Rick Kriseman Archives - Page 2 of 43 - SaintPetersBlog

With sanctuary city comment, Rick Kriseman defiant, but misguided

Whether you agree with the rules or you don’t, it’s never wise for a person in authority to say they are not going to follow the law. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman essentially did that when he stated the following in a blog post:

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” he wrote.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States. Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

Kriseman was forced to retreat Sunday after Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said his officers would enforce the law. That’s when Kriseman said in an interview that St. Pete isn’t really a so-called Sanctuary City — it just agrees with the concept.

That’s called trying to have it both ways. It usually doesn’t work.

That said, I agree completely with Kriseman that President Trump’s demonization of undocumented immigrants goes against everything America is supposed to stand for. So much about the president’s immigration policy is morally and ethically repugnant, designed to stoke irrational fear among the citizenry.

I just wish Kriseman had taken the approach of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn. He visited the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque Friday to support those jittery about the travel ban Trump wants to impose on people from seven predominantly Muslim nations.

“This city has your back,” Buckhorn told them. “I don’t care what this President did — that is not who America is. That is not what we represent. That is not what we are all about!”

See the difference in the approaches of the two mayors?

Buckhorn stepped up to the line and maybe jumped up and down on it a bit, but Kriseman stepped over it.

Buckhorn was supportive. Kriseman was defiant.

Both are Democrats, by the way.

Buckhorn told reporters covering the Friday event that Tampa is not a Sanctuary City, but he left enforcement up to his police department. When Kriseman said St. Petersburg police wouldn’t stop someone suspected of being here illegally, that took it a bit too far.

Hence, his retreat Sunday.

That could have repercussions for Kriseman in a re-election bid. While Pinellas County has only 245 more registered Republicans than Democrats (out of 641,484 voters), Trump won there in November by about 5,500 votes over Hillary Clinton.

A recent poll showed Kriseman trailing former St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker in a theoretical rematch (Baker has not declared he is running).

That’s a discussion for another day, though.

For now, I’ll give Kriseman high marks for having his heart in the right place. On the rest of it, though, he gets an incomplete.

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Rick Kriseman declares St. Petersburg a ‘sanctuary from harmful immigration laws’

Although St. Petersburg isn’t officially classified as a sanctuary city, Mayor Rick Kriseman all but declared that’s exactly what his town is on Saturday. And if the Trump administration wants to deny the city federal funds because of that stance, the mayor’s response is essentially, ‘We’ll see you in court.’

“While our county sheriff’s office is ultimately responsible for notifying the federal government about individuals who are here illegally, I have no hesitation in declaring St. Petersburg a sanctuary from harmful federal immigration laws,” Kriseman wrote on Medium on Saturday.

“We will not expend resources to help enforce such laws, nor will our police officers stop, question or arrest an individual solely on the basis that they may have unlawfully entered the United States,” the mayor added. “Should our solidarity with ‘Sanctuary Cities’ put in peril the millions of dollars we receive each year from the federal government or via pass-through grants, we will then challenge that decision in court. Win or lose, we will have upheld our values.”

In general, sanctuary cities are defined as localities that help shield undocumented residents from deportation by refusing to fully cooperate with detention requests from federal immigration authorities. The right-leaning Center for Immigration Studies listed Pinellas (as well as Hillsborough, Pasco and Hernando) as sanctuary counties in a 2015 report, but that classification has been strongly disputed by Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

“When they ask us to do things within the law, we operate with them and their programs to help them take those that are illegal who have committed crimes . . . and get them out of here,”” Gualtieri told the Tampa Bay Times’ Laura Morel last week.

Although sanctuary cities and counties have existed in some form since the 1980’s, they became a much more potent political flash point in the summer of 2015, after 32-year-old Kate Steinle was fatally shot while walking on San Francisco’s Embarcadero by a Mexican national with a criminal record who had been deported several times.

On the campaign trail last year, Trump vowed to dismantle sanctuary cities, citing those areas for harboring dangerous immigrants who commit crimes against Americans. He followed up on that promise shortly after being inaugurated last month, signing an executive order threatening to pull federal funding from sanctuary cities.

While nearly every mayor of a sanctuary city has brazenly defied Trump’s executive order with rhetoric indicating that they will dig in and resist the threat (and in the case of San Francisco, gone ahead and filed a lawsuit blocking that executive order), Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has been one of the few local officials to heed Trump, ordering his jails to comply with requests from the federal government on detaining illegal immigrants.

There have been efforts by immigration activists in Tampa for months to persuade Mayor Bob Buckhorn to convert his municipality into a sanctuary city, and Kriseman acknowledges in his post that he too has received similar requests. Both have deferred on the issue, saying that the responsibility for holding undocumented immigrants is left to their respective county governments and law enforcement officials.

While the issue of sanctuary cities isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, it’s been superseded by the fallout from Trump’s executive order signed last week banning travel into the U.S. by citizens of seven majority-Muslim countries.

On Friday, Buckhorn attended Friday prayers at the Islamic Society of Tampa Bay mosque, where he called Trump’s actions “an attack on Islam as a religion.”

In his post on the online platform, Kriseman wrote that “the larger debate is no longer about sanctuary cities but about President Trump’s demonization of Muslims and the recent suspension of our refugee program.”

On Saturday morning, the State Department announced that previously banned travelers will be allowed to enter the U.S after a federal judge in Washington state on Friday night temporarily blocked enforcement of the president’s immigration ban.

“We have reversed the provisional revocation of visas under” Trump’s executive order, a State Department spokesman said Saturday. “Those individuals with visas that were not physically canceled may now travel if the visa is otherwise valid.”

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At Tiger Bay event, George Cretekos calls for Clearwater to get more respect

As leaders of the region’s two biggest cities, Bob Buckhorn and Rick Kriseman dominate headlines in Tampa Bay politics.

But it was Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos who became the breakout speaker at Tuesday’s meeting of the Suncoast Tiger Bay Club.

All three mayors were on stage at the St. Petersburg Marriott Clearwater on Roosevelt Boulevard.

Only recently has Cretekos emerged as a leader in his own right, coming into the spotlight after 36 years serving as an aide to the late C.W. Bill Young before he was elected to the Clearwater City Council in 2007, then mayor in 2012.

Clearwater is the third major city in the greater Tampa Bay area, which has now developed into the 11th biggest media market in the U.S.

Currently, city leaders are discussing the Imagine Clearwater master plan, which seeks to establish a framework for the future of the downtown Clearwater waterfront area. Cretekos’ biggest concern these days, he said, is that the city will still be discussing Imagine Clearwater five years now, vowing “that cannot happen.”

“We need the private sector to step up and take a role in reclaiming our downtown in investing in what we’re trying to do to imagine Clearwater that not only draws tourists but also has a high-tech center in downtown,” Cretekos said.

The mayor added that a redeveloped U.S. 19 corridor is also part of the plan.

Being an elected official in Clearwater can be challenging, particularly when dealing with the fact that the city is the “spiritual home” for the Church of Scientology, the incredibly controversial organization which owns more than half a billion dollars of property in the city.

Cretekos was asked to comment on actress Leah Remini‘s popular A&E docuseries “Leah Remini: Scientology and the Aftermath.” The show featured former Scientologists sharing stories of their involvement with the church: being abused, stripped of money or separated from families.

Cretekos praised Clearwater citizens who are members of the COS, saying they cared about the community as much as everybody else.

Then he went further.

“What we’ve seen in the Leah Remini story is one — the Church of Scientology has a terrible PR department. They are just awful. And they also need to understand that … churches support families. They shouldn’t divide them,” Cretekos said, adding the Church “ought to think twice about its policies on families.”

Cretekos lashed out at the editorial direction of the Tampa Bay Times, blasting the paper for concentrating resources far too much into St. Petersburg and Tampa, while forgetting “the rest of the communities.”

“They think that what goes on (in Clearwater) should only be in a weekly section. Well, it’s embarrassing when you read the Sunday paper, and there are four pages of obituaries in the local section, and two pages of news,” he said indignantly.

“That’s not Pinellas County. That’s not Tampa Bay,” he said, generating a large round of applause.

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman just held his campaign kickoff fundraising event for his re-election effort last week. The year 2016 was rough the mayor, ostensibly because of how he handled the city’s problems with wastewater management, which has led to several harsh editorials in the Times.

“Mayor Cretekos was saying that he’d like to get some more ink from the Times versus St. Pete and Tampa,” Kriseman cracked after his introduction. “I’d be OK with it,” which elicited perhaps the largest collective laugh of the afternoon.

During the Q&A portion of the luncheon, Matt Lettelleir, director of party development for the Pinellas County Republican Party, asked Kriseman directly if last summer’s sewage dumps negatively affected Tampa Bay,

Lettelleir wished to know whether it ultimately did “no damage,” as Kriseman told the Times last month.

“Anytime that you’re discharging into the Bay, it’s not a good thing,” Kriseman admitted. “Fortunately for us, what we did discharge into the Bay was partially treated wastewater, it wasn’t raw sewage. And fortunately for us, what we did discharge into the Bay had low fecal coliform levels, instead of high ones, which are what causes health issues.”

“Any discharge is not a good discharge,” he added.

Kriseman said his administration intended on doing everything possible to avoid that from happening again but added that he can’t control the weather.

Although the mayors deliberately downplayed partisan politics when talking about how they go about doing their jobs, the facts are that Buckhorn and Kriseman are Democrats, Cretekos is a Republican.

When the Clearwater Mayor somewhat spontaneously delivered a tribute (of sorts) to President Donald Trump, the crowd went strangely silent.

“I know that many of you are frustrated that Donald Trump is our president, but I’ve got to tell you, and you’ve got to admit that Donald Trump was saying things that many of us were too embarrassed to admit.”

It should be noted more than a few people were shaking their heads quietly as Cretekos went on.

“I’m not saying that he’s right. I’m saying that some of the things that he was saying is that we all believe, and that’s how he got elected.”

Former Sarasota Mayor Kelly Kirschner indirectly asked the mayors if their cities were sanctuary cities, classified as communities opting not to cooperate with the federal government in identifying undocumented immigrants.

Cretekos used the occasion to mention how Clearwater is the home to many Mexican-Americans.

“Those who are legal in the United States, we will protect and we will work with them. Those who are illegal are an important part of our economy,” he said before being literally cut off by a bell.

Cretekos chose not to speak over the sound.

Buckhorn said Trump’s emergency order, issued Friday night setting up a temporary ban on refugees, “was inherently wrong.”

“I think it was a religious litmus test,” he said. “I think it goes against the values of who we are as Americans and what we stand for as Americans,” generating a healthy cheer. He went on to say that the country needed to improve the immigration system which included tough vetting of anybody legally entering the country, but noted that “you do not put a religious test on the ability to come to America. That’s not who we are.”

And Buckhorn repeated that, while Tampa is not a sanctuary city, his officers are “not the immigration police;” they won’t be chasing after the undocumented.

Kriseman said, philosophically, the city will embrace everyone but then pointed out it was Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri who is the law enforcement official in charge of that effort.

Naturally, the issue of a Tampa Bay Rays baseball stadium came up.

The saga — now more than eight-year-old — is currently at the stage where, within the next few months, the Rays are expected to announce where they intend to play in the Tampa Bay area.

Buckhorn was asked if he knew for certain that the team would draw more fans in Tampa than they currently do in St. Petersburg, where the Rays languished on the bottom with the worst home attendance for several years in a row.

“I can’t tell you that I can assure you that would be the case,” Buckhorn acknowledged. Nor did he say he had any idea how the city could pay for a ballpark estimated to cost at least $600 million.

All three mayors also discussed transportation.

Cretekos called the lack of a mass transit system in the area “an embarrassment.”

Buckhorn, blasting Tea Party activists, said “some people think rail is a U.N. plot. That’s how patently absurd some of the arguments I heard during the course of this.”

Kriseman once again called for the state Legislature to allow cities like Tampa and St. Petersburg to hold their own transit referendums. But, despite pleas to do so, the Legislature has shown zero inclination to support such a proposal.

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Second poll in a row shows Rick Kriseman losing to Rick Baker in hypothetical match-up

Rick Kriseman would have a tough time in his re-election bid for St. Petersburg mayor, especially if former mayor Rick Baker entered the race, according to a new poll released Tuesday.

A StPetePolls survey conducted Jan. 30 shows Baker would defeat Kriseman by 10 points — 47 percent to 37 percent — if the election were held today. Just over 16 percent of respondents were undecided.

Although Baker, the popular Republican who during his nine years as mayor built an impressive legacy, has told reporters that running again was “not on my radar,” nearly half the city wants to see him return to City Hall. Baker is currently president of The Edwards Group, the firm owned by St. Petersburg entrepreneur and philanthropist Bill Edwards.

As a Democrat, Kriseman gets somewhat tepid support from his own party — 45 percent to Baker’s 39 percent, with nearly 16 percent unsure. On the other hand, Baker gets nearly 61 percent of Republican voters, compared to 25 percent for Kriseman. The two split the independent vote: 39 percent for Baker, 38 percent for Kriseman.

Baker also outperforms Kriseman with both men (47 percent to 36 percent), women (47 percent to 38 percent) and in nearly every age group. Kriseman does best with ages 50 to 69, behind Baker by only a single point (43 percent to 42 percent), while the poll reports a substantial number of undecideds.

As for a breakdown along racial lines, Baker is preferred over Kriseman by both blacks (48 percent to 33 percent) and whites (47 percent to 38 percent). Baker also is the choice of Hispanics (33 percent to 28 percent), despite nearly 39 percent of Hispanics remaining undecided.

The poll for FloridaPolitics.com used an automated phone call system with a sample size of 892 registered voters in the city of St. Petersburg. Results were weighted to account for proportional differences in demographics and that of the active voter population as of Dec. 6, 2016. Demographics included political party, race, age and gender. The results have a 3.3 percent margin of error at a 95 percent confidence level.

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Darden Rice says she’s been diagnosed with breast cancer

Darden Rice, who serves as St. Petersburg City Council chair, has been diagnosed with breast cancer.

“I’ve always championed transparency and have been straightforward with my friends, family, colleagues and constituents. You have placed your trust in me – for that reason I am disclosing a deeply personal issue in my life: I have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer,” Rice said in a statement Monday, adding both her and her doctors are confident on the treatment plan.

“I expect to fully recover and be back at work shortly,” Rice says.

Rice, 46, was elected to the Council in 2013 and is running for re-election to District 2 this fall. She will officially kick off a 2017 campaign announcement within the next two weeks, Rice says.

Last week, Rice introduced Mayor Rick Kriseman at his own official campaign re-election event.

“I have committed my life to public service,” says Rice, a former Sierra Club official. “I love my work. I love my city. “

“I campaigned three years ago, on a platform of ‘St. Pete Strong’: strong city services, strong city economic development, strong neighborhoods. Three years later our city is stronger than ever,” she says. “And I am, too.”

While Rice takes time off from the council, Lisa Wheeler Bowman will assume her chair duties.

 

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Rick Kriseman meets with MLB commissioner

St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman met Thursday with Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred at the commissioner’s office in New York City.

Kriseman updated the commissioner on St. Petersburg’s Baseball Forever Campaign and shared the community’s vision for the Tropicana Field site – a vision that includes a new stadium for the Tampa Bay Rays.

“I am thankful for Commissioner Manfred’s time and share his desire for the Rays’ success,” Kriseman said. “I am confident that the team’s regional search will make clear that their current site, reimagined and redeveloped, remains their best option.”

The city launched its Baseball Forever campaign last February. Baseball Forever is an initiative of the city of St. Petersburg, St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, residents, and fans of the Tampa Bay Rays. The goal of the campaign is to  convince the Tampa Bay Rays that their current site, re-imagined and redeveloped, remains the best location for Major League Baseball in Tampa Bay.

One of the ways the campaign aims to show support for the Rays is to invite fans to take the pledge to encourage the Rays to build a new ballpark in St. Petersburg. There’s a button on the website to enable fans to show support.

Although the goal is to have the Rays stick around, the campaign concedes it will work closely with the Rays, county officials, the private sector, and other stakeholders should the team identify a future stadium site adjacent to or impacting St. Petersburg.

 

 

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In campaign kickoff speech, Rick Kriseman aims to take St. Petersburg to next level

Rick Kriseman says he ran for Mayor four years ago because he felt that the big issues in St. Petersburg weren’t being addressed.

Kicking off his re-election campaign Wednesday night, he said, “It’s so important to keep our foot on the gas pedal.”

“This is a time that’s really important for the city of St. Petersburg,” Kriseman told a crowd of around 100 supporters who filled in the courtyard of Three Birds Tavern on 4th Street. “We have a lot of big issues that we need to address, and there’s a lot of work to be done.”

Kriseman has an impressive slate of accomplishments on which he’ll be able to run on this year, including establishing a curbside recycling program, hiring a new police chief, implementing the downtown waterfront master plan, the creation of the Southside CRA to attempt to eradicate poverty and a Memorandum of Understanding with the Tampa Bay Rays to energize their search for a site to host a new ballpark.

But that hasn’t been the dominant theme in the media over the past six months, thanks to several self-inflicted errors in coping with the city’s sewage crisis that emerged last September.

The problems transcend sewer. The mayor has gotten sideways with some members of the LGBT community for his announcement that he will pull city funding for the St. Pete Pride Parade, after organizers said they would move the route from its usual Grand Central District path to one closer to downtown.

Councilwoman Darden Rice, who gave Kriseman a rousing introduction at Wednesday’s event, says the city should stand behind parade organizers. “I don’t think it’s something that the mayor needs to step into,” she said. “Let’s let the stakeholders figure that out.”

Wal-Mart’s decision to leave Midtown is another blow, with city leaders scrambling to try to persuade the giant retailer to reconsider.

The city’s downtown renaissance, which originated toward the end of Rick Baker’s tenure and completely taking off in the Bill Foster era, has continued to prosper under Kriseman.

Two of the biggest issues that dragged down Foster — the Pier and the Rays — have yet to be resolved, however, though it’s rumored that the Rays will finally be making a decision about their future sometime this year. The mayor continues to insist that the best place for them to land up is on the same 85-acre space where Tropicana Field currently resides, a questionable move considering that the Rays seem determined to want to play anywhere but there.

There have been concerns about the escalating costs of a new pier, which was initially set at $46 million for several years but is now up to $80 million.

But with all those concerns, the fact remains that Kriseman is the heavy favorite to win re-election.

Although Pinellas County Republicans have criticized the mayor since he took office, the only serious candidates that they have floated are the two men who held office before Kriseman took over — Baker and Foster.

Polls have shown that Baker would present a serious challenge to Kriseman, yet nobody knows whether he will pull the trigger. His recent history indicates that he won’t.

And if he won’t, who will? Local Republicans insist that a wealthy businessman will emerge as a legitimate challenger, but that apparently remains to be seen.

Until then, the mayor has the field to himself, and the power of incumbency, to make people forget about the problems with the city’s sewage system and his staff’s ability to clearly communicate what is happening there. Though he can’t control the weather, he can control how the city copes with those storms.

Looking at the crowd on Wednesday, the mayor joked that there were some who have been in his corner for years, going back to his previous runs for the state House and City Council.

Also in the crowd was his wife Kerry and son Samuel.

“When you are in public service there’s a lot of hours that you’re not at home and a lot of things that you miss,” Kriseman said. “It’s a big sacrifice on the family, so I would be remiss not to thank them for everything they do to support me.”

“I think he has done a really good job of  bringing a lot of prosperity and economic development to the city of St Pete, which has impacted the entire region and Pinellas County as a whole, and that’s why I’m supporting him as a resident of Gulfport,” said Jennifer Webb, a local Democrat who ran against Kathleen Peters in the state House District 69 race last fall.

Regarding the lack of transparency issues that surfaced during the sewage crisis, Rice says that both the mayor and the council learned that they can communicate better concerning the various plans and money allocated in addressing the treatment of sewage moving forward.

“That will be one of the biggest challenges, and it’s a lesson on how good communication is a form of leadership,” she said.

Along with Rice, Councilman Charlie Gerdes also made a quick appearance, grandson in tow.

Rice and Amy Foster are the two incumbent members of the council who are up for re-election with Kriseman this year.

The mayor called both “dedicated servants for the city of St. Petersburg, and they need to be back for four more years at city council.”

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Rick Kriseman to join with Muslim leaders to host city’s first Iftar dinner

Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Wednesday that he and Muslim leaders from throughout Tampa Bay will host St. Petersburg’s first Iftar dinner welcoming residents of all faiths to celebrate the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

The event will be held June 14 at St. Petersburg’s historic Coliseum.

“Now more than ever, we must be expressive in our love and respect for people of all faiths,” Kriseman said. “I am excited to bring the community together to honor our Muslim brothers and sisters.”

Abdul Karim Ali, the president of the Tampa Bay Area Muslim Association, said: “We know that breaking bread together helps a community work together for a common cause, and so we thank Mayor Kriseman and his team for their leadership in ensuring that the sun shines bright on all residents and faiths in St. Petersburg.”

Kriseman made his announcement on the same day that President Donald Trump signed an executive order that moved the U.S. closer to building a wall along the Mexican border. The executive order also seeks to beef up border patrols, increase the deportations of illegal immigrants and crack down on sanctuary cities by stripping them of federal grant money. Sanctuary cities are those that protect undocumented immigrants from deportation.

 

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After leaving Charlie Crist for David Jolly, Vito Sheeley says “I’m still a Democrat”

Vito Sheeley says that despite his decision to now work for former Republican Congressman David Jolly, he remains a Democrat.

In one of the more enigmatic personnel developments in Tampa Bay area politics recently, Sheeley announced Monday that he was leaving the office of Charlie Crist,  to now work for Jolly as a senior adviser.

Crist defeated Jolly in Pinellas County’s 13th Congressional District race last fall.

The move came just days after reports that Sheeley was going to work for St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman‘s office, along with (unreported) rumors Crist had jettisoned Sheeley early last week, and rehired him by week’s end.

In a just-released statement, Sheeley says: “Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me.”

He then says service to his community “outweighs any political party or title.”

A St. Pete native, Sheeley worked as an outreach coordinator for Tampa area Congresswoman Kathy Castor, whose district used to include parts of South St. Petersburg, before leaving in 2016 for Crist’s congressional campaign.

Sheeley says he will help Jolly continue policy work locally on education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.

To some, the hiring decision remains perplexing, considering Jolly is no longer a sitting congressman, announcing Monday he has not made a decision about running again in 2018.

However, in hiring Sheeley, he has indeed invited speculation that he intends to run next year.

Sheeley’s statement in full, entitled “I’m Still a Democrat,” is below:

Public service is a part of my DNA. My mother was a social worker, my grandmother was an educator, and my grandfather a pastor. I was raised to believe that serving my community and country is the most important calling one can have. I still believe that today. I have worked in public service as Outreach Coordinator for Congresswoman Kathy Castor, Outreach Director for Charlie Crist’s Congressional Campaign 2016 and, until recently, Congressman Charlie Crist’s District Director.

My passion is to see that others have the same opportunities that I have been given.

Many have and will continue to question my reason for leaving Congressman Crist. That is an answer that will remain between Charlie Crist and me. My service to my community outweighs any political party or title. You see, for me, I don’t see Democrat or Republican, I see people. I see children not receiving a quality education, I see poverty, I see families searching for job security and a better way to provide. I recognize the injustice within our Justice System, I’m appalled at witnessing our voting rights being stripped away to benefit those in power or those who would like to remain in power. These reasons and more are the reason why I fight for a solution. I will be working with David Jolly to continue policy work locally regarding education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.

I respect David Jolly. I respect his service to his community and country. We both share a common belief, we love this community.

David Jolly respects my Democratic views, and together I believe we can bring balance to our divided country. In these days and times, we as a nation have forgotten what is important. What is important is “Treating others as one would wish to be treated;” this is the Golden Rule. As I continue this journey, I will fight for what I believe is important. That is “You,” the people … of Pinellas County, Democrat or Republican, your voice matters.

We face serious issues together we can overcome.

I would like to thank everyone who supported me in this past week. Your overwhelming encouragement has meant a lot to my family and I.

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David Jolly hires Charlie Crist staffer Vito Sheeley as ‘senior adviser’

David Jolly says that he has not made a decision whether to run for his former congressional seat next year, but that’s the impression he has given by announcing on Monday that he has hired Vito Sheeley to serve as his “senior advisor for the 2018 political cycle.”

Sheeley has been working as district director for Charlie Crist, the man who defeated Jolly last November in the Congressional District 13 race. Sheeley also worked on Crist’s congressional campaign as his campaign outreach director.

“While I have made no decision whether to pursue elective office in 2018, I am committed to continuing our important policy work of the last three years,” Jolly said in a statement.  “As Laura and I consider what is best for our family and our community in 2018, I am thrilled to have Vito Sheeley join our political team. Through my years working with Vito in Pinellas, I know him to be an honorable man, dedicated to our community, and a trusted advisor on how best to represent and serve Pinellas County and the State of Florida.”

“I’m extremely excited to begin my new role with Congressman Jolly,” Sheeley said. “Helping the citizens of Pinellas County has been and will remain the most important priority of my life.  As Senior Advisor to Mr. Jolly, I look forward to continuing to listen to the needs and concerns of Pinellas County.  I thank Congressman Jolly for recognizing my value to him and his team.”

Max Goodman, a spokesman for Jolly, says that Sheeley will be working with Jolly  “to continue policy work locally regarding education, veterans, urban affairs and other Pinellas priorities.” He says he’ll be paid through non candidate committee funds.

The announcement caps a bizarre week in the news for Sheeley, who previously worked for Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor.

There were unconfirmed reports that Crist had fired Sheeley last week, and then rehired him back. FloridaPolitics called Sheeley on Friday to ask him about that report, which he flatly denied, saying that he was still working for Crist at the time.

He also said it was unclear whether he would go on to work for Mayor Rick Kriseman’s re-election campaign, as had been reported by the Tampa Bay Times last week.

“I only wish the best for Vito,” Crist told FloridaPolitics this afternoon. “He did a wonderful job on our campaign, for which I will ever be grateful. I hope for a very bright future for he and his family.”

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