Kathy Castor Archives - Page 7 of 29 - SaintPetersBlog

Charlie Crist is needed in the U.S. House, congresswomen say

Crist Kriseman Lee FrankelFormer Gov. Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman gave two members of the U.S. Congress an up close look at some of the challenges the city is facing with its outdated sewer system.

In turn, they urged support for Charlie Crist in the upcoming election. Crist is running for the Congressional District 13 seat held by Republican David Jolly.

Crist said he asked U.S. Reps. Barbara Lee and Lois Frankel to tour the Southwest Water Treatment Plant, 3800 54th Ave. S to educate them and make them aware of the problem. The federal government, he said, could provide St. Pete with funding to help offset the multi-million dollar cost of replacing and repairing the system.

Like Crist and Kriseman, both Lee and Frankel are Democrats. Frankel represents Florida’s 22nd Congressional District, which stretches from Riviera Beach in Palm Beach County to Ft. Lauderdale and Plantation in Broward County. Lee represents California’s 13th CD. She is a member of the Budget Committee and the powerful Appropriations Committee, which oversees all federal government spending.

After they toured the sewer plant, Crist, Lee and Frankel joined U.S. Rep Kathy Castor at Chief’s Creole Café restaurant in south St. Petersburg where they met with a group of women to discuss issues important to them. Castor, a Democrat, represents Florida’s 14th Congressional District, which includes Tampa, part of St. Petersburg and parts of Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

Crist Kriseman Lee Frankel CastorAmong the women at the roundtable discussion were Pinellas School Board member Rene Flowers, Gulfport Council member Yolanda Roman, and Susan Glickman, Florida Director of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Action Fund.

Among the issues: equal pay, more equitable access to funding for small businesses run by women and minorities, reproductive choice, women’s health, energy, global warming and climate change, solar power, Social Security, jobs, anti-minority bias in policing, and education.

Castor, Frankel and Lee agreed: None of those things would get done while Congress is controlled by Republicans.

The priorities of the Republican-led Congress are completely divorced from the issues that are important to everyday people, Castor said.

They urged the women at the table to help elect Crist to add his voice to those of other Democrats in Congress and as a step to gaining a majority of seats in the U.S. House.

Planned Parenthood’s Cecile Richards to USF students: Millennials will decide this election


Cecile Richards paid a visit to the University of South Florida campus Monday, where she told an audience consisting of mostly female students, that people like themselves — especially those living in Florida’s Interstate 4 corridor — will help decide the presidential election next month.

“Millennial voters are going to determine who the next president is,” said Richards, who has been president of Planned Parenthood for the past decade. “And the millennial voters who are going to matter the most are the ones here in Florida.”

Richards is an unabashed supporter of Hillary Clinton, and she made the trip to USF to advocate that students make sure to try to get as many people registered as possible before the deadline, which was extended by a judge to Wednesday.

“Your votes are disproportionately important,” Richards said, referring to the power of the I-4 corridor, and the fact that unlike so many other college campuses where she visits in non-battleground states, the students sitting before her on Monday “actually have an opportunity to make a difference.”

Richards rejected Donald Trump’s description of his lewd remarks from 2005 that were made public at the debate as “locker-room talk,” saying it was flat-out “sexual harassment and sexual assault.”

“It’s little too late to be appalled by what Donald Trump is saying,” she continued. “He has gone after Muslims in this country, immigrants in this county, Mexicans, women. It’s time to stand up and say this is not who we are. We’re better than this.”

Richards is also a big fan of Barack Obama, who she said history ultimately will consider one of America’s greatest presidents. She offered big praise for his selection of Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to the Supreme Court, and applauded passage of the Affordable Care Act, the president’s signature domestic achievement that seems to be garnering more negative headlines these days.

Richards celebrated three separate provisions of the ACA which she said were incredibly important: 1) the provision that allows people to stay under their parents’ health care coverage until 26, 2) the end of gender discrimination in health care premiums, and  3) that maternity care is now included.

Joining Richards in speaking to the group of approximately 50 students who crammed into a conference room at the Marshall Center was Hillsborough County Democratic Rep. Kathy Castor. She complained congressional Republicans have been “sidelining” Democrats from addressing issues like immigration and student debt or jobs to instead attack Planned Parenthood.

In February, the House of Representatives failed to override President Obama’s veto of a bill that would have denied Planned Parenthood funding from Medicaid. A congressional panel was convened in 2015 after videos from a pro-life group called the Center for Medical Progress appeared to show Planned Parenthood officials selling human body parts. That case ultimately went to court in Texas, but a Houston grand jury did not charge the abortion provider with any wrongdoing, and instead indicted one of the activists, David Daleiden, with offering to purchase human organs from the group.

“This is not what we should be doing in Washington D.C.,” Castor charged regarding the votes to defund the organization.

Although the event was designed around ginning up support for Clinton, not everyone in the audience was signing on to the program.

Rachel Piotrowski, a 22-year-old graduate student in public health and Bernie Sanders supporter, says she may write in the Vermont senator for president.

“I don’t find her relatable or honest,” Piotrowski said on why she couldn’t get behind Clinton. “I just think she’ll say anything when the time is right and it’s politically advantageous for her to say so.”

She did say she’s concerned about how a Trump presidency could lead to Supreme Court justices who could overturn Roe v. Wade, but said regardless of who’s president, “people will need to take more personal responsibility and advocacy for the things that they want to support.”

Planned Parenthood PAC president to stump for Hillary Clinton in Florida

Planned Parenthood Action Fund President Cecile Richards has been an active surrogate for Hillary Clinton throughout the campaign.

And on Sunday and Monday, Richards will be active in Florida for the Democratic nominee and the current front-runner.

Richards will be in Gainesville Sunday, rallying the troops at 4 p.m. at a phone bank at 4056 W. Newberry Road, before an 8 p.m. appearance at a debate watch party at 1731 NW 6th St.

Monday finds Richards with two voter registration drive stops.

Monday at 10:30 sees Richards at Orlando’s University of Central Florida’s Student Union, where she will rally the troops with the UCF College Democrats.

At 3 p.m. on Monday, Richards will appear with Rep. Kathy Castor at the University of South Florida in Tampa.

Organizers bill the USF event as a voter registration kickoff.

Tampa Bay Builders Association endorses Luis Viera in Tampa City Council District 7 race

Attorney Luis Viera has been endorsed by the Tampa Bay Builders Association for the Tampa City City Council District 7 seat.

“I’m honored to be endorsed by TBBA — a leading trade association dedicated to building a better Tampa,” Viera said in a statement. “The residents of District 7 have a clear choice in this city council election. I have been a community leader in Tampa my entire adult life and these key endorsements reflect the resolve, dedication, and qualifications needed on city council. “

Viera is one of six candidates running for the North Tampa seat, being vacated prematurely by Lisa Montelione, who is running for the state Legislature. In addition to builders’ endorsement, Congresswoman Kathy Castor and City Council Chair Mike Suarez are also backing his candidacy.

Viera has been by far the most prolific fundraiser in the contest, raising nearly $59,000 as of Sept. 16.  The next-closest candidate in terms of fundraising is doctor and businessman Cyril Spiro, who has raised less than half of that ($28,917).

The election takes place Nov. 8.

Tampa Police to receive $1.95 million federal grant to hire 15 more officers

The Tampa Police Department is the recipient of a $1.9 million federal grant to hire 15 more officers to strengthen its community policing efforts. The federal grant was awarded through the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS).

“Fifteen more officers on the street where they are needed and training to be more community-oriented are critical to defuse tensions and build trust,” U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said. “Community policing builds trust and partnerships, which help officers better respond to the diverse concerns of our neighbors. It is a critical tool to help all of us come together and promote respect, peace and understanding in our neighborhoods. Community policing is also well-suited for the prevention of terrorism.”

“We are beyond thrilled to receive this grant from DOJ,” Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. “Any time we can put more officers on the streets to strengthen our community relations and protect Tampa families is a win for our neighborhoods.”

The COPS office is the same federal agency that spent months in 2015 and early 2016 in reviewing the TPD in the wake of a report claiming the department was disproportionately citing black bicyclists. They issued an 82-page report back in April that said while the policy of stopping and citing black bicyclists was not discriminatory, it also wasn’t that effective.

The Department of Justice’s Community Oriented Policing Services office was created in 1994 and a nationwide network of community policing institutes were set up to study the philosophy and help departments do it well.

In a statement, Castor said she had fought to stave off a GOP proposal to “gut the COPS Office.”

“This is great news for our department and for the city,” said TPD Chief Eric Ward. “We are committed to community policing because we know it is effective in preventing crime. This will help us put more officers on the street as we continue to build relationships with community members and work together to keep the city safe.”



Marco Rubio latest lawmaker to call for the EPA to investigate St. Petersburg sewage issue

U.S. Senator Marco Rubio is the most latest Florida lawmaker calling on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to investigate St. Petersburg’s sewage crisis.

“It is important that residents know if their City leadership turned a blind eye towards the inevitability of a sewage spill at the cost of the local waterways and beaches,” Rubio writes in a letter penned to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy. “I welcome the EPA’s immediate assistance into this matter, and stand ready to work with you to fix these problems.”

The aftermath of the result of more than 150 million gallons of partially treated sewage and wastewater that was discharged into Boca Ceiga Bay and Tampa Bay from Hurricane Hermine has become a huge political issue for Mayor Rick Kriseman and his administration in the past week. Rubio’s entreaty to the EPA is following similar requests made by Tampa Bay area Congress members David Jolly and Kathy Castor. On Wednesday, Governor Rick Scott  ordered the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to investigate.

In his letter, Rubio references the comments made last week by Craven R. Askew, the chief plant operator at St. Petersburg’s Northeast wastewater treatment facility, who told city officials that a consultant’s report from 2014 stated that that sewage dumps and spills were possible if the city shut down the Albert Whitted sewer plant, which happened in 2015.

Kriseman says he never saw the report, and has called for an investigation to determine why.

On Wednesday, the mayor put two top city wastewater officials who were involved in the closure of the Albert Whitted plant on unpaid leave. One of them, engineering director Tom Gibson, signed the task order for that consultant’s report, the Tampa Bay Times reported on Thursday.

Rubio, a Republican running for re-election to the U.S. Senate this November against Democratic Congressman Patrick Murphy, also questions the transparency of the Kriseman administration in his letter.

“It is troubling that the City itself cannot agree on what was contained in the sewage released, and this begs the question of whether this was a factor in City officials’ decision not to tell the public about the release until five days after it occurred,” Rubio writes. In fact, a whistleblower, Mr. Craven Askew, claims the City was aware a sewage spill could happen and did nothing to halt the release.  It is my understanding that previous spills in 2015 and 2016 were conveyed by consultants to the City as early as 2014, and that City leadership chose not to act and instead moved forward with closing the Albert Whitted Water Reclamation Facility even after being advised against it.  It is important that residents know if their City leadership turned a blind eye towards the inevitability of a sewage spill at the cost of the local waterways and beaches.”

The full text of Rubio’s letter can be read below:

The Honorable Gina McCarthy


Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Washington, DC 20460

September 21, 2016

Dear Administrator McCarthy,

As Hurricane Hermine moved through the Tampa Bay region, it left in its wake an environmental issue that appears to have been wholly preventable and, as recently reported in a whistleblower complaint, should have been foreseen and dealt with a number of years ago.  Although the State of Florida is currently investigating the situation, I request the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) assist the State of Florida in assessing this spill brought on by the City of St. Petersburg.

According to recent reports, the City of St. Petersburg released about 151 million gallons of raw and partially-treated sewage into Tampa and Boca Ciega Bays.  The exact amount of the release is actually unknown due to a broken flow meter out of the wastewater treatment plant.  The sewage release occurred after the City’s wastewater treatment plants were overwhelmed during Hurricane Hermine, a result of the City’s decision to close one of its plants in 2015.  I believe the residents of Pinellas County deserve to know what, and how much, was released into their waterways and how it may affect the water quality in the area.

It is troubling that the City itself cannot agree on what was contained in the sewage released, and this begs the question of whether this was a factor in City officials’ decision not to tell the public about the release until five days after it occurred.  In fact, a whistleblower, Mr. Craven Askew, claims the City was aware a sewage spill could happen and did nothing to halt the release.  It is my understanding that previous spills in 2015 and 2016 were conveyed by consultants to the City as early as 2014, and that City leadership chose not to act and instead moved forward with closing the Albert Whitted Water Reclamation Facility even after being advised against it.  It is important that residents know if their City leadership turned a blind eye towards the inevitability of a sewage spill at the cost of the local waterways and beaches.

Tampa Bay’s waters are a cherished and economically fruitful ecosystem.  I am concerned its rebounded sea grasses will suffer now and into the future, especially because we are not yet done with the current hurricane season and another storm could yield another disturbing spillage.  For these reasons, I welcome the EPA’s immediate assistance into this matter, and stand ready to work with you to fix these problems.


Marco Rubio

U.S. Senator

Mitch Perry Report for 9.22.16 – The fire down below

In Charlotte last night, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory called for a state of emergency a night after violence escalated as residents continued to protest the fatal shooting of a black man by a police officer a day prior.

While in Tulsa, the Dept. of Justice is investigating officer Betty Shelby’s use of force in the shooting death of  40-year-old unarmed black man Terence Crutcher on Friday night.

Meanwhile, what about the shooting death of that unarmed black man in our neck of the woods that caused more than a week’s worth of civic unrest?

To remind you, Hillsborough County SWAT Deputy Caleb Johnson shot and killed 22-year-old Levonia Riggins while helping serve a search warrant on his home. Johnson has said that he thought that Riggins was motioning towards his waistband when he was apprehended in his bedroom, and fearing that Riggins was reaching for a weapon, shot him dead.

Like a similar incident that occurred in Seminole Heights a couple of years ago with the Tampa Police Dept., a lot of people have been wondering why law enforcement would send in a SWAT team to apprehend a low-level drug dealer (Riggins had reportedly sold pot on two occasions to from undercover Hillsborough sheriff’s detectives).

Well, presumably we have our reason now, as the Tampa Bay Times Dan Sullivan reported earlier this week that when detectives drafted an application for a search warrant of Riggins’ home last month, they learned of a 2015 incident in which guns were found on Riggins property.

I still don’t get how that justified bringing a SWAT team in to bust a man who had twice sold undercover deputies marijuana. Obviously I’m missing something, because I don’t get that at all. Wondering if that happens in other parts of town where law enforcement is aware of someone selling pot?

Of course, when it comes to pot, Hillsborough County law enforcement seems to be behind the curve in addressing the issue. After months of criticism for not following in Tampa’s path when it comes to decriminalizing those arrested with marijuana , the Sheriffs Department announced last month that they’ve begun a year-long pilot program with other local agencies that will offer an alternative to arrest for first-time offenders caught with marijuana between the ages of 8 to 17.

Meanwhile, the Riggins shooting is being investigated by  Sarasota State Attorney Ed Brodsky.

In other news..

We’ve got specific dates when the “Cross-Bay Ferry” running from Tampa to St. Pete will begin their daily runs.

Kathy Castor signs on to bipartisan legislation calling for drug price transparency.

Gwen Graham wants to know when the Florida DEP began contacting local residents about that Mosaic toxic sinkhole spill last month.

And an environmental group is trying to tie Mosaic’s issues with Representative Dana Young, the Tampa Republican running for the state Senate District 18 seat this November.

Vern Buchanan’s bill to Florida orange farms contending with citrus greening has passed the House of Representatives. 

Kathy Castor signs on to bipartisan legislation calling for drug price transparency

Tampa Bay-area Congresswoman Kathy Castor is the latest Democrat to sign on to bipartisan legislation that addresses skyrocketing prescription drug price increases.

On Tuesday, the Tampa Representative announced she was co-sponsoring the FAIR Drug Pricing Actwould require manufacturers who increase the price of a drug by more than ten percent a year to disclose the information behind that decision to taxpayers, including their spending on research and development, as well as advertising and marketing.

“We must work to ensure that lifesaving treatments are never out of reach for all of our neighbors and especially our most vulnerable,” Castor said. “U.S. prescription drug spending has already reached a record high of $425 billion in 2015, with expectations that such spending will surpass $600 billion by 2020. The ‘hands off’ approach in the Republican-led Congress has allowed pharmaceutical corporations to stick it to consumers, and that must stop. ”

How bad his the problem become? Thirty-two percent of adults over 50 fail to renew a prescription primarily because of cost, according to a survey by the AARP. A recent study of about 3,000 brand-name prescription drugs found that prices more than doubled for 60 and at least quadrupled for 20 since December 2014, Bloomberg News reported in February.

The legislation would also require drug manufacturers to notify the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and submit a transparency and justification report 30 days before they increase the price of certain drug products by more than 10 percent.

Last week, Castor called for a hearing on the rising cost of EpiPen, calling the hike from $100 in 2007 to today’s price of more than $600 “unconscionable” and a “prime example of unseemly profiteering.” She also stated, “We must bring transparency and accountability to the issue by holding a hearing in our committee and working to ensure that all Americans have access to this lifesaving treatment at an affordable cost.” ‎

The Senate Homeland Security subcommittee on investigations announced last week that it opened an inquiry into the pricing of the EpiPen, which stops allergic reactions by injecting epinephrine into the body. Heather Bresch, the CEO of Mylan, which makes the EpiPen, is scheduled to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday at a hearing called by Republicans and Democrats on the panel.

“Like many Americans, far too many Arizonans have been unfairly burdened by the rising costs of prescription medication,” said Senator John McCain last week in announcing his sponsorship of the bill in the Senate, alongside Wisconsin Democrat Tammy Baldwin. “The American people should not be forced to choose between filling a prescription or making their monthly mortgage payment. This legislation would bring much-needed transparency to prescription drug prices — a policy that 8 in 10 Americans support, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Transparency leads to accountability, and it is past time that mantra applied to the skyrocketing cost of prescription medication.

Supporting the legislation is The Medicare Rights Center, Consumers Union, Doctors for America: Drug Price, Value, and Affordability Campaign, Families USA and the Center for Medicare Advocacy, Inc. and Public Citizen.

Mitch Perry Report for 9.20.16 — Rick Kriseman works on turning it around

David Jolly seemed to take particular relish in last night’s debate, after Charlie Crist attacked him for being unresponsive to asking for federal help for St. Petersburg’s sewage problems post-Hurricane Hermine.

“Because the mayor who’s endorsed you who oversaw this catastrophe did not ask for it,” Jolly responded, which received a loud cheer from the crowd, which seemed evenly split among Jolly and Crist supporters.

It’s undoubtedly true the recent issues with sewage have become Mayor Rick Kriseman’s biggest challenge to date since he was elected 34 months ago to become the leader of St. Petersburg. Although many of the infrastructure issues preceded him into office, his failure to publicly disclose the fact that 58 million gallons of mostly treated wastewater out of the Northwest sewage plant has been his worse offense. And now he vows to do better.

“While we provided notification, future notification will be more robust without creating unnecessary alarm,” the mayor writes in an op-ed in Tuesday’s Tampa Bay Times.

“Another short-term goal is to give our residents ample opportunity to learn about our system and plans for the future,” Kriseman adds. “In the coming weeks and months, our public works administration will literally and figuratively open their doors. A public information session will be held so that residents are as aware of our infrastructure upgrades as they are about other, more flashy, endeavors. We also intend to welcome the community into our facilities to meet our team members, take a tour, and learn more about our operations. It may be a little smelly, but it’s a fascinating process and, along with public safety, a top priority.”

Kriseman is doing the right thing now. He’s also called for an investigation to determine why he wasn’t shown a consultant’s report warning that closing down the Albert Whitted Water treatment plant was the wrong way to go. Kriseman ordered the investigation immediately after the consultant, Craven Askew, came forward late last week.

There’s no doubt the mayor’s critics have exploited his miscues in handling this crisis, but that’s politics in the big city — especially when it comes to weather events. Or aren’t you familiar with how Ed Koch, Michael Bloomberg, and Bill deBlasio have had to do with how they handled the act of shoveling snow?

No doubt the mayor may be raked over the coals as both the local legislative delegation and the city council address the issue this week, but it need not be a fatal blow. It’s just time for that much-vaunted government term “transparency” to be employed “robustly” at 175 Fifth Street North.

In other news …

As mentioned above, David Jolly and Charlie Crist had at each other in a live, one-hour televised CD 13 debate Monday night at the Palladium Theatre in St. Pete.

Patrick Murphy came to West Tampa Monday, where he hoped to continue to build up his name ID with the Latino vote.

Kathy Castor is taking Dr. Samuel Wright to be her guest at the opening of the  National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. this weekend.

HART board member Kathleen Shanahan is calling for the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission to be abolished.

Kathy Castor warns of ‘Alt-Right’ surge in hailing opening of African-American history museum this week

This coming Saturday morning, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. will open to the world, and Tampa area Congresswoman Kathy Castor said Monday that Dr. Samuel Wright will be her special guest at the opening ceremonies. Until he retired in 2013 after 27 years, Wright served as associate dean of student and parent relations, director of multicultural affairs, and student ombudsman at the University of South Florida, where he also taught as an adjunct professor in its Department of Africana Studies.

“This is going to be a remarkable moment,” Castor said at a news conference Monday morning at the Robert W. Saunders, Sr. Public Library in Tampa. The library, which opened last year, contains a historical archive of the black Central Avenue district in Tampa before integration took hold.

Carrie Hurst, principal librarian and branch manager of the library, said that in association with the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), the Saunders Library will host a live watch party of the opening of the museum this Saturday morning at 10 a.m.

The Smithsonian’s new museum — the last to be built on the National Mall — follows the African-American experience through slavery, the Civil War, Reconstruction, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights era. Castor said its opening comes at a unique time in our country’s history, specifically mentioning the “alt-right,” the political movement that has become increasingly tied to the Donald Trump campaign.

“There is a kind of a new wave of racism in this country,” the Tampa Democrat told reporters, as she was flanked by Wright and Hurst. “Something is going on that has made it acceptable to lash out at your neighbors who are different than you are, whether it’s how they look, or their religion, or where they come from.”

The congresswoman went on to say that while Americans have much more in common that in what divides them, something is happening this year to disrupt racial relations.

“The rise of the alt-right movement — which is really a term of white supremacy — and we’ve all got to work together to battle back and say,’that’s not OK, it’s not acceptable to condemn your neighbor because they’re different than you,'” Castor said.

The 63-year-old Wright says there’s been tremendous progress in civil rights, but thinks it’s been stalled in recent years, citing what he said was the lack of respect that Barack Obama has received as president. “Is that because of color? I think those are the things that we have to give consideration to,” he said.

And Wright said the opening of the new Smithsonian is important for everyone, but especially for our youth. “It’s important for our young people to understand, many people had to pay a great price for the freedom in America, and you have to understand the importance of voting,” he said. “You’ve got to be able to understand your history, to be able to appreciate all these things.”

Although admission to the National Museum of African-American History and Culture will be free, Castor said that members of the public are asked to register with the museum in advance so they can be given a specific time to visit. She advises those considering visiting the museum in its first few months to contact her office if they need help in getting that scheduled time.

“There are going to be displays inside that are going to be uncomfortable,” she warned. “A KKK robe, shackles from the era of slavery. Some of this is going to be very difficult, and I understand there’s signage that warns people about how harsh it can be. But this is an important chapter of American history, it explains in a lot of ways why we still must focus on fighting for equal rights all across this country.”