The Bay and the 'Burg Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Rick Kriseman, Rick Baker and five longshots qualify for ballot in St. Pete’s mayoral contest

The deadline to qualifying to run in this year’s election for mayor of St. Petersburg ended at 5 p.m. on Friday, and the field of candidates is now set at seven.

The primary election is August 29.

Leading the field are the two Rick’s – incumbent Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker.

Also making it on the ballot are Ernisa Barnwell, Anthony Cates III, Theresa “Momma Tee” Lassiter, Jesse Nevel, the national chair of the Uhuru Solidarity Movement, and perennial candidate Paul Congemi.

There are 67 days before the election.

The first mayoral debate will take place next Tuesday, June 27, at the Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church at 6:00 p.m.

An official associated with the debate says that only those candidates polling at 10 percent or above are invited, meaning it will just be Kriseman and Baker participating.

The Tampa Bay Times says they are limiting its sponsored debate with Bay News 9 on July 25 to include just Kriseman and Baker as well. They are basing the criteria not on polling information, but on fundraising prowess. Both Kriseman and Baker have raised over half a million dollars to date in the race.

That prompted Nevel to hold a protest outside the Times’ offices on Thursday, where he accused the daily of attempting to silence his message.


Without challenger, Amy Foster wins in St. Pete District 8

As qualifying ended at 5 p.m. in St. Petersburg’s mayoral and City Council races, one race is over before it ever really began.

Amy Foster has been re-elected to District 8.

Foster filed her paperwork May 24, one day after St. Petersburg social worker Tharius Bethel mounted a challenge – lasting no more than a day.

Bethel was forced to drop out of the race also on May 24, after informing the City Clerk’s office that he did not live in in District 8, which covers Kenwood, Disston Heights and areas west of I-275.

On his initial filing May 23, Bethel listed his address as 4316 78th St. N.

“I have recently discovered I fall outside the required residence to apply for council member of District 8,” he wrote in his withdrawal letter. “Sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you for your time.”

Since announcing her re-election bid, Foster raised $5,000 through six contributions as of May 31, including $500 in-kind from the candidate herself.

With Foster’s unopposed victory, first-term Council Chair Darden Rice remains as the only incumbent seeking another four-year term.

Rice is facing first-time candidate Jerick Johnston, a University of South Florida St. Petersburg student.

Council members Jim Kennedy of District 2 and Karl Nurse of District 6 face term limits; while Barclay Harless and Brandi Gabbard are seeking to replace Kennedy, 11 candidates have filed for Nurse’s seat.


Hillsborough Democrats blast Confederate monument vote as ‘white supremacy, white privilege’

Two days after Hillsborough County Commissioners made national news by voting to keep a Confederate monument in front of its County Courthouse Annex, the Hillsborough Democratic Party says the commissioners who did so “should be ashamed of themselves.”

Four commissioners, all Republicans, voted to maintain a statue built in 1911 of a Confederate soldier in front of the courthouse. They also approved Crist’s proposal to add a mural behind the monument, showcasing what Crist called “love and diversity” of the community.

“The votes cast by Sandy Murman, Stacy White, Victor Crist, and Ken Hagan are an abomination,” says Ione Townsend, chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee in a statement. “We ask these commissioners to dig deep and find the moral courage to call for a reconsideration of this issue and put Hillsborough County on the right side of history.”

The two lone Democrats on the board — Les Miller and Pat Kemp — as well as Republican Al Higginbotham — voted to remove the monument.

Townsend said the vote to not remove the statue “was a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies,” and says “WE MUST stand up against these racist and divisive policies. We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018.”

That’s easier said than done on a county commission that has been dominated by Republicans for two decades.

White will be running for re-election to his District 4 seat in conservative eastern Hillsborough County, while Murman and Crist will be running for new countywide seats after serving eight years on the board.

Hagan is also running for a new four-year term in District 2, which he previously served on from 2002-2010. He has spent the past six and a half years representing District 5, but intends to return to the north Hillsborough seat next year. He has already collected more than $200,000 in campaign contributions.

Then again, the changing demographics of the district in terms of a larger Latino population saw the county go further left in the 2016 election. Although Hillsborough has maintained a reputation for being one of the ultimate swing districts in the country during the presidential votes, the county went for Hillary Clinton by more than six percentage points last year, while the entire state went for Donald Trump.

Kemp easily won in the only countywide election, and Democrat Andrew Warren pulled off a major upset by defeating 16-year-GOP incumbent Mark Ober in the race for State Attorney.

On Thursday, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn issued a statement clarifying that it was Hillsborough County, and not Tampa, that made the controversial vote.

The statement was akin to what happened in 2005, when then-Mayor Pam Iorio announced that “gays and lesbians are part of our diversity and deserve our respect,” days after the Board voted to ban “Gay Pride” events.

As of late Friday, two of the four GOP commissioners responded to Townsend’s statement.

“I really have no response to this,” responded White. “My remarks from the meeting this past Wednesday really speak for themselves and basically rebut everything in the DEC’s statement.”

Victor Crist said he was “shocked” by what he called “hypocritical” remarks, since he said it was the Democratic Party who supported the monument from the beginning.

“Over the last 65 years that it’s been in its current location, most of those years have been under the Democratic County Commission, and every year that money had to have been appropriated to maintain it, the Democrats voted to do so,” he said. ” So all of a sudden now after 135 years of Democratic support, they’re going to turn around and criticize other people? You’ve gotta be kidding me.”

This is Townsend’s full statement:

Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners who voted on June 21 to leave the Confederate monument up in front of the courthouse should be ashamed of themselves. The votes cast by Sandy Murman, Stacy White, Victor Crist, and Ken Hagan are an abomination. We ask these commissioners to dig deep and find the moral courage to call for a reconsideration of this issue and put Hillsborough County on the right side of history. We also call all Democrats and residents of Hillsborough County who support the constitutional rights of all citizens and find the vote on June 21 to be unacceptable to CONTACT THESE COMMISSIONERS AND ASK THEM TO RECONSIDER THEIR POSITIONS AND VOTE “YES” on the removal of the Confederate statute.

Let us be clear!! The Civil War was fought over the oppression of the civil and human rights of African Americans. It was NOT a war of states’ rights or northern aggression as it is often referred to in the South even in 2017. The South fought this war to protect the interests of rich white Southerners who depended on slavery to maintain their lifestyle and wealth. After the Civil War the United States of America passed the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments abolishing slavery, giving citizenship to former slaves, guaranteeing due process and equal protection under the law, and voting rights for African American men (women of all races did not get the right to vote until the 19th amendment was ratified in 1920).

Jim Crow laws, designed to perpetuate segregation, were passed by southern states and local governments unwilling to abide by these new constitutional amendments in the later part of the 1800s. These laws by were an attempt to circumvent the new rights granted to all Americans. After yet another 100 years of continued suppression of rights guaranteed by the Constitution, Martin Luther King and many civil rights activists, some of whom lost their lives in this cause, worked tirelessly to make this oppression part of our public discourse.

This culminated in the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Resistance to equality continues today in the form of new Jim Crow laws being passed by Republican controlled states. New voting rights laws have been passed under the guise of unsubstantiated voter fraud resulting in oppression of voting rights especially in communities of color. Mandatory sentencing even for minor offenses and discriminatory criminal justice practices has a disproportionate effect on people of color, resulting in the filling of for-profit prisons. Is this not another form of discrimination, oppression, and slavery? These actions and sentiments have emboldened militarized police forces to shoot unarmed African American men, women and children.

The vote on June 21, 2017, at the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners to not remove a Confederate Statue from a public space was a continuation of white supremacy and white privilege policies. Symbols of the Confederacy are divisive, painful, racist, and are meant to intimidate a portion of our citizens who, because of white supremacy, have never realized complete freedom in the Land of the Free. A Confederate statue in front of a courthouse is particularly offensive. The vote was shameful and was the result of people working to perpetuate this abomination of racist thought and action on our body politic. White Supremacy was on full display at the County Commission meeting. WE MUST stand up against these racist and divisive policies. We can and will express our beliefs at the ballot box in November of 2018.

Activist Sky White ends Hillsborough Commission run, citing lack of minority ‘voter influence’

Saying she doesn’t think there is a sufficient “voter influence” for minority candidates currently, Sky White, a 33-year-old community activist who had filed to run for the Hillsborough County Commission District 7 seat last month, has decided to drop out of the contest.

“Definitely don’t count me out, you’ll be hearing from me again,” White told Wednesday night. “I just want to make sure that I’m focused on the right thing right now.”

A licensed personal nurse, White is also editor-in-chief of REVIVED magazine, which launched last December, touted as “Tampa’s most-influential black-owned magazine.”

White is also the founder and program director of REBORN Tampa, a nonprofit serving underprivileged youth. REBORN facilitates a free summer reading program for underperforming youth, as well as civil rights courses and an annual back-to-school community rally.

Instead of running for office, White says she wants to focus on becoming more of a voice for the minority community in Hillsborough County, saying, “We don’t have solid representation in our community and I want to work towards doing more about that for this upcoming election.”

She says she’s concerned about the community understanding how important local elections are.

“We know Les Miller, we have a lot of minority coalitions in Tampa, but in my opinion, they don’t have a lot of voter influence,” she said. “I want to focus on creating a strong voter influence from what we have not been able to do.”

White spoke just hours after the Hillsborough County Commission voted 4-3 to maintain a Confederate monument that stands outside of the annex at the Hillsborough County Courthouse. She said that it was surprising that it happened in Tampa.

“Hillsborough County has been very diverse, and I have family members visit me from up north, and when they arrive down I-75 and see that Confederate Flag, it shocks them because you don’t think of Tampa being like that — keeping the monument and then you see that flag,” she says. “It just doesn’t resonate with the community.”

White is referring to what its supporters have boasted is the world’s largest Confederate flag, erected in 2009 at the intersection of I-75 and I-4 which measures 30 feet high and 60 feet long and hangs from a 139-foot pole.

“We can’t rely on just a handful of leaders, they’re getting older now,” says White. “It’s time for millennials to really get a stronghold on what’s going on and to move forward in their stead.”

Is U.S. Term Limits coordinating a grassroots campaign against Jamie Grant?

Several state lawmakers — including Reps. Scott Plakon, Neil Combee, and Randy Fine — have received messages from their constituents asking them to block James W. Grant from running for re-election and running for Speaker during the 2022-24 term, saying the Tampa Republican has already served eight years in office and any more would be in violation of the state Constitution.

The push comes just days after Nick Tomboulides, the executive director of U.S. Term Limits, wrote a post on the group’s website urging Floridians to contact their legislator to stop “Grant from cheating term limits.”

“He has not only filed to run for a fifth consecutive term in 2018, but Grant says he wants to stay in the House to become Speaker in 2024! That would make 14 consecutive years in office, almost double the legal limit,” wrote Tomboulides in a June 21 post on U.S. Term Limits’ website.

“Grant must believe he is above the law. He is attempting to justify his actions by pointing to a brief pause in his service from 2014-2015, when Grant’s friends in the Legislature vacated his seat. He was back in his job just 155 days later, mostly missing time when the House wasn’t in session,” he continued. “According to Grant, this meaningless gap started his term limit clock all over again, giving him a fresh eight years-plus.”

Tomboulides wrote a similar op-ed also ran on Sunshine State News website on June 16. Established in the early 1990s, U.S. Term Limits, a Washington, D.C.-based group, advocates for term limits at all levels of government.

First elected to the Florida House in 2010, Grant’s 2014 re-election campaign was embroiled in controversy. In the months leading up to the election, Tampa attorney Michael Steinberg filed suit over write-in candidate Daniel Matthews.

Steinberg, who was married to Grant’s GOP opponent Miriam Steinberg, said the write-in candidate should be disqualified because he didn’t live in the district. At the time, the Tampa Tribune reported that Circuit Judge Angela Dempsey agreed, and disqualified him. However, Matthews appealed, and panel of judges with the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with him.

While the legal battle was continued, the election played. Grant would eventually win the election; however, the House threw out those election results and vacated the seat. According to a Tampa Tribune report at the time, the House cited the months-long and unresolved litigation over the write-in candidacy.

Gov. Rick Scott ordered a special election, which Grant handily won. And since the seat was vacant when Grant won the special election, he won a new term — not a re-election.

That has left some Floridians irked, and they’re sounding off to their state representatives. In an email to Plakon, Casselberry resident Janet Leonard said she was “very disheartened to learn that Rep. Grant is evading the eight-year term limit set in place by 77 percent of Florida voters in 1992.”

“Why does one man believe he is above the law and not subject to these limits,” she wrote Plakon, according to an email provided to “A 155-day hiatus doesn’t change the fact that he’s been in office for each of eight consecutive years. As my state representative, you should stop grant from cheating term limits and becoming a future Speaker.”

In another email, Longwood resident Albert Simpson tells Plakon that “term limits are an essential part of Florida government that stop elected officials from abusing their power.” He goes on to ask Plakon to tell Grant to step down from office instead of violating term limits.

Grant is one of four candidates in the running to be the Speaker of the House beginning in 2022, if Republicans keep their majority. Grant and Rep. Paul Renner, who was elected in a special election in April 2015, are considered to be the leading contenders for the post.

The freshman GOP caucus is expected to vote for its leader, and eventual Speaker, during a meeting in Central Florida on June 30.

Now officially on the ballot, Corey Givens Jr. lays out platform

St. Petersburg City Council District 6 candidate Corey Givens, Jr., officially qualified for the ballot Thursday and said he was pleased to do at the same time that the city was raising the Pride flag at City Hall.

“The sun is shining bright in St. Petersburg today. I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate this milestone occasion, than by celebrating with our allies in the LGBTQ community.” Givens said in a statement. “I’m uplifted by the intensity of the spirit for change and I’m inspired by this renewed yearning for new leadership in local government. Our situations may be vastly different, but our desire for progress is very much the same.”

The 25-year-old Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Association also unveiled his platform on his website on Thursday. He says it’s an assortment of ideas and goals that he’s come up with based on meeting with voters over the past six months. They include:

— A call for a $15-per-hour minimum wage for city employees.

— Provide business tax incentives to credit unions to establish branches in socioeconomically challenged communities.

— Increase funding for FREE trolley service to include more routes within neighborhoods that lack access to public transportation, food, and livable wage paying jobs.

— Develop a citywide Early Childhood Development Initiative that aims to ensure children ages zero through five are healthy, well-cared for and ready to succeed in school.

— And partner with local schools, artist, and musicians to integrate performing arts into city-operated after school care programs.

“People are tired of politicians and the media deflecting from the issues. They’re tired of the political division,” Givens Jr. says. “We’re no longer looking back at the past; we’re looking forward to fixing the real issues that real people face daily. I’m talking about quality of life issues such as safe and sustainable living, better regional transportation, educational equity, and improved access to local government. ”

It hasn’t been the best month for the highly ambitious USFSP graduate.

He was the subject of an unflattering report regarding a campaign contribution that he was accused of pocketing into his own coffers. He did report $825 in campaign contributions for the month of May.

Two of the other eight candidates in the race, Justin Bean and Jim Jackson, also qualified for the race on Thursday.

Kathy Castor calls Senate health care proposal ‘even worse’ than House bill

Upon the first review of what Republican Senators euphemistically call the “Better Care Reconciliation Act,” Kathy Castor says it’s “worse” than the much-derided “American Health Care Act” passed earlier this year by the GOP House.

What most upsets the Democratic congresswoman from Tampa is that the bill “radically” restructures Medicaid.

“This is a dramatic overhaul of Medicaid that will cause families to lose care and present a very difficult budget to Florida,” she said in a conference call Thursday afternoon.

Medicaid is a federal/state program partnership that is administered by the states but mostly funded by Washington. In Florida, it’s mostly provided to children, people with disabilities and the elderly living in nursing homes suffering from specific ailments.

Currently, the feds pay on average about 64 percent; states pick up the rest.

The Senate GOP plan would repeal this structure, replacing it with caps on how much money states receive each year. Castor says this is a problem, because Florida already spends less on the program than most other states, despite it being the third largest in population.

Bloomberg News reports that, starting in 2025, the Senate bill would index Medicaid spending to a slower growth rate than the House version, which indexed Medicaid to the faster growth rate of medical inflation plus 1 percentage point, to try to keep pace with the disproportionate growth in health care costs.

Approximately 3.6 million Floridians rely on Medicaid, close to 20 percent of the state’s population.

“The Senate bill includes enormously consequential changes, that will clearly move the country backward on child and parent coverage,” says Joan Alker, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Children and Families and a research professor at Georgetown University.

“The only question on my mind is how quickly and sharply this U-turn would occur,” she added, saying that it would ultimately end the guarantee to the state of federal funding for Medicaid.

Alker says what’s most provocative is that the restructuring of Medicaid has nothing to do with the repeal of the Affordable Care Act: “This is just something that Congress is doing while they’re in the neighborhood.”

The American Hospital Association, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network and the Association of American Medical Colleges all came out in opposition to the bill Thursday afternoon.

Under the Senate bill, the federal government would continue paying subsidies to health insurance companies through 2019. It would also provide $50 billion to help stabilize insurance markets and hold down premiums from 2018 through 2021 — in other words, until after the next presidential election.

Castor says that the Senate bill, unlike the House counterpart, does preserve pre-existing conditions protections. But she says that provision is “totally undermined” by the fact that states can waive other insurance rules that could weaken the protections for essential health benefits, as well as lift caps on what a patient pays to an insurer. Also, the bill would provide $62 billion in grants to states for similar purposes from 2019 to 2026.

Also, the bill would provide $62 billion in grants to states for similar purposes from 2019 to 2026.

At least four GOP senators are already indicating they cannot support the bill as written, raising the possibility there won’t be an up-or-down vote on the bill within the next week, a self-imposed deadline created by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

More endorsements come rolling in for Darden Rice’s re-election

St. Petersburg City Council Chair Darden Rice is announcing an extended list of new endorsements Thursday for her District 4 re-election bid.

As a popular first-term Council member and longtime civic activist, Rice enjoys a wellspring of support from elected officials, colleagues and well-wishers on both the local and state levels.

The growing list of endorsements includes several prominent local elected officials: State Sen. Darryl Rouson, State Reps. Ben Diamond and Wengay Newton, as well as St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman, and City Council colleagues Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Karl Nurse, Jim Kennedy and Charlie Gerdes.

“Darden is truly dedicated to the people of St. Petersburg,” Nurse said Thursday. “She has a passion for public service that shines through the work she does, especially when it comes to constituent services. I’m proud to support Darden again in her race for City Council.”

Also lining up behind Rice are Pinellas County Commissioners Pat Gerard, Janet Long, Ken Welch and John Moroni, Pinellas County School Board Member Rene Flowers, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, and Tampa City Council Members Mike Suarez, Yolie Capin, Harry Cohen and Charlie Miranda.

Welch praises Rice’s “great work” for both for the City of St. Petersburg and Pinellas County.

“Her leadership on important issues like fair wages and the environment have a positive impact on all of us every day,” he says. “I’m looking forward to continuing our work together during her second term on Council.”

In addition to her work on the environment – the Sierra Club and Florida Conservation Voters are among her earliest supporters – and for social justice, Rice also recently proposed a landmark Defend Our Democracy ordinance for the city of St. Pete, which seeks to stem big money spending in municipal elections.

On a 4-3 vote Thursday, council members supported Rice’s proposal that would require corporations spending more than $5,000 in city elections to certify they are not entirely or partly owned by foreign interests.

“I’m honored to have the support of my colleagues in St. Petersburg, Pinellas County and around Tampa Bay,” Rice says. “It’s important in local government to work cooperatively to make positive change, and I look forward to four more years of progress.”

Rice is also being endorsed by former Florida Gov. and current Congressman Charlie Crist, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, and former Congresswoman Gwen Graham, who is now a Democratic candidate for Florida Governor. She also has earned widespread support from various neighborhood leaders in District 4, a non-partisan seat covering large sections of North St. Pete.

As an active labor union advocate, Rice won the backing of the West Central Florida Labor Council, Service Employees International Union, Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association and St. Petersburg Association of Fire Fighters.

In her re-election bid, Rice is facing only a single challenger, USFSP student Jerick Johnston.

Justin Bean qualifies for City Council race, continues to lead the field in fundraising

St. Petersburg City Council District 6 hopeful Justin Bean announced Thursday that he has officially qualified to appear on the August 29 ballot

“I am excited to officially qualify for the ballot in our District 6 race,” said Bean, a sales manager at Reusable Transport Packaging, a web-based sales and marketing group based in downtown St. Pete.

“This is just the next step in the important process of sharing my plan to create sustainable economic opportunity for everyone,” Bean said. “I can’t wait to meet even more of my neighbors as I knock on their front doors and to hear their concerns and share this important message.”

Bean raised $4,995 in May, and overall has taken in $18,547, the most of any candidate in the nine-person field.

The two top finishers in the District 6 on August 29 will then go on to run citywide in November.


Mike Fasano’s July charity is Pasco back-to-school supply drive

For July’s charity-of-the-month, the five offices of Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano will be collecting donations to help kids whose families cannot afford basic back-to-school supplies required of most students.

Soon after the promotion ends at the end of the month, schools in each community will receive the supplies.

“Each year students are expected to purchase an ever-growing list of supplies to bring with them on the first day of school,” Fasano said in a statement. “Gone are the days when a notebook, a pencil, and some book covers, often made out of old shopping bags, were what most kids needed. Now, in addition to backpacks, earbuds, USB drives and a variety of pens, pencils, tape, crayons and other items, they are expected to buy supplies for the classroom as well.

“There are far too many families who struggle to provide for their own children, let alone provide towels, wipes, and items for other students to use,” he added. “I am hopeful that our efforts will make the burden lighter for as many families and students as possible.”

During July, cash donations can be made at any of the five tax collector locations in Pasco County.

For more information about the Pasco Tax Collector’s Back-to-School Supply Drive, as well as the county’s charitable giving programs, contact Assistant Tax Collector Greg Giordano at (727) 847-8179 or visit

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