The Bay and the 'Burg Archives - Page 7 of 588 - SaintPetersBlog

Kathy Castor visits USF College of Medicine, pledges to fight Donald Trump’s NIH funding cuts

Over five years, the University of South Florida received more than $260 million in federal funding from the National Institutes of Health; money which helped propel the Tampa campus as a leader in medical research.

But officials with the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Congresswoman Kathy Castor say that the innovative breakthroughs throughout the USF medical system would be seriously in peril if President Donald Trump gets his way in his recently unveiled budget and cuts funding to the NIH by 18 percent.

“I foresee a very challenging environment if the NIH budget is cut because young scientists and even scientists who are established will have a very hard time maintaining their labs,” said Dr. Samuel Wickline, the founding director of the USF Health Heart Institute, and Professor of Cardiovascular Sciences. “We could see a decrement instead of an increment who would be interested in coming here otherwise.”

Wickline was one of four doctors with the USF College of Medicine who conferred with Castor at the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute in Tampa on Monday, informing her of the work they are doing. Wickline said that the Byrd Institute relies almost 100 percent on NIH funding,

Overall, NIH invested more than $32 billion annually in 2016 for medical research to benefit the American people.

“About 30 percent of the grant money that goes out is used for indirect expenses, which, as you know, means that money goes for something other than the research that’s being done,” Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price told reporters last month, justifying the proposed 18 percent cut to NIH funding for the 2018 budget.

Both Republicans and Democrats have criticized the president’s proposal to cut NIH funding.

“You don’t pretend to balance the budget by cutting lifesaving biomedical research when the real cause of the federal debt is runaway entitlement spending,” said Tennessee Republican Senator Lamar Alexanderthe chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, immediately after the NIH proposed cuts were announced.

Castor says that Republicans and Democrats will work together to ensure the cuts don’t go through.

“We in the Congress intend to work in a bipartisan way to make sure that doesn’t happen, that the treatments and cures and the research stay on track that these young scientists have the promise of continuing their grant funding their research moving forward,” she said.

USF’s Morsani College of Medicine attracts students from around the country and the world who want to enroll there because of its reputation as a research university. said Hana Totary-Jain, Ph.D., an assistant Professor of Molecular Pharmacology and Physiology.

Totary-John came from Israel to USF to study.

NIH funding has to be steady,” Totary-Jain insisted, “So scientists, instead of worrying about new grants and getting new money, can really focus on innovation and on the research that we do and bringing in new breakthroughs in all these fields.”

Congress passed a bill late last year that gave the NIH an additional $4.8 billion over the next five years. That included $1.8 billion for former Vice President Joe Biden‘s cancer moonshot, another $1.5 billion when to President Obama‘s precision medicine initiative to develop targeted gene therapies and $1.5 billion to the Brain Initiative to develop Alzheimer’s treatments.

Standing back and watching the news conference was Dr. Stephen Liggett, the vice dean for research at the Morsani College of Medicine. He said it was crucial that Congress find a way to be consistent in its funding for NIH grants.

“You can’t start a project and then turn it off,” he said. “If you look at the graph of the NIH budget, if it were left alone by Congress and simply increased by three percent per year, starting from 1970 there’s a beautiful curve that puts it higher than we are now.”

Vern Buchanan proposes pandemic response fund

Congress should create a rapid-response fund to combat deadly infectious diseases such as Zika and Ebola that threaten public health, Rep. Vern Buchanan said today.

Buchanan said this fund would allow the nation’s top disease fighters to respond immediately to disease outbreaks instead of waiting for a dysfunctional Congress to act. Buchanan’s home state of Florida was ground zero for the Zika virus last year and he had to fight for federal resources for nearly a year before funding was made available.

Buchanan led a group of 20 bipartisan members of Congress last week in sending a letter to the chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies urging the creation of a $300 million fund designed to respond swiftly to disease outbreaks.

“We can’t afford to be caught flat-footed when a public health crisis hits,” Buchanan said in his letter, which was signed by 13 members of Florida’s delegation. “Every minute counts when it comes to saving lives and stopping the next pandemic.”

Similar to the disaster relief fund used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the wake of a natural disaster, under Buchanan’s plan, the federal government should have a dedicated source of funding immediately available to mobilize a response to infectious disease outbreaks, such as Ebola and Zika.

The nation’s top public health experts strongly support the creation of this type of fund.

In an August 2016 interview, then-Centers for Disease Control and Prevention director Dr. Tom Frieden said: “I think the big picture is, we definitely need something like this. It’s crucially important that we have resources to respond rapidly. Epidemics move at one speed — Congress clearly moves at a different speed.”

According to Dr. Frieden, “in a public health emergency, speed is critical. A day, a week, a month, can make all of the difference… Three months in an epidemic is an eternity.”

Full text of the letter can be found below.

Dear Chairman Cole and Ranking Member DeLauro:

The federal government should be prepared to fight emerging infectious diseases as quickly as possible.

According to Dr. Thomas Frieden, an infectious disease expert and the former of head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “in a public health emergency, speed is critical.  A day, a week, a month, can make all of the difference… Three months in an epidemic is an eternity.”

In the last decade alone, we have faced serious threats from H1N1 in 2009, MERS in 2012, Ebola in 2014, and of course the deadly Zika virus last year. Even worse, many have forewarned of future epidemics that could be spread by airborne transmission and therefore be far more contagious than Ebola or Zika.

And just this month Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institutes of Allergy and Infectious Diseases warned that the African yellow fever epidemic could soon spread to the United States.

Furthermore, many experts have concluded that the world will face new infectious diseases with rising frequency due to the increased globalization of people, travel and food. As Ron Klain, the previous administration’s Ebola Response Coordinator, famously asserted, “From now on, dangerous epidemics are going to be a regular fact of life” – a scary thought to say the least.

This is not only an urgent public health concern, it is a matter of national security. As former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted, “infectious diseases and vulnerabilities in the global supply chain for medical countermeasures will continue to pose a danger to U.S. national security.”

A fund for federal emergency response is not a new concept.  In fact, for over four decades, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has drawn on the Disaster Relief Fund to help Americans quickly recover from hurricanes, floods and other natural disasters. These funds allow FEMA to coordinate relief efforts and provide immediate aid and support to those affected.

The federal government should have a similar dedicated source of funding immediately available to mobilize a response to infectious disease outbreaks here in the U.S.

We cannot afford to be caught flat-footed or constrained in our ability to respond and provide aid in a timely and comprehensive manner when the next public health crisis emerges.

Therefore, as you begin work on the fiscal year fiscal year 2018 Labor, Health and Human Services funding bill, we respectfully ask that you provide $300 million in reserve funding for the federal government to be able to immediately access to contain and eradicate future infectious disease epidemics.

While it was never signed into law, we were encouraged to see that your subcommittee included funding for a similar reserve last year. We thank you for your consideration of this request, and for your leadership on the committee.

The case against Rick Baker running for St. Petersburg mayor

As coy as he has been with the local media and as busy as he is promoting the Rowdies referendum, Rick Baker is almost certain to run for St. Petersburg mayor this year.

Last week, Baker was in Tallahassee for a series of not-exactly-clandestine meetings with top Republican donors like Brian Ballard and Nick Iarossi.

Baker’s biggest cheerleader in the capital, state Sen. Jeff Brandes, set up the meetings.

Baker does not particularly enjoy fundraising; At least not as much as his fellow St. Petersburg office-bearer, Charlie Crist. It’s not that he can’t or won’t make the ask, it’s just that he believes — rightly so — that he probably has better things with his time.

So, for Baker to shake his tin can in Tallahassee, it’s the surest sign yet that he plans on challenging incumbent Rick Kriseman.

If polling is to be believed — and St. Pete Polls has a near-bulletproof record surveying St. Petersburg voters — Baker would actually start as a favorite against Kriseman.

Despite all the hullabaloo over the city’s sewage system crisis, as well as a lack of genuine, visible progress on big-ticket items like a new St. Petersburg Pier or a new home for the Tampa Bay Rays, Kriseman is popular with city voters.

Were anyone other than Baker to challenge Kriseman — from popular Republicans like Brandes to City Council veterans like Amy Foster or Darden Rice — the mayor would dispatch them easily.

But, head-to-head, Baker trumps Kriseman.

In other words, Kriseman is a popular mayor; Baker just happens to be a more popular former mayor.

Three times out of five, Baker beats Kriseman. Which means it’s not a lock that Baker will beat Kriseman in November. In fact, one can make a pretty compelling case for how Baker might lose to Kriseman.

Here are 10 reasons why Baker might not want to run against Kriseman.

Demographics  

St. Pete is an increasingly progressive city, substantially more so than when Baker was re-elected in 2005. St. Pete’s gay community is more visible and more influential than 12 years ago. And if there’s one cohort Baker is cross-wired with, it’s Team Pride. While in office, he refused to sign a proclamation celebrating Florida’s biggest Gay Pride festival — a symbolic non-gesture that many of the city’s LGBT leaders and residents have not forgotten. These folks may already be against Baker’s Republican politics, just as they were against Bill Foster‘s. But Baker’s candidacy may galvanize the gay community in a way no other candidate would.

Demographics — Part 2

When Baker won re-election in 2005, he won every single precinct in the city. That means precincts where blacks are in the majority — no easy feat for a Republican running against an opponent who would become chair of the Pinellas Democratic Party. Black voters also functioned as the deciding vote bloc for Baker in 2001 and for Foster in 2009 (both men defeated Kathleen Ford). Baker prides himself on his relationship with the black community. Remember, this is the policy wonk who won national acclaim for his vision of a “seamless city.” But will the black vote, in this era of Donald Trump, embrace Baker over a Democratic elected official who will likely be endorsed by most major African-American leaders? Even with Goliath Davis and Deveron Gibbons as his chief surrogates, it’s difficult to envision Baker winning the black vote at the same clip he did in his first two elections.

Lessons from Jeb

In the parlance of Game of Thrones, Baker is a loyal bannerman to House Jeb. So many Republican pols admire Baker, it’s sometimes difficult to imagine him having to look up to anyone. But Jeb Bush is one of those people. Had Bush won his bid for The White House, it’s very likely Baker would be Secretary of Something right now. Obviously, that was not the case and in Jeb’s humiliating defeat — “Please clap” — there’s a cautionary tale for Baker. Bush was out of office for so long, and the political environment had shifted so much, that he was caught flat-footed by the new rules of engagement. What will Baker do when an anonymous negative website about him inevitably pops up? What will Baker’s strategy for Facebook and Twitter be? Will he be caught on video saying something honest, but politically damaging? How will he interact with the Tom Rasks and David McKalips of the mayoral campaign? There are so many possible landmines out there for anyone running for office that it can be a challenge for even a savvy operator like Baker. He can ask his friend Jeb about that.

The Times will not be with him

Baker’s never been the Tampa Bay Times’ favorite local Republican (that would be Jack Latvala), but rarely has he been in its crosshairs. The local newspaper probably doesn’t have the desire or the horses to make Baker one of its “projects,” but it’s not going to be on his side — as it was in his races against Ford and Ed Helm — either. At the end of the day, the newspaper really likes Kriseman, even if it’s aware of his shortcomings. But his politics matches its and Baker’s apparently do not, so expect the editorial page (sans Baker ally Joni James) to weigh in again and again about how Baker had his time, and the city needs to move forward with Kriseman and blah, blah, blah. Also, the Tampa Bay Times may want to make up for this.

The Bill Edwards conundrum

One day, residents of St. Petersburg may look at a statute of Bill Edwards that memorialized his many, many contributions to the prosperity of the city. Or maybe not. It very much depends on the outcome of an ongoing federal lawsuit lodged by two whistle-blowers accused Edwards of looting millions from his defunct mortgage company. According to Charlie Frago of the Tampa Bay Times, Baker was uncertain about Edwards’ situation, especially as it relates to the Edwards-Baker effort to attract a Major League Soccer team to the city. Questions about Edwards’ future and Baker’s work for The Edwards Group could be an issue on the campaign trail. Remember, Kriseman made Foster’s remote connections to Edwards an issue during the 2013 race.

Rick being Rick

As smart and successful as Baker has been throughout his career, now and then he makes a decision that even his most ardent defenders (like me) can’t explain. After all, Baker did endorse Herman Cain for President in 2011Kriseman is already making hay about Baker’s politics

Baker is not running against a tomato can.

Not hardly — Some might say Baker has been very lucky with who he’s had to run against in his previous campaigns. Ford, well, is Kathleen Ford, the ultimate femme fatale candidate who, despite her tenacity, was never going to win over a majority of supporters. Helm, well, is Ed Helm, who, despite his sheer intelligence, could not get out of his own way for long enough to build a winning coalition. While Ford, Helm, and Kriseman are all Democrats, Kriseman is nothing like Ford or Helm. He’s already proven he can build a winning coalition of city progressives, minorities, residents from the west part of the city, young voters, and the upscale urban liberals of northeast St. Pete. He has a loyal veteran campaign team and a base of donors and supporters already hard at work. Kriseman’s camp is not taking the prospect of a Baker challenge lightly; that’s why it has been raising money hand-over-fist in what is expected to be St. Pete’s most expensive campaign ever.

Duh! Kriseman is the incumbent

Even Captain Obvious recognizes there are many advantages to being the incumbent in a local race. For example, Kriseman recently won the endorsement of the police union, an organization which went with Foster in 2009. Why? Because Kriseman is committed to building a new headquarters for the St. Pete Police Department. Will rank-and-file cops turn out for Kriseman? That remains to be seen, but advantages like this are the kind of default support an incumbent receives. He gets to be on the city’s TV channel, shows up at ribbon-cuttings, be in the newspaper and on TV any day he wants. Kriseman will be careful about doing so, but all the city’s resources are at his disposal.

Kriseman knows how to throw a punch. Does Baker know what it’s like to be hit?

To quote Mike Tyson, everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth. Kriseman knows how to throw a punch; his campaign will not hesitate to use any and all lines of attacks against Baker. In the end, Kriseman’s campaign and its allies will throw the kitchen sink at Baker, who, while no stranger from the spotlight, hasn’t had a negative mailer written about him in 12 years. He hasn’t been the star of a grainy, black-and-white television attack ad. He hasn’t had his name dragged through the mud just for the sake of doing that. How will he react? How will Baker counterpunch? The answer to these questions may be the most fascinating thing to watch during the campaign.

Does Baker really want to be Mayor again?

I think if Rick Baker had his druthers, he’d strap on his guitar and tour the state talking about his soon-to-be-released book and how there is a third way for polarized state politics. He’d speak of a “seamless state” and how Republicans can be both tough on crime and strong on the environment. Or be president of an expansion Major League Soccer team. But I’m not 100 percent sure he wants to be Mayor of St. Petersburg for the next eight years — who would run against him in 2021? Sure, Dick Greco had a successful second act as Tampa’s mayor, but by the end of his career, Greco was sadly out of touch with the community he loved so much and once loved him.

Nothing in politics would cause Baker more heartache than for him to lose the respect of his neighbors and fellow residents.

St. Pete officials make the case for Enterprise Florida

With less than a month to go for the Florida Legislature Regular Session, several major issues remain unresolved.

No issue is more entertaining — on a purely political basis — than the debate among Republicans on the viability of Enterprise Florida.

That’s the public-private partnership between Florida’s business and government leaders where recent records show has spent a lot more public than private money. And that’s a major reason Enterprise Florida has spent an entire year in the crosshairs of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, whose intense campaign has resulted in the Florida House voting to defund the organization.

But that’s not the case in the Senate.

The upper chamber’s current budget funds the organization to the tune of $85 million, with Gov. Rick Scott taking weekly road trips up and down the state for the past few months calling out House Republicans who voted against the measure. Much of the road trips include cheerleading sessions with both political and business elite in those communities.

J.P. DuBuque, the president of the Greater St. Petersburg Economic Development Corporation, admits that economic growth in the state won’t die out if Enterprise Florida isn’t retained. But he also believes taking away the business community’s biggest (and best) marketing arm and “unilaterally disarming” regarding tax incentives will negatively impact growth trajectory and the success overall of Florida communities.

“We’re competing against other locations. They may have deals where they might be considering locations in Cleveland or Dallas or Nashville or Atlanta. All of those states have lucrative incentive programs, and if we do not have something of our own to help close the deal, the total cost element which every business is going to look at, that pendulum moves away from Florida, and we don’t get the jobs,” he says.

In a conference call with FloridaPolitics.com Friday, DuBuque joined Bram Hechtkopf, CEO of St. Petersburg-based Kobie Marketing, a firm working with some of the biggest companies in the United States to build brand loyalty.

Working through the State’s Qualified Target Industry (QTI) program last year, Kobie qualified for 255 new hires, with an average salary of $80,000.

Under the QTI program, administered through the Department of Economic Opportunity and Enterprise Florida, companies can receive a $3,000 tax refund per new job created — if the salary is more than 115 percent of the county’s average annual wage.

After the House Rules and Policy Committee had passed a bill last month to kill Enterprise Florida, the libertarian-based Americans for Prosperity-Florida celebrated.

“Florida is the best state to raise a family and start a business, because of our outstanding recourses and infrastructure, not because of taxpayer handouts,” AFP-Florida representatives said in a statement. “The time to end these unfair handouts is now.”

AFP-Florida has been the most vocal group to call out all forms of what they dub “corporate welfare.” In so, they found an ideological partner in Corcoran, who at one point wanted the same fate for Visit Florida, the state’s tourist development arm.

Corcoran has since backed off that stance while continuing to push for a severe reduction in its budget.

DuBuque, as head of the EDC, bristles at the suggestion that EF simply gives out tax incentives willy-nilly.

“The incentives don’t make the deal,” he maintains. “The decision to consider a location for growth or relocation is driven first in most cases by availability and cost of labor, then you  have real estate considerations, you have quality-of-life considerations, so you have all of these considerations that your business are going to take.”

Hechtkopf emphasizes that Enterprise Florida has been a good corporate partner, helping attract and maintain talent in the Tampa Bay area. Although he was unable to confirm the nature of how the tax incentive program would work for Kobie Marketing, an official working with the firm later contacted SPB to say that Kobie “has the potential of $1.7 million dollars in tax refunds from calendar years 2017 through 2023 as long as the 255 net-new employee are retained through the year 2023.”

HD 66 hopeful Berny Jacques starts strong, raises nearly $30K in March

Berny Jacques raised $29,740 in March, the first month of fundraising after launching a 2018 bid for Pinellas County’s House District 66.

Contributors to the former Pinellas County Assistant State Attorney’s campaign include former Jeb Bush staffer Slater Bayliss, GOP fundraiser Brent Sembler, local Republican heavyweight Jim Holton, Tampa Chamber of Commerce Chair Mike Griffin and Fritz Brogan, former Executive Deputy Chief of Staff to Gov. Rick Scott.

Jacques also picked up an endorsement from another local Pinellas County official, Largo City Commissioner Jamie Robinson.

“I have had the opportunity to speak with Berny over the past couple of weeks regarding his candidacy,” Robinson said. “He has shown great concerns for the residents of the district. His honesty and willingness to listen to the people’s problems [are] commendable. I am looking forward to working together with him to help continue enhancing the quality of life for the citizens of Largo.”

Jacques said he was honored by the endorsement.

“Commissioner Robinson is someone who truly cares about the people of Largo,” he said. “My history with the City of Largo goes back to my time as a state prosecutor where I worked with the Largo Police Department to address crime in the city. To have a city leader like Commissioner Robinson on our team is truly humbling.”

Currently occupying the HD 66 seat is term-limited Republican Larry Ahern of Seminole.

Nick DiCeglie, who serves as chair of the Pinellas County Republican Executive Committee, is also considering a run for the seat next year. However, he has yet to officially file.

Charlie Crist, Kathy Castor want Congress consulted on military force in Syria

The two Tampa Bay-area Democratic members of Congress — Kathy Castor and Charlie Crist — say they support President Donald Trump‘s military action in Syria Thursday night. both say that the House of Representatives should immediately reconvene so that members can debate the use of military force there.

But both say the House of Representatives should reconvene immediately so members can debate the use of military force there.

That seems doubtful, perhaps, as the House is breaking Thursday for a two-week Easter recess.

“The Tomahawk missile strike on the Syrian air base was an important and targeted response to Bashar Assad’s use of chemical weapons,” Castor said. “Russia and Iran should be held accountable as well for their support of Assad and his war on the Syrian people.”

“The continued atrocities committed by Bashar al-Assad against innocent men, women, and most horrifyingly, children and infants, are an assault on humanity and must be stopped,” said Crist. “Last night’s targeted airstrikes were a proportional and appropriate response, making clear that these war crimes will not go unanswered.”

Both Democratic lawmakers say that the Constitution puts the responsibility to declare war with the Congress, and that the President should make his case before them if he is prepared to engage further in Syria.

‎”Congressional leaders, the Trump Administration and Obama Administration have been derelict in following the requirements of the Constitution and law for a formal Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF),” said Castor. “The military strike on Syria and ongoing war on ISIS should prod policymakers to return to Washington and adopt a new AUMF.”

“Congress must also do its part and return immediately from recess to debate an Authorization for Use of Military Force to determine a comprehensive strategy for the United States and our allies,” said Crist. “We need clear objectives to end this crisis to protect our troops and the Syrian people.”

Castor has previously criticized Barack Obama for not getting an Authorization for Use of Military Force in engaging in battle with the Islamic State, criticism that some other Democrats made as well, none more loudly than Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine.

Congressional Democrats as a whole seem to be parroting a consistent line Friday, praising Trump for the cruise missile attacks on a Syrian military base, but insisting he go before the Congress to get authorization before any further action.

New St. Pete Pier operating budget at $3.2M, Colliers tapped to manage

St. Petersburg City Council members received a glimpse at expected ongoing costs for the soon-to-be-reopened St. Pete Pier, which will have a $3.2 million annual budget.

During Thursday’s council meeting, the board also selected Canadian-based commercial real estate firm Colliers International to manage the pier.

Janelle Irwin of the Tampa Bay Business Journal offers a breakdown: $3.2 million annual operating costs, $600,000 for pre-opening operations and a $50,000 grand opening event.

A staff presentation to council members to hire Colliers revealed taxpayers will spend $2 million to operate the Pier, an increase from $1.4 million devoted to the old inverted pyramid.

Comparing the old and new projects is not entirely accurate, city development administrator Alan DeLisle told council members. The new pier takes up 21 more acres than before, which makes a cost-per-acre only $73,000, compared to $266,000 per acre for the old structure.

DeLisle pointed to a $10 million minimum economic impact for the region – increased spending on things like hotel stays, retail purchases and dining.

The new Pier will also impact the city’s local, national and international stature, he added.

Irwin writes that the revised $10 million economic impact estimate was adjusted down from an initial $80 million, to offer a more accurate number.

Big City Events, which organizes RibFest, Guavaween and the Gasparilla International Film Festival, among others, will be in charge of all Pier events.

According to Irwin, the new contract will stipulate both Colliers and Big City Events must host at least 78 events in the first year — increasing by five every year after that – with two of them major. Most, however, will be small-scale and open to the public.

Also under the agreement, St. Pete will take half the Pier’s first $100,000 in revenue, and 35 percent above that. Colliers will assume all financial risk of Pier events. There will also be a potential for revenue for naming rights.

Council members will also consider adding $14 million to the pier’s budget, Irwin reports, for added amenities and acquiring public art.

 

Rick Kriseman to host major St. Pete fundraiser this month for re-election bid

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman is joining a significant group of Tampa Bay area supporters –  including some leaders in the Tampa Bay Rays organization – for a major fundraiser this month supporting his re-election campaign.

The event is Monday, April 17, from 5:30 to 7:30 PM at 3 Daughters Brewing, 222 22nd St. S. in St. Petersburg. Suggested contribution is $250.

According to the email invite, the host committee includes Rays owner Stu Sternberg and President Matthew Silverman, former Florida CFO Alex Sink and state Rep. Bill Heller, St. Petersburg City councilmember Charlie Gerdes, former Democratic candidates Eric Lynn and Augie Ribeiro, among others.

On Thursday, Kriseman released a 43-page report prepared by the city to make its best pitch for the 85-acre Tropicana Field site as the ideal location to build a new Rays stadium. The proposal did not include financial details on how that would happen. One of Kriseman’s campaign promises is to resolve the ongoing stalemate with the Rays over a new location for the team.

 

Report: St. Petersburg tops 21 Florida cities with worst air pollution in 2015

The Sunshine State’s air is dirtier than it should be, according to an environment report issued Thursday.

The study, called Our Health at Risk, reviewed EPA records of air pollution levels across the country, focusing on smog and soot — dangerous pollutants that come from burning dirty fuels like coal, oil and natural gas.

Among its key findings:

— People in the Tampa Bay area experienced 56 days with elevated smog pollution and 86 days with elevated soot pollution in 2015.

— St. Petersburg ranked 1st in the state for worst smog pollution in 2015, and 1st for soot.

Across Florida, 21 cities and metro areas had unhealthy levels of air pollution with an average of 17 dirty air days during 2015, including Miami, Tallahassee, and Gainesville.

The report comes as the Trump Administration is planning major cuts to environmental programs promulgated by the Obama administration, including a request to the EPA to rewrite the Clean Power Plan; a request to the Department of Interior to rewrite air pollution regulations for oil and gas drilling; a proposal to cut the EPA’s budget by 31 percent, and instructions to the TPA to roll back federal clean car standards.

“We can’t afford to roll back these key environmental protections,” said Congressman Charlie Crist. “More pollution and more climate change are direct threats to our community’s health, safety, energy independence, and economy.”

The report was written by Elizabeth Ridlington from the Frontier Group and Travis Madsen from the Environment America Research & Policy Center, and published by Environment Florida.

“There’s no safe level of exposure to smog and particulate pollution,” said Ridlington. “Elevated levels of air pollution — even levels the federal government says are safe for most people — hurt our health.”

“In the face of reckless and dangerous actions from the Trump Administration on clean air, Senators Nelson and Rubio must stand up for our health,” said Turner Lott with Environment Florida. “We urge our senators to defend clean air safeguards and clean car standards so that dirty air days can become a thing of the past.”

Mike Deeson to Tampa City Council: ‘I’m not done yet’

The Tampa City Council awarded legendary investigative television reporter Mike Deeson a commendation on Thursday, even though the venerable newshound stressed to the board that he’s not yet ready to ride off into the sunset.

Deesonstunned the Tampa Bay community last month when he announced without fanfare that he was leaving WTSP 10 News, effective immediately.

Although the award-winning journalist may have grown weary of television news politics, Deeson clearly isn’t ready to give up on reporting, telling the Council that through his Facebook and YouTube page, he’ll be continuing to hold local government and business officials accountable in the near future with more reporting, just not on the CBS affiliate.

Deeson worked in television news for more than 40 years, the last 30 with WTSP.

The Chicago native said that he first covered the Tampa City Council back in 1982, where the big stories were flooding in South Tampa, Councilwoman Helen Chavez pushing legislation to mandate that men keep their shirts on while attending Tampa Bay Buccaneer games at Houlihan Stadium and could there be a place to build a baseball stadium if Major League Baseball expanded into the Tampa Bay Area.

“Nothing’s changed in 35 years,” he deadpanned.

Making the most of his platform, Deeson waxed philosophical on the state of journalism in America circa 2017, saying the problem wasn’t “fake news” but “frivolous news.”

“We have lost the importance of what matters to people,” he said. “And what matters to people and the reason I love covering government is because city council and county commission and the state Legislature have much more influence on our lives than what is going in the circus in our nation’s capital.”

And Deeson seemed to be taking a dig at his fellow reporters in television news when he said that too many reporters “would rather cover the next important chili recipe that’s on Facebook, instead of the real issue that affect all of our lives and make us a better community.”

The 68-year-old Tampa resident said he’s grown to love the community, and has made a lot of friends over the decades, some of whom work in government. But he said he’s never gone soft on any of them, because “I want to make the place better, and I know what all of you do as well.”

“You’re a pain in the Adam’s apple sometimes, sometimes you’re hard to swallow, but you say the truth” joked Councilman Charlie Miranda, who along with Guido Maniscalco made the original request to honor the newsman.”

“We need strong journalists out there,” agreed Councilman Mike Suarez. “We need reporters like you to correct the story, even when someone else is getting a bad story.”

First on his agenda is finishing up his memoir, tentatively titled, “Bad News For You is Good News For Me.”

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