Jack Latvala Archives - Page 6 of 32 - SaintPetersBlog

Janet Long unveils a proposed Regional Council of Governments model for the Tampa Bay area

Under a proposed regulation coming from the U.S. Department of Transportation, regional Metropolitan Organizations should merge into one large such agency. That’s prompted officials in Hillsborough, Pinellas, and Pasco counties to have some tentative discussions about such a merger.

In that spirit, Pinellas County Commissioner Janet Long unveiled a proposal at a joint meeting of the transit agencies of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties for a “Regional Council of Governments,” which would include having the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority (HART) and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority sign an interlocal agreement.

“This is an idea whose time is right,” said Long, who was re-elected to another four-year term on the county commission earlier this year when she failed to draw a Republican opponent.

Under the proposal, this board would consist of mayors, county commissioners, city council members, members from the business community, and officials from the business community representing Pinellas, Hillsborough, and Pasco counties. It also would have a policy advisory committee comprised of professional staff from culled from the various MPO’s and local governments, as well as planners. It’s focus would be on building consensus; developing short -and long-range strategic plans; and providing information and leadership on a broad range of topics, including affordable housing, regional economic development, land use and redevelopment, as well as transportation.

It would also consolidate organizations like TBARTA inside this newly proposed council.

Four years ago, Pinellas County-based state legislator Jack Latvala created legislation mandating that a study be conducted about the benefits of merging HART and PSTA. Ultimately, two studies were conducted, both showing there would be some reduction of costs. Nothing’s ever happened on that front since, but Long suggested that it made sense that the agencies should make formal a closer relationship before they’re mandated to do so.

HART board member Kathleen Shanahan applauded the proposal, calling the idea of an interlocal agreement “a small step and a big statement.” Noting how significant the Tampa Bay region is to the current presidential election, she said that the region has true clout, and Long’s proposal was “an opportunity” that should be pursued.

Long did get significant pushback from HART board member Karen Jaroch, who said she didn’t like the idea of creating another layer of government. “We do have to have these discussions about regional connectivity, but you also have to have government closest to the people,” she stressed.

Jaroch then referenced SANDAG, the San Diego Association of Governments, as a bad model to emulate. SANDAG is comprised of 18 different cities and counties in the San Diego region. “The city of San Diego went bankrupt,” Jaroch said.

Actually, San Diego never went bankrupt. It did have serious economic problems four years ago, mostly related to its outstanding pension obligations.

Long said she wasn’t calling for the creation of another big government agency, but instead was calling for a new model to bring in the various local transportation agencies to all work together to leverage the power of the region when trying to procure more federal and state funding.  She also said listening to Jaroch reminded her of President Dwight Eisenhower‘s plan to create the interstate highway system in the 1950s, who, she said, undoubtedly received criticism from some states who didn’t want the federal government creating roads in their regions.

“At the end, we do have a calling to a higher standard to be leaders for our entire community,” Long said. “There are many people in Pinellas County who drive every day over to Hillsborough to work, and vice versa, and up and down Pasco County, and so, don’t we have an obligation to figure how we make that work? And how we do it in a better and more concerted way? So that we can receive the best that we can get for our kids and our grandkids? That’s what matters to me.”

PSTA executive director Brad Miller said that in theory, having an interlocal agreement signed between HART and PSTA “makes a lot of sense.”

Hillsborough Commissioner Sandy Murman, up for re-election to her District 1 seat next week, said that she’s heard from the community, and “People want progress. They want results.” She said she wanted to take a non-binding vote to support Long’s proposal, and will do so at HART’s regular board meeting.

 

 

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Direct mail round-up: Jack Latvala reminds Pinellas voters what’s at stake this election

A new mailer from Clearwater Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala offers a simple message: “This election is not just about Washington D.C.”

Latvala’s mailer lets Pinellas County voters know what he believes is at stake this November — at both the state and local levels — with a handy voters’ guide for down-ballot races.

“It’s also about Florida and Pinellas County!” he says.

On the congressional level, the mailer suggests support for Republicans Marco Rubio for U.S. Senate and David Jolly for Florida’s 13th Congressional District. Photos of Democratic opponents — Congressman Patrick Murphy and former Republican Gov. Charlie Crist — are shown shadowed with their faces crossed out.

“Of these men, who can best be trusted to keep our taxes low, our nation secure and government out of our lives,” the flyer says. “YOUR VOTE could make the difference in these races.”

As for representing Pinellas in Tallahassee, Latvala is joined by state Reps. Chris Latvala of House District 67 and Chris Sprowls of HD 65.

“Do we want to turn back the clock on our state to a time when crime rates were skyrocketing, taxes were increased every year, and our public schools had no accountability?” Latvala asks. “YOUR VOTE can keep leaders like Jack Latvala, Chris Sprowls, and Chris Latvala fighting for us in Tallahassee!”

Locally, the flyer endorses Mike Mikruak for Pinellas County Commissioner; if he wins, it could result in a return to Republican majority on the board.

“YOUR VOTE for Mike Mikurak can help Republicans win back the majority on our County Commission that was lost in 2014 for the first time in 50 years!” the mailer says.

With such discord at the top of the presidential ticket this year, Latvala’s flyer reminds us that all politics — and good governance — is indeed local.

latvala-stake_page_1 latvala-stake_page_2

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Here’s where sh*t stands in Tampa Bay’s legislative races

With two weeks to go until Election Day, the Tampa Bay area’s Senate seats are pretty much decided. Welcome back Sens. Jack Latvala and Tom Lee and say hello to Darryl Rouson, who should cruise past John “Mr. Manners” Houman to win the SD 19 seat.

Tampa Republican Rep. Dana Young still has a race ahead of her for the SD 18 seat, however.

Young is running against Democrat Bob Buesing and a pair of high-polling, no-party candidates for the Hillsborough County seat, and has maintained a major fundraising advantage throughout the contest.

As of Oct. 14, the veteran lawmaker had more than $585,000 on hand in her campaign account and another $1 million in her political committee, “Friends of Dana Young.”

Buesing picked up $20,000 from Oct. 8 through Oct. 14, though he only has about $40,000 in the bank, while NPA candidates Joe Redner and Sheldon Upthegrove hovered near the $0 mark.

Young’s only threat in this race is the district’s leanings — it voted narrowly for President Barack Obama four years ago.

In the House, Republican Reps. Jake Raburn, Janet Cruz, and Jamie Grant have secured victory, and Sean Shaw is already on the list for the freshman class. Also expect to see Chris Latvala, Chris Sprowls, and Larry Ahern hang on to their seats with little fanfare.

Many incumbents are still in election mode, though.

Republican Rep. Shawn Harrison is facing Democrat Lisa Montelione in the HD 63 race, which could be tough for Harrison despite his solid fundraising advantage, given the district’s history of flipping parties every two years.

After adding $22,500 in contributions during the last reporting period, Harrison had about $60,000 in the bank compared to $23,000 for Montelione, who added $24,000 between Oct. 8 and Oct. 14.

In HD 69, incumbent Republican Rep. Kathleen Peters is facing a moderate challenge from Democrat Jennifer Webb, who has raised a total of $131,000 so far.

Peters is still far in the lead in fundraising with nearly $350,000 raised and about $135,000 on hand compared to about $6,000 for Webb. The vote could be tight in the Pinellas County district, though.

Back in 2012, Peters won the seat by four points against Democrat Josh Shulman, while that margin exploded to 16 points in the midterm contest against Scott Orsini.

Republican Rep. Ross Spano is also faces a well-funded opponent for the HD 59 seat, but like most other bay area Republicans, he’s managed to keep the lead in the money race.

Spano added $22,500 in contributions during the reporting period for a total of $318,000 raised, with $126,000 of that money on hand. Democratic attorney Rena Frasier added just $5,565 for the week and spent more than $50,000 on campaign communications, leaving her with about $65,000 in the bank.

Republicans hold a slight edge in HD 59, which came through for Spano four years ago when he won a nail-biter against Democrat Gail Gottlieb by about one point.

In HD 68, Democrat Ben Diamond has a slight cash-on-hand lead over Republican Joseph Bensmihen in the race to take over for exiting Democrat Dwight Dudley. Diamond’s total fundraising of $350,000 is nearly 10-fold higher than the competition and this seat is likely his for the taking.

The HD 60 race is playing out similarly, with Republican Jackie Toledo bringing in $29,250 during the reporting period for an on-hand total of about $69,000. Her competition, Democrat David Singer, added $11,360 for the week and has about $33,000 in the bank.

HD 60 has the potential to be somewhat competitive, though the district tends to break towards Republicans as evidenced by current HD 60 Rep. Dana Young’s easy elections to the coastal Tampa seat.

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Latest on the legislative staffing merry-go-round

With a tip of the hat to LobbyTools, here are the latest movements – both on and off – the legislative merry-go-round.

Off: Mia Simon is no longer a legislative assistant for Fort Myers Republican state Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto.

On: Dane Bennett is now Benacquisto’s new legislative assistant.

Off: Cameron Pennant is no longer a district secretary for Naples Republican Rep. Matt Hudson.

Off: Collin Kenline is no longer a district secretary for Tallahassee state Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda.

On: Carlecia Collins is a new Tallahassee office legislative assistant for Clearwater Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala.

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Party, PAC money seeps into nonpartisan municipal races

When candidates run for local nonpartisan offices — mayor, council member, or commissioner — they’re supposed to keep party politics out of the conversation.

And, for the most part, that’s the way it is. But in some races this year, partisan money is helping finance local candidates.

Take the City of Largo, for example, where incumbent Curtis Holmes is facing Neil McMullen in the race for Seat 3 on the city commission. McMullen is a descendant of one of Pinellas County’s founding families.

Thus far, Holmes is outpacing McMullen in fundraising. The incumbent has raised $17,335 to McMullen’s $9,550.

Holmes is showing $500 each in donations from the Suncoast Better Government Committee and the Florida Leadership Committee. Both groups say they are not affiliated with any political party or other political action groups. But, the Suncoast Better Government Committee is affiliated with Republican state Rep. Chris Latvala (who also donated $50 to Holmes). And, the Florida Leadership Committee is affiliated with Chris Latvala’s father, state Sen. Jack Latvala, also a Republican.

Holmes also received $100 from Mike Mikurak, the Republican running against Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, a Democrat.

McMullen is benefiting from the other side of the political aisle. He’s received donations from the Greater Pinellas Democratic Club ($250), the Stonewall Democrats ($200) and the Largo/Mid-Pinellas Democratic Club ($100).

McMullen also received $40 from Lorena Grizzle, the Democrat who wants to unseat Republican state Rep. Larry Ahern in HD 66.

In Dunedin, some races are notable for the amount of money being raised and spent: Bruce Livingston, who’s running for mayor, has raised about $53,757 for a part-time job that pays $10,000 a year. Maureen Freaney, a former assistant county administrator, has raised $34,640 in her run for the Seat 1 on the commission. Heather Gacy, running for Seat 3 on the Dunedin commission, has raised about $29,392. Dunedin commissioners earn $8,000 a year.

Partisan and money from political action committees are also showing up in Dunedin races.

Mayor Julie Bujalski has received donations the Stonewall Democrats of St. Petersburg ($500). She’s also received $1,000 each from the nonpartisan Realtors Political Activity, the Realtors Political Action, and the Realtors Political Advocacy committees. The first two share an address in Tallahassee. The Political Advocacy group is from Orlando.

Her opponent, Livingston, has received $1,000 from Liberty Florida, a PAC tied to Liberty Insurance. Former Republican County Commissioner Susan Latvala has donated $100 to his campaign.

Freaney received $500 from the Florida Leadership Committee. She also received donations from the nonpartisan Florida Fire PAC and the Dunedin Firefighters Association. Susan Latvala and former Pinellas Sheriff Jim Coats, a Republican, also donated $200 each to her campaign.

Freaney’s opponent, Mike Jones, has raised about $10,996.

Gacy received $1,000 from Floridians for Economic Freedom, a political action group chaired by Republican state Rep. Chris Sprowls. Sprowls, a Republican, is facing Democrat Bernie Fensterwald in the HD 65 race.

Gacy’s opponent, Reuben Hepburn, has raised $7,188.39.

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Jack Latvala calls for delegation to meet again to discuss Pinellas sewer woes

State Sen. Jack Latvala has called for a follow-up workshop meeting of the Pinellas legislative delegation to hear and discuss the effects of the recent discharge of untreated sewage into Tampa Bay waters by cities in Pinellas County during Hurricane Hermine.

The meeting will be Nov. 16, from 9-11:30 a.m. at the Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital Education and Conference Center, 701 4th St. S. in St. Petersburg.

Part of the event will be a presentation by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. This meeting will be in a workshop format, and while the public is invited to attend, it must end promptly at 11:30 a.m., so there may be limited time for public input.

It will be the second time the Clearwater Republican called a delegation meeting to discuss the county’s sewer woes.

The first meeting, in September, came after St. Petersburg discharged untreated and partially treated wastewater into Tampa Bay as Hurricane Hermine passed in the Gulf.

That discharge was the second time this year St. Petersburg had to pump wastewater into Tampa Bay. When Tropical Storm Colin hit in June, water made its way into leaky pipes and overloaded the system.

Part of the problem arose from the closure of the Albert Whitted sewer plant, which reduced capacity in the city’s sewer system.

Although St. Petersburg has been the main focus for sewer problems, other Pinellas municipalities — including Gulfport, St. Pete Beach, and Tarpon Springs — also experienced sewer overflows.

The delegation is only one group focusing on the county’s sewer issues, which local officials blame on an aging system and long-term failure to maintain the overall system.

Gov. Rick Scott called for a DEP investigation into St. Petersburg’s sewer discharges, which his office said amount to more than 150 million gallons.

A few days before, St. Petersburg had signed a consent order with the DEP after the agency found environmental violations to have occurred at three specific times. The first was Aug. 2-10, 2015, when more than 31.5 million gallons of raw sewage dumped into Clam Bayou and surrounding neighborhoods.

Mayor Rick Kriseman and the St. Petersburg City Council have authorized an investigation into the city’s water resources department to find out why information concerning the closure of the Albert Whitted plant was not given to higher ups.

And on Monday, a task force met for the first time to discuss possible countywide solutions to the issues. The panel, convened by Pinellas County Commissioner Charlie Justice, is made up of elected and technical representatives from the county, cities, and community and privately owned sewer systems.

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Janet Long donates to Chris Latvala’s HD 67 campaign

Janet LongPinellas County Commissioner Janet Long donated $100 to Chris Latvala’s re-election campaign.

Long is a Democrat. Latvala is a Republican.

“I support those who I think are really, really good leaders,” Long said. “I have found him to have quite a bit of depth for a man of his age.”

Long said Tuesday that, at the beginning of the campaign season, she said she would not work against any incumbent who had done good things for Pinellas. Latvala, whom Long has known since he was a child, fit in that category.

Latvala, she said, always has had an open-door policy and has helped with some issues important both to her and to Pinellas.

“He’s very positive about helping me with my transportation issue,” said Long, who is urging that transportation issues be handled on a more regional basis.

“Do I agree with everything he does?” she asked. “No, I do not.”

But, she said, it’s important for the county to have good relations with all elected officials in order to get things accomplished. And that means crossing party lines to collaborate and work to achieve goals.

“Do you have to hate someone because they’re a member of a different political party?” Long asked.

Long said she has nothing against Latvala’s opponent, Democrat David Vogel. Long has never met Vogel and has only heard him speak once. During that forum, Long said Vogel did not explain why he’s running. Instead, “all he did was tear down Chris, and I don’t like that,” Long said.

Latvala, the son of state Sen. Jack Latvala, is running for his second term in state House District 67. Like Long, Latvala says he prides himself on being able to work across the aisle to “do what’s right.”

Among his first-term accomplishments are laws that would bolster resiliency and self-motivation in the classroom by teaching resume writing and job interview strategies, and another that makes it easier for nonviolent, non-habitual juvenile offenders to overcome past mistakes and find work.

District 67 covers a portion of Clearwater, Largo, Pinellas Park and the unincorporated High Point area. The election is Nov. 8.

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Personnel note: Crystal Sircy heads to Orlando EDC

Crystal Sircy, the chief operating officer of Enterprise Florida (EFI), the state’s public-private economic development agency, is leaving to join the Orlando Economic Development Commission as its new executive vice president.

Sircy, who has been with EFI since 1997, announced her resignation in an email to “stakeholders” last Thursday that was provided to FloridaPolitics.com on Monday.

“I am so proud of the work we have done together to expand and diversify the state’s economy through job creation,” she said. “I am honored to have been a part of this team and thank you for being great partners.”

Her move comes as lawmakers gird for a fight this upcoming session that could lead to the agency’s demise. It acts as a conduit for economic incentives to lure companies and jobs to the Sunshine State.

State Sen. Jack Latvala, in line to become Appropriations chairman under Senate President Joe Negron, said he will support money in the state budget for business incentives. This year, Latvala championed Gov. Rick Scott‘s request for a $250 million business incentive fund that ultimately died by session’s end.

On the other side is House Speaker-designate Richard Corcoran, a bitter opponent of business incentives, or what he calls “corporate welfare.” When recently asked whether he would back disbanding the organization, he said: “I think that’s definitely a discussion that’s going to take place this coming session.”

Sircy said she still believes in the agency’s mission.

“Like you, I believe economic development is vital to our state’s resilience and prosperity,” she said in her email. “I want to assure you that Enterprise Florida is in good hands. The organization has the support of the Governor and is led by a Board of Directors comprised of professionals highly respected across the state.”

Enterprise Florida has been without a leader since former CEO Bill Johnson stepped down in late June. The process to hire a new agency head was stalled by Hurricane Matthew.

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Is the Pinellas County Commission a ‘real job?’ Mike Mikurak and Charlie Justice disagree

Mike Mikurak is running hard to replace Charlie Justice on the Pinellas County Commission.

He’s raised more than $100,000 to win the seat, including spending tens of thousands of his own money to unseat Justice. All for something Mikurak says is not a “real job.”

Mikurak’s statement came Thursday during a visit both made to the Tiger’s Den during a luncheon of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club. Both candidates were asked where they stand on term limits.

Justice, a Democrat, said he opposes them because “I watched the decline of Tallahassee” after term limits went into effect for the state House and Senate. Justice also pointed out four of the seven-member Pinellas commission are in their first terms because voters turned out incumbents.

“The voters have a way of deciding,” Justice said.

Mikurak said he does not believe in term limits for the constitutional officers — the sheriff, clerk of court, tax collector, and property appraiser — because “those are more like real jobs.”

There should be term limits for county commissioners, he said, to help bring in new ideas and fresh blood to the group.

Mikurak’s response triggered another question from the audience: If only the constitutional officers have a “real job,” what is the role of the county commission?

“I don’t look at the county commission as a job,” Mikurak said. “I look at it as service to the community.”

The commission’s job is to provide a vision for the future and a focus and to go out and listen to people, he said.

“I can’t quantify the job description,” Mikurak said.

Justice said that he’s been working hard “at a very real job” for the four years he’s been on the commission. Justice, who worked for the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg and served in the state House and Senate, added that Mikurak “discredits my service” in those positions.

Later, the two returned to the theme, with Mikurak explaining what is needed on the commission is a businessman who has “signed the front of checks, not just the back.” Mikurak, who has 30-plus years of business experience, said those who run businesses understand HR, the accounting needed to get the best value for money spent, and the need to collaborate to get things done.

Justice said, “You can hear the disdain in his voice” when Mikurak compares those who “sign the back of checks” with those who “sign the front.”

“I also respect the people who put in the work and sign the back of the check,” Justice said.

Tiger Bay member Greg Wilson quizzed Mikurak about his criticism of Justice as a career politician. The man pointed out that state Sen. Jack Latvala, a Republican like Mikurak, had spent a long time in the Legislature before being termed out, then sitting out and running again.

“Do you consider Jack Latvala a career politician?” Wilson asked.

“Jack Latvala has a business as well,” Mikurak said, explaining that businesspeople understand employment and other issues.

Wilson pushed Mikurak on the issue.

“He’s a businessman,” Mikurak said. “He has been a businessman.”

Wilson continued pushing until Mikurak said, “I said he’s a businessman and a career politician. He’s both.”

Mikurak and Justice are running for Pinellas County Commission District 3, which is voted on countywide.

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