The Bay and the 'Burg Archives - Page 2 of 576 - SaintPetersBlog

With little debate, Senate advances Greg Steube’s courthouse carry gun bill

A proposal to allow people with concealed-weapons licenses to store firearms with security officers at courthouses advanced in the Florida Senate Wednesday.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Greg Steube (SB 616), is one of 10 firearms-related pieces of legislation the Sarasota Republican has introduced in the current Session. Unlike many of those proposals, however, opposition to this bill isn’t as fevered in comparison.

Steube added an amendment to his bill that would define what a courthouse is. The current statute (790.06) explicitly refers to a “courthouse.”

“Would you agree that there are persons approaching a courthouse or going there on matters that might be emotional to them and that encouraging a person to bring with them such a weapon such as a knife or gun even to the front of a courthouse might be problematic?” St. Petersburg Democrat Darryl Rouson asked Steube.

Steube replied that under current Florida law, any citizen could walk up to the front of a courthouse with a license to carry. “I just can’t enter the courthouse, because 790.06 specifically says that’s a gun-free zone,” Steube said.

Like Rouson, Steube is an attorney, and he agreed with his Democratic colleague in the Governmental Oversight and Accountability Committee that there many people who go to court in a highly emotional state. But Steube added that attorneys are already sitting ducks for a disgruntled member of the public when they enter and leave a courthouse because they’re not allowed to carry a firearm while approaching or exiting a courthouse.

Broward County public official Edward G. Labrador said his county doesn’t want any guns in public buildings. He stated that courthouses are county facilities, not state facilities.

“Frankly, we should have a say in deciding whether or not guns can come into our facilities,” he said, adding that the proposed law requires court security officials to hold on to the firearms in a secure area.

“We just built a courthouse for $300 million, and it doesn’t have the capability of having storage facilities of all of the members who are going to bring their concealed weapons,” Labrador said, calling it an unfunded mandate.

Rouson said this would not even be an issue were it not for Steube being stopped by private security guards and a sheriff’s deputy on Valentine’s Day when he tried to enter a Manatee County courthouse.

Steube corrected him, saying that in fact he was stopped going into the clerk of the court’s office in Manatee County. 

The bill passed on a party-line vote, 4-3.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Ferry adds routes to shuttle Rays fans to St. Pete in April

With the Major League Baseball season poised to begin in St. Petersburg in 11 days, the Tampa Bay Rays, PSTA and the Cross-Bay Ferry are working together to make it easier for Tampa residents to attend Tampa Bay Rays baseball games.

The ferry will adjust its schedule and add special, later routes to connect from Tampa to St. Petersburg and back in April, the last scheduled month for the ferry pilot project. The announcement was made aboard the vessel at the ferry dock in downtown St. Petersburg on Wednesday.

“This is a fantastic way for Tampa fans to help kick off baseball season in Tampa Bay,” said project advisor Ed Turanchik. “The ferry has been a wonderful addition to this area, and we are thrilled to work with the Rays to support such a fun way for fans to get to games.”

Officials that after passengers arrive in St. Petersburg, PSTA  will pick up the tab in providing free rides between the ferry dock and Tropicana Field for every Rays home game in April (with one exception, on April 21).

The Tampa Streetcar is also getting into the act. They will reduce the daily cost of a pass on the streetcar for ferry riders from $5.00 to $2.50 in April.

Officials with the ferry announced earlier this month that they had sold more than 6,000 tickets in February, the best month yet since the pilot project began operating between Tampa and St. Petersburg in November.

There was a total of 6,070 tickets purchased last month, a 57-percent rise from January, when just 3,867 people bought tickets, the lowest monthly total to date.

The service is scheduled to run through the end of April. Then local officials in the four local governments that put up $350,000 each to help fund it — Tampa, St. Petersburg and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties — will have discussions about maintaining it going forward. It’s being operated in concert with Seattle-based HMS Ferries.

The Rays open the MLB season by hosting the New York Yankees on Sunday, April 2 at 1:10 p.m.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Tampa City Council members went to National League of Cities meeting last week. It didn’t go well

Last week, a group of Tampa City Council members flew to Washington for the National League of Cities’ annual Congressional City Conference, the first held in the Donald Trump administration.

It was not very encouraging, at least for the three Democrats.

“The consensus of the participants was fear, primarily of the unknown,” said Council Chair Mike Suarez.

The meetings took place concurrently to the unveiling of Trump’s proposed federal budget, which eliminates funding for the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which provides grants for low-income people to buy or rehabilitate homes, and the Choice Neighborhoods program, which provides grants to organizations attempting to revitalize neighborhoods.

It also would get rid of the $3 billion Community Development Block Grant program, which Suarez says “will severely hamper the city’s ability to provide help to our citizens.”

The proposed budget cuts also include removing the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program, set up by the Obama administration’s 2009 economic stimulus package to provide an extra injection of cash for surface transportation projects. That program has distributed more than $5 billion for more than 400 projects, including Tampa’s Riverwalk.

Councilwoman Yolie Capin said the trip was expensive and what she mostly got out of “was all pretty bad news.”

“We’re pretty much on our own, the cities are, that’s what I got from it,” she said, adding that “it was my first League of Cities National Convention, and probably my last.”

Suarez says he served on a panel at the conference on the deductibility of Municipal Bonds, which, if eliminated, “would reduce the number of projects cities could fund and make our borrowing more expensive.”

Councilman Harry Cohen has also attended the conference during Obama’s term. He says it was a lot different last week.

“During the Obama years, the administration sent many top officials to speak to and interact with the elected officials from cities across the country,” he wrote in a text. “We heard from Vice President [JoeBiden, the head of the EPA, cabinet secretaries, etc. They were interested in and engaged with what was happening in America’s cities. This year, the only confirmed speaker from the administration was Attorney General Jeff Sessions — who ultimately canceled (EPA Secretary Scott Pruitt did speak at the event). Other than a few holdovers, we were totally ignored. They had nothing to say to us and they made no effort to pretend otherwise.”

Suarez says he remains hopeful that the Trump administration will give a boost to the cities when he releases his promised $1 trillion infrastructure plan. But there are some concerns now that with the President and the congress fixated on health care currently and a major tax overhaul later this year, that infrastructure plan may not happen as intended.

“Here’s a president who talks one thing — ‘oh, we’re going to have a huge rebuilding plan in America,’ and then the first budget comes out, and there’s nothing there,” Tampa Democratic Congresswoman Kathy Castor told FloridaPolitics.com this week. “So his rhetoric is not matching what he promised.”

White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said the White House is targeting “inefficient programs” and will shift funds into “more efficient infrastructure programs later on.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Four St. Petersburg City Council members announce support for Rick Kriseman’s re-election

With the hire of a campaign manager earlier this week, Rick Kriseman‘s re-election campaign is in full swing, more than seven months before Election Day.

Four members of the St. Petersburg City Council — Chair Darden Rice along with Lisa Wheeler-Bowman, Amy Foster and Charlie Gerdes — announced Wednesday that they are endorsing the mayor.

“Councilmembers Rice, Wheeler-Bowman, Foster, and Gerdes have been great allies for progress on our city council,” Kriseman said in a statement. “I have worked closely with each of them to fund solutions to our infrastructure challenges, move the new Pier forward, keep the Tampa Bay Rays in St. Pete, and bring economic opportunities to South St. Pete. They are dedicated to making our entire city a better place to live, work and play.”

“Mayor Kriseman cares,” said Rice, who introduced the mayor at the campaign kickoff event for his re-election in late January. “We don’t always agree, but we always find solutions to the biggest challenges facing our city. With the mayor’s leadership, we have taken action on significant issues that past administrations looked past or did not solve.”

“I have worked side-by-side with the mayor to fight for my district” added Wheeler-Bowman, the Council vice-chair. “I especially applaud Mayor Kriseman’s leadership on public safety. From hiring Anthony Holloway to be our police chief to identifying the funds for a new station to bringing back community-oriented policing and working to keep the wrong guns out of the wrong hands, I trust the mayor’s vision for our future.”

Kriseman’s campaign announced earlier this week that he has raised $260,000 so far in his campaign, giving him a substantial head start against his opponents.

Three people — Paul Congemi, Jesse Nevel and Anthony Cates III — have announced their candidacies. All eyes remain fixated on whether former Mayor Rick Baker will enter the contest. Baker has said he is considering a run.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Pinellas County politico John Morroni to step down in 2018

Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni announced Tuesday he would be vacating his seat next year, reports the Tampa Bay Times.

The 25-year veteran politician served roughly 18 years on the Commission and, before that, another seven in Florida’s House of Representatives. Morroni said he would not be a candidate for a fifth term on the board, wrote the Times.

Twice elected as a state lawmaker, Morroni served from 1992-2000. From 1993-1994 he was the chair of the Pinellas County Legislative Delegation. In 2000, he was elected to Pinellas County Commission, District 6, in 2000 and was re-elected. He served as chair in 2005, 2012 and 2015, according to the commission’s website.

“This is the right decision for me,” Morroni, 62, told the Times. “It’s time for me to let someone else sit in this chair.”

Current appointments he serves on include the Affirmative Action Committee, Forward Pinellas, of which he is the chair, and the Value Adjustment Board.

FloridaPolitics.com reached out to Morroni late Tuesday for comment, but did not immediately receive a response before publication.

The Times also said his decision came about six months after the politician was given the all-clear by his doctors “after being diagnosed with a rare bone marrow disorder. He beat two earlier bouts of cancer,” the article said.

However, the commissioner said at the Tuesday meeting where he announced his plans his health did not factor into his decision to step down in 2018.

“I’m doing fine,” Morroni said after the meeting. “It’s time to go. I’ve talked it over with my wife.”

In July, Morroni said he would undergo a stem cell transplant treatment for myelodysplastic syndrome, which is a form of cancer.

At the time, he blamed the diagnosis on chemotherapy while under treatment for Non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation names David Punzak as vice chair

David Punzak

David Punzak has been named vice chair of the St. Petersburg Area Economic Development Corporation (EDC) board of directors.

Punzak is a shareholder with the national Carlton Fields law firm, based out of its Tampa location. He will become chairman in 2018 following his term as vice chair.

“David brings a great depth and breadth of experience and leadership to the organization, and we look forward to his impact over the coming years,” said EDC chairman Michael Vivio.

Punzak brings more than three decades’ experience as an attorney specializing in transactions for banks, real estate developers and insurance companies. He regularly stands for clients in real estate and finance, mergers, acquisitions and general business matters.

With an extensive history of community service, Punzac has served on the St. Petersburg Chamber of Commerce board since 2012, as well as two terms as chair and as a leader of the Economic Development Committee. He also had leadership roles at Baseball Forever St. Pete, Suncoasters, Heroes of the St. Petersburg Police and The Dali Museum.

“Being named vice chair of the EDC is a great privilege, and I am proud to continue service to my hometown,” said Punzak. He added, “The EDC is poised to make a significant impact on the economic prosperity of St. Pete’s citizens, and I am excited to be a part of it.”

EDC was launched in 2016 as a part of the “Grow Smarter” strategic plan of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, the City of St. Petersburg and community partners over two years ago.

The organization’s major focus is to ensure the city develops and maintains a sustainable and inclusive economic strategy. The Grow Smarter plan targets business sectors and partnership opportunities. The program names the EDC a “Storyteller in Chief” for St. Petersburg, promoting it as a premier business destination.

Funding for the EDC comes through investments from over 40 local, private entities as well as significant funding from the Greater St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of St. Petersburg.

St. Petersburg EDC President J. P. DuBuque said in a statement: “Punzak brings a host of experiences in the economic development space and institutional knowledge of the City that will only add to our ability to be an organization of high impact.”

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Jamie Grant picks up challenger in HD 64

A Hillsborough County school teacher announced this week that she will challenge incumbent Republican Rep. Jamie Grant for the District 64 seat in the Florida House.

Jessica Harrington originally planned to challenge Republican U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis in 2018, but said she decided to change course after a trip to Tallahassee.

“I realized that no one really knows me… nationally, but a lot of people know me locally,” she said.

Harrington believes public schools are underfunded and overcrowded, which she blames on funding cuts early in Gov. Rick Scott’s tenure.

“If you fund (schools) properly, they’ll be amazing,” Harrington said. “I’m the one working a second job… spending money out of my small paycheck to fund my classroom.”

The teacher also supports Medicaid expansion in Florida and believes transgender students should have the right to use the bathroom of their choosing, regardless of birth gender.

 

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Bill creating Tampa Bay area transit authority gets first hearing in Legislature

Legislation that would refigure the Tampa Bay Area Regional Transit Authority (TBARTA) had its first hearing in the Florida Legislature, where it became clear changes may be needed if its to pass.

The bill was introduced by Clearwater state Senator Jack Latvala earlier this month, and is being sponsored in the House by Plant City Republican Dan Raulerson. The bill (HB 1243) creates a regional transit agency that would alter TBARTA by giving it direction to plan, implement and operate multimodal transit options throughout the region. It would coordinate plans among member counties and prioritize regionally-significant projects. And it designates TBARTA as the recipient of federal funds for any intercounty or major one-county project.

The fact that there would be one more board member coming from the private sector bothered some officials on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, which discussed the bill on Tuesday. The board would consist of 13 members, three of whom would be selected by the Governor. The Senate President and Speaker of the House would get two selections. The four counties would select one representative; there would be one representative from the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA).

“I think part of the issue is we want to have some private expertise on the board,” Raulerson said. “Currently we have a vast majority of elected officials on TBARTA. What we’re attempting to do is say, ‘Look, let’s have a balance.'”

St. Petersburg Democrat Wengay Newton and Tampa Republican Jackie Toledo both expressed reservations about there being more members from the private sector than elected officials on the agency. Raulerson said he was open to discussing that, but felt that there was a chance that the representatives from HART and PSTA would likely be an elected official anyway.

Toledo also questioned why there would be no member from the Florida Dept. of Transportation on the proposed board. Raulerson said the purpose of the legislation was to “unclutter the process and make sure that going forward we have an effective governance policy,” adding however that he would be open to adding an FDOT representative to the board.

Unlike TBARTA, however, it would only encompass four counties –  Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough and Manatee.

Hudson Republican Amber Mariano asked Raulerson why it had been reduced from seven. Raulerson said it was to  “narrow the focus,” because the existing structure of TBARTA “hasn’t resulted in what we want.” He later said that there is a possibility of adding Hernando County to the agency.

“This bill gives me pause,” Newton said, referring to the fact that Tampa Bay voters have rejected recent tax referendums on transit. “I don’t see how changing a board is going to do that.”

The bill is considered the number one priority of the Tampa Bay Partnership.

“Transportation is the greatest economic challenge facing our region today,” said Rhea Law, Chair of the Tampa Bay Partnership and Chair, Florida Offices at Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney. “Our limited transit options and lack of regional connectivity inhibit our residents’ access to jobs, our businesses’ access to workers, and the efficient movement of goods and commerce that drive economic growth. This legislation is a critical first step to creating a seamless regional transit system that successfully addresses these issues. We thank the sponsor, Rep. Dan Raulerson, and the members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee, which includes Bay Area Legislative Delegation members Rep. Amber Mariano, Rep. Ralph Massullo, Rep. Wengay Newton and Rep. Jackie Toledo, for recognizing the importance of this bill and allowing it to move forward through the legislative process. Their actions today encouraged continued discussion and allow for future efforts to improve the bill.”

The bill will get its first hearing in the Senate on Wednesday in the Transportation Committee.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

St. Petersburg man arrested for molesting child for 3 years

It began in 2014, when the child was 11.

Ronnie O’Brian Kasten II, 29, was arrested by detectives for sexually molesting the youngster, now 13, according to a news release issued by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office late Monday.

Detectives with the Crimes Against Children Unit arrested Kasten, a multiple felon according to records, on one count of sexual battery and one count of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child, who was unnamed in the police report. It was too early to know if prosecutors with the state attorney’s office would seek further charges against him.

The report said the child’s relatives contacted investigators after the victim volunteered information to family a member of “inappropriate sexual activity had taken place on multiple occasions” with Kasten between 2014 to 2017.

The report didn’t specify a particular location, only that the incidents occurred in Pinellas County.

Kasten’s address is listed as 6295 33rd Way North in St. Petersburg.

The report says he was taken into custody without incident and is currently being held in the Pinellas County Jail.

Kasten has a lengthy history of arrests, as did his father, according to the Pinellas County Clerk of Court website.

Past arrests of the junior Kasten include three felony arrests for the sale of marijuana, two misdemeanor arrests for possession of marijuana, felony sexual battery and lewd and lascivious molestation of a family member, two misdemeanor arrests for domestic battery, felony aggravated battery of a pregnant woman and felony aggravated battery of a woman. He has more than a dozen traffic citations, too.

Records on the clerk’s website show the father, Ronnie O’Brian Kasten, was arrested for misdemeanor domestic violence, felony DUI, felony arson, felonious possession of firearms, three separate cases of petty theft, four separate arrests for felony grand theft, obstruction of justice, resisting an officer with violence, violation of probation in a retail theft incident and burglary.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

David Jolly headlining fundraiser for House candidate Berny Jacques this Thursday

Although the 2018 election is more than a year-and-a-half away, House District 66 candidate Berny Jacques is working hard to procure support well in advance of the campaigning for his first run for public office.

On Monday, City of Seminole Councilmember Trish Springer announced that she is backing Jacques in the race to succeed Republican Larry Ahern, who is term limited out next year.

“Berny has done a great job serving on the City of Seminole Developmental Review Board,” Springer said in a statement issued out by Jacques. “I am confident that he will also do a great job for the people of Seminole as our State Representative.”

“I’m honored to receive the endorsement of Councilor Trish Springer,” Jacques said. “Councilor Springer has brought great value to our community as a businesswoman, in civic organizations, and now as a member of the City Council. I am excited about the opportunity.”

Jacques also announced on Monday that he’ll be holding a fundraiser for his emerging campaign this Thursday, March 23, at the Island Way Grill in Clearwater at 5:30 p.m., with special guests former Pinellas County Congressman David Jolly and his wife, Laura Jolly.

The 29-year-old Jacques is a former Pinellas County prosecutor now working as an attorney in the private sector in St. Petersburg. He’ll be running again at least one other Republican to get the nomination for the seat next year, as Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee Chairman Nick DiCeglie has also announced that he will be filing paperwork to run for the seat, which includes parts of  Clearwater, Largo, Seminole as well as beach communities from Indian Shores to Belleair Beach.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons