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Pinellas GOP heavyweights raising money for Rick Baker on Wednesday in Clearwater Beach

Former Mayor Rick Baker continues building momentum in his quest to return for a third term as St. Petersburg Mayor.

Coming off a successful campaign kickoff event last week, Baker, who served two terms from 2001-2010, is following with another high-profile reception Wednesday in Clearwater Beach.

Co-chairs of the event – with the tagline “Proven Leadership” – include renowned attorney Brian Aungst Jr., former Pinellas GOP Chair Jay Beyrouti and restaurateur (and one-time “Mr. Clearwater”) Frank Chivas.

According to the invite, the blockbuster bipartisan host committee includes more than four dozen prominent Pinellas County state and municipal leaders such as State Sens. Jeff Brandes and Jack Latvala, state Reps. Kathleen Peters, Wengay Newton, Chris Latvala and Chris Sprowls, former state Rep. (and Senate candidate) Ed Hooper, Pinellas County Clerk Ken Burke, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, Pinellas County Property Appraiser Mike Twitty, Seminole Mayor Leslie Waters, North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen, Treasure Island Mayor Robert Minning, Oldsmar Vice Mayor Dan Saracki and more.

In last week’s kickoff at the Morean Arts Center, Baker pushed his vision of “A Seamless City,” and the slogan “I’m ready to serve.” Wednesday’s event – attended by much of the Pinellas County political elite – will sure to continue that theme. Baker is facing incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The reception begins 5:30 p.m. at the Island Way Grill, 20 Island Way in Clearwater. Those interested in attending can RSVP with Rick Porter at (407) 849-1112 or rick@politicalcapitalflorida.com.

Boats in Florida inching up after slumping all decade

Almost a decade after the number of boaters in Florida took a nosedive, the number of registered vessels is inching its way back up.

Florida Today reported Saturday that there were more than 95,000 fewer registered vessels in 2016 than a decade earlier.

That’s a 9.3 percent dip.

The number of boats in Florida bottomed out in 2013 at almost 897,000 vessels.

It has gradually increased over the past three years and that figure now stands at more than 931,000 boats.

Michele Miller of the Marine Industry Association of Florida says the number of boats tracks economic conditions.

It declined during the Great Recession and has bounced back with improving economic conditions.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 expects to be wide-open challenge

One of IndyCar’s all-time greats will lead the field to green at the Indianapolis 500.

All eyes, though, will be one row behind Scott Dixon as Fernando Alonso makes his debut in “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” Alonso has never raced on an oval before, never raced an Indy car and hasn’t done a rolling start in 20 years — and that was in a go-kart.

So, yeah, Alonso lingered long after all the other competitors in the final driver meeting before Sunday’s race. The two-time Formula One champion peppered race director Brian Barnhart with questions for a solid 15 minutes before riding off through Gasoline Alley on his skateboard .

 He’s as ready as he can possibly be, and ranked fifth — the fastest rookie — on the speed chart during the final day of practice. Alonso has enjoyed every minute at Indy , but he’s not letting the hype around his quest to win racing’s version of the Triple Crown — he’s already won at Monaco in F1 and would like to someday run Le Mans — distract him from his mission.

“There is still no emotion. Until Monday, there are no emotions allowed to enter your mind,” Alonso said. “The mind is so focused on the race. There is no space for the emotions right now.”

That’s the intensity it will take to win the 101st running of the Indy 500. Still, it is Dixon who should be the favorite to win.

The New Zealander had the fastest qualifying effort in 21 years to win the pole, and he’d like to drink the victor’s milk for the second time. Dixon won this race in 2008, he’s a four-time series champion and ranks fourth on the career win list behind only A.J. Foyt, Mario and Michael Andretti.

“In my generation, he’s the best,” said Tony Kanaan, the 2013 winner of the Indy 500 and Dixon’s teammate.

It doesn’t hurt that Dixon this year is in a Honda, which has dominated the buildup to Sunday over rival Chevrolet. The Chevy camp — particularly Team Penske — has been dramatically overshadowed so far but finally showed better speed Friday. Three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves, veteran of the Penske camp, was fastest on Carb Day .

“We keep working, digging, obviously finding a way,” Castroneves said. “We’re going to fight extremely hard out there and showing a little bit of speed certainly. We’re going for the big one on Sunday.”

Team Penske has four of the top five drivers in the IndyCar standings, has won the last three races of the season and added two-time 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya to its lineup.

Still, a win by a Chevy driver might be considered an upset based on how strong Honda has been. Although reliability on the Honda engines has been spotty — James Hinchcliffe had a failure during Friday’s practice — the speed is there and Honda won last year with Alexander Rossi, a rookie who coasted across the finish line on fumes.

Rossi is part of the massive effort from Andretti Autosport, which expanded to six cars when it took on Alonso last month. Most teams might have flinched at taking on such a heavy workload for the biggest race of the year, but the Andretti camp did not back down.

“It has to make sense from a business standpoint,” said Marco Andretti, son of the team owner and a driver eager to win his first Indy 500. “At first I was like, ‘Man, six cars?’ Then I found out who it was, and I was like, ‘Well, we have to do that.’ It’s a lot for the team. But it’s all good things, man. It’s good for the sport.”

There has certainly been a buzz around the Brickyard for Alonso, and worldwide television ratings should get a significant boost. IndyCar drivers are smart enough to understand that Alonso is good for all of them now.

With no clear favorite, questions about Honda’s reliability, Penske’s power and Alonso’s lack of experience in this race, there could be a surprise winner in a race Roger Penske believes could be even more exciting than last year’s historic 100th running.

Kanaan, a driver who had his heart broken repeatedly at Indy before his breakthrough victory four years ago, can’t predict what might happen.

“The track is a she, first of all, and she picks the winner,” Kanaan said. “I mean, look how many chances I had, not just me, but good drivers, led races. We can make a list of people who should have won this race, and then all of a sudden something happens.

“That’s why every time I drive into the track, I say, “Hello, beauty” and kind of kiss the asphalt, don’t do burnouts in the parking lot, and try to treat her nice. Every time I get to the track, I just give her a little French kiss.”

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

Tampa Bay Rowdies in 1-1 draw against Saint Louis

Neill Collins thumped a header over the line in the 87th minute to give the Tampa Bay Rowdies a 1-1 draw Saturday night against Saint Louis FC at Al Lang Stadium.

Tampa Bay (6-3-3 (W-T-L), 21 points) trailed for much of the second half after Jose Angulo’s 59th-minute free kick goal, but Collins stepped up to rescue the Rowdies a point by burying a Michael Nanchoff corner kick at the near post.

It was a testy match that had very little flow. Thirty fouls were called and eight yellow cards were dished out in a tight battle.

“It was a little frustrating tonight,” Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “The guys showed great resilience. We conceded a goal against the run of play when I thought we were going to score. We were on top, dominating and looking dangerous and then they had a moment of brilliance from (Angulo.) We responded well because it would have been easy for the guys to feel sorry for themselves with some of the decisions that went against us. The guys didn’t. They kept going and got the goal they deserved.”

The Rowdies dominated for most of the first half with lots of possession in the Saint Louis (3-3-3, 12 points) 18-yard box, but the cutting edge wasn’t quite there.

Rowdies captain Joe Cole had the first great scoring chance of the night in the 13th minute, taking a free kick from deep that looked bound for goal before a well-timed palm from Saint Louis goalkeeper Adam Grinwis to push it over the crossbar.

Saint Louis could’ve scored two minutes later when Christian Volesky led a swift counterattack into the Rowdies’ 18, but the sliding efforts of Darnell King, Tamika Mkandawire and Matt Pickens were enough to stamp out the chance.

The match went into halftime without a goal.

Tampa Bay stepped on the accelerator in the second half, with Alex Morrell taking a left-footed shot in the 50th minute that was saved by Grinwis.

The Rowdies shouted for a penalty kick in the 53rd minute when Cole was clipped as he received a pass 13 yards from goal, but the appeal was unsuccessful.

Leo Fernandes was whistled for a foul just outside the box in the 58th minute. Initially, Saint Louis was granted the advantage, but when Angulo lost the ball after a sloppy touch, the free kick was given.

Angulo would lift it over the wall and beat Pickens on his left-hand side to put the visitors ahead.

Despite playing their fifth game in 15 days, compared to Saint Louis playing for the first time since May 17, the Rowdies looked like the stronger side down the stretch.

Tampa Bay pushed for an equalizer and looked to be running out of time until King won the Rowdies a corner kick with a low cross in the 86th minute. One minute later, Nanchoff’s cross found the forehead of Collins for the equalizer.

“I thought we deserved the goal,” Collins said. “After a really tough week, it’s not the worst point. We’ve got to give (Saint Louis) credit. They’re a hard-working side and they came here with a good game plan and well rested, so it’s not the worst point in the world.”

Tampa Bay dominated statistically with 12 goals (four on goal) compared to three for Saint Louis. The Rowdies had 27 crosses, 22 more than Saint Louis.

The Rowdies return to Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup play Wednesday night with a Third-Round match against the NASL’s Miami FC in South Florida. Tampa Bay’s next home game is June 10 the Rochester Rhinos.

Scoring Summary
Saint Louis – Jose Angulo – 58th minute
Rowdies – Neill Collins – 87th minute (Assisted by Michael Nanchoff)

Caution Summary
Rowdies: Leo Fernandes – 6th minute
Saint Louis: Wesley Charpie – 12th minute
Rowdies: Alex Morrell – 39th minute
Saint Louis: Emir Alihodzic – 41st minute
Saint Louis: Konrad Plewa – 55th minute
Rowdies: Darnell King -56th minute
Rowdies: Michael Nanchoff – 76th minute
Rowdies: Tamika Mkandawire – 82nd minute

Starting Lineups
Rowdies XI (4-2-3-1): GK Akira Fitzgerald; D Darnell King, Tamika Mkandawire, Neill Collins, Marcel Schäfer; M Michael Nanchoff, Keith Savage; M Alex Morrell (Darwin Jones 63′), Joe Cole (c), Leo Fernandes (Deshorn Brown 73′); F Martin Paterson (Georgi Hristov 67′)

Saint Louis XI (4-4-2): GK Adam Grinwis; D Wesley Charpie, Konrad Plewa, Aedan Stanley, Erick Cabalceta; M Sebastian Dalgard (Mats Bjurman 46′), Dragan Stojkov (c), Tony Walls, Emir Alihodzic; F Jose Angulo (Octavio Guzman 68′), Christian Volesky (Tyler David 62′)

 

Late homer spurs Twins to 5-3 win over Rays

Brian Dozier‘s tiebreaking two-run home run for Minnesota with two outs in the eighth inning followed a pitching change by Tampa Bay and spurred the Twins to a 5-3 victory Saturday afternoon over the Rays.

The Twins were 0 for 10 with runners in scoring position until Dozier stepped in against Tommy Hunter with a man on third. The 426-foot drive, Dozier’s seventh of the season, bounced off the ribbon videoboard between the upper and lower deck in right-center field.

Rays manager Kevin Cash swapped right-handed relievers, removing Danny Farquhar (2-2) so Hunter could face Dozier. The decision backfired, ending Farquhar’s streak of 16 consecutive scoreless appearances.

Dozier then made a diving stop on Rickie Weeks‘ sharp grounder to second in the ninth inning to support Brandon Kintzler‘s 13th save in 14 tries, despite a two-out home run by Colby Rasmus.

Eddie Rosario also homered for the Twins, who embarked Friday on a stretch of 45 games in 45 days. They needed rookie Adalberto Mejia to stick around and save some relievers.

Mejia wasn’t as effective as last weekend during the doubleheader against Kansas City when he earned his first career victory, but he struck out six batters and finished five innings with the game tied. Tyler Duffey pitched two scoreless innings and Taylor Rogers (2-1) followed with a perfect eighth inning for the win.

Mejia was a little lucky to escape the second with an RBI single by Norris the only run against him. With the bases loaded and one out, a wild pitch ricocheted off the limestone backstop to catcher Chris Gimenez, who slid to snag the ball and throw sidearm to Mejia at the plate for the tag on Steven Souza Jr.

Rays starter Jake Odorizzi had his share of trouble, too.

He threw a season-high 118 pitches while failing to finish six innings for only the second time not for injury this year. The Twins loaded the bases with none out in the second inning and managed to tie the game on Ehire Adrianza‘s sacrifice fly. Then Odorizzi lost the lead again on Rosario’s homer in the fourth inning.

Derek Norris drove in two runs for the Rays, who had won three in a row.

LINEUP MATTERS

With the lineup front-loaded with right-handers against the lefty Mejia, leading hitter Corey Dickerson had the day off. Rickie Weeks, who reached each of his first three times at-bat, took his spot as the designated hitter.

RESTING

Eduardo Escobar played third for the Twins so Miguel Sano could try to recharge. The only other game this season that Sano didn’t start was May 9 due to a Major League Baseball suspension. Sano pinch-hit in the seventh inning and struck out for the eighth straight at-bat.

UP NEXT

Rays: RHP Alex Cobb (4-4, 3.82 ERA) will pitch the series finale, with seven-plus innings completed in each of his last two turns. Cobb hadn’t accomplished that since Sept. 5 and 11, 2014, having missed 2015 and much of 2016 recovering from elbow-ligament replacement surgery.

Twins: RHP Kyle Gibson (1-4, 8.62 ERA) will make his second start Sunday afternoon since being recalled from Triple-A. He recorded his first win of the season earlier this week, despite allowing six runs in five innings at Baltimore.

Republished with permission from the Associated Press.

What if U.S. quits climate deal? Doesn’t look good for Earth

Earth is likely to reach more dangerous levels of warming even sooner if the U.S. retreats from its pledge to cut carbon dioxide pollution, scientists said. That’s because America contributes so much to rising temperatures.

President Donald Trump, who once proclaimed global warming a Chinese hoax, said in a tweet Saturday that he would make his “final decision” next week on whether the United States stays in or leaves the 2015 Paris climate change accord in which nearly every nation agreed to curb its greenhouse gas emissions.

Global leaders, at a summit in Sicily, have urged him to stay. Earlier in the week, Pope Francis made that case with a gift of his papal encyclical on the environment when Trump visited the Vatican.

In an attempt to understand what could happen to the planet if the U.S. pulls out of Paris, The Associated Press consulted with more than two dozen climate scientists and analyzed a special computer model scenario designed to calculate potential effects.

Scientists said it would worsen an already bad problem and make it far more difficult to prevent crossing a dangerous global temperature threshold.

Calculations suggest it could result in emissions of up to 3 billion tons of additional carbon dioxide in the air a year. When it adds up year after year, scientists said that is enough to melt ice sheets faster, raise seas higher and trigger more extreme weather.

“If we lag, the noose tightens,” said Princeton University climate scientist Michael Oppenheimer, co-editor of the peer-reviewed journal Climatic Change.

AP/Nicky Forster

One expert group ran a worst-case computer simulation of what would happen if the U.S. does not curb emissions, but other nations do meet their targets. It found that America would add as much as half a degree of warming (0.3 degrees Celsius) to the globe by the end of century.

Scientists are split on how reasonable and likely that scenario is.

Many said because of cheap natural gas that displaces coal and growing adoption of renewable energy sources, it is unlikely that the U.S. would stop reducing its carbon pollution even if it abandoned the accord, so the effect would likely be smaller.

Others say it could be worse because other countries might follow a U.S. exit, leading to more emissions from both the U.S. and the rest.

Another computer simulation team put the effect of the U.S. pulling out somewhere between 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18 to 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit).

While scientists may disagree on the computer simulations they overwhelmingly agreed that the warming the planet is undergoing now would be faster and more intense.

The world without U.S. efforts would have a far more difficult time avoiding a dangerous threshold: keeping the planet from warming more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels.

The world has already warmed by just over half that amount — with about one-fifth of the past heat-trapping carbon dioxide emissions coming from the United States, usually from the burning of coal, oil and gas.

So the efforts are really about preventing another 1.6 degrees Fahrenheit (0.9 degrees Celsius) from now.

“Developed nations — particularly the U.S. and Europe — are responsible for the lion’s share of past emissions, with China now playing a major role,” said Rutgers University climate scientist Jennifer Francis. “This means Americans have caused a large fraction of the warming.”

Even with the U.S. doing what it promised under the Paris agreement, the world is likely to pass that 2 degree mark, many scientists said.

But the fractions of additional degrees that the U.S. would contribute could mean passing the threshold faster, which could in turn mean “ecosystems being out of whack with the climate, trouble farming current crops and increasing shortages of food and water,” said the National Center for Atmospheric Research’s Kevin Trenberth.

Climate Interactive, a team of scientists and computer modelers who track global emissions and pledges, simulated global emissions if every country but the U.S. reaches their individualized goals to curb carbon pollution. Then they calculated what that would mean in global temperature, sea level rise and ocean acidification using scientifically-accepted computer models.

By 2030, it would mean an extra 3 billion tons of carbon dioxide in the air a year, according to the Climate Interactive models, and by the end of the century 0.3 degrees Celsius of warming.

“The U.S. matters a great deal,” said Climate Interactive co-director Andrew Jones. “That amount could make the difference between meeting the Paris limit of two degrees and missing it.”

Climate Action Tracker, a competing computer simulation team, put the effect of the U.S. pulling out somewhere between 0.1 to 0.2 degrees Celsius (0.18 to 0.36 Fahrenheit) by 2100. It uses a scenario where U.S. emissions flatten through the century, while Climate Interactive has them rising.

One of the few scientists who plays down the harm of the U.S. possibly leaving the agreement is John Schellnhuber, the director of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and the scientist credited with coming up with the 2 degree goal.

“Ten years ago (a U.S. exit) would have shocked the planet,” Schellnhuber said. “Today if the U.S. really chooses to leave the Paris agreement, the world will move on with building a clean and secure future.”

Not so, said Texas Tech climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe: “There will be ripple effects from the United States’ choices across the world.”

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

‘Bad neighbor’ unplugs bounce house at girl’s birthday party

A Florida woman wants to know why someone unplugged a bounce house, causing it to deflate with nearly a dozen young children inside during her daughter’s first birthday party.

CBS 12  reports two children suffered minor injuries after they were briefly trapped under the heavy plastic during the May 21 party in the backyard of a home in Port St. Lucie, about 114 miles north of Miami.

The home’s surveillance video shows an older man briefly standing at the fence looking at the partygoers before unplugging a cord from an electric outlet on the side of the home as he walked toward the street.

Police canvassed the area but couldn’t identify the man in the video. The video has been posted online under the heading Bad Neighbor.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Saturday college sports action features high stakes matchups

Plenty of Florida college sports is on tap throughout the Memorial Day weekend. Many of the games come with high stakes.

The Florida Gators will play in the SEC semi-finals on Saturday against Arkansas. The top-seeded Gators will face the fourth-seeded Razorbacks in the second game of the day in Hoover, Ala. Second seed LSU meets 11th-seeded South Carolina in the first game at 1:00 p.m.

Florida reached the semi-finals after an incredible rally against Mississippi State. The Gators trailed 3-0 entering the eighth inning, but exploded for 11 runs on the way to a 12-3 win over the Bulldogs.

In the ACC, both Florida State and Miami are playing in the semi-finals in Louisville, Ky. FSU plays at noon in the day’s first game against 9th-seeded Duke in front of what will be a dramatically reduced crowd at Louisville Slugger Field. The Seminoles upended top-seeded and fifth ranked Louisville 6-2 on Friday to advance.

Miami is the tournament’s fifth seed and they will take on North Carolina following the FSU vs. Duke game. The Hurricanes rallied to get by Wake Forest on Friday to move on. They are on the tournament bubble and may need a spot in the championship game to improve their chances.

The Central Florida Knights are playing for a spot in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) semi-finals on Saturday, but they must win two games to get there.

UCF, the tournament’s top seed, must defeat 8th-seeded East Carolina in the first game Saturday afternoon, then beat them again in another game that would immediately follow the first. The Knights are in that predicament following their 14-3 loss to the Pirates in the opening game. UCF blasted the USF Bulls 12-0 to reach the semi-finals.

The Florida Atlantic Owls are also trying to reach a conference final. They face the Rice Owls on Saturday for a spot in the Conference-USA finals in Biloxi, Miss.

In softball, both Florida and Florida State can reach the College World Series with wins today.

The Gators kept their hopes alive on Friday when they shut out conference foe Alabama 2-0 to even their best-of-three Super Regional series in Gainesville. FSU took the opener of the Tallahassee Super Regional with a 3-1 win over the LSU Tigers.

ESPN is showing both games. The FSU vs. LSU contest is scheduled for 3:00 p.m. while Florida vs. Alabama is set to begin at 5:00 p.m.

Blake Dowling: Ransomware, the Mob catching up with the times

Attending a Florida Public Relations Association professional development session, seeing many of the state’s best PR pros in the room was thrilling.

Nanette Schimpf from Moore Communications Group; my man Rick Oppenheim (from RB Oppenheim Associates) and the main sponsor of the event, the rock-solid team at Sachs Media Group represented by Ryan Cohn and Jon Peck.

The event began with a breakfast that featured the most spectacular bacon, so I was ready for anything – bacon is power, bacon is motivation. (#BaconIsLife)

Speaking was Sandra Fathi, president of the public relations, social media and marketing firm Affect.

She is a Pro, who has been featured all over the news – CNN, Forbes, etc.

Fathi dove into a presentation on hacking, discussing the response should be from a PR perspective. Your client could be an elected official, airline, restaurant etc.

What happens when you are breached?

Fathi discussed the basics of cybercrime at first offering clear definitions of spear phishing, ransomware, DDOS attacks etc. and what they were.

She talked about the WannaCry ransomware from earlier in the month.

Then she lost me.

Fathi said something like, it is OK to pay the ransom from terrorists if infected.

Disagree.

In my opinion, you should never pay the ransom from these criminals. It only encourages them, encourages more people to get involved, (think organized crime in our state).

Hypothetically, the Genovese Crime Family launches a cyberattack using ransomware, they collect 50k in bitcoin and use the money to buy a couple of kilos of cocaine resale.

You get the picture; the domino effect of paying these types of things ravages our communities eventually.

The alternative is to invest in your technology. Dictate strict policies to your team in regard to password management, install antivirus/antispam products, set your firewall to geo-block rogue nations, you know who, the “Stans” (Pakistan or anything with “stan” in it), Russia, China etc.

And if all that fails, have a redundant backup protocol (on-premise and cloud), so that if you are infected, you can make a clean start with a wipe and reload of all things.

Sandra’s message was to individuals in the PR game, and her message about crisis management was on point. But make no mistake about it, paying criminals only encourages them.

Also, Fathi mentioned that criminals generally give you the means to get your data back, after you pay them.

After seeing several local examples where the ransom was paid – and they got nada.

These are criminals, after all. That’s kind of what they do.

Am I right?

The Mob caught up with the times, and it’s no longer like what Tony Soprano said in 2002 about surfing the net: “Log off. That ‘cookies’ s**t makes me nervous.” Classic.

I hope everyone has a fantastic day, and your week is crisis free.

But if one pops up, you can let me know. I’ll point you in the right direction.

___

Blake Dowling is CEO of Aegis Business Technologies and can be reached at Dowlingb@aegisbiztech.com

Yolie Capin noncommittal about possible 2019 mayoral bid

With more than 21 months before Tampa voters will choose a successor to Mayor Bob Buckhorn, there’s no real reason for anyone seriously considering such a run to announce their intentions.

That’s why presumptive candidates 2019 mayoral Mike Suarez and Jane Castor said they don’t intend to launch their campaigns anytime soon. It’s also probably why Tampa City Council Chair Yolie Capin declined the opportunity to show her cards when asked about her plans during an appearance Friday morning at the Oxford Exchange.

“I was asked ‘tell me what you’re not running for,’ ” she told the crowd at the Cafe Con Tampa “I said I’m not running for governor.”

The longest-serving member of Council (she was selected by Councilmembers to replace John Dingfelder in July 2010 after 17 ballots), Capin will be term-limited in two years. Progressive Democrats are talking her up for a possible run in 2019, with enthusiasm that comes from her liberal stance on several issues, including advocating for stronger relations between Tampa and Cuba.

While that stance propelled some of that progressive enthusiasm, it put her at odds with Buckhorn.

During her speech, she spoke extensively about her five trips to the communist island.

One of the pet projects she’s most proud of is a cultural assets commission. A cultural assets advisory committee created by Capin has been working for the past six years on looking how to leverage the city’s assets, and now that idea is set to become a reality.

Capin met with Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan on creating a Cultural Assets Commission, fashioned after the Tampa Sports Commission; the County has now allocated $2.1 million for a public-private partnership that should be up and running by late summer.

Among those private partners with the project is developer/hockey owner Jeff Vinik.

“If the art museum gets a blockbuster exhibit and they need a little help, we’re looking for grants,” she said in explaining how the commission would work. “So a corporation comes in and says, ‘I need $100,000 to do this, and this is the benefit, and we match it with $100,000. You have a matching partner and you have a program. That is going to benefit the community. That’s what we’re hoping to see with this.”

Capin decried the recently passed bill in the Florida Legislature that will put a ballot measure up in 2018 to increase the homestead tax exemption. If passed, the measure would take a chunk out of the ad valorem revenues of every local government in Florida. Tampa could take a $6-9 million hit, she said.

Capin championed Buckhorn’s op-ed just published in the Tampa Bay Times about the measure.

There are more than 600 jobs in the city that gone unfilled since the Great Recession hit in 2008. Audience member Jen McDonald asked if the council had plans in the future for more staffing moving forward. Capin said that the City Council had created an apprenticeship program to replace staffers with the Water Department who are aging out.

“I know we can do more with less, but I just wonder how long we can go on with that lower, leaner staff in the next three to four to five years,” McDonald said later.

Regarding the vexing issue of transit in Tampa, Capin said the issue would “take some leadership,” and said that part of the problem with the 2010 Moving Hillsborough Forward transit tax was that the public was too confused about it, and “no one that was looked at a real, honest straightforward leader took the reigns. … Everybody passed the buck, they brought somebody in try to try to pass it.”

If Capin is to run for higher office, however, she’ll need to make sure she’s on top on of all the issues of the day.

When asked if there were any partnerships between USF’s CAMLS medical school and the Cuban government, Capin referred to a 2006 state law that made it impossible for colleges and universities to use public or private money to travel to Cuba (or to any other country on the U.S. list of state-sponsors of terrorism). However, that hasn’t been the case for nearly two years, after the U.S. officially restored diplomatic ties with the Cuba, ending the last travel restrictions keeping Florida professors from visiting the island.

And while discussing local transit, she said that ridership on buses has risen “quite a bit, and that’s because of the recession.”

While ridership was up for several years, those ridership numbers have come down over the past year, both locally and nationally

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