier meeting the clerk lacked certification.

The Crawford’s relationship, initially approved by the city and former Mayor Travis Palladeno, came under an ethics complaint after Shane Crawford’s vocal support for a major Madeira Beach development project.

“Quite honestly,” Cheryl Crawford said after the vote, “as much as you don’t want me as your city clerk, please know I consider none of you three worthy of my dedication and support.”

At Thursday’s meeting, held before a crowded City Hall audience, Black vouched for the validity of the March election, citing a state law mandating any challenges to be filed within 10 days.

That prompted outrage from residents in attendance, with some threatening to sue.

Black then recommended former acting City Manager Jim Madden return to the job, which a city attorney rejected, saying it was out of order to raise issues not on the agenda.


Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital names new anesthesia department head

Mohamed Rehman, M.D.

Anesthesiology expert Mohamed Rehman, M.D. is joining Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital as the new chair of the Department of Anesthesia.

Nationally recognized for his medical and clinical informatics expertise, Rehman will also serve as professor of anesthesiology and critical care (pending academic review) with the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Rehman is also establishing the Perioperative Health Informatics Unit within the hospital’s Health Informatics Core, which uses electronic health data to improve care and increase understanding of children’s illnesses, while lowering the cost of care.

“Dr. Rehman’s expertise will help innovate our anesthesia program and perioperative care by the use of data analytics for real-time assessment of patients in the operating room – anticipating problems before they happen via trends,” says Jonathan Ellen, M.D., president and vice dean of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.

Previously, Rehman was a professor of clinical anesthesiology and critical care and professor of pediatrics at the University of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine. He held numerous leadership roles at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), including director of transplant anesthesia, and was the anesthesia team leader for the world’s first bilateral hand transplant and several conjoint twin separations.

Rehman also developed the first biomedical informatics program within a pediatric anesthesia and critical care program while at CHOP, where he was the first endowed chair in biomedical informatics and entrepreneurial sciences. He is the author of more than 50 original research publications and review articles and more than 70 scientific abstracts.

At the national level, Rehman currently chairs the Biomedical Informatics and Technology Group of the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia and is a past president of the Society for Technology in Anesthesia.

Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg is one of the world’s leading health care systems. The 259-bed teaching hospital, ranked as a U.S. News & World Report Best Children’s Hospital, is part of a network of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Outpatient Care centers and collaborative care provided by All Children’s Specialty Physicians at regional hospitals.

For more information, visit

Conservative businessman accuses Tampa rival of faking liberal outrage to steal business

Chris Paris owns Tampa-based Oxebridge Quality Resources International

Political trolling on social media is getting its day in Hillsborough County court.

A Pennsylvania quality control consultant is accusing one of his business rivals based in Tampa of faking liberal outrage as a bogus “social justice warrior” and using his political views to gain an unfair business advantage.

William A. “Bill” Levinson is a consultant and owner of the risk management firm Levinson Productivity Systems, P.C. in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.

Levinson Productivity helps clients follow ISO 9001 standards, which outlines requirements an organization must uphold to maintain product quality.

Levinson, a self-described “pro-Israeli Jewish libertarian,” has been outspoken on his conservative political beliefs. He has published dozens of articles on the American Thinker website with titles such as “Michelle Obama’s Promotion of Misogyny and Date Rape,” “The Jewish voter as the Democratic Party’s battered spouse,” and “Black Lives Matter Encourages Justifiable Homicide of Black People.”

Christopher Mark Paris, the owner of Oxebridge Quality Resources, is one of Levinson’s business rivals based in Florida. Oxebridge is at 1503 U.S. Hwy 301 S, Suite 36 in Tampa.

Although Levinson says he tries to keep his business and politics separate, a lawsuit filed April 25 in Hillsborough County Circuit Court accuses Paris of blasting his politics to get a competitive edge.

Bill Levinson owns Pennsylvania-based Levinson Productivity Systems

Posting on the Oxebridge blog and Facebook page — as well as allegedly publishing articles under pseudonyms “Mark Spittle” and “Einstein Llewelyn” — Paris accused Levinson of espousing racism, sexism and Nazi-like attitudes toward Muslims and others.

Levinson calls Paris’ viewpoints insincere and claims he is a “Social Justice Warrior” who only feigns moral superiority to achieve an unfair business advantage over his competitors.

In the suit, Levinson describes Social Justice Warriors (SJW) as “the false portrayal of deep-seated personal conviction for an issue or cause, and falsely attribute it all touristic intentions, as the primary motivating factors for the individual’s action and commentary, when the actual predominant motivating factor is personal benefit or personal validation.”

These disingenuous social justice arguments are what Levinson calls exaggerated “virtue signaling,” defined as a “psychological/sociological phenomenon where an individual’s reaction and statements are intended primarily to convey a perception of righteousness or superior character.”

Levinson says Paris not only committed libel but also deliberately sought to harm his business by, among other things, convincing conference organizers to cancel a scheduled speech by Levinson.

Levinson is not the only business rival complaining accusing Paris of political character assassination.

Connecticut-based consultant Daryl Guberman also leveled similar grievances against Paris, posting a lengthy warning about him on the Guberman-PMC, LLC website.

IT provider Vology announces major Pinellas County expansion, adding 200 jobs

One of the nation’s largest managed information technology service providers is making a major expansion in Pinellas County, adding hundreds of local jobs over the next few years.

IT company Vology announced plans Wednesday for 200 new jobs in the area within the next four years.

Headquartered in Clearwater, the company has hired 80 staff members in 2016 and now employs 400 people nationwide, 310 of them in Pinellas County.

A statement on the expansion project coincided with a congratulatory visit from Gov. Rick Scott, who is traveling around the state this week on his “Fighting for Florida’s Future” tour.

“We’re proud to welcome Governor Scott today to celebrate our growth and our continued investments in the Tampa Bay community,” said Vology CEO Barry Shevlin in a statement. “We appreciate the Governor’s support creating a business environment that helps our company grow and we look forward to welcoming even more Floridians to the Vology team in the years to come.”

Vology manages over 100,000 devices at over 20,000 customer sites nationwide and has been an Inc. 5000-ranked fastest growing private company for 11 consecutive years.

Expansion plans are designed to accommodate growing number of employees and a Network Operations Center, a $3.75 million project for a 60,000-square-foot facility in the Bay Vista Office Park in Largo.

Pinellas County officials collaborated with the State of Florida and the City of Largo to compete with Texas for the final site-selection process.

Pinellas County Commission Chair Janet Long applauded the move, calling Vology one of “Tampa Bay’s best homegrown technology success stories.”

City of Largo Mayor Woody Brown also praised Vology for its expansion into the Bay Vista office complex, which he described as one of “Pinellas County’s largest tech hotspots.

“We hope that their expansion will be a catalyst for other tech companies to expand into Largo’s market,” Brown said. “Thank you for selecting Largo and we look forward to your continued success.”

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor added that Vology is one of those companies that can count on “Florida’s talented workforce, the state’s strong infrastructure and business-friendly environment to fuel their growth.”

Vology has also been recognized as a Top Work Place of 2015 by the Tampa Bay Times.

Lucas Lindsey: Private, public partnership necessary to make ‘smart cities’ possible

Lucas Lindsey

Florida must invest in smart cities that support entrepreneurs. We are the third largest state in the United States, yet rank 34th in innovation according to a 2016 Bloomberg study. Simply put, that is not what leadership looks like. It is not enough to just prepare for the next wave of technology. We need to be the ones building it, funding it and distributing it.

Our state has the capacity, but now we must decide if we have the vision, leadership, and willpower to do what needs to be done.

We can future-proof our economy by making smart city investments in innovation infrastructure, just as we already do with traditional infrastructure. We’ve created systems and mechanisms to finance capital expenditures. We’ve built streets and sewers based on the realities of population increase and urban growth. And we’ve efficient public-private partnerships to make creative things happen. The methods and frameworks exist. It is time we expanded their mission to include the development of an innovation economy.

Luckily, the grassroots momentum is real.

Our state is home to hundreds of information technology companies and thousands of technology-related jobs. More and more, we see tech incubators and co-working spaces designed to give entrepreneurs a place to find resources and test inventions. It is encouraging to see the landscape grow. But, without doubling down on sustainable economic development efforts to support this emerging sector, many of the big ideas and even bigger benefits we could experience may never have happened, or may leave and happen somewhere else.

Florida’s cities have an opportunity to be leaders in entrepreneurship, technology, and smart city development, but capitalizing on that opportunity will take several things. First, local governments and the private sector need to talk to each other. They must build reciprocal, collaborative relationships based on trust and shared goals, and out of that will emerge smart city technologies with a viable path forward.

Second, we must break down barriers preventing the deployment of new technologies. In the case of smart cities, this means allowing mobile and internet providers to build more robust network connectivity. Innovation infrastructure depends on reliable, lightning-fast networks, especially when it comes to critical services like public safety, transportation, and health care or data heavy technology powering the next great startup. By investing in next-generation networks, communities throughout Florida can take hold of their future and set themselves up for success.

Contrary to popular belief, innovation is not simply about new ideas. It is about developing ecosystems that take risks on new ideas. It is about investing in infrastructure, both physical and programmatic, that empowers cutting-edge entrepreneurs — not at the margins, with a lucky win here and there, but at scale.

Technology will not slow down. It will not favor incumbents. And it will not move to Florida for the sunshine. We must invest in systems of training, funding, and procurement that allow, for example, a startup in one of Tampa’s incubators to take their smart city technology, pilot it, prove it works and expand it citywide.

We must position Florida’s communities as places where innovation and entrepreneurship-driven economic development are welcome. It’s not about looking ahead to the 21st-century economy. The 21st-century economy is already here, roaring toward the future. Are we going to participate, or not?


Lucas Lindsey is the co-chair of Launch Florida, a coalition representing tech organizations, co-working spaces, startup communities, educational institutions and entrepreneurs across the state. Launch Florida’s mission is to foster collaboration between entrepreneurs, policymakers, business leaders, venture capitalists, and other stakeholders in order to catalyze the innovation economy throughout the Sunshine State.

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