The Bay and the 'Burg Archives - Page 2 of 543 - SaintPetersBlog

Professional services firm announces HQ relocation to Tampa from North Carolina

BlueLine Associates, a professional services firm, is relocating its global headquarters from Cary, North Carolina to Tampa.

For the move., BlueLine expects to invest more than $2 million in the local economy, and create 150 new jobs, paying an average wage of $71,909. While the firm currently has offices in Tampa, the relocation of its headquarters will expand the company’s footprint to include its financial, legal and human resources groups.

Gov. Rick Scott hailed the move as “great news.”

“We were competing with North Carolina and Louisiana, but ultimately BlueLine Associates chose Florida for their new headquarters,” Scott said in a statement. “I look forward to BlueLine Associates continued success in our state.”

BlueLine provides consulting, managed services and staffing solutions to small, mid and large companies in a variety of industries. In 2015 and 2016, BlueLine was recognized on the “Best Places to Work” lists of both Consulting Magazine and the Triangle Business Journal.

“This move gives us access to Florida’s strong talent pool and allows us to continue the strategic expansion of our business,” said BlueLine President Rocky Silvestri. “Our company culture is at the core of our business success, our client’s satisfaction, and the happiness of our people.  We are excited to bring those guiding principles to Tampa.”

According to Scott’s office, the project was made possible through strong partnerships between Enterprise Florida, the Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corporation, Hillsborough County, the City of Tampa and the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.

Several state and local leaders added their voices to applaud BlueLine’s decision.

Chris Hart IV, Enterprise Florida president and CEO, said: “Blueline Associates has chosen Florida because it is the best place to do business. The talent and the strong, business-friendly climate in Florida continue to attract growing businesses. Hard-working Floridians are getting jobs that could have gone to other states, but they ended up right here in Florida.”

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity Executive Director Cissy Proctor added: “BlueLine Associates’ relocation to the Tampa area is yet another example of a business recognizing the unique opportunities for growth in Florida. Our state boasts a strong and talented workforce, a business-friendly, low tax environment and fewer regulations that enable companies to grow and succeed.”

“Hillsborough County offers BlueLine Associates a deep bench of information technology consulting, staffing and management consulting talent, as well as the amenities that will make it easy for them to recruit exceptional candidates to the area,” said Hillsborough County Commission Chair Stacy White.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn pointed out that the move is further proof that Tampa’s star “continues to rise.”

“As millennial talent flocks here and our downtown undergoes a historic and exciting transformation,” Buckhorn said, “Tampa is gaining a national reputation as the place to be for companies ranging from startups to Fortune 500 corporations. We wish BlueLine Associates a prosperous future here.”

Candidates interested in a position with BlueLine Associates can visit blueline-associates.com, for more information on available positions.

 

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Hillsborough Hispanic Dem Caucus backs Alan Clendenin for FDP chair — taking a shot at its Steering Committee

The Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus is endorsing Alan Clendenin in the race for Florida Democratic Party chair.

“The Hispanic population has grown exponentially to become the largest minority in Hillsborough County and the State. Hispanics now account in Hillsborough alone for over twenty-five percent of the population or one in every four persons. Alan understands our issues and has always stood by us whenever we needed help.” according to Hispanic Caucus President, William “Bill” Guerra.

It was a rare show of support for Clendenin in his home county, as the statewide election among Democrats for party chair takes place Saturday in Orlando.

Clendenin was compelled to move to Bradford County in North Florida after losing his bid for state committeeman in Hillsborough County last month to Russ Patterson.

Adding insult to injury, the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee’s Steering Committee announced earlier this week they were supporting Stephen Bittel in the race for FDP chair, a vote angering some members of the party.

That vote was referred to in the news release issued out by the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus.

As voting members of the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee (HCDEC) Steering Committee who attended last Monday night’s Steering Committee meeting, we are disappointed in the news media statements that have appeared yesterday and today of our HCDEC Chair implying that the Hillsborough County Democratic Executive Committee Steering Committee supports a certain candidate for State Party Chair when no official motion was ever offered to support any candidate at the Monday night meeting nor was any vote taken by the Hillsborough County Steering Committee membership on Monday night that includes our vote as the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus of Florida.

Victor DiMaio with the Hillsborough County Democratic Hispanic Caucus says their membership consists of approximately 20 people.

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‘Fake news: What is it; How to spot it’ event in Lakeland Sunday

Barry Friedman, editor and publisher of the online news site, lkldnow.com,  will discuss the evolution of fake news as a major issue in current events and how readers can become more discerning of online postings.

Entitled “Fake News: Democracy in an Age of Media Bubbles and Infotainment News,” the event will be held 3:30 – 5:30 p.m., Sunday at the Just Dance Studio, 124 S. Kentucky Ave., Lakeland. An “admission fee” of $5 is requested for light refreshments during the two-hour seminar discussing the growing problem of fake news or deliberate propaganda.

Friedman notes that the 2016 election revealed a need for media consumers to know how to judge the credibility of what they read.

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Tampa City Council to discuss amending ordinance on public feeding of the homeless

Five days after the arrest of seven members of the group Food Not Bombs for feeding the homeless in Gaslight Park without a permit, the Tampa City Council agreed Thursday to hold a workshop to discuss the possibility of amending its current ordinance on the issue.

“What if we create Sunday as the one day where they can come in – and not just Food Not Bombs (but) a church or another non profit – to set up some tables, feed some homeless people, and not have to worry about being trespassed or arrested and can truly do so?  asked Councilman Guido Maniscalco in proposing the workshop, which his fellow council members voted unanimously to support.

Food Not Bombs members were found last Saturday to be in violation of  City Ordinance 16.43, which states that, “No person shall conduct any activity or utilize any department managed land in a manner which will result in commercial activity, as defined in this chapter, or provide for the distribution or sampling of any materials, merchandise, food, and/or beverages to the general public, without prior written approval from the department.”

But other cities, like St. Petersburg, do allow small-scale food distribution without a permit. Maniscalco is calling for a workshop so that the city’s legal department can research St. Pete’s code and offer their own suggestions on how to possibly accommodate the public feedings. He said he also wants other council members to weigh in as well with their own ideas.

After hearing a steady stream of citizens criticizing the city for “criminalizing the homeless,” Councilman Harry Cohen felt the need to tell the audience at Thursday’s council meeting that “we’re all compassionate people up here, and we want to find a way to express that compassion in the types of rules and laws that we pass in the city.”

Two of the seven members of Food Not Bombs that we’re arrested last weekend told the council that the city’s current ordinance is a form of government overreach, and should be considered an embarrassment.

“The idea that city government has the authority to prevent us from caring for each other  is absurd,” said Jimmy Dunson. “We are going to bring about a better world, we are going to make this city bold, we are turning on our porch lights and calling the homeless back home. We just ask that the city doesn’t ask its police force to stand in the way of that.”

“This is like the Wizard of Oz, where rather than permits, fees and handcuffs, the city needs some a heart, a brain and some courage,” added FNB member Dezeray Lynn. “It’s time for the city and TPD stop pretending that two small tables in a public park where our taxes already pay for the public use of that park is what is making this into a problem.”

Tampa is certainly not the only city around the country that has ordinances on the books that restrict the practice of public feedings in city parks.  Two years ago, Food Not Bombs sued the city of Fort Lauderdale after it passed a similar law as Tampa’s ordinance. The group claimed the city law would “have a chilling effect on plaintiffs’ exercise of free speech and association,” but a U.S. District Judge ruled in favor of Fort Lauderdale last fall.

Nevertheless, several speakers at Thursday’s meeting told Council members how the arrests were a blot on the image of Tampa.

“I have actually been rather astonished and dismayed with the way that the city of Tampa deals with its homeless population,” said Aaron Walker, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Tampa, referring back to the issue the council and Mayor Bob Buckhorn had in dealing with panhandlers several years ago. He said he wasn’t in Tampa last week when the arrests occurred, but “it seems to that the optics of this particular problem are not in our favor, something we need to deeply consider.”

City Attorney Sal Territo said that the media attention from the arrests, which took place as thousands of people descended into Tampa for Monday night’s national college football championship, was an unfair depiction of the city’s attitude towards the homeless. He called it “an unfortunate situation.”

“It wasn’t because they were feeding people in the park,” he told the Council. “They were there without a permit, and the parks are supposed to be available to everyone. And this park does not have facilities for people who were eating in the park. So it really wasn’t the mean spirited way it was being portrayed.”

Tampa resident Susan Simpson said she was a supporter of Tampa Food Not Bombs. She said as a Christian and and as an employee of a church, her motto is to love God first, “and love thy neighbor as well.”

Speaking to SPB after the meeting, Maniscalco himself invoked his Christian background as to why he wants to find a way to move forward on the issue.

“I go to church every Sunday,” Maniscalco said. “I call myself a Christian. Yet we criminalize the essence of what we’re taught in church, which is to help your fellow man. So I feel like a hypocrite as a compassionate human being.”

Mayor Buckhorn was quoted in Thursday’s Tampa Bay Times as saying he is open to compromise with FNB, but added, “You can’t destroy a neighborhood in order to make your conscious feel better, and that’s exactly what’s happening.”

The workshop is scheduled to take place on Thursday, February 23 at 9:00 a.m.

 

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Larry Ahern files bill to provide commercial sales tax relief

Larry Ahern

State Rep. Larry Ahern filed a bill Wednesday that would eliminate the state sales tax that Florida business owners pay on their commercial leases.

The legislation would provide a sales tax exemption on the total rent paid for the right to use or occupy commercial real property.

 “Florida is the only state that imposes a standard, statewide sales tax on commercial real estate leases” the Seminole Republican said. “This bill will have a positive and direct effect on the bottom line for small businesses first and larger businesses in the coming years.”

A few highlights of the bill:

— The exemption for the first year will be for businesses that pay up to $10,000 per year in state sales tax; businesses that pay up to$20,000 would be eligible for the exemption in the second year; and businesses that pay up to $40,000 would be eligible in the third year.

— It would cover all leases and contractual agreements with rent and license fees regardless of terms and length of agreement.

— The exemption would increase by $10,000 each year for the ensuing six years until the total exemption is $90,000 and the remainder repealed completely in the 10th year.

More than 300,000 businesses owners who rent space will benefit the first year and more than 1 billion in all will benefit, Ahern said.

“This will give our state another competitive advantage in attracting new businesses, and provide some much-needed tax relief for the job creators currently affected by this additional overhead,”  Ahern said.

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Airbnb inks tax deal with Polk County

Airbnb, the internet-based home-sharing lodging service, announced Thursday it reached a deal with Polk County to collect tourism taxes from host clients.

The company said it is seeing rapid growth in Polk County over the past year, ending 2016 with 160 hosts — people who make their houses or apartments available through Airbnb for visitors on a night-by-night basis -and about 3,000 guest arrivals. That’s more than double the 2015 activity. Based on that, Airbnb projected it could collect more than $200,000 in new annual tax revenue for Polk County in 2017.

Airbnb said it generated $4.8 million in rent for the property owners in 2016.

“Tens of thousands of travelers are authentically experiencing Polk County’s neighborhoods and attractions through Airbnb,” Airbnb Florida Policy Director Tom Martinelli stated in a news release issued by the company. “While Polk County’s hosts and merchants are already benefiting from this economic impact, our collaboration with Tax Collector Tedder will unlock a new revenue stream for the County continue marketing itself as a preferred family-friendly tourist destination.”

Polk is now the 35th Florida county, out of 67, in which Airbnb is collecting and remitting bed taxes on behalf of its hosts, joining neighboring Hillsborough and Pasco counties as well as other large counties like Pinellas, Orange, Brevard and Lee. In the past month, Airbnb signed tax collection agreement with Hillsborough, Okaloosa and Hardee counties,

“We began negotiations with Airbnb early in 2016 and stayed focused on making sure the agreement was not confidential and available for public inspection, that it was understood our office would continue to pursue back taxes due from prior rental activities, and that there were adequate mechanisms in place for our office to conduct audits and pursue enforcement actions,” Tedder stated in the release.

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Charlie Crist to hold first St. Petersburg fundraiser of 2017 Saturday

This weekend, Congressman Charlie Crist will be back on home turf for one of his first Florida fundraisers of 2017.

The afternoon reception, scheduled Saturday from 5:30 – 7 p.m., will be at the home of Crist’s sister, Dr. Elizabeth Crist Hyden, at Casa Las Brisas, 515 Brightwaters Blvd, NE in St. Petersburg.

Supporters of the freshman St. Petersburg Democrat include Palm Harbor Attorney Fran Haasch as honorary chair, with a tentative host committee including St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, Janette and Tom Carey, Gordon Chernecky, Susan and Bob Churuti, Aubrey Dicus, Watson Haynes, Paul Jallo, Katharine and Joe Saunders, Kent Whittemore and Emory Wood.

A spot on the guest list will cost $500; $2,700 to be a host. Co-hosting the event will set supporters back $1,000. RSVPs are through Evan Lawlor at Evan@CharlieCrist.com or (202) 741-7215.

Crist – who represents Florida’s 13th Congressional District – has begun fundraising for a re-election bid in 2018, starting with a Washington D.C. fundraiser Jan. 3, the day he officially became part of the 115th Congress.

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Financial report says St. Petersburg is most fiscally healthy city in Florida

St. Petersburg is the most fiscally healthy large city in Florida, according to a new report.

The online Fiscal Times has put out a list of America’s large cities ranked by their fiscal stability — and the ‘Burg came out tops in the Sunshine State, and 23rd in the nation.

The report was written by Marc Joffe, director of policy research at the California Policy Center. He compiled the list using some a number of statistical tests.

A full 40 percent of the rating is based on the ratio of a city’s general fund balance to its expenditures, and another 30 percent goes to how much a city owes and how much it can pay (excluding its pension obligations). The other 30 percent is broken down in 10 percent increments on A) the ratio of actuarially determined pension contributions to total government wide-revenues, B) a change in the local unemployment rate, and C) a change in property values in 2015.

The announcement is a nice boost for Mayor Rick Kriseman, who is running for re-election this year.

“We are thrilled to be highlighted, but it comes as no surprise to us,” said Ben Kirby, a spokesman for the mayor. “It’s a reflection of our team’s talent and hard work and our focus on getting St. Petersburg’s finances back on track following the Great Recession.”

The report lists 116 cities in all, with Miami the next city from Florida on the list, coming in at 38.

Tampa is considered by the Fiscal Times as Florida’s third most fiscally healthy city, coming in at 60.

The Fiscal Times said that in order for a city to get a perfect score of 100, a city would have to have a general fund balance of at least 32 percent of general fund expenditures; long-term obligations (excluding pensions) no greater than 40 percent of total revenue; actuarially required pension contributions equal to no more than 5 percent of total revenue; stable or declining unemployment; and home price appreciation of at least 3 percent.

Orlando (72), Hialeah (93) and Jacksonville (102) complete the list of Florida cities in the report.

The nation’s most fiscally healthy city, according to the Fiscal Times, is Irvine, California. The two worst? Chicago is considered the worst, with New York City right behind them.

 

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Dennis Ross re-files bill telling DHS to build a wall

Donald Trump says he wants Congress to immediately authorize funding to construct a wall on the U.S. Southern border with Mexico, and Dennis Ross wants to help him do it.

The Polk County Republican announced on Thursday that he’s reintroducing legislation on the Finish the Fence Act, which amends the Illegal Immigration and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 to direct the Secretary of Homeland Security to complete the required 700-mile Southwest border fencing by Dec. 31, 2017:

“I reintroduced the Finish the Fence Act because finishing the construction of the fence along our Southwest border is the first incremental step in securing our border, providing for our national security, and halting the massive influx of illegal entry into our country,” Ross said in a statement.

Ross notes that more than a decade ago, Congress mandated that a 700-mile fence be built along the border, but nothing has been done to accomplish that. “There is no excuse for this delay because our Republican-led Congress recently provided DHS with $11 billion to finish construction and better secure our borders,” he says.

Trump’s tough talk on illegal immigration and his call for Mexico to pay for the construction of a wall helped catapult his early surge in popularity amongst Republican primary voters last year.

Despite Trump’s promises, Mexican leaders have steadfastly maintained that their country won’t provide funding for a border wall. At his press conference in New York City on Wednesday, Trump said that he wants to begin construction of the wall immediately.

“We’re going to build a wall,” he said. “I could wait about a year and a half until we finish our negotiations with Mexico, which we’ll start immediately after we get to office, but I don’t want to wait.”

Trump argued that the use of US tax dollars to pay for construction of the wall would be temporary and done in the interest of speed. He promised that he would eventually be able to get Mexico to “reimburse us” for it.

“I don’t feel like waiting a year or year and a half. We’re going to start building. Mexico in some form and there are many different forms, will reimburse us and they will reimburse us for the cost of the wall. That will happen. Whether it’s a tax or whether it’s a payment,” he said.

Trump continued, “Reports went out last week, ‘oh, Mexico is not going to pay for the wall because of a reimbursement.’ What’s the difference? I want to get the wall started. I don’t want to wait a year and a half until I make my deal with Mexico. We probably will have a deal sooner than that.”

In his statement, Ross said American lives are on the line in arguing for construction of a wall to begin immediately.

“This is not just an issue of illegal immigrants crossing our porous border,” he says. “This is also an issue of national security. ISIS is looking for every possible opportunity and weakness within our security systems to infiltrate and radicalize individuals to join its jihadist regimes to kill Americans, including recruiting and training those illegally crossing our border and entering our country. We cannot waste any more time on this, and I call on my colleagues to join me in demanding that this fence be finished.”

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Doctors: John Jonchuck, father who dropped daughter off bridge, now competent

A state mental hospital evaluation concludes a Florida man is now competent to stand trial on charges that he threw his young daughter to her death off a Tampa Bay area bridge.

Pinellas Circuit Judge Chris Helinger said during a Wednesday hearing that she’s read the report on 27-year-old John Jonchuck and set a competency hearing for March 27.

Assistant Public Defender Jane McNeill says she’ll want to have doctors chosen by the defense also assess Jonchuck.

Authorities say that in January 2015, Jonchuck stopped his car on the bridge, grabbed 5-year-old Phoebe from the back and then walked to the edge, where he dropped her over.

Doctors have been treating Jonchuck to restore his competency to stand trial.

The Tampa Bay Times reports prosecutors will seek the death penalty

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