Staff Reports - 4/58 - SaintPetersBlog

Staff Reports

Clearwater man claims injury during heroic runaway golf cart rescue

A Clearwater man who saved a group of residents from a runaway golf cart in his apartment complex is suing for injuries sustained during the rescue.

Robert Pierce, 67, is a resident of Arbors at Belleair, an apartment complex that leases one-bedroom and two-bedroom units at 2230 Nursery Road in Clearwater. He has lived at the Arbors since at least 1988.

In a suit filed March 31 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, Pierce says he was walking through the Arbors complex around Oct. 1, 2016, while an unidentified caretaker began loading doors onto a golf cart.

After one of the “improperly loaded” doors accidentally hit the accelerator, Pierce alleges the driverless cart began moving forward toward residents sitting in complex’s courtyard.

To save the residents, Pierce claims to have reached inside and moved the steering wheel, successfully diverting the golf cart into some bushes.

In doing so, however, Pierce says he suffered “severe and permanent injuries.”

Pierce is now asking the court to award damages for mental and physical pain, lost earnings, past and future medical care, and for suffering “the inability to lead a normal life.”

He is suing Tapout Group, which had done business as Arbors at Belleair. Yet Tapout Group LLC voluntarily dissolved in 2013. RIFAI Properties, which is not named in the suit, purchased the complex in 2012 for $6.6-million. Rifai’s managers are Hany and Giliane Rifai. Court records do not show why Pierce believes Tapout Group still owns the complex.

Support nearly 500 nonprofits through Give Day Tampa Bay on May 2

Give Day Tampa Bay on Tuesday, May 2 is a 24-hour, online charitable giving challenge designed to help area nonprofits get much-needed support, and raise awareness of the good work they do in the community.

From midnight to 11:59 p.m. on May 2, local residents are encouraged to visit GiveDay.org to support causes ranging from education to the environment to animal welfare to the arts. With nearly 500 nonprofits registered, anyone can find a nonprofit that’s working to create a better community in an area that matches his passions.

It’s the fourth year that the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay has hosted the event, which raised more than $2 million for nearly 600 Tampa Bay area nonprofits last year.

“Give Day Tampa Bay is an opportunity for people who want to help, but may not know how they can support local nonprofits,” said Marlene Spalten, President and CEO of the Community Foundation. “During the 24 hours of Give Day, there’s a focus on the collective power of giving and doing good together to make a positive impact on our community.”

This year, the minimum donation is $5, which provides additional opportunities for donors to give to more than one nonprofit, since donors are often passionate about more than one cause. It’s simple to give during Give Day Tampa Bay. Visit www.GiveDay.org on May 2 and find the nonprofit(s) to support from the list of participating organizations.

All donations are tax-deductible and will remain in the Tampa Bay area. Nonprofits from Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties have registered to participate in Give Day this year. All of the money donated on Give Day — less a small credit card processing fee — will be given to the nonprofit for which it is intended. The Community Foundation does not keep any money donated on Give Day.

New this year is the opportunity for donors to make a secure pledge in advance of May 2. From April 18-May 1, online donations made to an organization’s page will count toward the leaderboard and the overall event totals.

Donations from the public will be boosted with funds from corporate sponsors of Give Day, with a prize pool of nearly $50,000 that gives nonprofits the chance to win monetary awards and prizes based on their day’s donations.

WEDU PBS will stream Give Day live on wedu.org and giveday.org from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. on May 2. The live web stream will include interviews with representatives from many of the nonprofits participating in Give Day, along with presentations and demonstrations.

About Give Day Tampa Bay

Give Day Tampa Bay is a 24-hour online giving challenge designed to help Tampa Bay area nonprofits get much-needed support and raise awareness for the good work they do in the community. Hosted by the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay, Give Day returns May 2, 2017, with the opportunity to donate to hundreds of nonprofits operating across Citrus, Hernando, Hillsborough, Pasco and Pinellas counties. Over the past four years, nearly $5 million has been raised for local nonprofits, and that money has stayed right here in the Tampa Bay area.

About the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay

Founded in 1990, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay connects donors, nonprofits, community and business leaders, professional advisers, volunteers and residents to make the maximum positive impact in the Tampa Bay region. For more than 25 years, the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay has been dedicated to making giving easy and meaningful for donors as a way to strengthen nonprofit organizations and build a better, more vibrant community. Since its inception, its donors have enabled the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay to award more than $190 million in grants to nonprofit organizations across the country.

Vern Buchanan requests more aid for red tide

Noting the dangerous threat toxic algae poses to humans, marine life and the economy, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan announced today he has requested increased federal funding to combat red tide.

Red tide, also known as Karenia brevis algae, has lingered along Suncoast shores on and off for several months now, killing thousands of fish and discouraging potential visitors from taking in some of the country’s best beaches. Karenia brevis algae produces a toxin that can harm and kill a variety of animals, including birds, fish, sea turtles and marine mammals such as dolphins and the already endangered Florida manatee. In fact, the toxins from red tide blooms killed nearly 300 Florida manatees in 2013.

In a letter sent to the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, Buchanan requested increased funding to combat harmful algal blooms. Buchanan said the specific focus should be on red tide, within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

The Congressman stressed the critical need for federal support as harmful algal blooms, including red tide, are occurring with “increasing frequency and severity across the country.”

Harmful algae blooms cause $82 million in economic losses to the seafood, restaurant and tourism industries each year in the U.S., according to NOAA.

“We need to use every tool at our disposal to safeguard the public and protect marine life and fragile coastal ecosystems,” Buchanan wrote. “Not only do harmful algal blooms deter tourists and upset related industries, they can be dangerous to humans as well.”

Human consumption of shellfish contaminated from red tide areas can cause serve illness and even lead to death in certain circumstances. Additionally, people who swim in red tide or inhale the toxins while near the water can suffer from severe respiratory issues, skin irritation and rashes. The state’s health department even advises that people with severe or chronic respiratory conditions like asthma are especially vulnerable and should steer clear of red tide waters.

Buchanan has an extensive record of preserving Florida’s waterways and pristine coastline. Earlier this year he co-chaired a bipartisan meeting of the 29-member Florida congressional delegation focused on combating red tide, toxic algae and examining other water quality issues. The Congressman also is a longtime opponent of drilling off the Gulf Coast. Last month Buchanan expressed his opposition to the Trump administration’s proposal to open up more than 70 million acres off the coast of Florida to oil and gas drilling over the next five years starting this August. He also backed legislation, signed by President Obama in 2016, that would protect estuaries, including Sarasota Bay.

Full text of the letter can be found below.

The Honorable John Culberson                                       The Honorable Jose Serrano
Chairman                                                                          Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations                                          Committee on Appropriations
Subcommittee of Commerce, Justice,                              Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice,
Science, and Related Agencies                                         Science, and Related Agencies
H-309, the Capitol                                                            1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515                                                    Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman Culberson and Raking Member Serrano,

Harmful algal blooms, including red tide, are occurring with increasing frequency and severity across the country. The toxic bacteria, which can cause respiratory problems and has been linked to acute liver failure, is particularly harmful to coastal communities dependent on clean water.

This threat to humans, marine life and the economy deserves our attention.

As you being your work on the fiscal year 2018 Commerce, Justice, and Science funding bill, I respectfully ask that you include robust funding to combat these harmful algal blooms, with a specific focus on red tide, within NOAA’s National Ocean Service.

HABs are a growing national concern because of the widespread and lasting damage they cause to not only the health of humans, marine life, and coastal ecosystems, but to our local economies as well. In fact, due to its impacts on public health, tourism, seafood and other related industries, HABs occurring in U.S. marine waters are estimated to cost the U.S. over $80 million a year.

Currently, however, there is no effective method to combat some of the most challenging and devastating HABs, such as red tides caused by Karenia brevis algae, without severely affecting our marine ecosystems. Red tide outbreaks, which have affected the Gulf of Mexico since the 16th century can kill or sicken turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals, and even leads to massive fish kills. They also lead to widespread closures of shellfish beds from Florida trough Texas every year.

Perhaps most concerning, however, are the negative consequences HABs and red tide specifically have on people. Not only do harmful algal blooms deter tourists and upset related industries, they can be dangerous to humans as well.

People can become ill with Neurotoxic Shellfish Poisoning (NSP) or even die as a result of consuming contaminated shellfish that has been exposed to HAB toxins. People who swim in red tide or inhale the toxins while near the water can also suffer from severe respiratory issues, skin irritation and rashes.

We need to use every tool at our disposal to safeguard the public and protect marine life and fragile coastal ecosystems.

I would also encourage you to collaborate with local and state partners and non-profit marine research institutions and universities to better utilize emerging technologies and cutting edge approaches to fight back against harmful algal blooms. Thank you for your consideration of this request, and for your leadership on the committee.

Florida Education Association calls for proper funding for public schools in new ads

The Florida Education Association is taking to the airwaves to call on lawmakers to better fund public schools.

The statewide education association released two advertisements Thursday in response to several measures being advanced by the Legislature. The proposals, education officials said, would under fund public schools and harm public school students.

“Students are at the center of everything we do. That’s why we are fighting for students and for better public schools,” said Joanne McCall, the president of the Florida Education Association. “We’re fighting against too many tests that do nothing to help our children and working to ensure that schools and students have the resources they need for success.”

The House on Thursday voted 70-44 to approve a $200 million plan to shift students from chronically failing schools to charter schools run by private organizations. The bill, a priority for House Speaker Richard Corcoran, would offer up money to build what are being called “Schools of Hope” in neighborhoods across the state, many in urban and poor areas.

GOP lawmakers have framed the legislation as an effort to help children in some of the state’s persistent failing schools, but Democrats questioned whether it was designed to help the for-profit management companies that are often hired by the non-profit groups that run charter schools.

According to the FEA, the ads will go out digitally to the FEA’s 140,000 members and will run extensively in Tallahassee through the end of session.

“We will stand up for Florida’s public schools, for every student in every classroom,” said McCall.

__The Associated Press contributed to this report, reprinted with permission.

Appeals court overturns decision clearing Tampa, officer in 2014 ‘suicide by cop’ shooting

Jason Turk

Federal appeals judges overturned a court ruling that cleared the city of Tampa and a police officer in an attempted “suicide by proxy” case where a local real estate agent was shot after threatening to kill himself.

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the ruling Friday that had absolved the city and officer Timothy Bergman, who shot Jason Turk twice in the face while he sat in a car Jan. 9, 2014. Amanda Turk, Turk’s estranged wife, called 911 telling dispatchers her husband was threatening suicide. The Turks and their attorney claim Turk never pointed his gun at the officers.

They also argue that Bergman, a K-9 officer, was not adequately trained to handle the situation. The couple sued police for violating Turk’s constitutional rights by using excessive force.

“The suit is about law enforcement being accountable,” Michael Maddux, the Turks’ lawyer, told the Tampa Tribune. “They had a cry for help and the response was tactical, almost like he was committing a crime.”

Although the lower court decided Turk’s rights were not violated, the appeals court overturned the ruling, sending it back to the lower court.

“We cannot say that a police officer in Officer Bergman’s position would reasonably perceive Mr. Turk, a non-suspect sitting in the BMW, as posing an imminent threat of serious physical harm to the police officers on scene,” the ruling said. “We must reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment on all counts and remand for further proceedings. On remand, the district court in the first instance should consider the other defenses raised by Officer Bergman and the City of Tampa but not ruled on in the first summary judgment order.”

Dorothy Hukill ‘College Competitiveness’ bill moves to conference

A proposed overhaul of the Florida College System from Sen. Dorothy Hukill has been passed Senate and is heading to a conference next week after amendments by the House.

“This legislation (SB 374) will strengthen and expand college and university partnerships so the next generation of Floridians can benefit from our excellent 2+2 program,” said Sen. Bill Galvano, who has pushed Hukill’s College Competitiveness Act during her absence for cancer treatment.

“The bill also clarifies the process for colleges to apply for new bachelor degree programs to ensure colleges can appropriately respond to the workforce needs of their communities,” Galvano said in a statement.

Lobby Tools reports that the bill passed the Senate 36-2 Wednesday, a day after Miami Republican House. Rep. Carlos Trujillo amended the bill with the language from HB 5601. T

The bill will next go to conference.

Hukill’s bill requires colleges to enter a minimum of one articulation agreement with a university. It also sets a 15 percent cap on students enrolled in baccalaureate courses at colleges. A similar bill HB 929, caps upper-level enrollment at 20 percent.

The Senate bill sets up a State Board of Community Colleges to manage the FCS, taking oversight from the State Board of Education. Lobby Tools notes that the House language does not set up a new oversight body.

Rick Kriseman says St. Petersburg ‘under siege’ by bad bills, budget cuts

Donald Trump’s proposed budget and bad bills in Tallahassee are putting cities “under siege,” according to St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“Our city is under siege by bad proposed bills and budgets,” Kriseman said in a news conference Thursday. Council member Lisa Wheeler-Bowman joined the mayor to speak in front of a home in South St. Petersburg.

Urging residents to call their representatives in protest, the mayor blasted the Trump administration for efforts to shut down the Community Development Block Grant program, as well significant cuts to the Housing and Urban Development budget.

The president was actively standing in the way of efforts to help low-income citizens, Kriseman said.

St. Petersburg receives about $3 million in CDBG funds, which goes to improvements to homes in low-income neighborhoods like the one where the event was held at 2645 14th Ave. S.

“These programs are vital to our community,” Wheeler-Bowman said. “The loss of these programs will be devastating.”

Kriseman also had strong words for the Florida Legislature, which is considering changes in the tax increment financing (TIF) process.

Legislation sponsored by Republican State Rep. Jake Raeburn of Valrico and Sen. Tom Lee of Thonotosassa are seeking to change the rules governing TIF funds.

TIF’s use tax revenues for specially designated community redevelopment areas (CRA), financing improvements in low-income communities. St. Petersburg has four CRA’s.

The bills from Raeburn and Lee (HB 13/SB 1770) came after reports of mismanagement in a single Miami-Dade CRA in Hallandale Beach.

Kriseman criticized blaming an entire system for the “actions of one community.” Residents should contact Senate President Joe Negron directly, Kriseman said, calling him to stop the bills.

“We need to hold them all accountable for their votes,” he added.

Jeff Brandes wants to keep renewable energy bill clean

A Senate panel approved a bill by St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes that would implement solar tax breaks approved by Florida voters in last year.

More than 70 percent of Florida voters backed Amendment 4 in August, which makes it so the increased value of a home due to renewable energy improvements such as solar panels can’t be included when assessing a property’s value for tax purposes.

SB 90, which is supported by environmental groups and solar panel installers, doesn’t include the same safety standards and disclosure requirements found in the House version, HB 1351.

House bill sponsor Rep. Ray Rodrigues worked with solar experts, including Florida Power & Light, SolarCity and local solar installers to develop consumer protection language, much of which mirrors the recommendation of the Solar Energy Installers Association.

The Energy & Policy Institute, a secretive group that does not disclose its funding sources, has claimed that the House bill would put a damper on solar panel sales, however, former Arizona regulator Bob Stump countered that solar sales increased after similar consumer protection legislation passed in his state.

Brandes told the Senate Appropriations Committee on Finance and Tax that he is in talks with the House on an implementing bill for the tax break, but said he hasn’t agreed to the extra regulations in their bill.

The Republican lawmaker said, “all the options are on the table” when asked if he would be willing to let his bill die if he can’t reach an agreement with the House on the so-called consumer protections.

“Clearly we’d prefer a clean bill,” he said.

The committee approved SB 90 with a unanimous vote and it now moves on to the full Senate Appropriations Committee, its last stop before its ready for the chamber floor.

The House’s preferred bill, sponsored by Republican Rep. Ray Rodrigues, is awaiting action from the Commerce Committee.

A House bill filed by Democrat Lori Berman that is identical to Brandes’ solution has yet to be heard in committee.

Short-term rentals spark battle between Clearwater Beach condo owners, homeowner’s association

Clearwater Beach condominium owners are facing off with their homeowner’s association over short-term rentals, with accusations against five owners of using deception to dodge a 14-day minimum-lease rule.

Crescent Beach Club is a waterfront condominium complex Clearwater Beach managed by Associa Gulf Coast. According to recent records, Joseph N. Joyce Jr. serves as the homeowner’s association president. A Massachusetts resident, Joseph and Nancy Joyce are listed as nonresident co-owners of a unit.

Owners of five condos at the Club — Jeffrey and Regina Paglialonga of Winter Park; Joyce Enterprises Inc. (Jacob and Alice Joseph); McCullough Properties LLC; Jeffrey Lemajeur, as trustee of the Jeffrey W. Lemajeur Revocable Trust and Deborah Lemajeur, as trustee of the Deborah M. Lemajeur Revocable Trust — have filed suit against the complex and Association.

Each of the five units has been offered as short-term vacation rentals.

None of the plaintiffs have filed for homestead exemptions, signifying all are also non-resident owners.

Bylaws of Crescent Beach Club state that any lease issued by condo owners must be for a minimum of 14 days. In 2015, the homeowner’s association initiated an arbitration action against each of the plaintiffs — alleging they have violated that rule.

The five owners argue that if renters didn’t stay the full 14 days under their lease, the units are not available for re-rent until that lease period ends.

While each of the plaintiffs submitted short-term 14-day leases for approval, the Association, pointing to a number of online advertisements, says the units were openly being offered for as little as a few days at a time.

Co-plaintiffs Jeffrey Adam “Jeff” Paglialonga and wife Regina Anne “Gina” Paglialonga own a 2,125-square-foot condo they purchased in 2013 for $575,000. The couple run a booking service called Teeming Vacation Rentals.

After the arbitration process stalemated, the owners filed a 140-page suit March 30 in Pinellas County Circuit Court, seeking the court to rule that the leases are legal under the Association’s bylaws.

As evidence of rule-breaking, however, the Association cites a HomeAway.com ad from Jeff and Gina Paglialonga, which says:

“At Teeming Vacation Rentals, we take the hassle out of travel. Our friendly and knowledgeable ‘teem’ offer the personalized service you need to find the perfect fit for your vacation. We actually want to talk to you! Nightly rates listed are based on a 14-night stay. Shorter stays are welcomed when we have availability so please ‘send a message’ or ‘send email’ to us for an exact quote. ‘Teem’ up with Teeming Vacation Rentals and book your dream vacation today!”

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