St. Pete Archives - Page 5 of 27 - SaintPetersBlog

Tampa company expands, moves to St. Petersburg

A Tampa company is shifting and expanding its base of operations to St. Petersburg. Tampa Microwave’s CopaSat is moving to a North St. Pete location from its previous headquarters in West Tampa.

A series of business tracking sites also list a CopaSat location at 4701 Central Ave. in St. Pete with  three employees.

The new facility located at 11200 Martin Luther King Blvd. is 34,000 square feet and will employ 80 people.

According to Tampa Microwave’s website, the company chose to move to expand. The company specializes in satellite communications equipment and obtains defense contracts for its products.

Tampa Microwave was established in 1983.

The company is holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new facility at 10 a.m. Friday with U.S. Rep. David Jolly expected to attend.

St. Pete chosen for financial inclusion program aimed at boosting economic stability

St. Petersburg has been selected as one of eight cities to participate in the National League of Cities’ Financial Inclusion Systems and City Leadership project. It was selected by the NLC in a competition, giving Mayor Rick Kriseman an opportunity to meet with the seven other mayors to identify opportunities for improvement.

Kriseman will attend the Mayors’ Institute on Financial Inclusion in April where he and other mayors will engage with national experts to find ways to help residents improve their financial outlooks.

“I am pleased St. Petersburg has been selected by the NLC to participate in this innovative project,” Kriseman said. “I have often said that we need to invest in people, and this grant is one great way to do just that. I thank the NLC and Councilman Karl Nurse for leading the way on this issue.”

The April meeting among selected mayors under the Financial Inclusion Systems and City Leadership project is part of a two-year effort designed to improve residents’ financial health by developing sustainable systems. The program is geared toward increasing mayors’ capacities toward developing initiatives that increase access to financial services and education and to help residents learn how to save, reduce debt, and build assets.

The announcement comes as Kriseman and other local city leaders continue to increase efforts to lift the city’s poorest neighborhoods south of Central Avenue out of chronic poverty.

“This is an important investment our citizens. As St. Petersburg grows, so too should the capacity of our citizens to grow financially,” said Councilman Nurse whose district includes parts of South St. Pete marred by low income and high crime.

“While many cities across the country are experiencing economic recovery and growth, this prosperity has not reached residents across all rungs of the economic ladder,” said NLC President Melodee Colbert-Kean. “This project will give mayors a unique opportunity to implement and strengthen innovative strategies to address the financial challenges many residents face on a daily basis.”

The initiative also includes ongoing technical support, grant opportunities for financial inclusion efforts, and continued peer learning opportunities. St. Pete will also be afforded the opportunity to present its strategies at the 2017 National Summit on Financial Inclusion.

Back-in parking coming soon to St. Petersburg

In about a month downtown St. Petersburg will have about 30 new parking spaces. Some of them will be a little different than what people are used to in the area.

Instead of carefully maneuvering into parallel parking spots or easily gliding into angled spaces, motorists will back into the newly planned reverse-angle parking.

Now when motorists are lucky enough to find a spot along Central Avenue, they park in an angled spot going in the same direction as their car. The front of the car goes in first.

The new spots will face against the flow of traffic, meaning motorists must drive past the spot and then back into it.

It seems like a bit of a nightmare at first. What about cars behind the motorist trying to park? But St. Pete’s director of parking and transportation, Evan Mory, said it’s actually a bit easier, even better and safer.

“It’s definitely positive for people riding bikes in the street,” Mory said. “When they are leaving they can see the oncoming traffic. That biker can make eye contact with the driver.”

Consider the current parking situation in places where there are angled spaces, such as Central Avenue and Beach Drive. Many times the parked cars block each other’s vision of oncoming traffic. Motorists are forced to back out of their spots slowly on an hope and a prayer that any cars coming toward them won’t careen into their backside.

Mory pointed out a few other reasons to rejoice, not gripe. First, motorists will have an easier time loading and unloading their trunk. It also puts that person in a safer situation when they’re rooting through the trunk or back of a truck from the curb or sidewalk, not the middle of the road.

When children get out of the car, the doors will shield them from traffic rather than making them step out of the car toward oncoming traffic.

“It takes a little bit of getting used to,” Mory acknowledged.

He’s looked at models from other cities, though, that show these types of parking spaces do work.

The new spots will be located on Second Avenue North adjacent to Williams Park. Space is being freed up for new parking now that bus stops are being diverted away from the park.

Mory said the city can put in double the amount of parking spaces if the spots are angled rather than parallel parking.

Plus it’s easier to park. Mory reminds motorists that backing into an angled space is the first part of parallel parking, but it also eliminates the need for the back and forth.

The new spots are expected to be available in mid- to late February after the bus stops are removed on Valentine’s Day.

If you live on an alley and want to recycle, read this

After a long and hard-fought battle, residents in traditional St. Pete neighborhoods will finally have their recycling picked up from the alley, not the curb. Beginning Monday residents whose trash is collected in an alley will have their blue recycling containers collected from that same location.

To get ready, the city mailed out information packets to residents with specific instructions on where to place the blue bins on pickup day. Residents with alley pickup should place the rolling recycling bins at least three-feet from the large trash bins shared by neighbors.

The bins should not block driveways, carports or other places where people park in the alley and should be at least one-foot away from obstacles like fences and utility polls.

The flyer does not say whether or not residents are permitted to leave those bins in place in between pickups. A diagram also suggests the bins can be placed on either side of the alley.

The notice came with a letter from Mayor Rick Kriseman.

“More than six months have passed since curbside recycling began, and our Sanitation department is reporting higher than expected participation numbers,” Kriseman wrote. “But there is still more work to be done.”

He explained that “adding alley recycling collection should make recycling more convenient and encourage more participation.”

The city also reminds all those recycling in the city’s program to be mindful of what goes into the recycling bins. Kriseman wrote the city is still seeing a large amount of items deposited into the bins that cannot be recycled under the city’s program. Chief among those are plastic grocery bags and trash liners.

Grocery bags should be recycled at locations designated. Most grocery stores have bins where excess bags can be placed for recycling.

Other items that should not be placed into recycling bins include flimsy plastic packaging, plastic wrap from items like paper towels and water bottle cases, dry cleaning bags and Styrofoam. Other items typically recycled that should not be under certain circumstances are empty pizza boxes or paper products with grease or other food residue.

A complete list of acceptable recycling materials is on the city’s recycling website. There’s also a mobile app called St. Pete Collects with information including the do’s and do not’s of recycling and a comprehensive schedule of trash and recycling collection.

The alley recycling issue became an issue before the city even launched its program last summer. About 40 percent of St. Pete residents live in homes where trash is collected from an alley. Many of those homes have yards that are not conducive to taking bins to the curb for collection.

Kriseman announced late last year that the city would be transitioning to alley pickup January 25. Residents whose trash is collected from the curb will still take their recycling bins to the front of their properties at the curb.

All residents regardless of trash pickup status received the Mayor’s notice. The packet also included an updated recycling pickup calendar for 2016.

Expect Pinellas Trail closings in Tyrone area

A portion of the Pinellas Trail between 13th Avenue North and 22nd Avenue North will be closed through Jan. 29. Other sections will close other sections will be closed as well throughout this month as part of a 2-mile improvement project.

Areas from 22nd Avenue North to Tyrone Boulevard and then from Tyrone Boulevard to 76th Street will also close as crews complete improvements.

The sections will reopen as work is completed. The county has not listed how long each section will take to complete.

Closing signs will mark sections as they are closed for work.

Workers will be improving the shoulder along those sections of the trail as well as stabilizing banks. Vehicular traffic along nearby roads should not be affected.

The sections slated for upgrades are part of the 47-mile long Fred Marquis Pinellas Trail that spans the county from South St. Pete north to Tarpon Springs.

The project is funded through a Recreational Trail Program grant from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.

Alternate routes around closed sections are available for those traversing the trail. Neighborhood streets are a good way to skip the first part of the trail now closed. Bike lanes run along Fifth Avenue and Ninth Avenue North.

Facing foreclosure, Mosley Motel hit with more fines by St. Pete

The St. Petersburg Nuisance Abatement Board voted to levy additional fines to the long crime-plagued Mosley Motel after owners failed to make improvements agreed upon as part of a previously approved turnaround plan for the property.

Under the latest vote taken Wednesday afternoon, Mosley will have to pay $100 a day beginning Dec. 8th and ongoing until the property is in compliance. As of the vote that amounts to $3,600.

But the issue isn’t all that cut and dry. The Mosley Motel located on 34th Street North near Fifth Avenue has been in foreclosure proceedings for four years. That foreclosure is set to be finalized Jan. 28.

Because of that, the motel owners’ attorney Joe Pearlman asked that the board wait until its next meeting on Feb. 10 to determine what, if any, fines there would be because the motel may be under bank ownership by then.

Pearlman stated the city would then have to deal with Fifth Third Bank. However, property records show the foreclosure was filed by HSBC Bank. Any fines assessed by the city and not paid would appear as liens on the property. That means the city would still be owed fines even if the bank took the property again.

While the board did not grant Pearlman’s request, they did agree to revisit the fine next month and finalize a fine based on what happens with the foreclosure.

Board chairman Sean McQuade suggested considering shutting the property down altogether, however, legal staff said that’s not possible under the initial ordinance approved by the board that required certain improvements to the property with only a maximum $100 per day fine allowable as a non-compliance consequence.

At issue this time around it the Mosley Motel’s inaction in providing better CPTED at the property. That stands for Crime Prevention through Environmental Design and includes strategies for keeping properties clean, providing adequate lighting, keeping the building in good repair and maintaining a well-kept look.

Officer Chip Wells from the St. Petersburg Police Department testified that while the owners of the motel and its employees did take some steps in meeting the department’s CPTED recommendations, they failed to make any meaningful progress.

Lighting in some areas of the motel was still not fixed, and closed-circuit television cameras in some areas had wires dangling from the ceiling that could easily be torn down.

“It makes those cameras useless,” Wells said.

Another camera in a hallway was also deemed useless because the hallway was not lit at night. Wells said any video captured on that camera would not have been discernible.

There were also several easy to fix recommendations the motel did not complete including something as simple as placing garbage cans around common areas to cut back on litter on the property.

Wells called it the “broken window theory” where keeping small crimes out of a neighborhood like vandalism or car break-ins tends to thwart more serious crime.

Likewise, he explained, a property littered with trash appears uncared for and becomes a target for criminal activity.

The Mosley attorney told the Nuisance Abatement Board owners had ceased making improvements recommended by St. Pete Police because money had simply run out.

The motel’s owners had been banking on refinancing the property to avoid foreclosure and help with cash flow, but that plan fell through. While Wells claimed many of the changes were simple and some just a matter of simple policy changes, Pearlman argued they were still too much of a burden for a motel facing imminent foreclosure.

It’s not exactly clear what will happen if the bank does repossess the Mosley Motel. It seems unlikely the bank would operate it until new owners surfaced.

Key to the city is Mayor’s discretion

Baltimore Reverend Jamal Bryant’s name has been making headlines in St. Pete. The controversial African-American religious leader is slated to be the keynote speaker at the 30th annual MLK Leadership Awards Breakfast. What makes his attendance controversial are his incendiary remarks toward the LGBT community in which he has compared being gay to having a gambling or drug addiction.

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman declined to award Bryant a symbolic key to the city. At an appearance at Suncoast Tiger Bay last week, Kriseman explained that the move was not due to contempt toward Bryant’s anti-LGBT comments, but rather a change in city policy regarding criteria for doling out keys to the city.

That was news to us so we dug a little further.

According to the Mayor’s director of communications, Ben Kirby, there isn’t actually a policy at all. Instead, it is a discretionary decision to be made by the Mayor. Kirby explained that Kriseman wants to raise the bar in obtaining a “key to the city.”

“Reverend Bryant’s comments are divisive,” Kirby said. “They are not reflective of our city’s vision or our values and his comments would certainly preclude him from getting the key to the city.”

And that mirrors what Kriseman said at Tiger Bay.

“I find [Bryant’s] comments and the things that he has said not in line with who we are as a city and the vision of who we want to be as a city,” Kriseman said when asked about the issue even though he claimed that wasn’t exactly why he had chosen not to give Bryant a key.

Kriseman said he plans to talk to Bryant about the issue and “educate” him.

Kirby compared the Mayor’s decision to one he previously made to deny an anti-abortion group’s request to fly a anti-abortion flag above City Hall. The correlation was made because the issues demonstrate Kriseman’s discretionary privilege.

Bryant was chosen as the keynote speaker for the MLK event because of his leadership in the Black Lives Matter Movement and work on African-American rights. But some gay rights groups have called on the invitation to be rescinded.

Kriseman did not join in that request and plans to attend the breakfast. Nevertheless, his decline of a request to issue Bryant a key to the city angered the local chapter of the NAACP.

St. Pete looks to replace racist mural 50-years gone with culturally significant art

The city of St. Pete is budgeting $10,000 for a mural that would cover the long blank wall on the left landing of the main stairs in City Hall. The wall was once shrouded in a racist mural created in the 1940’s after City Hall was erected in 1939 using New Deal funds.

In an act of civil disobedience, a young African-American activist named Joe Waller tore the mural down in 1966 after the city refused multiple attempts to remove it. Waller, who now goes by the name of Omali Yeshitela and heads the international Uhuru group based in St. Pete, ultimately spent more than two years in jail for the act.

This isn’t the first time the city has sought to replace the mural. Because of tension involving the history of that space and racial sensitivities, the city has been unsuccessful in gaining majority consent for a new display.

In 1998 a group called the Concerned Citizens Action committee successfully petitioned the city to adopt a resolution directing staff to commission a plaque as an expression of apology to both the African-American community and Yeshitela.

However, dissent among council led to questions of the appropriateness of such a move. Bea Griswold, a City Council member at the time, asked for a more broad conversation about whether or not an apology needed to be directed at Yeshitela. She also thought such a plaque should not be placed in such a prominent location.

Former Mayor Bill Foster who was a City Council member at that time also had reservations. Another council member at the time though, Frank Peterman accused naysayers of playing with semantics” and argued they merely took issue with Yeshitela’s affiliation with the controversial Uhuru group.

The mural depicted a jovial scene set at Pass-a-grille Beach where white park-goers were enjoying music played by black artists who were collecting spare change. Not only did the image depict the African-American music players and dancers as subservient to whites, they were also depicted in the racist stereotype known as black face minstrel.

There faces were so dark features could not be noticed. Only their eyes and lips were lightened. Historically, black face was a depiction in shows in Northern states of African-Americans.

The 50th anniversary of the mural being torn down is this year.

Now the city finally appears to be taking action to remedy to blank scar at City Hall that serves as a reminder to so many of what once covered that space.

“The art must respect the event(s) that caused the still-vacant space where the mural once hung while honoring and celebrating the advances in civil rights and inclusivity in the city today,” the city’s call to artists reads on its website.

The city does not offer any further specifics on design specifications other than the size of the space that must be filled. The mural will occupy a 7-foot by 10-foot section of the stairway.

The selection process is open to professional artists and students. Professional artists must have completed other public commissions, received awards, grants or fellowships within the last five years, have works that appear in major private, corporate of museum collections and have exhibited art in a museum or gallery.

Student artists are not subject to those requirements.

Applications and all pertinent documents listed on the city’s website are due by February 8. Those applications can be hand delivered to City Hall by 5 p.m. on the deadline. Otherwise, they must be postmarked by the deadline.

Rick Kriseman pledges $1 million for immediate South St. Pete improvements

St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman vowed to find $1 million in the city’s current budget to provide immediate change for poor neighborhoods in South St. Pete. During a speech at the Sunday Best Dinner at the Carter G. Woodson African-American History Museum in Midtown, Kriseman said he has directed city staff to carve out the money in order to implement four key areas of improvement.

“While we have many plans in place that are designed to make long-term generational change, our young men don’t have that time,” Kriseman said during what was probably the most moving speech he’s ever delivered. “We need to make a difference for them today.”

His announcement came as more than 100 residents, elected officials and city leaders watched on from a formal banquet-style setting under the large oaks at the museum. Hoots and hollers erupted from the jewel-clad chairs.

The city hosted Sunday what was the first annual Sunday Best Dinner with an update on improvements being made in South St. Pete communities, particularly those within the newly created Southside Community Redevelopment Area designed to infuse millions of dollars into the community over the next 30 years.

Among the four areas Kriseman plans to focus his latest spending plan are creating opportunities. That includes improving education, skills training and job placement. Kriseman said focus in this area will include increased partnerships with groups and initiatives like the 2020 plan and the Ex-offender Re-entry Coalition.

Kriseman also wants to focus efforts on what he calls a “catalyst for commerce” by increasing job recruitment and business retention. He wants to increase efforts to boost cultural arts and improve neighborhoods.

The city has already reduced the number of boarded up homes on the Southside by nearly half, but Kriseman wants to do more. He said fewer boarded homes means less crime and the city’s crime statistics prove the correlation.

Though Kriseman proposed a series of specific targets for the upcoming year, it was his thoughtful dedication to the poor communities of South St. Pete that attracted the most attention from the audience.

“This is the issue that I care most about,” Kriseman said referring to the shooting that rocked the South St. Pete community at the end of 2015. “Not the Pier or a baseball team. I care about people’s lives — their quality of life, their safety and whether opportunity exists for them.”

Kriseman attributed years of disenfranchisement in the African-American community for much of the problems associated with generational poverty.

“The shootings that shake our community the most ring out from a weapon most more menacing than any gun — disenfranchisement and despair are the determinants that we must change,” Kriseman said. “When we fill the hood with hope and pathways to possibilities, promise will replace problems, determination will replace danger.”

City Council members Darden Rice, Ed Montanari and Lisa Wheeler-Brown as well as about a half-dozen high-level staffers joined Kriseman for the inaugural dinner. Attendees dined on Cajun chicken, ham, rice and green beans prepared and served by students at the Pinellas Technical College – one of Midtown’s best partners for training residents for vocational careers.

Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin who was behind the planning for the event also joined Kriseman. She took to the podium to describe a Mayor who not only had already accomplished much for the black community, but one who would not stop.

She described Kriseman’s inauguration day. It was forecast to be stormy all day. Tomalin and some of the city’s event planners suggested the event be moved inside to avoid bad weather, but Kriseman told Tomalin to “give the possibility of sun a fair shot.”

It was poetic for the new Mayor whose slogan includes references to the sun shining on all in St. Petersburg. For the hour set aside for the inauguration, the sun did indeed shine.

“He is an eternal optimist,” Tomalin said when concluding her analogy.

She explained that his optimism makes him a fearless leader prepared to tackle even the toughest challenges – like those presented in the long-struggling South St. Pete.

Tomalin had some of her own ideas on tackling generational poverty on the Southside.

“We can create high-skill and high-wage jobs, and we have, but what good are they if those who need them don’t meet the qualifications to get and hold them?” Tomalin said. “We can generate scholarships for college, apprenticeships, and training, but if the young people who most need them are not excelling in school or attend a school that excels for them, what’s the point?”

Her point: The city needs to do a better job of preparing students for school, work and life. It’s a commitment Tomalin said was going to remain a priority.

The Rays deal: What does it all mean?

It’s been a little more than a year since the first round of Rick Kriseman administration excitement over a proposed deal with the Tampa Bay Rays. Closing out his first year in office, St. Pete’s mayor managed to emerge from Tropicana Field practically holding hands with Brian Auld, the team’s president, with a deal in hand.

Queue the City Council rejection.

Since then the saga has been a whirlwind of Kriseman’s testy comments to stubborn council members who refused to support his deal and the area’s biggest newspaper, the Tampa Bay Times, ensuring that political life in the ‘Burg lives and dies by the Tampa Bay Rays.

And now here we are again. The Times Editorial Board is probably salivating over the latest Memorandum of Understanding brokered by Kriseman and Auld and probably a slew of attorneys. Kriseman himself is probably doing a jig in his home in anticipation of a victory in what will likely be the defining moment of his term.

Hillsborough County has the team on speed dial waiting to hit send the second City Council approves the latest.

So, what’s so different this time around and why is the outcome likely to go the way of Kriseman?

First of all, he’s got Lisa Wheeler-Brown now. Before he had Wengay Newton. Say what you will about either one of their merits as council people, this issue is the one that sets them apart. Wheeler-Brown is almost certainly a yes vote where Newton would have been a no.

Not much else has changed on the Rays voting dynamic so, with her, Kriseman’s deal is a go.

Obvious aside, there’s also the deal itself. The maximum $24 million payout should the team break its lease is nothing to write home about. And it’s most likely not enough to change the minds of Steve Kornell and Jim Kennedy who have dreams of raking in far more from the team. But it is enough to pass.

First, it’s not less than what was originally agreed on and second, it dangles a carrot for the team’s leadership to stay their Major League Baseball behinds right here in St. Pete.

If they stay, they get half of whatever development proceeds accrue in what would be a mandatory interest-bearing escrow account, plus half. And since the city has to leave the money growing in an untouchable account, it’s potential funding for a stadium above and beyond the bed tax money that’s also likely to be available.

Tampa has no such carrot.

And then there’s also this – it’s just time already. Kornell and Kennedy’s hearts were in the right place when they demanded more from the Rays. They really were just looking out for taxpayers’ interests. And their ideas certainly didn’t deserve the ire drawn by the Tampa Bay Times. Basically, I’ve heard it described like this – never has a landlord tried so hard to let its tenant out of a lease with so little ramification. That’s probably along the lines of what the Kornells and Kennedys of the ‘Burg are thinking.

But, take whether or not baseball stays in St. Pete or even the region out of the equation. Set down your pennant and lucky hat and put down the beer. Whether they stay or go, there is 85 acres (90 if you count the parking lot across the street) of developable land at the city’s fingertips.

Under the Mayor’s MOU, they could start tapping into that vast, and I do mean vast, resource almost immediately and not have to pay the Rays a dime if they decide to leave before their term is up.

Without a deal, the team is entitled to half of the development proceeds if the city starts developing before they’re out. So, under Kornell and Kennedy’s logic, no development until 2027. That may not have seemed such a bad idea when the whole priority was just to keep the Rays in St. Pete, but there’s a much bigger picture now, one year later.

We know Amy Foster, the only council person who could have potentially derailed Kriseman’s victory party, knows that. During a press conference Friday morning, she said she’s comfortable with the new deal. Charlie Gerdes, Karl Nurse and Darden Rice have long been antsy to approve a deal. And Wheeler-Brown makes five. Done, done and done.

What needs to happen in St. Pete now is this – vote on the deal, approve the deal, move on and redevelop that wasteland of a parking lot that is currently hogging up land more valuable than St. Pete has seen in decades.

As Kriseman described this opportunity at Friday’s press conference, it’s “transformative.”

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