The Bay and the 'Burg Archives - Page 3 of 546 - SaintPetersBlog

Charlie Crist asks EPA to investigate deaths of pelicans, egrets in St. Pete

U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist called on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate the troubling deaths of more than 20 pelicans and egrets in the Tampa Bay area last week, as well as the massive beaching of false killer whales this weekend that resulted in more than 80 deaths of these mammals.

The freshman Democrat from St. Petersburg wants the EPA to test the toxicity of the surrounding waterways to see if these deaths are linked to poor water quality caused by harmful algal blooms.

The four-paragraph letter dated Tuesday, says:

“I am writing today to request that the EPA investigate two recent events of great concern to me: multiple pelican and egret deaths in the Tampa Bay area, as well as the deaths of more than 80 false killer whales in Everglades National Park.

“In the waters surrounding my district, at least 22 pelicans and egrets died last week alone, with many more birds falling ill and being taken in for rehabilitation. Following a recent cold snap and resulting fish kill, there has been an influx of birds to the area. While a fish kill following cold weather is not uncommon, the deaths of the birds suggest there is something besides cold weather happening in the waters around Tampa Bay. The city of St. Petersburg has asked the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) to test for the presence of toxic algae in the water, but I am requesting that the EPA also get involved in investigating this alarming situation.

“In addition, more than 80 false killer whales died over the weekend during a mass beaching on the Gulf Coast of Everglades National Park. While the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and FWC are performing necropsies to determine the cause of the stranding, I would like the EPA to test the toxicity of the surrounding waters to determine if a link exists between the stranding and water quality.

“Both of these incidents are extremely disturbing and raise concerns of harmful algal blooms in the waters off of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Given the devastating effects of last year’s algal blooms on both the east and west coasts of Florida, I am asking that the EPA fully investigate these events, report the findings to me and the public, and work to mitigate further impacts. Thank you for your swift consideration and attention to this matter.”

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Dominic Calabro: Keeping cigars in the Cigar City

Politicians talk repeatedly about doing things to help create jobs. But, sometimes, doing nothing is the best option. We hope that newly-elected lawmakers understand that less government intrusion is often the key to keeping the American Dream alive.

A great example is the 2009 “Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act.” This innocuously named effort actually increased federal regulation in ways that even many of its supporters now regret.

The act gave the Food and Drug Administration the right to regulate all tobacco products, not just cigarettes. But bureaucracies tend to expand whenever they can and the agency soon extended its reach to premium cigars — a move that even the most liberal members of Congress said they never intended.

The result is a possible loss of jobs, the death of family-owned businesses and an unnecessary impediment to the American Dream.

A great example is the J.C. Newman’s Cigar Co. It is a classic “only in America” success story. Founded in 1895 in Ohio by an immigrant from Hungary, it is the nation’s oldest manufacturer of premium cigars.

In the 1950s, the business moved to Tampa, also known as Cigar City. What autos are to Detroit and movies are to Hollywood, cigars are the signature item in Tampa. The business flourished in this natural new home.

Cigars made by the 121-year-old family-run business are not marketed toward youth, nor are they used by younger consumers.

But the FDA, empowered to expand its reach without limit, has recently ruled that all cigar manufacturers must pay exorbitant “user fees,” undergo costly scientific tests that could run into the millions of dollars, fulfill new loads of paperwork and are now essentially prohibited from introducing new sizes, brands and blends. Samples provided for charity auctions or soldiers overseas are no longer allowed. And in a cruelly concurrent move, the federal government recently ruled that Cuban cigars will not only be allowed for sale in the United States, but they won’t have to meet the new requirements for American-made cigars.

The overall result is not an increase in consumer safety, but a potential death knell for companies like J.C. Newman’s.

The company has more than 125 employees in the Tampa Bay area, hardworking families with mortgages to pay and children to feed. Strangling their livelihood with no increase in consumer safety is ludicrous.

Thankfully, led by Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio in the U.S. Senate and Bill Posey and Kathy Castor in the U.S. House, there has been bipartisan support from Florida’s legislative delegation to eliminate the job-killing provisions for premium cigar manufacturers. The conservative House Freedom Caucus has also presented President-elect Donald Trump with more than 200 regulations that could be immediately eliminated to help working Americans, including the job-killing provisions on premium cigars.

We hope the new administration and the FDA find the proper balance and remove this requirement that benefits nobody. And we hope that this classic example of unnecessary regulations strangling businesses becomes a warning against well-meaning mandates that too often spiral out of control.

___

Dominic Calabro is the president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch.

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Personnel note: St. Pete’s Mindy Grossman named National Retail Federation chair

Home Shopping Network Inc. CEO Mindy Grossman will become the new chair of National Retail Federation board of directors.

Grossman, a St. Petersburg resident, was elected this week to serve a two-year term. She replaces Kip Tindell, the co-founder and chair of the Container Store. Neiman Marcus Group CEO Karen Katz was also named chair of the NRF Foundation.

Representing vendors from the U.S. and more than 45 countries, the National Retail Federation is the world’s largest retail trade association. Membership includes discount and department stores, home goods and specialty stores, small-businesspeople, grocers, wholesalers, chain restaurants and internet sellers.

On her HSN website bio, Grossman is described as a 38-year veteran of the retail and apparel industries. She joined IAC, HSNi’s former parent company, in 2006 as CEO of IAC Retail. Grossman took the company public in 2008, becoming CEO of HSNi.

Grossman was also instrumental in developing innovative programs such as Shop by Remote, HSN Arcade and HSN Live, working with international brands like Disney, Ford and Universal. She also led the company’s digital transformation of its catalogue business.

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Andrew Warren dismisses trespassing charges against Food Not Bomb members

Ten days after the Tampa Police Department’s arrested seven members of Food Not Bombs for attempting to feed the homeless without a permit in Lykes Gaslight Square, newly-elected State Attorney Andrew Warren has summarily dismissed the charges against all seven members of the group.

“My mission is to make our community safer while promoting justice and fairness for everyone,” Warren said in a statement released mid-afternoon on Tuesday. “Prosecuting people for charitable work does not further that mission and is an inefficient use of government resources. “

The freshman officer added that “our goal is to view each case not as a person to be prosecuted but as a problem to be solved.  That is why we have spoken with the Tampa Police Department, members of Tampa City Council, the Mayor’s office, and the attorney for Tampa Food Not Bombs in order to facilitate a resolution, and we commend them for working together to find a sensible solution.  We will not prosecute the trespassing charges so long as the Tampa Food Not Bombs organization willingly participates in reaching a resolution to this matter and remains non-violent.”

Food Not Bombs is a national group that has been feeding the homeless for decades, and has chapters all around the world. The local Tampa chapter had not had any confrontations with the Tampa Police in more than a decade before they warned two weeks ago that if they fed people in Gaslight Square on Saturday, January 7, they would be arrested. The group went ahead anyway and did that, and seven members of their group were arrested by TPD for using a city park to feed people without getting a permit.

The arrests took place just two days before the national college football playoff game was to take place, and it made national headlines.

FNB members have said that it is too expensive to obtain a permit, and would continue to disobey the law. At last week’s Tampa City Council meeting, the board agreed to talk about possible solutions at a workshop last month.

The State Attorney’s office said the first Food Not Bomb member’s appearance in court was scheduled for Wednesday, January 18. The office filed a notice of “Nolle Prosequi” for the first of the trespassing arrests, which serves as a dismissal of the case. The State Attorney’s Office said they will dismiss the cases for the remaining six defendants after those appearances are scheduled.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said last week that while he was open to compromise with FNB, he added, “You can’t destroy a neighborhood in order to make your conscious feel better, and that’s exactly what’s happening.”

““We continue to attempt to work with this group in an effort to find a more appropriate place for their activities to occur,” said Ashley Bauman, the mayor’s spokesperson. “There are locations in closer proximity to those in need with appropriate facilities. Our public places in our urban core are meant to serve as front yards to our increasing number families, residents and visitors who enjoy them. A better solution would be for these groups to collaborate with the numerous non-profits that already comply with the law and serve food in sanitary environments that abide by health code.”

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CASA installs rooftop solar to save money

CASA (Community Action Stops Abuse) has installed an array of solar panels on the roof of its new domestic violence center.

The project was fully funded through a public-private partnership between the Pinellas County Community Development Block Grant Program, CASA and a private donor. Installation was completed by Solar Energy Management, a locally-owned firm selected through a competitive bidding process.

In all, 407 solar panels have been installed to create a massive 130-kilowatt rooftop solar system. Most importantly, money spent on a significant monthly electric bill will now be available to help end domestic violence in Pinellas County.

The system will also benefit the environment. CASA officials estimated that 5,208 tons of carbon dioxide will not have to be produced because of the new system. That has the same effect, they said, of planting 121,346 trees. 

The new solar array puts CASA on a more sustainable path, not only from an environmental standpoint, but from an economic one as well. The agency anticipates reducing its domestic violence center’s electric bill by an average of 70 percent to 80 percent per year throughout the 25-plus-year life-expectancy of the solar power system. These savings will be used to fund CASA’s programs helping survivors of domestic violence attain safety for themselves and their children.

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St. Pete bringing in ecologist to investigate sick pelicans

In an effort to expedite and enhance current testing and investigation into a troubling discovery of sick birds near local waterways, the city of St. Petersburg is calling in an independent ecologist to assist.

Scientists with Arcadis U.S., based in Melbourne, Florida, have joined with St. Petersburg Water Resources and investigative crews from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC) to gather clues into what is causing the Pelicans’ sickness.

“We want to have experts evaluating this,” said John Palenchar, interim Water Resources Director, “Independently tasked to find out — as soon as possible — what’s causing this.”

St. Petersburg has been dealing with this situation since last week, when a fish-kill was reported on January 12, at a stormwater retention pond in the Riviera Bay area.

“RBLake #1” is a freshwater stormwater pond with many exotic tilapia, which are susceptible to low temperature and Dissolved Oxygen (DO) issues. Adequate dissolved oxygen is necessary for good water quality, as well as a necessary element to all forms of life. Natural stream purification processes require adequate oxygen levels in order to provide for aerobic life forms. As dissolved oxygen levels in water drop below 5.0 mg/l, aquatic life is put under stress. The lower the concentration, the greater the stress. Oxygen levels that remain below 1-2 mg/l for a few hours can result in large fish kills.

Preliminary data from that pond showed readings at approximately 0.32 mg/l, with 4,900 pounds of fish removed from Riviera Bay Lake.

FWCC have taken water and algae samples to test for quality and is also testing the birds that died to determine cause of death.

The second location is Coffee Pot Bayou, about 3 miles south of Riviera Bay. Scientists are investigating the probability that the affected birds initially fed on fish at RB Lake#1 and flew to Coffee Pot Bayou, which is near a substantial pelican habitat.

All testing — by the FWCC, City of St. Petersburg, and now Arcadis — will be coordinated and used to formulate a plan to keep the birds safe, as well as to alert residents and recreational water users to any potential problems. Further details and results will be released when they become available.

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Republican David Wilson considers a run for Hillsborough Commission in 2018

After Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham announced last week that he won’t run for re-election next year, several names have been floated as potential candidates on both sides of the aisle for the countywide District 7 seat, including Tom Aderhold, Janet Cruz, Tim Schock, and Kevin Beckner. 

Along with those likely suspects, there will undoubtedly be some individuals who’ve never ran for office before in the mix, and one of them could be David Wilson.

Wilson is a Valrico-based commercial real estate sales associate and a recent graduate in Finance from the University of Tampa. He’s very civically engaged, serving on a number of local boards, such as the Women’s Resource Center of Tampa, the Affordable Housing Board for Hillsborough County, the Hillsborough County Environmental Protection Commission’s Citizen’s Advisory Committee (where he was picked to serve by Commissioner Victor Crist), the Hillsborough County MPO’s Citizens’s Advisory Committee (where he was appointed by Ken Hagan) and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Black Advisory Council.

When asked how and why he became so engaged in the community, Wilson credits his mother, Pamala Davis, who worked for approximately twenty years for the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office before retiring recently.

“I remember sometimes when it would be raining and she would pull over to the side of the road when I was really young, just for the sake of helping someone,” he recounts. “That same engagement and mentality kind of transferred over to me.”

Wilson will turn 24 this summer. If he were to run and win next year, he would bring in some much needed youth to the BOCC (whose youngest current member is chairman Stacy White, who is 44). He says he’s eyeing a run for the District 7 race, though isn’t ready to commit just yet.

“I’ve always agreed with the message of working hard. I relish the role of providing for my family and not having another entity or someone else providing for my family,” he says of how he became a Republican. “That small government message really spoke to me.”

Having said that, Wilson believes there is a role for government action, particularly when it comes to protecting the environment. He says an issue close to his heart is affordable housing, noting how his peers who have just graduated from college are looking at rising rental prices in the county.

“I’m pro transit,” he volunteers. “As someone making a living in eastern Hillsborough County, I know people are moving here, and we need avenues to get people moving.” He says he opposed the Go Hillsborough after the controversy regarding its subcontracting resulted in an investigation by the Sheriff’s Department. “Trust is crucial and I believe it was broken.”

Wilson says he’s not opposed to a sales tax increase to pay for transit, but would want o review the finances thoroughly. He opposed last fall’s BOCC vote to spend $600 million over ten years because it did not make any movements towards transit options. And he supports the Tampa Bay Express project.

He’s also as associate member of the Hillsborough County Farm Bureau in their Young Rancher and Farmers program, and says he understands some of the big agriculture issues about what farmers are trying to accomplish. “I could be a very strong advocate for them and a very unique advocate, because you don’t see a lot of African-Americans possessing that knowledge.”

“I think local government would be a great place for me to help local people,” he says about his interest in running for county commission. “I think some people would try to being my age against me, but it’s not the age. It’s about the experience I bring,” he says.

Wilson says he’ll make a decision about running in the District 7 race by April.

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Corey Givens to hold campaign kickoff for St. Pete City Council

Community activist Corey Givens is holding a campaign kickoff for his run for St. Petersburg City Council District 6.

Under the slogan “Embracing the Future; Respecting the Past,” the event will be Monday, Jan. 30 from 5 to 7 p.m. at The Hangar, 540 1st St. SE. in St. Petersburg.

“Corey is running to bring our communities together and continues his service to St. Petersburg,” says the invite.

Givens is seeking the seat now held by term-limited Karl Nurse, which represents much of downtown and southeast St. Petersburg. He submitted paperwork for the race Jan. 9, joined by family and friends.

“We face challenges as a city,” Givens said after filing. “But I know when we work together we’ll solve them together. That’s what I’ve been doing in my community and that’s what I’ll continue to do on City Council.”

Givens has worked with several St. Petersburg-based organizations and community groups including City Beautiful Commission, the Police Athletic League, the St. Petersburg NAACP, the Citizens Advisory Council, the Lakewood Terrace Neighborhood Association, and on the PTA and as a mentor at Lakewood Elementary.

A St. Petersburg native, Givens ran for Pinellas County School board in 2012, vowing to prepare South St. Petersburg’s youth for the jobs of the future. The campaign suffered a setback when it was learned that Givens inflated his educational background.

“It was a stupid and misguided mistake and one I regret still,” Givens told FloridaPolitics.com. “But I learned from it and it drove me to get even more involved in my community. Everyone makes mistakes, but it’s how you rebound from those mistakes that defines you as a leader.”

If elected, Givens, 24, would become the youngest City councilmember in St. Petersburg history.

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Bob Buckhorn, Rick Kriseman and George Cretekos to offer “State of the Bay” address at Tiger Bay

The mayors of the three biggest cities representing the Tampa Bay area: Tampa’s Bob Buckhorn, St. Petersburg’s Rick Kriseman and Clearwater’s George Cretekos, will come together to address members of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club in St. Petersburg on Tuesday, January 31.

It will be a reunion of sorts for the three executive lawmakers, who participated in some campaign forums back in 2014 when they were all in support of the ultimately doomed Greenlight Pinellas transit tax proposal.

It’s an election year for Kriseman, who will undoubtedly give a positive spin on “The Sunshine City” that he has led since crushing Bill Foster in November of 2013.

In his State of the City address offered on Saturday, Kriseman touted the local economy, saying that new business registrations have increased by 105 percent since he took office, and nearly 175 percent on the Southside. He also insisted that his plan for a new Pier were on target, and compared it favorably to Tampa’s RiverWalk, referring to how it took over four decades for that project to ultimately become the jewel that is across the bay in Tampa.

Bob Buckhorn is always an engaging speaker, and undoubtedly some “Tigers” in the audience will be asking him about his plans (if any) in 2018. Whether he has anything more than a vague response to give his interlocutors to his plans would be revelatory, since he’s been keeping his ambitions close to the vest in recent months.

Mayor Cretekos was re-elected last year for a second four-year term in Clearwater.

The Tiger Bay lunch will take place on Tuesday, January 31, at high noon at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater, 12600 Roosevelt Blvd. N. in St. Petersburg.

If you’re not a member and want to attend the lunch, you can register here. 

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Wal-Mart to close Midtown St. Pete Neighborhood Market March 3

After opening to much fanfare three years ago, Wal-Mart is shuttering its Neighborhood Market in the Midtown section of St. Petersburg.

First reported by the Tampa Bay Business Journal, the retail giant announced it will close the store at 1794 22nd St. S March 3; its pharmacy will close Feb. 1.

The store was formerly a Sweetbay Supermarket.

“After a careful and thoughtful review process, we have made the difficult decision to close our Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market on 22nd Street South in St. Petersburg,” a Wal-Mart representatives said in a statement. “We have been, and will continue to be, supportive of our local store leadership and associates, and this decision is in no way a reflection of their hard work and customer service over the last three years. This decision is based on a number of factors, including financial performance and strategic alignment with long-term plans.”

After Sweetbay decided to close all its Florida stores, former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster had pressured the company to keep the nearly 40,000-square-foot location open, which was owned by the city.

“We are incredibly disappointed by Wal-Mart’s decision to close this particular store. In light of the city’s pursuit of Tangerine Plaza and our ability to incentivize Wal-Mart’s remaining, we are hopeful that they will revisit this decision,” current Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a statement.

“However, anticipating their closure, we will work closely with them to ensure their employees are placed at other Wal-Mart locations,” Kriseman added.

“While I join in the frustration many of our residents will feel, this may be an opportunity to secure a tenant that can successfully self-perpetuate or create an amenity that better serves the wants and needs of the surrounding community.”

The Neighborhood Market was a key business in the Tangerine shopping plaza, which had been expected to bring economic vitality to a traditionally underserved community of the city.

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