The Bay and the 'Burg Archives - Page 4 of 546 - SaintPetersBlog

Bucs quarterback, FAMU and Tuskegee bands, in MLK parade

With Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston as grand marshal and the popular marching bands from Florida A&M and Tuskegee University, St. Petersburg’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day parade got a high-stepping shot in the arm this year.

The Tampa Bay Times reports this year’s parade has new organizers, a new name – the MLK Dream Big Parade – and a new route.

In November, the city parted ways with its longtime organizer after his financial interests in the parade came under scrutiny. It’s one of the largest MLK parades in the Southeast.

Having two of the most notable historically black colleges in the parade lineup dovetails with this year’s parade theme of “collegiate futures.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

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Safety Harbor mayor hopeful Joe Ayoub to host first meet and greet Friday

Joe Ayoub, who’s running for Safety Harbor mayor, is holding his first meet and greet of the campaign season.

It’s from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Friday at Ayoub’s home, 323 Second St. S, in Safety Harbor.

Ayoub, a former Safety Harbor mayor and commission member, said he plans to spend part of the campaign on a “listening tour,” learning about the issues that are most important to city residents. He’s also provided a 10-question citizen survey on his website to learn what concerns residents most.

Among the questions on the survey:

— Do you believe our city officials are leading our city in the right direction?

— Would you like to see the proposed 7 story condo building across from the Safety Harbor Spa be reduced in size or scale?

— What issue in town is most important to you, i.e., what would you like to see the city commission do (or address) that would increase your satisfaction as a resident?

Also included are questions on term limits, the new tree ordinance, the size of homes in the downtown area, and the quality and frequency of city events.

Ayoub is a graduate of Countryside High School and studied at the University of Florida. He is the chief financial officer at Data Blue. Ayoub lives in Safety Harbor and enjoys biking and running.

His opponent is Commissioner Janet Hooper.

The Safety Harbor election is March 14. The mayor and Seats 1 and 4 on the Safety Harbor City Commission are on the ballot.

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Al Higginbotham focuses on his priorities in his last two years in office

Al Higginbotham says that while he feels he’s still in relatively good health, the time is right to step down next year from public office.

The 62-year-old District 7 County Commissioner spoke with FloridaPolitics.com Friday afternoon, a day after announcing that he won’t run for re-election in 2018.

Saying that his “body time is on a different time clock,” Higginbotham acknowledges that his decision stems in part because of the attendant health issues related to his 1995 hunting accident that left him partially paralyzed. He’s eager to travel and spend more time with his children, and agreed he would make his announcement regarding his future after meeting with family members during the holidays, a moment he says was clearly “an emotional and sad time.”

“There’s no smoking gun,” he insists regarding any other speculation about why he’s announcing now that he won’t run again for office, including a comment by conservative activist Sam Rashid that Higginbotham was “told he could not run for re-election,” after his advocacy of a $600 million over 10 year spending plan on transportation improvements last year.

That proposal came after opposed an $800 million plan offered by fellow Commissioner Sandy Murman.

“My concern with the proposal that was being considered was that it put us in jeopardy with the bond market,” he says, adding that ” there’s a lot of work to do, preserving our assets and roads, and getting those up to an acceptable standard.”

Higginbotham represented the more conservative County Commission District 2 regions of Riverview, Brandon and other parts of eastern and southern Hillsborough for eight years. Term-limited out in that seat, he then opted to run countywide in District 7 in 2014, where he narrowly defeated Democrat Pat Kemp (who was elected to the District 6 seat in November).

During that campaign, Higginbotham showed some ideological flexibility as he was now before the entire county. Regarding a proposed sales tax on transportation, he said that he would support the recommendation of the Policy Leadership Group, which consisted of the BOCC and the mayors of Tampa, Temple Terrace and Plant City. However, though they did back Go Hillsborough, Higginbotham voted twice not to put the measure on the ballot last year.

Higginbotham also joined his colleagues in early 2014 in supporting the creation of a domestic partner registry, after he opposed a similar proposal in 2013 on a 4-3 vote.

Three main tenets of his candidacy when running for office was to bring civility to the board, focus on the budget and fiscal matters, and work on the environment and development issues, he said. Higginbotham’s objective over the next year will be to bring the controversial Public Transportation Commission “in for a landing,” a move that he says is taking up a lot of his time.

The local Hillsborough County legislative delegation has voted to dismantle the board by the end of 2017, and now that he is serving as chairman of that agency, Higginbotham is intimately involved in working with all the players involved to ultimately have the board oversee the same obligations that the PTC currently does. “It’s not pretty,” he says. “It requires getting in the weeds and dealing with a top that will bring unfavorable press. I don’t mind that.”

The Commissioner also says that he’s looking forward to helping MOSI move downtown. “It just needs to be there,” he says.

As we reported Thursday, former District 6 County Commissioner Kevin Beckner has already indicated a possible interest in running for the seat.

There will now be two countywide seats open next year. Along with District 7, Ken Hagan is term-limited in District 5 in 2018.

 

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Travis Palladeno collects a trio of endorsements in re-election bid

Travis Palladeno

Former U.S. Rep. David Jolly, state Rep. Kathleen Peters and Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni have endorsed Travis Palladeno who is running for re-election as Madeira Beach mayor.

“I’m very humbled,” Palladeno said Monday of the trio of Republican endorsements.

Palladeno also received the endorsement of a Madeira Beach business. Lisa’s Café has broadcast the endorsement on the restaurant sign: “Re-elect Travis mayor.”

“I am truly grateful” for the support, Palladeno said, adding that it’s small businesses like Lisan’s Café that keep Madeira Beach moving forward.

Palladeno has also scheduled his first meet and greet of the campaign season. The event is 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. Feb. 7 at Mad Beach Fish House. Appetizers and beverages will be served.

Palladeno has served as Madeira Beach mayor since 2011. He represents the city on, and is current chair of, the Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board. He also represents the city on the county’s Tourist Development Council and the Barrier Island Government Council, or Big C. He is vice president of the Big C. He is the retired owner of Live Wire Fishing Charters.

He is facing a challenge from Margaret Black.

Madeira Beach has a council-manager form of government in which a professional city manager runs the day to day activities and a five-member council sets policy and passes a budget.

The election is March 14. Voters will not only have a choice of mayoral candidates, but also two commission seats are on the ballot.

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Charlie Crist looking forward to attending Donald Trump inauguration

There are now 24 Democratic members of Congress who say they won’t attend the inauguration of Donald J. Trump as America’s 45th president on Friday.

Charlie Crist isn’t one or them.

“I will be attending the inauguration, and I look forward to it,” Crist told this reporter on Sunday, after hosting a press event where he called for Republicans not to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

The growing number of Democrats who say they will boycott the inauguration began after Trump publicly rebuked civil rights icon John Lewis, on Saturday morning, following Lewis’ remarks to NBC’s Chuck Todd that he didn’t consider Trump “a legitimate president” and wouldn’t attend the inauguration.

“I think the Russians participated in helping this man get elected and they helped destroy the candidacy of Hillary Clinton,” the Georgia Democratic added.

Trump responded in characteristic fashion early Saturday morning, tweeting that Lewis was “all talk” and “should spend more time on fixing and helping his district.

That response angered Tampa Representative Kathy Castor, who wrote in her own tweet that Trump’s attack on Lewis “shows what a small, graceless person he is,” perhaps her most provocative statement regarding the President-elect.

Lewis was in Miami on Monday morning, serving as the keynote speaker for the city of Miami’s MLK Day breakfast.

Meanwhile, the inauguration is taking place at the end of this week. Crist says it’s “important to focus on the peaceful transition of power.”

“I didn’t support Mr. Trump, but I respect the fact that he’s been elected president of the U.S.,” the St. Petersburg Democrat adds.

Crist has made it clear that he was elected by his constituents to get things done in Washington, and  has said that he will work with Trump to help get more Americans “back to work.”

Miami area Representative Fredericka Wilson says she won’t attend the inauguration, but not because of Trump. She tells the Miami Herald that she had a previous commitment. No other Florida Democrats have said they won’t be attending the inauguration.

 

 

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Charlie Crist calls GOP Obamacare repeal without replacement ‘unacceptable’

With the Affordable Care Act — aka Obamacare — already beginning to be phased out by Republicans in Washington this month, congressional Democrats took to the streets in Florida and around the country Sunday afternoon.

Congressional representatives held rallies and press events featuring regular citizens whose lives have benefited by Barack Obama’s signature domestic achievement.

In South St. Petersburg, Charlie Crist held his own event, where he blasted congressional Republicans for having nearly seven years to provide an alternative to the ACA without doing so yet.

“In Washington D.C. I will do everything I can to prevent that from happening,” he said of the plans to repeal and replace.

And while that comment drew cheers from his supporters at the news conference held outside of Advantage Insurance Solutions on 22nd Street South, the fact is in the House at least, Republicans don’t necessarily need any Democrats to help them pass an alternative plan after they repeal the ACA.

“I think we need to keep it the way it is and try to improve it,” Crist said when asked if he would work with Republicans on a replacement.

“There are things that can be better about this act, no question about it,” he admitted, referring to ways to keep costs from escalating. But he said that repealing provisions of the law such as removing the ban on insurance companies being able to deny patients with pre-existing conditions was morally wrong.

“It would have to be something like Obamacare,” he said when asked by another reporter about what type of alternative he could stand behind. But the freshman Representative admitted that would be “challenging” considering that Republicans ran this fall on a platform of dismantling Obamacare.

“But anything worthwhile is not easy,” he said. “Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean it’s not worth fighting for.”

Terry Donald is the owner of We Haul Florida, a hauling and cleanup service in Pinellas County.  He calls his family’s health history “a nightmare” with high blood pressure and heart disease present in several members of his clan. He related an anecdote about how he received a staph infection after cutting his leg while mowing his lawn. “Had I not sought treatment, I would have lost my life,” he said starkly, referring to how he was treated by his doctors with an aggressive course of IV antibiotics.

“People ask me why this coverage is so important and I tell them I had insurance,” he said. “I knew it would be covered. I knew I wouldn’t go bankrupt for receiving the care that I needed.”

Gloria Campbell writes insurance policies as the owner of Advantage Insurance Solutions. She says before the creation of the ACA, nine out of 10 health insurance policies that she drew up for her clients were rejected because of her client’s pre-existing health conditions, or their families’ poor medical history.

Campbell says many of those people now on the ACA had never previously seen a doctor because they didn’t know how insurance worked.

“Now they own their own health care,” she said. “They talk about what kind of outcomes they want. Now people don’t rely on getting sick, they rely on staying well.”

“We have the technology to restart a heart, to 3D print organs and tissue, to save people from Ebola, but we lack the moral fiber and legislative stones to ensure that the American taxpayer doesn’t face lifelong financial ruin for the crime of surviving,” charged Jhavavi Pathak, who currently attends MIT and is the founder of The War on Cancer Foundation.

She told the story of her father, Yogesh, who in 2004 was diagnosed with Stage 4 kidney cancer which ultimately spread to his spleen, pancreas, lungs, leg, brain and skull. He’s had 14 major surgeries, including four on his brain, and is somewhat miraculously still alive. In the fall of 2013, he signed up to get on the ACA. “Every one of us is a single mishap or accident away from lifelong financial ruin,” she declared.

“It used to be people didn’t survive a serious medical issue,” Pathak said. “We just didn’t have the medical treatments or the scientific know-how. But now in 21st Century America, people simply can’t afford to survive a serious medical attention.”

While she and the other public speakers blasted the GOP for not having a replacement plan ready to insert as they begin to repeal the law, Kentucky Senator Rand Paul announced Sunday that he does have a replacement ready to go.

“Replacement should be the same day,” Paul said on CNN’s State of The Union, reiterating his critique of fellow congressional Republicans’ “repeal and delay” idea. “Our goal is to insure the most amount of people, give access to the most amount of people at the least amount of cost.”

Paul praised the good intentions of the designers of the Affordable Care Act but said it includes too many mandates and has “broken the insurance model” in the individual market. Among other changes, his plan would remove some insurance coverage mandates that drive up premium costs to “legalize the sale of inexpensive insurance.”

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Rick Kriseman will seek to deregulate the city’s taxi cabs

The announcement came toward the end of St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman’s state of the city address Saturday: The next ordinance Kriseman plans to introduce is one deregulating the vehicle-for-hire industry.

Kriseman did not provide many details except to say it would include incentives for taxi companies and ride-sharing companies like Uber and Lyft to comply with St. Petersburg’s system.

Let the market decide what’s best, Kriseman said, adding that, if his plan succeeds then St. Petersburg would be a leader in finding a way to resolve the contentious relationship between traditional cabs and ride-sharing companies.

“If it doesn’t work, that’s OK, too,” Kriseman said.

In the past year, St. Petersburg has sought to regulate companies like Uber and Lyft. The city wants the companies to pay the $65 per vehicle tax that cab companies pay. But Uber has resisted, saying that’s unfair because its drivers are not employees and are merely part-timers making a bit of extra money. Uber has suggested paying $5,000 per year.

For the most part, Kriseman’s state of the city address, his third since taking office, was upbeat and gave him a chance to highlight the accomplishments of his administration. Among those, he said, were having the city on a better financial footing, progress on rebuilding the Pier, a 105 percent increase in new business registrations and an unemployment rate that’s lower than the state or national level.

Kriseman also looked to the future, saying the city’s infrastructure needed repair — especially the sewer system. He noted that the city has earmarked hundreds of millions of dollars to revamp the system. Kriseman added that he is also revamping the city’s stormwater plan, which was last done 22 years ago.

“How a coastal city can have a 22-year storm plan is beyond me,” Kriseman said. “We have much work ahead, but we are up to the task.”

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In Madeira Beach, seven seek three seats for mayor, City Commission

At the close of qualifying Friday, seven candidates are stepping forward to run in municipal elections.

Three seats are up for grabs: the mayor and two commissioners:

Mayor

Travis Palladeno is seeking re-election. He’s being opposed by Margaret Black.

Palladeno has served as Madeira Beach mayor since 2011. He represents the city on and is current chair of the Pinellas County Emergency Medical Services Advisory Board. He also represents the city on the county’s Tourist Development Council and the Barrier Island Government Council, or Big C. He is vice president of the Big C. He is the retired owner of Live Wire Fishing Charters.

Black is married to Jim Black, a part-time volunteer coordinator with the city. She is a graduate of Towson State College and has taken banking and finance courses. She says she has been told by several people that she is the “voice of reason.”

Black adds, “I hope to be that, but mostly I want the peoples’ voice to be heard.”

District 3

This seat was held by Elaine Poe until her resignation in December. Ingrid Ferro-Spilde was chosen to fill the seat until the March 14 election when she will be one of the voters’ options. Her opponent is Nancy Oakley.

Before her appointment to the commission, Ferro-Spilde served on the Planning and Zoning board. A Pinellas County native, she is a certified clinical research coordinator.

Oakley is a former Madeira Beach city commissioner, having served on the commission for six years. She has a bachelor’s degree from Northeastern State University in computer science with a minor in math and business administration.

District 4

The seat is held by Housh Ghovaee, who was appointed last summer after Pat Shontz resigned.

Ghovaee, owner of Northside Engineering in Clearwater, is running to retain the seat. He is opposed by John Douthirt and David Hitterman.

Douthirt holds two bachelors’ degrees, one in business from Florida State University, the other in accounting from the University of Cincinnati. Hitterman is a business owner who has lived in Pinellas County since 1979.

The election is March 14.

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Kevin Beckner is open to running for local (and maybe state) office in 2018

Kevin Beckner has moved on since a disappointing loss to Pat Frank in the Democratic primary for Hillsborough County Clerk of the Court.

Beckner says he is currently studying to get his license to sell real estate in Florida. But he also acknowledges another run for political office isn’t out of the realm of possibility — and could come possibly as early as next year.

When asked if he was considering a run against Al Higginbotham in the countywide District 7 race, Beckner said it was a possibility, before dropping this minor bomblet about his former colleague.

“I just heard that Commissioner Higginbotham is going to be retiring and not running for re-election,” he told this reporter on WMNF 88.5 FM Thursday afternoon. “That’s what I just heard. We’re keeping all of our options open.”

(SPB contacted Higginbotham that afternoon, but he did not return our request for comment. He did speak, however, to the Tampa Bay Times about his decision).

Before being elected to public office in 2008 as a county commissioner, Beckner’s background was as a financial planner, which had prompted speculation in the past that the Florida Democratic Party has considered him to be a viable candidate to run for Chief Financial Officer.

“I don’t rule that out as well,” he said when asked about that possibility. “There’s a lot of needs on the state level. From the CFO’s position, one of their largest responsibilities is the stability of the insurance markets and the protection of our financial interests in Florida, and I think there’s a lot of work to be done, especially as it relates to homeowners insurance and making sure that we’re going to have financial stability when the next disaster hits the state.”

The first openly elected member of the LGBT community ever to be elected in Hillsborough County, Beckner enjoyed a sterling reputation among progressives for his work on the board over the past eight years, but some consider that reputation marred by the aggressive campaign he ran against the 86-year-old Frank last year. Though the two were considered friendly before the primary, Beckner went hard at Frank for what he said was an abdication of her responsibilities in the twelve years that she had served as clerk.

Four months after his stinging, 18-point loss to her, though, he says he regrets nothing about the campaign he waged.

“I think sometimes we don’t want to really realize that, especially when you’re dealing with a long-term serving public servant, sometimes you just view that person as an icon and that nobody should have the right to run against her or to challenge that individual. And to those who know what’s going on inside the clerk’s office, and is still going on in the clerk’s office, there are a lot of issues,” he said, specifically referring to what he called the mismanagement of funding and a lack of advancement for minorities in the office.

“She just wasn’t coming to work, and I think that was well known inside the organization, but a lot of people just didn’t want to hear the facts,” he says.

Frank turned the other cheek when asked for comment.

“The election is over, and the voters spoke loud and clear,” she said. “I thank them for their confidence in me. I am focused on four more years of public service.”

Beckner did add that he sent an email to Frank after her victory wishing her the best. “As far as I’m concerned, we made amends,” he says, adding that it was never personal, and only about the issues. “There are some media outlets that tried to portray that everything was about her age, which it was not.”

Speaking of media outlets, the former commissioner also reserves some scorn for the Tampa Bay Times, which he maintains did him wrong during the campaign, both in reporting and its editorial pages.

He said the paper didn’t print his rebuttals to their editorials, and ignored the claims he was making.

“When I went into the editorial board, I gave them the whole file of everything that we had, and they told me that was a moot point,” he said. “And although they reported on that in the past, it was not relevant today, but I’m sorry, but I have a strong disagreement with that, because when we’re running for public office, especially when you have never had the opportunity to be re-evaluated and to be one the ballot like Miss Frank had, because she had always gone unchallenged, you know, that’s part of your job history, so you’re competing for a job, so you better be able to answer or not answer to what you’ve done or not done while you’ve been on the job. You’re responsible.”

FloridaPolitics.com did reach out to the Tampa Bay Times editorial page for a response. If they do reply, we will update this post immediately.

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Charlie Crist pleads case of Michael Morgan, unjustly jailed for 23 years, to Barack Obama

Michael Morgan

Charlie Crist is calling on President Barack Obama to intervene on behalf of one of his constituents, a St. Petersburg man imprisoned for 23 years for a crime a growing number of people believe he did not commit.

On Friday, the freshman St. Petersburg Democrat sent a letter to the White House telling the story of Michael Morgan, who has been unjustly serving three life sentences for crimes that many — including reporters, a former Pinellas County Commissioner and even a juror who voted to convict — now say he is innocent.

More than two decades ago, Morgan, 18 years old at the time, was in St. Petersburg riding his bicycle home from school. After encountering a man with a large dog, who began yelling and chasing him, Morgan went to a neighbor’s house and called his mother, Vel Thompson, to help.

When Thompson arrived a few minutes later, police had Morgan in handcuffs.

That day, officers were looking for a black male suspected of the assault and attempted rape of Felicia Fuller 12 days earlier. Fuller’s father, Earnest Fuller, was an officer for the St. Petersburg Police Department.

Felicia Fuller had been shot in the buttocks during what was described as a “drug deal gone wrong.” Cocaine was found at the scene. Fuller claimed that two African-American men assaulted her: one with a gold tooth and another who was clean-shaven.

Morgan had an alibi for Fuller’s attack — he was at a school dance with friends, something corroborated by multiple witnesses. He also did not fit the description of either man, having a full mustache and no gold tooth. Nevertheless, Morgan was arrested.

After going to trial three times, Morgan was ultimately convicted and sentenced to three life sentences and has been in prison for the past 23 years. Three years ago, supporters created a Change.org petition to request the Florida Clemency Board to consider his clemency request. The petition, which now has 337 signers, asks the Governor to waive the rule preventing the board from hearing Morgan’s request because of his life sentences.

In January 2015, WTSP’s Mike Deeson highlighted Morgan’s case in a nine-minute video summarizing the problems with both the case and his conviction, which came about without DNA or other physical evidence. The video, which is available on YouTube, also shows Morgan meeting with former Pinellas County Commissioner Norm Roche in the effort to gain clemency.

In Crist’s letter, he invoked Obama’s campaign for criminal justice reform, where the president granted clemency to more than 1,300 people over his two terms in office.

“I applaud your valiant efforts to reform our nation’s criminal justice system; ending juvenile solitary confinement, banning the box for federal employees, and reducing the use of federal private prisons,” Crist writes. “In that same vein, your support for people serving unjust or excessive sentences has brought justice and hope to thousands of nonviolent offenders and their families.”

Crist then related his time as Florida Governor, during which he worked to streamline the state’s clemency process.

However, Obama cannot just grant Morgan a pardon, since presidential commutation powers are restricted only to federal crimes. Any change in Morgan’s sentencing lies in the hands of Republican Gov. Rick Scott, who would need the agreement from two cabinet members who are also statewide elected officials.

“I only wish Michael Morgan’s case fell within federal jurisdiction,” Crist writes. “Our Chief Executive in Florida has the power to grant clemency, but to date has not chosen to take action on this case.”

Now, Crist is asking for Obama to help — in his few days left as president — to right this injustice.

“Mr. President, your kind attention and willingness to lend your voice to this grave injustice would be incredibly helpful,” Crist writes. “Thank you again for all that you have done to improve our criminal justice system and restore the lives of the unjustly accused. It is my hope that your efforts lead to freedom for Americans, like Michael Morgan, who sit in prison today for crimes they clearly did not commit.”

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