Sunburn – The morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics.
By Peter Schorsch, Phil Ammann, Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster, Mitch Perry, Jim Rosica and the Associated Press’ Mike Schneider.
GOVERNOR REASSIGNS CASE AFTER PROSECUTOR REFUSES DEATH PENALTY
The unusual and firm stance against capital punishment by State Attorney Aramis Ayala in Orlando surprised and angered many law enforcement officials, including the city’s police chief, who believed suspect Markeith Loyd should face the possibility of execution. Civil liberties groups, though, praised Ayala’s position.
Sending a clear signal that he wanted Loyd prosecuted in a capital case, Gov. Rick Scott signed an order to transfer Loyd’s first-degree murder to State Attorney Brad King in a neighboring district northwest of Orlando.
Loyd is charged with killing his pregnant ex-girlfriend and Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton.
Ayala said she would follow the Governor’s order.
Ayala said she made the decision after conducting a review and concluding that there is no evidence to show that imposing the death penalty improves public safety for citizens or law enforcement. She added that such cases are costly and drag on for years.
After Ayala announced her decision, Scott asked her to recuse herself from the case, but she refused. The reassignment applies only to Loyd’s case and not Ayala’s other duties since under Florida law, a governor can only suspend an elected official for “malfeasance, misfeasance, neglect of duty, habitual drunkenness, incompetence, or permanent inability to perform official duties.”
Florida law allows a Governor to reassign a case for “good and sufficient” reasons.
“She has made it clear that she will not fight for justice and that is why I am using my executive authority to immediately reassign the case,” Scott said in a statement.
Ayala’s decision ignited condemnation from some law enforcement leaders.
Orlando Police Chief John Mina said in a statement that he was “extremely upset.”
IN HER OWN WORDS: “At approximately 3:20pm today, I spoke to Governor Scott. I offered to have a full conversation with him regarding my decision about death penalty. He declined to explorer my reasoning. I have since learned he issued an Order removing my office from any cases related to Markeith Loyd. Upon receipt of any lawful order, my office will follow that Order and fully cooperate to ensure the successful prosecution of Markeith Loyd.”
GET SMART FAST – Read Scott Powers’ stories on Ayala’s election: “Aramis Ayala’s 9th Judicial Circuit state attorney run could be historic”; “Aramis Ayala becomes first black state attorney in Florida’s history”
Attorney General Pam Bondi: “State Attorney Aramis Ayala’s decision today sends a dangerous message to residents and visitors of the greater Orlando area—furthermore, it is a blatant neglect of duty and a shameful failure to follow the law as a constitutionally elected officer.”
Sen. Jack Latvala: “I think she ought to be thrown out of office.”
Florida Police Benevolent Association: “In life there are cowards, and then there are cowards with titles. Orange-Osceola State Attorney Ayala is a coward with a title.”
Florida Sheriffs Association: “The Florida Sheriffs will not stand idly by and watch as Lloyd is not prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law after executing a hero, Orlando Police Lt. Debra Clayton, and murdering his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Orange County Deputy Norman Lewis was also tragically killed during the manhunt.”
— “Jeff Ashton: Aramis Ayala may not have legal grounds to ban death penalties” via Scott Powers of Florida Politics
— “Bob Cortes looking into possible violations following Aramis Ayala not seeking death penalty in Markeith Loyd case” via Frank Torres of the Orlando Political Observer
— “Pinellas Sheriff: no death penalty for Markeith Loyd ‘reprehensible’” via Kathryn Varn of the Tampa Bay Times
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RICK SCOTT LAUNCES TV AD ATTACK IN FEUD WITH HOUSE via Gary Fineout of the Associated Press – A new spot that will air statewide features Scott warning that “Tallahassee politicians don’t get it” and that the move will cost the state jobs. “If the politicians in Tallahassee say they don’t want to market our state, and we lose tourists, then we’re gonna lose jobs,” said Scott in the ad. Let’s Get to Work has not disclosed how much will be spent on the ads, which will start airing next week. (Click on the image below to watch the ad.)
HOUSE DEMOCRATS DEMAND SCOTT SPEAK UP ON CBO’S SCORING OF GOP HEALTH CARE PLAN via Florida Politics – Since the Congressional Budget Office said the Republican health care plan would raise the ranks of the uninsured by 14 million people next year earlier this week, Scott has been silent. Florida House Democrats now say it’s time for him to speak up. “Rather than acting as a leader, the Governor took the path of a typical politician and ducked the question entirely,” says House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz. “If Governor Scott isn’t prepared to defend ‘Trumpcare,’ he at least owes Floridians an explanation about what exactly he’s been discussing with Republican leadership during his taxpayer funded trips to Washington DC” … “Trumpcare would rip the rug out from under the millions of Floridians who have gained access to quality, affordable health care under the ACA,” says Coral Gables Rep. Daisy Baez.
HOUSE SPENDNG REDUCTION TARGETS WOULD SPREAD PLENTY OF PAIN via Florida Politics – The House released its bad-case and worst-case scenarios for the next state budget Thursday. Neither is very pretty. Florida faces would pay hospital less to treat poor people. The state would build less affordable housing. There’d be fewer prosecutors and public defenders. Museums, historical preservation and economic development would be slashed. … All told, the budget subcommittees were instructed to come up with “A” scenario and “B” scenario plans — the first involving cuts of about $1 billion; the latter, about $2 billon. Budget chairman Carlos Trujillo has also discussed a target of $1.4 billion in cuts. House leaders are worried about the prospect for more or less flat revenues during the new budget year. The state’s Revenue Estimating Conference will meet Friday to update the forecast.
HOUSE COMMITTEE OK’S PROPOSAL TO KEEP BP OIL FUNDS IN NORTHWEST FLORIDA via Florida Politics – The House Select Committee on Triumph Gulf Coast passed a proposed committee bill that, among other things, requires 75 percent of all payments that Florida receives from the settlement agreement between the five gulf states and BP be transferred from the general fund to the Triumph Gulf Coast Trust Fund. Under the proposal, Triumph can award funding for several things including: Public infrastructure projects to enhance economic recovery, diversification, and enhancement in the disproportionately affected counties; Grants to local governments in the counties to establish and maintain equipment and trained personnel for local action plans to respond to disasters; Early childhood development and educational programs; and Grants to support programs to prepare students for future occupations and careers at K-20 institutions that have campuses in the communities.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Speaker Corcoran is expected to speak at noon at the Panhandle Tiger Bay Club, New World Landing, 600 South Palafox Street in Pensacola.
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DREAMING FONDLY OF PLAYTIMES (AND CRUSHES) PAST, SENATORS BACK MANDATORY RECESS via Louis Jacobson of the Tampa Bay Times – The bill, sponsored by Sen. Anitere Flores would require each district school board to provide students between kindergarten and fifth grade with 20 minutes of daily recess. Some districts already do that, but others do not. This was the bill’s second committee stop. “Imagine being the teacher in charge of 25 7-year-olds sitting in the same chair for six hours,” Flores said. “That would be a challenge.” During the brief debate over the bill, Sen. Audrey Gibson … garnered chuckles with a reminiscence from her own school days. “I remember recess — it was when I developed a crush on many little boys,” she told the committee.
SENATE PANEL OKS BEER BILL — THAT BEER COMPANIES HATE via Florida Politics – A bill that—as one beer-company insider put it—could allow theme parks to “extort” advertising dollars out of them cleared a Senate panel this week. The legislation (SB 388), which would allow beer companies to advertise in theme parks, was OK’d unanimously by the Senate Regulated Industries Committee with scant attention. It chips away at the state’s “tied house evil” law by allowing ads, which could include a beer company sponsoring a concert or festival within a park. And ironically, the companies don’t want the law changed.
DANA YOUNG TO BOB BUCKHORN: YOU SHOULD SUPPORT NEXT GENERATION UTILITY LEGISLATION via Mitch Perry of Florida Politics – Buckhorn and Young are waging a war of words over newly filed legislation allowing wireless equipment in public rights of way. Tampa’s Democratic mayor argues the measure removes local control of public spaces. No, says the South Tampa Republican senator, Buckhorn is completely off-base with his concerns on what the bill will actually do. In a recent op-ed … Buckhorn made his case: “Telecommunications companies are pushing SB 596 and HB 687, legislation that would allow them to place small refrigerator-sized equipment, and even towering poles, on public rights of way. If passed, local governments would have no control over where this communications equipment would be placed or how it would look.” Young says that the legislation only addresses wireless equipment that would be installed in “existing rights of way where utility infrastructure exists today … The bill does nothing to change a local government’s ability to preserve historic areas like our own Ybor City, nor does it affect the power of cities and counties to regulate siting of new infrastructure and equipment as they do now.”
EDUCATION GROUPS KNOCK ‘MISLEADING’ FEWER, BETTER TESTS LEGISLATION via Allison Nielsen of the Sunshine State News – Florida lawmakers might be calling HB 773 the “Fewer, Better Tests” legislation, but parent groups say the bill’s title is totally misleading and isn’t actually doing anything to eliminate standardized testing in the Sunshine State. State Reps. Manny Diaz, Jr., and Chris Sprowls and Sen. Anitere Flores are all touting the legislation as a way to scale back standardized testing in Florida. Not so fast, parents say. “First of all, this [title] is a misnomer,” [said] Beth Overholt of education advocacy group Common Ground … composed of representatives from six education groups like Florida Stop Common Core Coalition and Fund Education Now. Overholt [said] the legislation doesn’t actually eliminate tests, but just alters how long students would be taking tests at the end of the school year — so the title, she said, is totally misleading. “They’re not fewer and they’re not better tests,” she said. “I don’t know what they’re thinking.”
FIX WATER QUALITY OR FLORIDA TOURISM WILL SUFFER, FISHING AND BOATING INDUSTRIES WARN via Mary Ellen Klas of the Tampa Bay Times – The leaders of one of the nation’s largest outdoors companies, a major boat manufacturer, and tourism industry officials met with Gov. Scott and legislators Wednesday to make the case that urgent action is needed to end the toxic discharges from Lake Okeechobee. They detailed how their industries suffered from the impact of the guacamole-looking toxic algae blooms and state of emergency last year. They offered statistics on how Florida is losing business to other states, warned about the social media buzz over Florida’s bad water and suggested that if things don’t turn now, it may take years to reverse. “If Florida is known as a destination of subpar water quality or bad water, it would absolutely crush our local economy,” said John Lai, representing the Lee County Development Association and the Sanibel/Captiva Chamber of Commerce. He said that one in five jobs in his region relies heavily on tourism but, in the last 30 years, he has watched “the complete degradation of Florida estuaries and water quality.”
ASSINGMENT EDITORS: Senate President Joe Negron and Democratic Leader Oscar Braynon will take part in a community discussion at 5 p.m. at Pahokee High School, 900 Larrimore Road.
***There are two gambling bills in the Florida Legislature. One holds the line; One is a massive expansion. Watch to learn more.***
TRI-RAIL DOESN’T DESERVE TALLAHASSEE’S TOUGH TACTICS via the South Florida Sun Sentinel – The likely source of that Tallahassee controversy was companies that lost out in January on the $511-million, seven-year contract for all of Tri-Rail’s operations, maintenance and dispatch. Tri-Rail’s rules eliminated every bidder except one, Herzog Transit Services. As we said in an earlier editorial, however, there are good reasons why Tri-Rail bundled several contracts into one and chose the winner. Herzog was not the low bidder, but Tri-Rail asked for fixed contracts, to avoid change orders that could allow any low bidder to drive the cost much higher. Only Herzog submitted such a contract. Tri-Rail also based the contract on performance, not just price. A Broward County judge rejected a challenge from the losing companies. Tri-Rail is essential to South Florida’s transportation future. The Legislature should work with the agency, not against it.
SPEAKING OF TRI-RAIL — WHAT JEFF BRANDES SHOULD BE READING – Bombardier employee arrested, others questioned in Swedish bribery probe via CBC News – A Bombardier Transportation employee in Sweden has been arrested and others questioned by police in connection with contracts for a railway modernization project in Azerbaijan. Swedish prosecutor Thomas Forsberg said the employee who was arrested is a Russian national who works for Bombardier Transportation in Sweden. According to Forsberg, the investigation is based on allegations that bribes were given to Azerbaijan officials “in order to adapt a contract” to fit Bombardier.
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DMS SECRETARY CHAD POPPELL RESIGNS via the Tallahassee Democrat – … to pursue interests in the private sector, the DMS office said. Poppell has been the secretary since December 2014. His resignation will be effective March 31. “Chad Poppell has done an outstanding job as Secretary of DMS and I want to thank him for his hard work to improve efficiency and foster innovation in state government,” Scott said in a release. “Under his leadership, Florida has remained a leader in government efficiency and provided the critical support to our state agencies to ensure Florida families and businesses receive the services and support they need. Chad has been a valued member of my team since 2013 and I am proud of the great work he has done for Florida families.”
CONSTITUTION REVISION COMMISSION TO HOLD FIRST MEETING via Florida Politics – The Constitution Revision Commission has launched a website and announced an organizational meeting next Monday. The meeting will be 2-4 p.m. in the Capitol’s Senate chamber, with a brief agenda of “Welcoming Remarks, Oath of Office, Rules of the Commission, Ethics Briefing.” Its newest hire is Meredith Beatrice, who was spokeswoman for Secretary of State Ken Detzner, and is now the CRC’s “external affairs” director. The 37-member board is chaired by Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County homebuilder and unsuccessful Republican candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016. The panel, which convenes every 20 years, will review and suggest changes to the state’s governing document after holding public meetings across the state. The commission’s website address is here.
SUNSHINE WEEK: FIRST AMENDMENT FOUNDATION GOES TO BAT FOR FLORIDA’S RIGHT TO KNOW via William Patrick of FloridaWatchdog.org – True to form, the First Amendment Foundation has been busy at the Florida Capitol battling to ensure the public’s right to know … helped restructure a bill this week that would have severely limited access to information if the government decided not to comply with public records laws. Florida’s “sunshine” law says that “it is the policy of this state that all state, county, and municipal records shall at all times be open for a personal inspection by any person.” But the only real recourse against a government officer or agency that refuses to hand over public information is to challenge them in court. That can be expensive. As a safeguard, if a judge rules that the government violated public records laws, then the government must pay the record requester’s attorney’s fees. The mandatory provision “creates a level playing field for someone who can afford to pay for an attorney and those who cannot,” according to the First Amendment Foundation … a new bill would have made the mandatory fee provision optional. By changing the word “must” to “shall,” a judge could deny fees even if the court rules in favor of the citizen. The potential consequences are enormous.
SPOTTED AT THE GOVERNORS CLUB: THE LAST TROUBADOUR OF REAL FLORIDA via Florence Snyder of Florida Politics – Jeff Klinkenberg is not the kind of guy who does “luncheons,” but there he was at the Governors Club Tuesday, entertaining Friends of the First Amendment — some real, some fake — at the First Amendment Foundation’s annual fundraiser. He looked a lot more comfortable later that day at Sally Bradshaw’s bookstore, telling true tales about things that “make Florida unique” to an appreciative audience of people who like to choose their reading material in a venue that does not sell toilet paper and tampons. Klinkenberg coined the term Real Florida and cornered the knowledge market on everything worth knowing about people who do not need Disney to fire their imaginations or casinos to pump their adrenaline. To people genuinely committed to Florida, Klinkenberg is the Scheherazade of storytelling, revered by regular folks and by fellow A-list writers. One of them, FSU professor and National Book Award winner Bob Shacochis showed up at Klinkenberg’s book signing to pay his respects. It was like watching Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page trade licks.
TASK FORCE WANTS MONEY TO FIGHT ENCROACHMENT ON FLORIDA MILITARY BASES via Florida Politics – Florida would place its military installations at risk of commercial encroachment — and, possibly, closure — without adequate funding for land acquisition through the Florida Forever land acquisition program, a military support organization warned Thursday. Some $3 million from U.S. Department of Defense funds will be lost at the end of 2018 unless the state provides matching funds, said Bruce Grant, Enterprise Florida vice president for military programs, told the Florida Defense Support Task Force during a meeting in Tallahassee. … “Most legislators may not connect (Florida Forever) with military land buffering,” Grant said. “But there is a connection.” … With the federal government expected to review bases for closure in 2019 or 2021, “now is not the time to pull back and pause,” said Kellie Jo Kilberg, of the Florida Defense Alliance.
DO UNIVERSITIES DISCRIMINATE IN HIRING? via Darryl Paulson for Florida Politics – Universities are touted as bastions of diversity whose prime role is to encourage students to engage in critical thinking, ask tough questions and expose themselves to a diversity of ideas and opinions. If that is the mission of the university, they have dismally failed. Diversity is respected, up to a point, as long as it doesn’t include ideological diversity. As liberal commentator Nicholas Kristof observed in a recent New York Times op-ed, “We progressives believe in diversity, and we want women, blacks, Latinos, gays and Muslims at the table — er, so long as they aren’t conservative.” Welcome to the modern American university, where almost every type of diversity is encouraged, except for ideological diversity. Try challenging liberal dogma as a student or professor, and you will likely find yourself facing counseling and academic discipline.
MOM OF NAIKA VENANT: I THOUGHT HANGING MIGHT HAVE BEEN STUNT via Carol Marbin Miller and Alex Harris of the Miami Herald – It is the dead of night in a parked car somewhere in the city of Miami, and Venant’s mother is awakened by a torrent of Facebook messages, indicating her daughter is committing suicide online. Gina Alexis calls a foster care caseworker, she says, and gets no answer. She calls the state’s child abuse hotline. She scans her daughter’s Facebook feed for any evidence of the unfathomable claims her friends are making. “Oh, my God,” one friend tells her. “Run to the bathroom. Your daughter. Your daughter, she’s hanging.” But the bathroom is miles away in a Miami Gardens foster home. However, in real time, the speculation online is that Naika is faking the suicide, and Alexis believed — or perhaps wanted to believe — that her actions were a stunt. In any event, it is possible Naika was already gone before Alexis began what she describes as a fruitless effort to save the girl.
***The 2017 Florida Blue Foundation Community Health Symposium and Sapphire Awards are coming to Kissimmee April 19-20 at the Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center. The two-day event – with the theme “Creating a Culture of Health” – will feature several Florida-based, regional and national health professionals. The symposium will give attendees an opportunity to learn more about health care culture, purpose built communities and communities of health. Discussions will center on health issues, policy, reform and engagement. Network with 400+ executives from a range of private sector, government, universities, nonprofit organizations and more. To view agenda and register, click here***
HAPPENING SATURDAY – GILLUM TO ADDRESS DEMOCRATIC CAUCUS OF FLORIDA CAUCUS — The Tallahassee Democrat is scheduled to speak at the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida conference at noon at the Hillsborough Teachers Association, 3102 North Habana Ave.
SAVE THE DATE: Vance Aloupis is holding a fundraising reception Thursday, March 23, in his bid for House District 115. Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the Sachs Media Group offices, 114 S. Duval St. in Tallahassee. RSVP at firstname.lastname@example.org.
NEW AND RENEWED LOBBY REGISTRATIONS
Brian Ballard, Wansley Walters, Ballard Partners: The Pew Charitable Trusts
Dean Cannon, Kirk Pepper, Joseph Salzverg, GrayRobinson: Town of Longboat Key
Michael Cantens, Flagler Strategies: Correct Care Solutions
Erin Lee Deady, Erin L. Deady PA: Renew Financial
Mercer Fearington, Southern Strategy Group: Palm Beach Zoo and Conservation Society
Jeffrey Greene, Jeff Greene & Associates: Green Roads West
James Harries Jr., James E. Harris Jr: American Ambulance
Paul Hawkes, Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney: Bradford County School Board; Watershed Technologies, LLC
Todd Lewis, Lewis Consulting: Latin Chamber of Commerce of the United States
Matthew Sacco, The Rubin Group: Wal-Mart Stores, Inc.
Jeff Sharkey, Capitol Alliance Group: ClickAClinic
Stephanie Zauder, Ballard Partners: Bequest, Inc.
SPOTTED at the Red Dog Blue Dog charity celebrity bartender event in Tallahassee hosted by Sara Clements, Joe Clements, Angela Drzwiecki, Kate MacFall, Sandi Poreda and Erin VanSickle: Evan Jenne (Blue Dog), Dana Young (Red Dog), Anna Alexopolous, Josh Aubuchon, Bryan Avila, Michael Ayers, Amy Bisceglia, Rob Bradley, Jeff Brandes, Caitlyn Brongel, Dave Browning, Christian Camera, Chris Carmody, Erin and Matthey Choy, Carlecia Collins, Robert Coker (senior), Chris Dawson, Nick Duran, Matt Farrar, Cesar Fernandez, Chris Flack, Katie Flury, Bill Galvano, Billie Anne Gay, Corey Guzzo, Jeff Hartley, Jack Latvala, Seth McKeel, Mike Miller, Thomas Philpot, Casey Reed, Marc Reichelderfer, Tara Reid, Andrea Reilly, Sydney Ridley, David Rivera, Steve Schale, Leva Schmidt, Wilton Simpson, Clark Smith, Stephanie Smith, Chris Spencer, and Cam Yarborough.
Florida This Week on Tampa Bay’s WEDU: This week’s episode features moderator Rob Lorei discussing Florida issues with Tampa Bay Times political editor Adam Smith, former Tampa City Council member John Dingfelder, and USF St. Pete emeritus professor of government Darryl Paulson.
Political Connections on Bay News 9: The 11 a.m. Sunday show will feature an interview with U.S. Sen. Nelson.
Political Connections on CF 13 in Orlando: The 11 am Sunday show will feature an interview with Democratic U.S. Sen. Nelson, followed by a ‘Common Grounds’ segment on the ongoing debate over whether Enterpise Florida and Visit Florida should get the axe. The show will also take a look at the Politifact Scott-o-Meter to see whether the second-term Republican governor has lived up to his campaign promise to push for the repeal of the ACA.
The Usual Suspects on WCTV-Tallahassee/Thomasville (CBS) and WJHG-Panama City (NBC): Hosts Steve Vancore and Gary Yordon will chat with Times/Herald Tallahassee bureau chief Mary Ellen Klas and Florida politico emeritus Sandy D’Alemberte.
***Sen. Jack Latvala and Rep. Jason Brodeur are fighting to protect Florida’s small business owners by leveling the playing field for owners of franchise establishments. This will lead to more economic growth and jobs for our communities. Tell Sen. Latvala and Rep. Brodeur that you support them and learn how to help protect small businesses in Florida at ProtectFLBusiness.com.***
HAPPY BIRTHDAY belatedly to our good friend Eric Johnson, as well as Carey Baker, John French, Jan Gorrie, Mike Haridopolos, Chip LaMarca, Kristen McDonald, Alexander Pantinakis, and Joe Salzverg. Celebrating today is our dear friend Christian Minor, as well as Rep. Sean Shaw, Kelsey Frouge, St. Pete City Councilman Steve Kornell, and Rob Weissert.
RETAIL FEDERATION EXPECTS RECORD-BREAKING ST. PATRICK’S DAY SPENDING IN 2017 via Florida Politics — St. Patrick’s Day revelers won’t be the only one’s seeing green this year according to a survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. The retail trade group estimates those celebrating the Irish holiday will spend $37.92 a piece this year, with total spending expected to top $5.3 billion — a significant jump from last year’s $4.4 billion and good enough for a record. “We continue to see spending on holidays and celebrations reaching or exceeding record highs, which reinforces the strength of our economy and the confidence that consumers feel,” said Florida Retail Federation President & CEO Scott Shalley. “Even though St. Patrick’s Day isn’t one of the bigger spending holidays, we still expect Florida retailers to see a nice bump in sales, particularly those who offer additional discounts and sales to attract customers.” Though St. Patrick is revered for driving all the snakes out of Ireland, his holiday is better known for bringing lots of people to bars. According to NRF, 27 percent of those polled will head to watering hole or restaurant, while 15 percent will head to a private party. The most popular way to celebrate the occasion, however, is wearing green. More than four-fifths of those polled said they plan to dress accordingly, while 31 percent said they would make a special dinner, such as corned beef and cabbage.
ASSIGNMENT EDITORS: Hillsborough River goes green for Mayor’s River O’Green Fest Saturday starting 11 a.m. at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park (near Riverwalk), 600 N. Ashley Dr. in Tampa.