The Bay and the 'Burg Archives - Page 4 of 605 - SaintPetersBlog

Ken Hagan doesn’t understand why Tallahassee Republicans seemingly ‘loathe’ local government’

Republicans in Tallahassee have left Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan scratching his head.

Plenty of city and county government officials have recently disparaged members of the Florida Legislature for passing a measure to expand the homestead exemption, which could ultimately deprive them of millions of dollars of revenues in the coming years.

As for Hagan, a lifelong Hillsborough County Republican, he doesn’t have that big of an issue with his fellow GOP state lawmakers over that matter.

But Hagan certainly does have a problem with killing Enterprise Florida, the state’s public-private economic development organization slated to be completely defunded unless Gov. Rick Scott vetoes that bill in the next month.

Led by House Speaker Richard Corcoran, the Florida House voted to defund Enterprise Florida, which offers tax incentives to lure businesses to the state, decrying it as corporate welfare.

Hagan has trouble understanding that attitude.

“Years ago, the conservative pro-business Republicans were always in favor, because it was job creation, (and) it was the more liberal side that made the case it was corporate welfare,” Hagan said Friday at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa. “Now it’s a 180.”

Hagan was speaking to about 50 people at the event, part of the Cafe Con Tampa series.

“Now you’ve got far right conservative Republicans saying this is corporate welfare and why are we doing this,” he said. “And I really don’t understand.”

More than ever, local city councils and county commission members up and down the state have criticized the GOP-led Legislature this spring for seemingly attacking the idea of “home rule,” including numerous attempts to take power away from local governments, and bring control back to Tallahassee.

In some cases, they were successful; others, not so much.

“It’s been my impression through the years that there are certain members of the Legislature … that really appear to loathe local government, and I don’t really quite understand that,” Hagan said.

Some Democrats say that they believe Tallahassee is biased against local governments, in part because they’re controlled by Democrats.

But that’s not universal throughout the state.

For years, the Hillsborough County Commission has been a dominantly conservative Republican board, and Hagan said it’s been as fiscally conservative “as any in the state. ”

“Yet it seems like some members, for whatever reason, think that local government just wastes money away, and I really don’t understand that.”

“I’m a fiscal conservative,” Hagan continued, “and it’s always been my opinion that conservatives believe in devolving power from the federal level to the state level to the local level, and some of their actions appear to be inconsistent with that core conservative philosophy.”

“I don’t understand where it’s coming from.”

The 49-year-old Carrollwood-based legislator sponsored a number of ordinances that have captured the attention of the public over the years. That includes this week’s ban on commercial puppy stores opening in the county, in an attempt to crack down on puppy mills.

Initially elected in 2002, he’s been re-elected four different times, serving in two separate districts; he’s hungry to stay involved in county politics, announcing last month he will run next year for the District 2 North Hillsborough. It’s a seat he previously held for eight years (2002-2010).

That’s prompted some grumbling from Democrats and Republicans such as Tom Lee, who say that it violates the spirit of term limits in the county which call for a maximum of two terms in one district.

But the fact is, Democrats haven’t been able to beat Hagan in five different elections to date.

One issue that the Legislature recently approved that has irked local lawmakers is the vote to expand the homestead exemption by another $25,000 on the November 2018 ballot.

County Administrator Mike Merrill said that could bring a financial hit of up to $36 million annually to the county, but Hagan doesn’t have an issue with it.

“Whenever we can offer our citizens property tax relief we should, but it’s going to require us to continue tightening our belt,” he said bluntly.

When it comes to tax incentives for luring Hollywood productions to the county, Hagan has been an unflagging champion of the concept.

However, because state lawmakers have declined to replenish that incentive program in recent years, Hollywood producers wanting to film in Tampa went to states like Louisiana or Georgia, as was the case of the recent Ben Affleck-directed “Live By Night.”

The producers of last summer’s “The Infiltrator” wanted to film extensively in the Tampa Bay area, but couldn’t because of the lack of a state incentive. Led by Hagan, the County contributed $250,000 to the producers to convince them to shoot some scenes here.

“When properly executed and we can show a return on investment, and you’re offering your incentives after the fact, after they’ve created the thresholds, it’s a sound investment and a strong return on investment,” he says.

Hagan believes the problem with incentives are when they are offered before a company actually meets the metrics such as how many jobs they will bring to the area. He remains hopeful that Tallahassee will change their policy on providing film subsidies, though that certainly won’t happen under the current regime.

Hagan has also been well known for championing sports to the region, and he’s been the number one cheerleader/strategist in trying to lure the cross-bay Tampa Bay Rays to Tampa.

Admitting to being frustrated about how long the process has gone on, Hagan sounded optimistic that the Rays would announce their choice of a stadium sometime in 2017, and hinted that it would be somewhere in the Ybor/Channelside area.

“I think that they will be able to come up with something special that’s going a long way toward transforming downtown, Channelside-Ybor area, where I don’t mind saying that it’s going to be in that geographical swath,” he said. “It’s going to go a long way toward transforming downtown Tampa and the entire Tampa Bay area.”

#1 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Jack Latvala

Jack Latvala, the 63-year-old Clearwater Republican, takes top honors in this year’s poll as he uses his clout as Senate Appropriations Chair after losing an epic battle for Senate President to Joe Negron.

Now in his 15th year in the Legislature, Latvala has been supportive of most of Gov. Rick Scott’s agenda, while he contemplates his own future as a possible 2018 gubernatorial nominee – possibly with the governor’s assent.

Whether he actually pulls the trigger is unknown at this time, but Latvala is dead serious about a potential run, trash talking potential opponents Adam Putnam and Richard Corcoran by noting that having run a printing company, he’s got experience in the private sector.

“Neither one of them has ever had the responsibility of writing paychecks, of having people on a payroll, paying their benefits, writing their works comp premium checks,” he told Tia Mitchell of the Florida Times-Union. “And the responsibility that comes with that helps you make decisions affecting other people that have businesses.”

Latvala was No. 2 in the 2016 survey.

Joe Henderson’s Take

“I like his ambition and his private sector background. There is no doubt he would love to challenge for the Republican nomination for governor, and he would be a strong presence in the primary. Putnam and perhaps Corcoran are standing in Latvala’s path, though, and that’s enough to make me wonder whether there is a legitimate path Latavla could follow to accomplish that goal.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

#2 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Richard Corcoran

Although Richard Corcoran was undoubtedly the most powerful man in Tallahassee this year, the House Speaker from Trinity comes in a surprising second in this year’s survey.

But nobody ruled the state capitol like Corcoran did this past spring, winning the battle (at least so far) with Gov. Rick Scott in gutting VISIT Florida and substantially downsizing Enterprise Florida under the mantra of “no more corporate welfare.”

Corcoran also made enemies out of local government officials who are already cutting back on their 2018 budgets after the House voted to put a constitutional amendment on next year’s ballot to increase the homestead exemption.

Addressing his House colleagues in November, Corcoran announced sweeping new transparency rules, including severe restrictions on lobbyists and demanding that any earmark in the state budget must come with its own standalone bill.

“If you can’t manage to convince even 1 of 120 House members to file your bill; if you can’t withstand a few weeks of public scrutiny; if you don’t have sufficient documentation to prove that the appropriation is legitimate — then you don’t deserve taxpayers’ money,” he said.

Later would come his jihad against “corporate welfare,” specifically in the public-private partnerships Enterprise Florida and VISIT Florida.

“Even though Richard has been in office for several years now, I truly believe he is only just beginning his political career,” says his friend, Pasco County Property Tax Collector Mike Fasano. “I have no doubt that Richard’s term as Speaker of the House is just the start of a long and successful career.”

Could that be a run for Senate or Governor in 2018? With another year left as House Speaker, Corcoran is as powerful as it gets in Tallahassee without already having those titles.

Corcoran was ranked No. 1 in the 2016 survey.

Joe Henderson’s Take

“I had him ranked No. 1 on my list, mostly because I think he is the most powerful politician in the state. He set off an earthquake in Tallahassee in his first year as House Speaker and his rout of Gov. Scott’s spending agenda was epic theatre. No question he made enemies along the way, but I don’t think he gives two hoots about that. Few people can ever say they changed the landscape the way Corcoran has. What’s next? Corcoran says he will either run for governor or not run at all. My guess is it will be the latter.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Questions remain over St. Pete Pier’s estimated ‘return on investment’

This week, the City of St. Petersburg issued an economic impact report claiming the new St. Pete Pier — as part of its own district — would create $80 million in annual economic impact.

It would be “a complete return on investment in the first year of operation,” Mayor Rick Kriseman said in a news release.

That bold prediction caught the attention of WTSP’s Noah Pransky, who questioned some of the report’s findings.

To investigate, Pransky spoke with City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle, as well as the study’s author, Paul Lambert. Pransky also called on Victor Matheson, a Holy Cross economist, to review the report.

DeLisle said the $19,300 report was a “common tool” the city uses to make decisions on economic development. He also suggested the conclusions will help “disarm political opponents” of the Pier project, which is set to begin this summer.

Matheson expressed several concerns with the report, particularly with the assumption that the Pier would draw more than 200,000 tourists to add an extra night in Pinellas County.

Tourists are in Florida for sunshine and beaches, Matheson said, and while they may visit the Pier while in town, it’s unreasonable to call that spending “new income.” The money would be spent regardless of the existence of a new Pier.

Matheson also doubted the comparison of St. Pete’s Pier to Chicago’s Navy Pier and the Santa Monica pier.

“Who goes to Chicago just for the Navy Pier?” he asked.

Lambert’s study said the Pier district would create 102,000 new hotel room nights annually, as well as 1,080 full-time jobs throughout Pinellas County.

Many of assumptions were conservative, Lambert added, and the project should produce a major tourist attraction for the Tampa Bay region.

As for projected events at the Pier, questions remain as to whether other entertainment venues would suffer as a result — Tropicana Field, the Mahaffey Theater, Al Lang Stadium and other local concert venues.

Pransky suggests it is skeptical to believe the estimated $80 million economic impact would produce as much as $10 million in taxes annually, part of the claim that the Pier project would pay for itself in its first year.

Lastly, Pransky also questions the timing of the report — after many decisions on the project have already been made — wondering if it was politically motivated as the race for St. Petersburg mayor heats up.

#3 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Bob Buckhorn

Although his announcement in early March that he will not be a candidate in 2018 takes away some of his juice, being mayor of the biggest city representing the biggest media market in Florida means Bob Buckhorn will continue to wield power for the next two years.

The biggest question is, perhaps, how will he use that power?

Circumstances bigger than himself have thwarted one of his main missions — seeing Tampa and the Tampa Bay area start to make some improvements on its desultory transportation scene.

“Bob Buckhorn had a vision for our city that has become a reality and a legacy we can all be proud of,” says Democratic strategist and lobbyist Ana Cruz. “His thoughtful accomplishments have turned a desolate downtown into a thriving metropolis where young professionals, families and businesses intersect on our Riverwalk, at Amalie Arena or on the great lawn at Curtis Hixon Park.

“Bob Buckhorn will go down as one of the greatest Mayors in the City of Tampa’s history,” says lobbyist and Democratic fundraiser Justin Day. “His constant drive and dedication to ensuring our city is one of the best in the world, has paid off.  Tampa’s downtown will never look the same, and Mayor Buckhorn is a large reason for that.”

“He would have made one hell of a governor,” Cruz adds wistfully.

Buckhorn’s No. 3 ranking is consistent with his 2016 spot.

Joe Henderson’s Take

“He will go down as one of the great mayors of Tampa and I’m in the camp that believes Buckhorn would have made an outstanding governor. When he chose not to run though, it opened up all kinds of questions. One juicy conspiracy theory involves Congresswoman Kathy Castor. If she gives up her seat to run for mayor of Tampa, would Buckhorn consider running for Congress? I’ve known him a long time and the man does like the big stage.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.


Marco Rubio to headline Pinellas GOP Lincoln Day Dinner tonight

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio is the featured speaker at the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee’s 2017 Lincoln Day Dinner, one of the region’s premier political events.

The Miami Republican will keynote the event tonight at the Hilton Carillon Hotel in St. Petersburg’s Gateway community. Cocktail hour begins at 6 p.m., and doors open at 7 p.m.

The annual event not only celebrates recent local GOP victories but has grown to become one of the key fundraising events to support future races.

Lincoln Day dinners are annual GOP celebrations held nationwide by various Republican Party organizations. After Ronald Reagan’s death in 2004, Lincoln Day festivities evolved into a celebration of the former president’s life and achievements, as well as an occasion to honor the party’s conservative successes over the past year.

Certain for inclusion in the celebration is the recent confirmation of Neil Gorsuch as Donald Trump’s first choice for the U.S. Supreme Court.

As Pinellas GOP Chair Nick DeCleglie said in an April 7 Facebook post: “With the help of a Republican-controlled Senate, whose members stood up to the Democrats’ partisan filibuster, Donald Trump will successfully follow through on what I consider to be his most important campaign promise — to appoint conservative jurists to the Supreme Court. Judge Neil Gorsuch is a jurist who will hold true to the Constitution, much like his predecessor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia. I am proud of our Republican Senators who used the precedent set by Harry Reid and the Democrats in 2013 to end debate and confirm this qualified member of the legal community.

“It is a great day for the rule of law in the greatest country the world has ever known,” DiCeglie added. “God Bless Judge Neil Gorsuch, President Trump, and the United States of America.”

The event also traditionally announces the winner of the C.W. “Bill” Young Public Service Award.

The Hilton St. Petersburg Carillon is at 950 Lake Carillon Drive in Saint Petersburg.

#4 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Bill Galvano

Bradenton Republican Bill Galvano will serve as Senate President in 2019, marking only the second time a lawmaker from the region has held the Florida Senate’s top post (John McKay was Senate President in 2001-2002).

Galvano stood up as a leader after the Frank Artiles imbroglio blew up in April, making sure that the disgraced Hialeah republican went to Sen. Audrey Gibson’s office to show contrition for his offensive remarks. Galvano also reportedly was involved in Artiles subsequent resignation.

Galvano continues his ascension in the annual poll. Last year he ranked fifth.

Joe Henderson’s Take

“He’s going to be Senate president in 2019 and, as befitting someone about to assume that important role, he helped lead the charge that forced Frank Artiles to not only apologize, but also to get the hell out of Tallahassee. That won him major points in my book because the Legislature should have zero tolerance for the kind of garbage Artiles spread.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.


#5 on list of Tampa Bay’s Most Powerful Politicians — Jeff Brandes

It seemed that in 2017, Jeff Brandes was involved in every facet of public policy in Tallahassee, introducing 43 separate bills for consideration even before Session began.

A year ago, the St. Petersburg Republican co-sponsored the initiative in the Legislature that led to the August passage of Amendment 4, the constitutional amendment giving tax breaks to companies that buy and install solar devices and equipment.

In the recently ended Session, Brandes sponsored bills on autonomous vehicles (where he has been the key legislative figure to push that technology in Florida), a task force on criminal justice reform, landmark legislation for regulating Uber and Lyft statewide, as well as the most “progressive” of five medical marijuana bills proposed in the Senate.

Initially sent to the Florida House in 2010 and the Senate in 2012, the 41-year-old former Iraq War veteran is content (for now) to wield increasing power in the State Capitol, declining entreaties from local Republicans to consider a run for St. Petersburg mayor against Democratic incumbent Rick Kriseman.

Brandes advanced three places from his 2016 showing, going from eighth to fifth.

Joe Henderson’s Take

“Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like every time I turn around there is a headline with Brandes’ name. Most of them are good (he is an outspoken champion for improving transportation), but let me take advantage of this stage to make a request: Drop the whole civil liberties argument when it comes to passing a law that would make texting while driving a primary offense. You know it’s dangerous. I know it’s dangerous. Everyone does. Stop the charade. Carry on.”

For a complete explanation of how this list was created and who made up the panel that amassed it, please read here.

Fifth annual list of Tampa Bay’s 25 Most Powerful Politicians

Now in its fifth year, SaintPetersBlog/ is offering its annual list of the Most Powerful Politicians in Tampa Bay.

In compiling the 2017 list, queried several of the region’s leading political consultants, activists, bloggers, operatives and local lobbyists to name who they consider the 25 most powerful pols in the area. No suggested names were provided.

For this exercise, the Tampa Bay region is defined as Pinellas, Hillsborough and Pasco, but can also include Hernando, Polk or Sarasota, particularly if politicians from those counties impact either Pinellas or Hillsborough.

Among those on the 2017 panel: Tucker/Hall president Bill Carlson, columnist Joe Henderson, Travis Norton of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, former state Rep. Edwin Narain, investigative journalist Alan Cohn, Strategic Campaigns founder Nick Janovsky, Momentum Strategy Group president Brock Mikosky, Matt Florell of St. Pete Polls, Laura Boehmer of Southern Strategy Group, former state Rep. Seth McKeel, also of Southern Strategy Group, political consultants Carrie Henriquez and Michelle Schorsch.

Being listed first on a panelist’s list earned 25 points, second earned 24 points and so on. Listing as 25th received one point. Points were then added up and — voilà — the list was created.

In the top four or five slots might be who you’d expect. But once you pass that, the list starts to get truly fascinating.

And a few names not included could indeed be a surprise.

With that introduction, we ask you to please stay tuned to throughout the week as we count down the 25 most influential political figures in Tampa Bay. Follow the list on Twitter with #Top25InTB.

#1 — Jack Latvala

#2 — Richard Corcoran

#3 — Bob Buckhorn

#4 — Bill Galvano

#5 — Jeff Brandes

#6 — Wilton Simpson

#7 — Rick Kriseman

#8 — Kathy Castor

#9 — Chris Sprowls


#10 — Tom Lee

#11 — Darryl Rouson

#12 — Dana Young

#13 — Charlie Crist

#14 — Bob Gualtieri

#15 — Janet Long

#16 — Gus Bilirakis

#17 — Ken Hagan

#18 — Dennis Ross

#19 — Janet Cruz

#20 — Bernie McCabe

#21 — Mike Suarez

#22 — Sandy Murman

#23 — Ken Welch

#24 — Darden Rice

#25 — Yolie Capin





Government critic Barb Haselden now seeking seat on Pinellas Commission

Barbara Haselden, a St. Petersburg insurance executive and prominent opponent of the 2014 Greenlight Pinellas transit tax referendum, is running for the Pinellas County Commission.

Haselden has her eyes on the District 6 seat being vacated by a retiring John Morroni.

Haselden was the leader of No Tax for Tracks, the citizen-driven group formed to oppose Greenlight Pinellas, the referendum which asked for a penny increase in the sales tax to pay for expanded bus service and a 24-mile light rail system linking St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

That measure was defeated, with 62 percent of voters opposed.

Haselden’s first task will be winning the Republican primary in District 6, where Seminole-based state Representative Larry Ahern has already announced his candidacy (as has state representative Kathleen Peters as well).

Haselden is not the first prominent Pinellas Tea Party activist to make a run for the District 6 seat. Activist and blogger Tom Rask ran and lost to Morroni in 2014.

Haselden was not available for comment, but she did tell Rask’s blog — The Tampa Bay Guardian — that one of the issues that she’ll be running on if elected, would be to place a referendum on the ballot for an eight-year term limit on Pinellas County Commissioners, counting time served.

“So the citizens of Pinellas County can once again get to vote on how long commissioners may be on the board,” Haselden said.

Activists like Haselden and Rask have been arguing for years that term limits should be implemented in Pinellas County. In 1996, 72 percent of voters approved 8-year term limits, but the commission never put those term limits into the county charter after a Pinellas judge threw out a lawsuit seeking to enforce the referendum.

Three of the eight commissioners currently on the board have served well beyond the term limits enacted in local jurisdictions such as St. Petersburg, Tampa and Hillsborough County. Ken Welch was elected in 2000, Karen Seel was appointed in 1999 and then elected in 2000, and Morroni has been in office since 2000.

The district covers the middle part of Pinellas County, from Seminole to Pinellas Park, including Feather Sound, northeast St. Petersburg and some southern beach communities.


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