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Boley Centers’ Jingle Bell Run this week set to be a glowing affair

The Boley Centers’ 33rd Annual Jingle Bell Run is this Wednesday. This year’s run includes 1,500 luminaries, 15 bands, three glow zones, snow, glow in the dark paint, glow necklaces and neon T-shirts.

The non-profit expects thousands of runners, joggers and walkers as well as their “four-legged trotters.”

The run begins Wednesday at 7:30 at North Shore Pool near downtown St. Pete. Online registration for the run is available through Tuesday. After that participants can still register at the event on Wednesday at one of the group’s registration tents beginning at 5 p.m.

Proceeds from the run help Boley Centers continue support 314 homeless families and help stamp out homelessness.

Before start time, the Tampa Bay Lightning’s mascot, Thunderbug, the Lightning Girls and the Rolling Thunder will meet with participants and onlookers.

St. Pete City Council chair Charlie Gerdes is calling the run from Northshore Pool promptly at 7:30.

Participants who register online can collect their shirts from a preregistration table in the pool’s parking lot the day of the race.

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St. Pete’s Gene Webb slams Rick Kriseman Trump tweet as waste of time

Rick Kriseman’s viral tweet Monday night “banning” Donald Trump from St. Pete for his inflammatory comments toward Muslims has gotten a lot of attention. It’s been shared thousands of times. National media networks have picked up the story.

But one of St. Pete’s local bloggers (whom I quite like, actually) isn’t particularly amused. This reporter’s initial write-up of the tweet Monday night was headlined, “Rick Kriseman unofficially ‘bans’ Donald Trump from St. Pete and it’s exactly as awesome as you’d think.”

Dr. Gene Webb, author of Bay Post Internet called that “the read from the left.” Fair enough Dr. Webb, fair enough. I didn’t make too much of an effort hiding the fact that any claim banning an entire people from the U.S. is an over-the-top and ill-advised “plan.”

But Webb’s problem with Kriseman’s statement has some holes.

“You would think that the Mayor of a City whose administration dumps raw sewage into Tampa Bay and Clam Bayou, can’t seem to get the $40 million Pier Park project name right, has five failing schools in his jurisdiction and a continuing poverty and crime problem on the south side of his City could put his time to a bit better use,” Webb wrote Tuesday.

Indeed, those are very real issues facing the city the Mayor has no doubt devoted tons of time to. But seriously, how long do you think it takes to type out a tweet that is less than 160 characters? Even if Kriseman is president of the hunt and peck typing club, it’d still only take him less than a minute.

Then there’s Webb’s worry that Kriseman’s tweet may be causing those of “a more conservative bent” plan vacations elsewhere.

“Sarasota is nice this time of year,” Webb wrote. Of course, Trump was welcomed readily there.

Again, there’s a problem with this logic. A quick glance at Twitter’s response to Kriseman’s satirical tweet shows loads of people are actually saying quite the opposite. Take a gander at the Tampa Bay Times analysis of responses highlighting several folks from all over the country claiming they are now marking St. Pete as a must-see destination and even some others going so far as to claim they may move to the Sunshine City permanently.

Will some Trump supporters be put off and steer clear of St. Pete in favor of Sarasota or Naples? Probably, but they’ll likely be joined by a vacationing Glenn Beck and, as Kriseman has already insinuated, he’s totally cool with that.

Webb concludes “now is time for leadership from public official’s (sic) not late night cute tweets. Grow up Rick … you have a serious job to do.”

Again, fair enough. But Dr. Webb, consider the publicity Kriseman’s “late night, cute tweets” are getting for the city. It’s been retweeted 15,000 times. Another 17,000 people have “liked” it.

Minnie Driver, the famous actor, retweeted it saying, “I love you Mr. Mayor.”

There’s even a thanks from Scotland.

Somehow I think Kriseman’s tweet made a lot more people happy than it did angry and he probably only wasted about 30-seconds and zero dollars to make that happen.

And as for the take from the left bit — I remind you that Trump’s own party has condemned his bombastic and out-of-touch statements.

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City Council members react to Rick Kriseman’s Donald Trump “ban”

Mayor Rick Kriseman’s Tweet Monday night “banning” Donald Trump from St. Pete has drawn national attention. It’s been reported on by local news outlets all over the state and country and even CNN.

And the Tweet has been “liked” and shared thousands of times.

The Tampa Bay Times documented reaction to Kriseman’s anti-Trump Tweet as the city’s latest tourism draw quoting several comments from out-of-towners that St. Pete is now on their list of vacation destinations.

Some even commented they’d consider a permanent move.

And some St. Pete City Council members are quite proud of their Mayor too.

“Make no mistake; Trump’s statement against Muslims was morally reprehensible. Both sides called candidate Trump out and rightly so,” said City Council member Darden Rice. “Rep. Jolly called for Donald Trump to exit the race. Mayor Kriseman used satire. Humor can be a great way to get a point across, so good for the Mayor to use it effectively and for noble reasons.”

Kriseman’s viral Tweet was intended to combat “ridiculousness with ridiculousnees.” It was in response to a press release from Trump’s campaign asserting all Muslims should be banned from entering the U.S.

The Mayor’s spokesperson, Ben Kirby, called the comment “hateful and xenophobic.”

While the Mayor can’t actually ban Trump from coming to St. Pete, his tongue-in-cheek Tweet stands as a referendum on Trump’s continually bombastic and inflammatory tone on Muslims. Previously, the Republican presidential hopeful suggested that a Muslim database and special IDs for Muslims might be a good idea.

St. Pete City Council member Steve Kornell said he doesn’t believe in banning anyone, but recognized Kriseman’s statement as one of comedic commentary.

“The opinions [Trump has] expressed don’t belong on the front page of the Tampa Bay Times, they belong in a reality show,” Kornell said. “That’s completely un-American.”

Kornell said Trump has every right to travel to St. Pete, but he also has every right to disagree with the presidential candidate.

City Council chair Charlie Gerdes laughed about Kriseman’s Tweet. He said he didn’t even know about it until Tuesday morning when a neighbor commented that it was “crazy.”

Another attorney from Fort Lauderdale told Gerdes on the phone that the Mayor’s Tweet was “great.”

“It’s gotten around,” Gerdes said. “If you understand the U.S. constitution than you thought it was funny.”

Gerdes added, it’s those who don’t understand the constitution who may have taken offense to Kriseman’s tone.

Karl Nurse hinted that maybe the Mayor either shouldn’t have made the comment or, at least, expected some backlash, writing that he “learned long ago that I can only tell jokes that are at my expense.  Otherwise, it has been a problem.”

However, he condemned Trump’s statement saying they “represent the dark side of America”

“It is in the vane of ‘No Irish Need Apply’ or the signs from the days of segregation ‘No Colored…’ or when America interned Japanese-Americans in the 2nd World War,” Nurse wrote in a statement. “This kind of bigotry plays into the hands of ISIS.”

City Council co-chair Amy Foster did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the Tweet, but posted something pretty relevant to the conversation on her Facebook page Tuesday morning.

“We have a saying in our household that all decisions are based on love or fear. For us, we choose love every time- even when it’s difficult. Today I ask my friends and neighbors to simply remember the golden rule,” Foster wrote.

It’s unclear whether or not she was referencing Trump’s comments about Muslims, but her request to friends and neighbors could certainly apply to that and a number of other incidents occurring lately.

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Nancy Bostock not amused by Rick Kriseman’s “ban Trump” tweet

Nancy Bostock is not a fan of Rick Kriseman‘s Twitter feed.

After more than 2,000 people shared and liked the St. Pete Mayor’s tweet Monday night joking that Donald Trump should be banned from St. Petersburg based on his hateful anti-Muslim rhetoric, Bostock, a former Pinellas County School Board member and former county commissioner, took to Facebook to condemn the Mayor’s statement.

“It isn’t the poorly conceived humor directed at Trump that scares me … Trump asks for it … and frankly probably enjoys it,” Bostock wrote. “It’s the intolerance of divergent opinions in the name of ‘tolerance’ that scares me. Orwellian double-think at its best. I mean its worst.”

“Trump has the right to his opinion and we have the right to disagree – and even to make bad jokes about it,” Bostock continued. “But when an elected Mayor states that the city he represents isn’t a place for ‘those kinds of positions,’ (and by implication the people who hold them,) I fear the coming of ‘our new happy life.’”

Bostock explained further in a phone interview that her dissent of Kriseman’s tweet had nothing to do with Trump’s statement suggesting all Muslims be banned from entering the U.S., but rather a larger issue.

Several commenters posted in response to Bostock’s statement that Trump’s latest was particularly hate-filled and dangerous. She agreed that the assertion was “over-the-top,” but to imply a person is not welcome in a particular city because their views contradict that of a Mayor is particularly dangerous.

“Who gets to decide what those positions are?” Bostock said. “There are all different shades of positions.”

Kriseman, though, tweeted and was later quoted explaining that he was “answering ridiculousness with ridiculousness.”

“The Mayor’s tweet was sarcastic,” spokesman Ben Kirby said. “But it was an answer to Trump’s comments, which we should take seriously. Those comments were hateful and xenophobic.”

“St. Pete is a city of opportunity for all and that means everyone,” Kirby said. “That’s not just a St. Pete value, that’s an American value.”

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Rick Kriseman unofficially “bans” Donald Trump from St. Pete and it’s exactly as awesome as you’d think

In response to another bombastic comment coming from presidential hopeful Donald Trump, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman is barring him from entering his city.

“I am hereby barring Donald Trump from entering St. Petersburg until we fully understand the dangerous threat posed by all Trumps,” Kriseman tweeted Monday night.

Asked whether his tweet was sarcasm, Kriseman responded that he was answering ridiculousness with ridiculousness.

Kriseman’s witty evening tweet came after Trump’s campaign issued a news release announcing that the U.S. should ban any Muslims from entering the United States.

While Trump supporters stood by The Donald’s latest gaffe, the assertion has left many others again dumbstruck by Trump’s consistently badgering rhetoric. The latest extreme assertion followed others that Mosques should be under surveillance and Muslims should have to register in a database.

And then, of course, there’s that wall he wants to build between the U.S. and Mexico.

Kriseman has long been a voice for progressive policies. He’s rallied behind Planned Parenthood amid conservative criticism that the women’s health care provider was selling fetal remains.

He was and is a staunch defender of Obamacare. Kriseman has raised the minimum wage for city workers, implemented paid paternity leave and served as the first Mayor to be Grand Marshal of the annual Pride Parade.

His comments come as little surprise and, in a city that leans left, go a long way to boost is popularity.

Already Kriseman’s tweet has been “liked” 2,255 times as of 9:20 p.m. Monday and retweeted another 2,015.

And the comments have been overwhelmingly positive.

“The US need more politicians like you. Congrats!”

“We need a rigorous screening process with 100 percent accuracy and a 20 ft high Trump-proof fence around all of St. Petersburg.”

“Just decided I love this mayor!”

“Thank you Mr. Kriseman for standing up to that bully Donald Trump.”

But of course Kriseman’s tweets did reach some Trump supporters. One user wrote that Kriseman had overstepped his boundaries. When thrown to the wolves by more logical Twitter users, @SandraSnaidauf responded with a simply dimwitted statement.

“Please don’t tell me you support banning for any candidate No Mayor etc. has the right to ban How can u support that,” Sandra wrote, mistakes and all.

Just to be clear, even if Kriseman’s sarcasm wasn’t apparent to Miss I love The Donald Sandra, it’s also not actually possible for him to ban Trump from coming to the city. That’s not actually a thing.

It does not appear, so far, that Kriseman has elicited a response from Trump.

This isn’t the first time Kriseman as taken to Twitter to lament conservative extremism. Earlier this year when Glenn Beck placed St. Pete on his list of Godless cities, Kriseman took it as an honor.

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St. Pete to host final public workshop on downtown parking

St. Pete residents fed up with downtown parking will get a chance to weigh in on the issue this Wednesday at a public workshop at the Museum of Fine Arts on Beach Drive. The meeting unveiling the city’s draft parking study begins at 6:15 p.m. and is expected to run until 8:00.

The study introduces preliminary results looking at existing and future parking conditions throughout downtown. Officials will give members of the community an opportunity to ask questions and provide feedback on the study.

The study looked at both existing parking spaces available and demand in areas of downtown between Fifth Avenues North and South from Tampa Bay West to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street. It also included the Edge District near Tropicana Field.

Two public meetings were previously held in July as well as a series of online opinion surveys over the summer.

The city hopes the study will lead to a plan to meet current and future parking needs. The study is expected to identify possible alternatives to common issues like parking regulation modifications, additional parking and managing existing resources.

Those planning to attend the final public meeting on the issue can park for free in the Sundial Parking Garage on Second Street North across from the Sundial shopping plaza. People choosing to park in the garage need to bring their parking stub to the meeting to get it validated.

The city is already taking steps to combat parking issues in downtown. Last month the city launched the weekend “Park Once” program that allows visitors to park in a parking garage and then take a free shuttle to their destinations.

The Kriseman administration is also pushing to implement a bike share program he hopes would encourage people to either ditch their cars while visiting downtown or park remotely and get around on a bike.

And Monday the Florida Department of Transportation announced a $500,000 grant to implement Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit. The project is expected to take about two years. Once it’s implemented visitors from the beach can quickly and efficiently travel from the Gulf to the Bay on public transit in about 30-40 minutes. Today that same trip takes an hour and a half.

Mayor Rick Kriseman attended a news conference announcing the grant and celebrated the move as a way to make downtown a more walkable community.

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Central Avenue BRT will serve as St. Pete’s premium transit

Downtown St. Petersburg will be connected to Pinellas County  beaches via First Avenues North and South with a Bus Rapid Transit line using a $500,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, according to the state agency.

During a sunny news conference in front of one of Central Avenue’s many wall murals, FDOT Secretary Paul Steinman called the Central Avenue BRT route “premium transit” necessary to create a “fully integrated transportation system.”

The new route piggybacks on the existing Central Avenue Beach Trolley that goes from downtown St. Pete to Pass-a-grille via Central Avenue.

A funding proposal was denied last year at the state level because the two routes seemed redundant. However, the new route offers service to people looking to traverse the entire route.

According to PSTA CEO Brad Miller, the existing beach trolley takes about 90-minutes to ride the entire route. He said it’s one of the agency’s more popular routes, but people traveling only short distances along the line typically use it. The new route would better serve visitors looking to take a trip from their waterfront beach resort to downtown or for residents downtown to commute to work at the beach.

Miller said the goal is to create a route that would take 30-40 minutes to traverse in its entirety, less than half the current service level.

The quicker routes are made possible by traffic prioritization. First Avenues North and South are already timed so motorists don’t hit traffic lights so long as they’re going about the speed limit. The route would also have less frequent stops.

Not much build-out is necessary for the project. Miller likened it to Tampa’s Metro Rapid. That route runs along the popular transit corridors along Nebraska and Hillsborough Avenues. The Hillsborough Area Regional Transit agency built some new bus stops with new signing, but not much else.

While funding efforts for the BRT line failed last year, the agency is still making it a top priority this legislative session asking again for $1 million to help with costs. But even without that funding, the project is moving forward.

State Sen. Jeff Brandes was on hand to support the project. Though he didn’t mention funding at the state level, he did tout the project as a key to economic development in one of the county’s major transit corridors.

Officials are making the case that funding is a wise use of state money through various other means as well. St. Petersburg City Council member and PSTA board member Darden Rice explained there are 25,000 jobs within a half-mile radius of the planned route and about 50,000 residents in the same area.

“It’s about helping people move around,” Rice said. “It’s about helping people get to jobs.”

There’s also tourism to consider. Visit St. Pete Clearwater Executive Director David Downing said the area welcomes 15 million visitors each year. That represents a huge revenue stream often fought over by various interests.

Of those yearly visitors, Downing said 25 percent are international travelers. There’s also a growing demographic of millennial visitors flooding the area.

“Both of those groups of people expect high quality, low cost transportation,” Downing said.

While the project is St. Pete-centric, the agency is looking at it as a way to boost transit perceptions countywide.

Just a little over a year ago PSTA sustained a debilitating loss when the Greenlight Pinellas transit initiative that would have provided an influx of funding through a 1 cent sales tax increase failed at the ballot box.

“Maybe we had the wrong mechanism,” St. Pete Chamber of Commerce CEO Chris Steinocher said. “But we all had the same vision.”

The chamber was a strong supporter of the Greenlight initiative. Steinocher joked that he still can’t bring himself to wear a green tie as a result of the loss. But the agency is trying to take what was a huge setback and turn it into a learning experience.

“We didn’t have examples of great transportation in our community,” Clearwater City Council member Bill Jonson said.

He pointed out that it seemed odd he traveled to St. Pete to celebrate a project that wouldn’t seemingly benefit his community. But as a PSTA board member he sees it as a way to demonstrate the value of transportation. The underlying hint in his remarks was, if there’s another referendum in the future, examples like Central Avenue BRT may go a long way in boosting public perception.

Regardless, the route will take about two years to implement. PSTA expects to front about $500,000 a year to operate and maintain the route. Miller said he expects to find efficiencies in other routes to pay for the added expense.

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Rick Kriseman’s Frank Sinatra covers serves as Happy Birthday to The Voice

Saturday is Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday. It may have been a few days early, but in honor of Ol’ Blue Eyes, St. Pete Mayor Rick Kriseman posted a special kind of happy birthday on his political Facebook page.

Last November, at the 10th anniversary celebration of the Studio @620 at the coliseum, Kriseman sang his own rendition of one of Sinatra’s hits – “My Kind of Town.”

In Sinatra’s original, the town, of course, is Chicago. But in Kriseman’s version it’s St. Pete. And he throws in some special places including the Coliseum and Studio @620.

Now, those who follow along with St. Pete politics and any who are otherwise in St. Pete’s socialite class, probably know our Mayor has got some pipes, but a lot of people don’t.

“Who knew? Great music talent, Rick,” wrote Judi LaRue.

In a recent performance for Studio @620, Kriseman prerecorded several lines in a radio theater skit. The script called for Kriseman to sing a Fleetwood Mac ditty. He wouldn’t do it.

But this post is a reminder that not only can Kriseman sing, he can sing well, and he’s not afraid to put some pizazz into it. At one point in the year-old performance, someone places a very Sinatra-esque hat atop the Mayor’s head and he doesn’t take it off.

“OK, we win. Best. Mayor. Ever,” wrote Sean Nordquist.

The sentiment was followed up by several others including Bonnie Agan who wrote Kriseman was “first class all the way.”

So, what’s the point? As the year winds down Kriseman has a lot to look back on and worry about. There are failed Rays deals, shaky curbside recycling rollout, controversial Pier proposals and raw sewage dumps. But Kriseman’s little Sinatra ditty is a reminder that Mayors are people too and sometimes they’re pretty neat.

Kudos, Kriseman. When shall we expect your next performance?

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St. Pete recognized for quality fluoridated water for 2nd year in a row

St. Petersburg received the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention award for Water Fluoridation and Quality for the second year in a row this year. Dr. Johnny Johnson, a local dentist and representative for oral health, awarded water resources director Steven Leavitt Florida and the Florida Department of Health.

St. Pete is the only municipality to receive the award in Pinellas County for both 2013 and 2014.

Fluoridating drinking water supplies is effective in promoting good oral health when done so at certain levels. The annual award recognizes communities for maintaining a consistent level of fluoridated water during an entire calendar year.

St. Pete is able to continually maintain those safe levels by operating and maintaining a water treatment facility in Cosme. At that facility water is aerated, softened, disinfected and fluoridated.

The facility can treat up to 68 million gallons of water each day  that is then transported about 25 miles through water mains into St. Pete for consumption by residents. Residents use an estimated 28 million gallons of potable water per day.

The news comes as controversy over the city’s storm and wastewater system continues to swirl. This summer the city was forced to dump 31 million gallons of untreated and partially treated wastewater after an extraordinary rain event in August.

The issue drew attention to problems with the city’s aging infrastructure and has stirred conversations about how to begin taking immediate steps to shore up the problems.

While fluoridation was the topic of much concern earlier this decade, the practice is widely considered healthy for consumers. City officials have long stood by the practice, saying they would not bow to pressure from a minority to remove fluoride from the drinking supply.

The city has had in place its own water treatment system since it purchased the Pinellas Water Co. and adjacent deep-water wells in 1940. That company originally operated the facility now run by the city.

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FDOT to kick in $500,000 for Central Avenue BRT

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is getting a major boost for one of its most targeted projects. On Monday, state Sen. Jeff Brandes and Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Paul Steinman will announce a $500,000 grant to help fund the Central Avenue Bus Rapid Transit project in St. Petersburg.

The grant will help pay for final design of the route connecting downtown and the beaches. The route is intended to complement the existing Central Avenue Beach Trolley. The existing route is great for short trips along the route, but traversing it from one end to the other takes too long.

The new route would run along First Avenues North and South where lights are timed and limit the commute for those traveling between downtown and the beaches.

According to PSTA, Central Avenue is the busiest transit corridor in the entire Tampa Bay region and has been the study of several transit studies.

PSTA is still hoping for additional funding from the Legislature. A $1 million funding proposal last year was not included in the budget. Legislators argued it was not needed because St. Pete already had the Central Avenue Beach Trolley. The FDOT grant will allow PSTA to begin project development regardless of legislature funding.

However, funding for Central Avenue BRT is still PSTA’s No. 1 priority and officials plan to lobby hard for it. The project also enjoys strong support from St. Pete leaders who view the project as a good way to increase attendance at Rays baseball games.

The team is struggling with consistently low attendance ratings and has been itching for years to get out of its contract to play at Tropicana Field. It’s widely believed that improved transit would create a strong case for keeping baseball in downtown St. Pete.

The news conference announcing the funding is to be at 2130 Central Ave. on the Southeast corner of Central Avenue and 22 Street at 1 p.m. Monday.

Other speakers include Visit St. Pete Clearwater executive director David Downing, members of St. Pete City Council and officials from PSTA.

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