Pinellas County Archives - Page 7 of 22 - SaintPetersBlog

Dwight Dudley files to run as judge in Pinellas County

Pinellas County state House Democrat Rep. Dwight Dudley has filed to run for Judge of the County Court in Pinellas County’s Group 9.

Dudley is a St. Petersburg-based attorney who operates his own law firm. He announced last week that he would not run for reelection for his HD 68 seat that he was first elected to in 2012, and reelected to in 2014.

Dudley will be running against Judge Myriam Irizarry, who was appointed to her position last July by Gov. Rick Scott to  fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Judge Walt Fullerton.

Previously, Irizarry served as chief deputy and general counsel to the Pinellas Clerk of the Circuit Court since 2003.

Dudley’s abrupt departure from the Legislature has left a heated Democratic primary in the Dem-leaning seat, where Dudley fended off a significant Republican challenge in 2014.

Former Obama administration Eric Lynn has exited a Congressional primary against former Gov. Charlie Crist in CD 13 to seek the seat. Meanwhile, attorney and longtime Democratic politico Ben Diamond, filed first for the HD 68 seat after Dudley’s departure, has garnered the support of Democratic establishment operatives in Tallahassee and elsewhere around the state.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Expansion set for East Lake library

Officials from the East Lake Community Library are in the early stages of planning a million-dollar expansion.

The 2,500-square-foot addition would be the first phase in a plan that would eventually take the library from 6,400 square feet to 19,000 sq ft, library director Lois Eannel told Pinellas County commissioners Thursday. Her remarks came during a budget information session. The library is independent of the Commission, but commissioners set the tax rate for the library’s operation.

Eannel said the expansion, which she hopes will be complete sometime next year, will mean the addition of a children’s room, a teen room and a place for more public computers. The total cost is expected to be about $1.2 million.

Most of that – about $1 million – would come from a state grant. The remainder would come out of savings and fundraising efforts.

It is unclear when construction might start. Eannel said the library had scheduled a June 20 public meeting with the Council of North County Neighborhoods to get comments from area residents about the proposal.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Pinellas Tax Collector candidate Charles Thomas rolls out campaign platform at Clearwater fundraiser

Charles CarlosThomas only jumped into the race for Pinellas County Tax Collector last month, but he’s hit the ground running.

The Republican, who served as Pinellas’ Chief Deputy Tax Collector since 2000, laid out the foundations of his campaign platform to a crowd of supporters gathered last night at Bascom’s Chop House, in Clearwater.

“We have, in our branch offices, a 99 percent satisfaction rating from our customers,” said Thomas during his opening remarks. “So if that’s what you like, and if that’s what you want to have continue in Pinellas County, well, that’s what I’m going to give you.”

Thomas said one way he’ll go about delivering on that promise is by maintaining a customer service oriented workforce.

“The plan is to recruit, retain, develop, and inspire today’s, as well as tomorrow’s, public servant whose focused on customer service excellence,” said Thomas. “That’s how we’re going to continue to deliver that high level of customer service that you’re used to and that you deserve here in Pinellas.”

More specifically, Thomas said — should he get elected — that he’d also bank on his employees to be ever mindful of new ways to make the office run more efficiently, saying, “they’re the folks that have the best ideas on how to make things better,” citing their continuous day-to-day dealings with the office and those who use it.

Thomas also discussed the tax collector office’s need to incorporate private sector techniques into its daily operations, should the office want to maintain its efficiency in the future.

“You should adopt the best practices from both the public sector and private sector any time you have the opportunity,” Thomas said. “So my pledge is to continue the organization’s goal of being better tomorrow than it is today, and one of the best ways to do that is to adopt the best practices, wherever we find them.”

Before linking up with Pinellas’ tax collector team, Thomas worked as the program manager for Gordon-Darby Inc., where he was responsible for maintaining the company’s $5 million annual budget, as well as overseeing the day-to-day operation of 11 separate locations which generated roughly $14 million in annual revenue. 

To close out his comments, Thomas turned his attention to technology, proclaiming that, “we need to use technology when there’s a good return on the investment, and when it brings value to our customers.”

He pointed to the wide array of citizens who depend on the tax collector office as an example of why it’s imperative to stay ahead of the tech-curve.

“We serve a wide range of people: from the 16-year-old who just got their license, to the retiree,” said Thomas. “And they all have a different need, and a different way they want to be served. As the younger folks come on, they’re looking at their smartphones. They’re looking to technology for the answer.”

So far, Thomas is the only person to enter the race for the county’s Tax Collector post.

According to the most recent figured filed with the supervisor of elections, he’s raised $30,000 for his campaign, about half of which Thomas gave to himself.

His host committee includes six of Pinellas’ seven constitutional officers: Public Defender Bob Dillinger, State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, outgoing Property Appraiser Pam Dubov, and outgoing Tax Collector Diane Nelson.

Some other big name supporters include St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes and Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni.

The General Election is in November.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Pinellas Commissioners to hold live, interactive chat

Pinellas County commissioners and the county administrator have scheduled a community conversation to discuss county services and important topics such as housing, social services and transportation with residents.

The public meeting will be from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at St. Petersburg College, Seminole campus, in the University Partnership Center Digitorium, 9200 113th St. N. A meet and greet is scheduled from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

There are five ways to participate in the conversation:

Be part of the live audience.

Watch it live and blog on www.pinellascounty.org/communityconversation. The blog opens 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Watch it live and ask questions on Pinellas County’s Facebook or post on Twitter and Instagram accounts using #pinellascc.

Call (888) 409-5380 to listen and ask questions.

Watch on PCC-TV (Bright House Channel 637, WOW! Channel 18 or Verizon Channel 44) and SPC-TV (Bright House Channel 636, WOW! Channel 19 or Verizon Channel 47).

Held in partnership with St. Petersburg College and Bay News 9, the community conversation offers an interactive venue for citizens to talk about issues, with the convenience of social media, online video streaming and blogging. Residents can also participate in the event via phone and by watching live on PCC-TV or SPC-TV.

Photo via Pinellas County
Photo via Pinellas County
Photo via Pinellas County
Photo via Pinellas County
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Pinellas School Board hoping to quiet any claims to valuable abandoned school grounds

The School Board of Pinellas County is taking some preemptive measures to secure its claim to the abandoned Palm Harbor Elementary school grounds.

A court action was filed on April 22 by school board attorneys to essentially guarantee that the Pinellas County School Board be recognized as the true owner of the land and property located at 415 15th St., Palm Harbor, where PHE (originally known as Palm Harbor Junior High School) used to operate.

Public records show that Pinellas’ school board obtained the deed to the property on May 3, 1926, from Palm Harbor Development Company.

However, stipulations were written into the deed which, if not met by the school board, are supposed to result in the property being returned to its previous owner.

Those stipulations included that the school is built at a cost no lower than $150,000, and that the school board never fail to provide for and maintain the school.

The school board may be in violation of both of those terms, though, since PHE was closed after the 2008-09 school year, and since — according to an  article published June 15, 1928, in the now defunct Evening Independent — the school was built for just under $76,500.

Realizing these deed stipulations might present a problem, Pinellas County School Superintendent Michael Greco notified the school board of the situation last year.

However, since then, the defendant, Palm Harbor Development Company — who, according to the Secretary of State’s Division of Corporations, is no longer an active corporation — has not brought forward any suit for the recovery of the property.

The school board contends that its personnel has tried but failed to identify any successors of Palm Harbor Development Company.

The land on which the school used to sit now has an estimated value of just under $3.2 million, according to the Pinellas County Property Appraiser.   

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Pinellas County Tax Collector candidate Charles Thomas holding May 3 campaign kick-off reception

A campaign kick-off reception honoring Pinellas County Tax Collector candidate Charles Thomas is slated for 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 3, at Bascom’s Chop House in Clearwater.

Thomas, a Republican and long-time Pinellas resident, has served as the county’s Chief Deputy Tax Collector since 2000, the same year Pinellas’ outgoing Tax Collector Diane Nelson, was elected to her post.

Before linking up with Pinellas’ tax collector team, Thomas worked as the program manager for Gordon-Darby Inc. There, he was responsible for maintaining the company’s $5 million annual budget, as well as overseeing the day-to-day operation of 11 separate locations which generated roughly $14 million in annual revenue. He also served as the organizations’ government relations’ liaison.

So far, Thomas is the only person filed to run for the county’s Tax Collector post.

His host committee includes six of Pinellas’ seven constitutional officers: Nelson, Public Defender Bob Dillinger, State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Clerk of the Court Ken Burke, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and outgoing Property Appraiser Pam Dubov.

Some other big name supporters include St. Pete Sen. Jeff Brandes and Pinellas County Commissioner John Morroni.

The General Election is in November.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Donald Trump fans flock to Quaker Steak & Lube for NE primaries watch party

Pinellas County Donald Trump supporters were out in droves for last night’s Quaker Steak & Lube New England primaries watch party.

Half the restaurant was blocked off for the event, which was led by Trump’s Pinellas County Co-Chair Nick LaRosa, who said he was under strict orders not to give interviews to the media when approached by FloridaPolitics.com with questions.

There was standing room only by the time things kicked off at 7:30 p.m. though, with the overwhelming majority of the crowd being white and middle-aged or older.

Throughout the evening “Trump” chants were frequent, especially each time news came in about the real estate mogul and political outsider winning another state.

Boos were rather prevalent as well, mainly whenever Fox News — the only channel any TV was tuned in to — showed Hillary Clinton or Ted Cuz.

Of course, overall, it was a good night for Trump. He came out on top — by a good margin too — in all five states up for grabs last night: Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island.

Thanks to last night’s victories, Trump, the clear Republican front-runner for some time now, has won a total of 954 delegates — 110 of which were earned during the New England primaries.

Cruz, on the other hand, Trump’s closest competitor, has nabbed a total of 562, having received just three last night.

In total, 1,237 delegates are needed to officially nab the Republican nomination.

However, while supporters were paying keen attention to their favorite candidate’s delegate count last night, the handful that spoke with FloridaPolitics.com had plenty to say about some of Trump’s more infamous plans for office, should he get elected.

“If we don’t have any wall, if we don’t have any borders, we don’t have a country,” said John Novakowski of Largo. “They [immigrants] are taking all our jobs away — sending these jobs over seas. So I don’t feel safe here. Obama’s let everyone in. If he [Trump] builds that wall, you’re going to see all the drugs stop. And you’re going to see a lot safer country here.”

In a nutshell, Trump’s plan is to build a massive wall along the 1,954-mile-long Mexican-American border which spans four states, and have Mexico pay for it. A claim which former Mexican President Vicente Fox has been very adamant about opposing, saying he’s “not going to pay for that f — king wall.” Trump, however, has stated in the past that he’d be willing to engage in a trade war with Mexico, one of America’s two biggest trade partners (the other being China), if they don’t cough up the dough, which, according to CNN, would cost upward of $10 billion.

Another Trump supporter at last night’s watch party, Sonny Showman, of St. Petersburg, thinks Trump’s hard line on ISIS is the right move.

“ISIS and all these other filthy pigs that are coming to intrude […] Trump’s our answer,” said Showman.

In the past, Trump has declared he would “bomb the sh*t out of them [ISIS]” and then go in and “take the oil,” from the oil fields in Iraq and Syria that ISIS has taken and used to fund its terror organization.

He’s also on the record as saying he would, “take out their [terrorist’s] families,” in his attempt to fight terrorism.

Clinton, the clear Democratic front-runner, also picked up a good amount of delegates last night — 204 in total — winning every state up for grabs other than Rhode Island, which she lost to Bernie Sanders.

Clinton’s overall delegate count is now up to 2,151. While Sanders trails quite a bit, with only 1,338 total delegates earned.

A total of 2,382 delegates will be needed to secure the Democratic presidential nomination.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Who’s who of Pinellas politics join Jeff Brandes for campaign kickoff in St. Pete

State Sen. Jeff Brandes is hosting a kickoff reception Wednesday evening for his re-election effort.

More than three dozen current and former local officials are on the host committee for the event, set for the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

Host committee members include Republican Reps. Larry AhernChris Latvala, Kathleen PetersChris Sprowls and Dana Young, as well as former Reps. Frank Farkas, former Clearwater Mayor Brian Aungst, and former St. Petersburg Mayors Bill Foster and Rick Baker, among many others.

Brandes is currently unopposed in his re-election campaign, which due to new district maps in 2012 and 2016, will be his third Senate run in four years.

The newly redrawn SD 24 has a slim GOP edge, and narrowly voted for Obama four years ago, making it possible Brandes could face a Democratic challenger in the fall. Heading into April, the Pinellas County senator had raised about $184,000 for his re-election campaign and had about $59,000 of that money on hand.

Event begins 5:30 p.m. at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club, 11 Central Ave. in St. Petersburg. RSVP with Rick Porter at 407-849-1112 or Rick@PoliticalCapitalFlorida.com.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Pinellas Commission to sell 67 lots for affordable housing

Pinellas County commissioners agreed Tuesday to sell 67 parcels of vacant land to build affordable housing.

Six of the parcels would be donated to Habitat for Humanity. Nine would be immediately put up for bid to be developed into single-family homes, Pinellas County Administrator Mark Woodard said. The remaining 52 lots would be sold later this year. County staff members estimate the sales will bring in about $1.3 million.

The project is part of a larger goal to provide more affordable, single-family housing for Pinellas’ working families.

The lots are in the Ridgecrest-Danville area in the mid-western section of the county. It is bounded on three sides by the city of Largo.

In recent years, the county has stressed redevelopment in the area, which included the purchase of 31 acres of property, elimination of slum and blight conditions through demolition of substandard structures, Brownfield designation and remediation, dedication of public-owned right of way, new streets, sidewalks, improved utilities, and stormwater drainage facilities.

The building of new houses is the final phase of that redevelopment. County staff said they hope the sale of the lots will make private sector housing construction in the area more feasible.

“It’s a very exciting project,” Pinellas commission chair Charlie Justice said.

In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, commissioners awarded a bid worth about $3.2 million to Highway Safety Devices of Tampa to improve traffic flow on Park Boulevard from Gulf Boulevard on the beaches to Grand Boulevard in Pinellas Park, just east of U.S. 19 N.

The project will include signals, digital signs, and closed circuit televisions that are designed not only to improve traffic flow but also to provide drivers with alerts about traffic and other issues.

The project is funded in equal parts by the ninth-cent local option gas tax and a grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

Commissioners also awarded a $1.2 million bid to Suncoast Development of Pinellas County, based in Odessa, to extend the Duke Energy trail from Sunset Point Road to the southern connection of the existing trail overpass at U.S. 19, south of Enterprise Road.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us

Darryl Paulson: Florida’s congressional elections: The changing of the guard

In a typical election cycle, about 90 percent of House members and 70 percent of U.S. senators win re-election. As has often been noted, Americans hate Congress, but love their own representative.

In the 2016 congressional election in Florida, close to half of the delegation will be replaced. As David Wasserman of the Cook Political Report notes, “Florida is primed to have the most turnover in the country.”

Why will Florida experience such unprecedented turnover? The answer: retirements, reapportionment and the quest for higher office.

Of the 27 House seats and one Senate seat up for election, at least 10 and possibly as many as 13 new faces will be in the delegation.

Three house members, all Republicans, have decided to retire. They are Jeff Miller in District 1, Ander Crenshaw in District 4 and Richard Nugent in District 11. Republicans are expected to retain control of all three seats.

On July 9, 2015, the Florida Supreme Court struck down Florida’s congressional district maps in a suit brought by the League of Women Voters (LWV). The Florida House and Senate both drew new maps, but the chambers could not agree on which map to use. As a result, the court used the map drawn by the LWV.

Eight districts were substantially altered (Districts 2, 5, 13, 14, 21, 22, 26 and 27) but 24 of the 27 districts were altered in some way. The four districts that were changed the most were Districts 2, 5, 10 and 13.

Corrine Brown has represented District 5 since its creation in 1992. At that time, Democrats who controlled both houses of the Legislature were unable to agree on the congressional district lines. A retired federal judge drew the lines and, for the first time in 110 years, three African-Americans were elected to Congress from Florida.

Brown’s district, which was anchored in Jacksonville, meandered south to string together pockets of black voters. The judge who drew the lines rejected a proposal to run the district from Jacksonville to Tallahassee. The NAACP opposed the east-west district because of its legacy of discrimination and the fact that many black residents in the district were in prison and could not vote. What was seen as unfair in 1992, the Florida Supreme Court deemed as fair in 2015.

Brown opposed the new boundaries, arguing that it would deprive minority voters of selecting a candidate of their choice. Her attorneys filed numerous objections to the new lines, but courts rejected all of her challenges.

U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham found that her District 2 seat, which had been a toss-up district when she was elected in 2014, was transformed into a heavily Republican district. Graham announced that she will not run for re-election, but is “seriously considering running for governor in 2018.”

Republican Congressman Daniel Webster found his central Florida district was altered from a slightly Republican district to a heavily Democratic one. Webster announced he will not seek re-election from that district, but will run in neighboring District 11 being vacated by retiring Nugent.

Finally, Republicans have held congressional District 13 since 1954. It was the first Florida congressional district to go Republican since Reconstruction. This Pinellas County district was redrawn from a toss-up district to one that is strongly Democratic. U.S. Rep. David Jolly announced he would not seek a second term in the House, but instead would run for the U.S. Senate seat that Marco Rubio left to run for president.

Rubio’s withdrawal from the Senate resulted in four House members, two Republicans and two Democrats, giving up their House seats to run for the Senate. Jolly and Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, and Democratic House members Patrick Murphy and Alan Grayson are vying for Rubio’s seat.

Even with the high turnover, Democrats are expected to win only two more House seats than they now hold. The present alignment is 17 Republicans and 10 Democrats.

Will so many new faces have any significant impact on Florida? The answer is yes. Even though Florida has the third-largest congressional delegation by size, it will likely lose political clout.

The new House members will be at the bottom of the pecking order. They will have the last choice in committee assignments and virtually no power that comes from chairing full and subcommittees.

The next Congress will experience major changes and no state will experience more change than Florida.

***

Darryl Paulson is Emeritus Professor of Government at USF St. Petersburg.

Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkedin
Share On Pinterest
Share On Reddit
Share On Stumbleupon
Share On Youtube
Contact us
Show Buttons
Hide Buttons