The Bay and the 'Burg Archives - Page 5 of 564 - SaintPetersBlog

Impressive roster of GOP leaders line up for Ed Hooper fundraiser

Clearwater Republican Ed Hooper is assembling an impressive number of high-profile state lawmakers for a Tallahassee reception next month. Hooper, a former state representative, is seeking the open Senate District 16 seat currently held by Jack Latvala.

Hooper’s campaign fundraiser will be Monday, March 6, from 2:30 p.m. – 4 p.m. at the Governors Club, 202 South Adams Street.

The host committee reads like a Who’s Who of GOP state leaders, including Senate President Joe Negron and nearly all the Pinellas County/Hillsborough delegation: Sens. Latvala, Bill Galvano, Wilton Simpson, Dana Young and Jeff Brandes.

Republican senators from beyond the Tampa Bay area will be there, too: Lizbeth Benacquisto, George Gainer, Denise Grimsley, Frank Artiles, Dennis Baxley, Aaron Bean, Travis Hutson, Debbie Mayfield, Kathleen Passidomo, Keith Perry, Robert Bradley, Doug Broxson, David Simmons, Kelli Stargel and Greg Steube.

The House will also be well represented, with Larry Ahern, Ben Albritton, Chris Latvala and Kathleen Peters.

A former Clearwater firefighter who served four terms in the House before term limits forced him out, Hooper ran for Pinellas County Commission in 2014, losing to Democrat Pat Gerard after a contentious campaign.

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Emotions raw over Donald Trump immigration, refugee stance at Tampa Tiger Bay Club

Tensions over Donald Trump were high at the Friday meeting of the Tampa Tiger Bay Club.

The president’s recent travel ban on seven mostly Muslim countries and his executive order expanding the authority for individual immigration officers to detain and deport undocumented immigrants are two of the most explosive issues he addressed in his first month in office.

Pressure those events have engendered were reproduced to some extent the luncheon event at the Ferguson Law Center.

“No matter what your view is on immigration, I think we can agree that this rollout was a hot mess,” said Anna Eskamani, senior director of public affairs and communications for Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, in referring to the president ‘s executive order from three weeks ago which has been since been reversed by a federal judge in Washington state and stayed by the Ninth Circuit of Court of Appeals.

Colonel Jim Waurishuk served in the U.S. Air Force as a senior intelligence and joint political-military affairs officer for over 30 years, spending time in Iraq, Afghanistan and over 60 other countries. He noted that the seven countries named in Trump’s executive order were initially singled out with a law that President Obama signed back in December of 2015, a talking point made at the time by Trump supporters.

Waurishuk also said that the public needs to stop looking at immigration so emotionally, and more from the standpoint of common sense and logic.

“We put a face of an illegal immigrant as being someone who is Latino or Hispanic,” he said. “We put the face of a refugee as someone who is Muslim, but we don’t [with] people coming from all over the world, from South Asia to Central Asia, from Europe, from Africa.”

“We have to address it like it really is, rather than based on an emotional aspect.”

Waurishuk also echoed Trump supporters when he said that the controversial executive order never included the word “ban.”

However, critics at the time noted that both the president and press secretary Sean Spicer called it just that.

It was also inescapable that one of candidate Trump’s most controversial statements ever in the campaign was when he called for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States in December of  “until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”

The third member of the panel, Nestor Ortiz, is the chairman of the Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council.

Tiger Bay Board Member Don Kruse asked Ortiz that since racial profiling is already done throughout most of the world, what about doing it in America?

Ortiz emphatically responded that should not happen.

“There aren’t ICE agents targeting Canadian citizens,” he said. “They’re targeting black and brown communities, whether it be because they think they’re Muslim, or because they think they’re a terrorist, or they think that they can stop and frisk because they might have a gun or be a gang member. The majority of profiling directly impacts people of color. Which is an unfortunate reality. And I don’t say that lightly.”

“It is nice to be white in America,” Ortiz continued, “because these are things that do not apply to you, and I’m not saying that you have anything to apologize for, but just know that is our reality.”

“So should profiling be happening? No, not unless it happens to everyone, but unfortunately it does not.”

Things got a little tense when a white woman (only identified as Brooke) remarked that there was an imbalance on the panel, with “two people of color” debating the issues on the progressive side and only a single white conservative on the other.

Tiger Bay Club head Yvonne Fry said she had made a “great effort” to get another conservative on the panel, with no success.

A few minutes later, a woman sitting next to her named Kathy Brown referred to the “stark division” in the nation between liberals and conservatives. She said that conservatives like herself felt as despondent as liberals now do under President Trump, but “conservatives don’t go out on the street and riot.”

To buttress her argument, Brown said that the Obama administration had put “restrictions on religion, telling Chaplains what they said and couldn’t say.”

Ortiz disagreed with the comparison, saying what Trump is doing to Muslims and undocumented immigrants is something that Obama never did to Christians.

“We have the potential of losing out homes and our livelihoods,” he said, “and that wasn’t a reality for people when Obama was the president. It just wasn’t. When you say we took away religious freedoms? That didn’t happen. Obama was not saying go round up Christians.”

After hearing public comment from dozens of people earlier this month, The Hillsborough County Diversity Advisory Council recommended that the Board of County Commissioners made Hillsborough a sanctuary county.

A woman at Friday’s forum said that because the Trump administration threatened to withhold federal funds to such local governments who do that, would it truly be worth the effort?

(BOCC Chair Stacy White already said he has no intention of approving such a decision).

Ortiz said yes, it would be worth it; Eskamani said that working for Planned Parenthood, she is experienced in being threatened with the loss of federal funding.

One interesting side note to the proceedings: In his introductory remarks, Waurishuk said he had worked with Gen. Michael Flynn, who earlier this week resigned as Trump’s National Security Adviser. When attorney

When attorney Gary Dolgin commented on the circumstances leading to Flynn’s resignation later in the hour, Waurishuk hinted that he believed the general got a raw deal.

“Every national security advisor is allowed to do what he’s done,” he said. “There’s a period called the transition period from Nov. 9 to January 20 where anybody is brought on starts to do his job. They don’t wait until January 20 to start doing their job.”

Waurishuk went on to say the administration received more than 50 calls from world leaders, all with some sort of agenda.

“He said in 10 or 15 or 20 days, we will look at that once we’re in office, being as cordial and polite as possible in saying what he did,” Waurishuk told the audience, referring to Flynn’s actual dialogue (a transcript has not yet been published).

He also told Dolgin that he would need to follow up with him after the meeting.

“I’ll talk to you privately on that because I’m not at bay,”  Waurishuk said. “It’s totally different, but it was done for media purposes. You’d be surprised at what really went on.”

 

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Tampa Bay Tea Party transit critics get their say at forum

Whatever adjective(s) you may wish to use to describe Sharon Calvert, Tom Rask and Barb Haselden, “effective” has to be one of them.

The three Tea Party-aligned citizen activists have led the opposition to the two major public transit initiatives that have gone down to defeat over the past seven years, and contributed strongly to a third never making it to the ballot in Hillsborough County in 2016 (they also proudly add the failed referendums in Polk County in 2010 and 2014, as well).

The facts are well known, but just a reminder:

In 2010, the one-cent sales tax referendum known as Go Hillsborough lost by a 58%-42% margin in Hillsborough County.

In 2014, the one-cent sales tax referendum known as Greenlight Pinellas in Pinellas County did even poorer, losing 62%-38% at the polls.

In 2016, what might have been a half-cent sales tax referendum known as Go Hillsborough got mired in ethics issues and never even made it to the ballot, after Hillsborough County Commissioners twice rejected putting it there on 4-3 votes.

Calvert, Rask and Haselden were the invited speakers at Friday’s Cafe Con Tampa lecture series at the Oxford Exchange in Tampa, where they faced a large crowd, many of whom come from the Tampa/Hillsborough County business and political establishment that wish those ballot initiatives had passed in one form or another (though the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee sent out an email alerting their members about the meeting).

While critics say you can’t build enough roads to handle the transportation needs of the Tampa Bay region, all three speakers were unified in saying that they support putting money in roads, first and foremost.

Referring to how to lighten the gridlock on the Howard Frankland Bridge, Haselden asked the audience, “Is the solution more public transportation? Or is the solution re-doing the road? So we widen the roads.”

Calvert and Haselden also said they both support the FDOT’s multi-billion dollar Tampa Bay Express toll lanes project, which is extremely unpopular in some parts of Tampa.

All three speakers also talked about trust in believing their local officials, or to be more accurate, their lack of trust.

“My transit agency (PSTA) – I don’t trust them. I don’t trust the board,” said Rask.

With a college degree in finance, Calvert said that numbers “have to make sense to me,” and in her opinion, there has not been an honest explanation about the fiscal scenarios laid out in the Hillsborough initiatives in 2010 and 2016. She later said that if she ever would support a transit referendum, it should only extend ten years out, and not thirty, as both Hillsborough initiatives would have been.

“I’m not anti-transit. I’m cost-effective transit,” Calvert said about her general philosophy on using public monies for major transportation projects.

Not only did she play a leading role in ensuring that Go Hillsborough never made it to the ballot in 2016, Calvert is now expressing concerns about the much heralded “premium transit” study that the Florida Dept. of Transportation is funding and that the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) will conduct that will look at various options, including bus rapid transit, light rail and commuter rail. She says she has attended the public meetings about the study, and sees basically the same people talking to each other, while shutting out an organization like the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR) out of USF.  She says more entrepreneurs need to be invited to the discussion.

One area where Calvert is enthusiastic about the future of public transportation is when it comes to the use of autonomous vehicles, where Florida is actually ahead of the curve compared to the rest of the nation in creating the regulatory framework for that technology to begin happening relatively soon.

Haselden worked against Greenlight Pinellas in 2014. She says that the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority (PSTA) should rely on providing essential bus service for those who need it, and stop vying to get “choice riders” to ditch their cars, because “it’s not going to happen.”

Although branded as the three transit critics were coming into hostile territory, there was mostly positive vibes expressed from the members of the audience for the speakers coming to the forum. However, there were also criticism about not presenting alternatives  to fixing the region’s huge transportation problems.

Rask disagreed with the notion that the region is 20 years behind because of a lack of a viable public transit system.

“I think we’re ahead by not wasting money on these public transit projects,” he said, eliciting some groans from the crowd.

There has been considerable concern amongst the Tea Party crowd of a creeping referendum coming from the new HART-PSTA Memorandum of Understanding, something officials with those transit agencies strongly deny.

Tampa City Council Chairman Mike Suarez said that just because the voters have rejected referendums in the past, doesn’t mean they don’t want the option of having one in the future. “Saying that you can’t  have another election because it’s already been defeated I think is the weakest part of their argument,” he said.

Suarez then asked if they would support having the Legislature approve a law that would allow some of Florida’s cities (like St. Petersburg and Tampa) to put their own referendums on the ballot. This has been a hobbyhorse for locally elected officials in the Tampa Bay area, frustrated at losing referendums at the country level, while they have performed much better in the cities. While Rask and Calvert said they didn’t necessarily have a problem with it, local GOP Bay area lawmakers have expressed repeatedly that they have no interest in doing so.

At the end of the discussion, Tampa resident Sandy Reif told the three speakers that all he had heard was a negative message.

“I don’t think you’ve offered a solution to anything,” he said with disdain.

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City to hold public meeting on Tangerine Plaza

The city of St. Petersburg will host a meeting Feb. 23 to talk with the public about the Tangerine Plaza development.

The “Tangerine Plaza Community Conversation” will start at 6 pm and be held in the community room of the St. Petersburg College Douglas L. Jamerson, Jr. Midtown Center at 1300 22nd Street South.

Topics addressed in the meeting include what the greatest need is for the community surrounding Tangerine Plaza, the history of the plaza’s development and how the property can serve the community’s needs in the future.

The midtown shopping center has been in dire straits for years, and anchor store Wal-Mart Neighborhood Market announced last month it would shutter its doors in March, leaving area residents without a grocery store.

The meeting will have city staff in attendance and is open to all interested parties. For more information on the meeting, contact St. Petersburg Director of Education and Community Engagement Leah McRae at (727) 893-7174 or Leah.McRae@stpete.org.

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Alan Clendenin is undecided on who to vote for in DNC Chair race

The 447 members of the Democratic National Committee that will get together for the party’s four-day spring meeting in Atlanta beginning next Thursday have an important decision – who will lead the Democratic Party over the next four years?

The two best known candidates are Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison and Tom Perez, the Dept. of Labor Secretary under Barack Obama.

“If I was a betting man, I’d say that Perez has the edge,” says Alan Clendenin, a DNC Commiteeman from Tampa who will be in Atlanta next week to vote in the chair’s race. Speaking with this reporter on WMNF radio on Thursday, Clendenin also acknowledges that “there’s a lot of love for Keith” Ellison as well.

Getting some love from some mainstream Democrats is South Bend, Indiana Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who was endorsed on Thursday by former DNC National Chair and former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. Former Maryland Governor and Democratic presidential candidate Martin O’Malley is also backing the mayor.

Clendenin also speaks highly of South Carolina Democratic Chairman Jaime Harrison, who he pegs as a sleeper candidate.”He’s got a lot of future ahead of him,” he says. “He’s a young guy. I’m a huge fan of Jamie Harrison.”

On Wednesday, Harrison received the endorsements of Ohio Democratic Congress members Tim Ryan and Marcia Fudge.

Other candidates in the race include Sally Boynton Brown, executive director of the Idaho Democratic Party, activist and Fox News communicator Jehmu Greene, and New Hampshire Democratic Chairman Ray Buckley, who Clendenin has known for years.

“He’s been in party politics for a long time,” Clendenin says. “He knows where all the bodies are buried. Anybody who becomes a chair who does not use Ray Buckley is a fool, because he’s going to be somebody important.”

Clendenin is no stranger to elections when it comes to party chair, having finished second in the races to lead the Florida Democratic Party in 2013 and again last month, when he lost out to Miami area developer and fundraiser Stephen Bittel.

Clendenin has not committed to anyone in the contest yet. And he’s not the only Hillsborough Democrat with a vote.

Hillsborough County Commiteewoman Alma Gonzalez is also a DNC Committewoman. She was unavailable for comment on Thursday.

The election for DNC Chair takes place on Saturday, February 25.

 

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St. Pete City Council approves ordinance language and schedules March 2 public hearing ahead of Al Lang Stadium referendum

St. Petersburg City Council approved today ordinance language in the first step towards scheduling a May 2 referendum, which would allow residents of St. Petersburg to vote on giving City Council the authority to negotiate a long-term use agreement for Al Lang Stadium.

The use agreement, which can’t exceed 25 years, would allow Al Lang Stadium’s primary purpose to be the home field for a potential Major League Soccer team.

City Council also announced today, that they have set the public hearing date for Thursday, March 2, where St. Petersburg residents and business owners are invited to weigh in on the ordinance before Council votes on scheduling the May 2 special election.

Rowdies owner Bill Edwards will cover the entire cost of the May 2 election.

In a release, the Tampa Bay Rowdies said it appreciates St. Petersburg City Council for scheduling the Public Hearing and allowing the club to continue its aspirations of bringing another major league sports team to the city.

 

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Top Bernie Sanders surrogate Nina Turner to speak in St. Pete next month

Former Ohio state Senator Nina Turner, who became a national cable news star as a top surrogate for Bernie Sanders during the 2016 presidential campaign, will be speaking in St. Petersburg in March.

The 49-year-old Cleveland native served on the Cleveland City Council from 2005-2008. She resigned her seat that year to accept an appointment to the Ohio Senate in 2008. She won a full term in 2010, before losing a contest for Ohio Secretary of State in 2014.

Recently there has been a movement to draft her to run for Governor of Ohio in 2018.

Last year Turner became a prominent supporter of Sanders campaign. After he lost the Democratic nomination for president to Hillary Clinton, Turner admitted that she was considering an offer to run for vice president on the Green Party’s national ticket, but ultimately opted to stay within the Democratic Party.

Turner will speak at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 7 at the United Methodist Church Allendale at 3803 Haines Rd. N. St. Petersburg. To purchase tickets, go to movetobuild.us.

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House Speaker: ‘Zero’ chance Bucs get state money for stadium

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers shouldn’t hold their breath for any state subsidy to renovate Tampa’s Raymond James Stadium.

House Speaker Richard Corcoran told WTSP’s Noah Pransky in an interview there was “zero” chance his chamber will fund the pro football team’s $10 million subsidy request – and didn’t think the Senate would go along either.

The Bucs “applied under a statutory scheme put in place” that may be eliminated, he said. The team is the only professional team seeking money from the state this year.

Sen. Tom Lee, a Tampa Bay-area Republican, last month filed legislation to do away with a 2014 state program to provide revenue toward constructing or improving professional sports franchise facilities.

“The Sports Development Program was ill-conceived,” he said. “Professional teams are vying for taxpayer funds to pay for largely superficial facility upgrades, many of which are already in progress or completed. History has shown that team owners will make these investments without hardworking families having to foot the bill.”

Corcoran, an enemy of what he calls “corporate welfare,” agrees. This year, he’s looking to eliminate the public-private Enterprise Florida economic development organization and VISIT FLORIDA, the state’s tourism marketing agency.

“We shouldn’t be building stadiums or subsidizing billionaire owners of professional sports franchises,” he said. “It’s a multibillion-dollar industry. That’s just insane.”

The $10 million asked for Raymond James Stadium breaks down to $1 million a year for at least 10 years. And that’s just a fraction of the projected total costs for the renovations, pegged at a minimum of $120 million.

“We have an education system that needs improvement,” said Corcoran, a Land O’ Lakes Republican. “We have seniors who need a greater safety net. We have law enforcement and its needs. Those are the things we should be engaged in.

“Or just returning (money) back to taxpayers,” Corcoran added. “…Giving subsidies to billionaires and picking winners and losers is horrible public policy.”

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Ex-David Jolly staffer Preston Rudie now consulting for Jack Latvala

Preston Rudie, who served as the communications director for former U.S. Representative David Jolly, is now doing media consulting work for another Pinellas County Republican, state Senator Jack Latvala.

The Clearwater lawmaker is the most high-profile client for Rudie since he’s gone into the consulting business. He says that with the Catalyst Communications Group, he’ll be working with both private companies and elected officials.

Rudie was an award-winning television reporter with more than 20 Emmy’s and 6 Edward R. Murrow awards to his name while working at WTSP 10 News from 2002-2014.

Shortly after Jolly defeated Democrat Alex Sink in the special election in Florida’s 13th Congressional District in 2014, Rudie left journalism to serve as Jolly’s communications director, working in both Pinellas County and Washington D.C.

That gig ended officially last month when Charlie Crist was sworn into office. Crist defeated Jolly last November.

“Preston Rudie was the best Communications Director in Congress,” says Jolly. “Colleagues across the country would often share with me just how remarkable Preston was at his job. His clients at Catalyst, including candidates for regional or statewide office, will find great success working with Preston.  Simply put, he’s one of the best in the business.”

Latvala is also singing his praises, telling SPB that, “Preston Rudie is the top communications professional in the Tampa Bay Area. I am proud to add him to our team.”

Rudie’s involvement with Latvala comes as the Pinellas state Senator is contemplating a run for the GOP nomination for Governor.

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Phillips Development and Realty closes on $70M Skyway Marina project

Phillips Development and Realty, LLC (PDR), a Tampa-based development firm, has officially closed Wednesday on over 9 acres of prime real estate in St. Petersburg’s Skyway Marina District.

The proposed 300+ unit multi-family, mixed-use development will be the first of its kind in this area.

The land, once owned by The Home Depot, has sat empty for years. Its potential is what has drawn Donald Phillips, managing director of PDR, to this land. “It is areas like this that we focus on. The Skyway Marina District is screaming for retail, luxury

“It is areas like this that we focus on. The Skyway Marina District is screaming for retail, luxury living and involvement from the St. Petersburg art scene” said Phillips. PDR will include a vibrant mural to mark the entrance to the District facing neighboring I-275.

PDR will include a mural to mark the entrance to the District facing neighboring I-275.

Local elected officials and neighboring homeowner associations (HOAs) have greeted Phillips’ $70m project with strong support.

State Sen. Darryl Rouson wrote in a letter to the community: “Mr. Phillips’ company is known to be a provider of achievable rental housing that is built with quality and consideration for the community at large.”

Rouson feels strongly that this project will bring great things to the area and spark a growth it deserves. The Senator reaffirmed his support of the development, emphasizing the “… overwhelming support for this project at all levels of the community.”

During the planning stages, Mayor Rick Kriseman wrote in a letter to PDR pledging the City’s “complete support of the proposed project by Phillips Development in the Skyway Marina District.”

As PDR’s team worked with the District’s planning committee, Kriseman stated: “The City has agreed to provide $1 million in public improvements adjacent to the site to directly enhance this project, recognizing that Phillips Development is the first developer to propose a major development in the District. This commitment is in addition to the $1.6 million expended or budgeted for public improvements that include gateway signage, landscaping, pedestrian lighting and banners, and bus shelters within the Skyway Marina District.”

PDR plans to construct more than 13,000 square feet of restaurant/retail space along with the area’s first “lazy river” and beach-style dining.

The proposed plan also includes close to 100,000 square feet of attractive, Class-A climate controlled storage space with the partnership of Jernigan Capital of Memphis, Tennessee.

The property is located at the southeast corner of US 19 and 30th Avenue South.

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