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Five months after buying Tampa Trib, Tampa Bay Times announces more layoffs

Five months after purchasing rival Tampa Tribune, the Tampa Bay Times will be eliminating more jobs in the upcoming budget year, in an effort to bring the newspaper to the same staffing levels as 2015.

Benjamin Mullen of Poynter.org reports that Paul Tash, Times Publishing Company chair and CEO, announced the cutbacks in a memo to employees Monday.

“Payroll is our biggest single expense, and in 2017 we will return to the same overall levels we had in 2015 — before we bought the Tribune (without the Tribune purchase, the cuts would have gone much deeper),” Tash said in the memo. “Managers will build their payroll budgets for the next year based on what their departments spent last year. And managers will fill those jobs with staffers who best help the company meet its goals, including staff we hired this year from the Tribune and elsewhere.”

Much of the budget constraints can be traced back to the Tribune purchase — which ended a decades-old rivalry over advertisers and readers in the Tampa Bay region.

“In the last months of its life,” Tash writes, “the Tribune’s advertising revenues were unraveling faster than we understood. So, our ad revenues are up substantially since we bought the Tribune but not as much as we anticipated. Second, the advertising climate remains challenging for all newspapers, in part because of the turmoil in retailing.

“The recent closing of Sports Authority is one example.”

Tash concludes by saying the work “will not be easy, but our company will be stronger for it,” adding that the Times will survive to serve Tampa Bay.

“That remains good news for the region, and for us,” he said.

Mitch Perry Report for 10.3.16 – The Tampa Bay Rays long, bad 2016 comes to an end

We’ve had Brexit and Donald Trump; now we have the nation of Colombia rejecting a landmark peace agreement between the government and the former rebel group FARC — a deal that took over four years to negotiate and would have formally ended five decades of war.

Who can predict anything with accuracy these days?

Closer to home, for the second straight Sunday night, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had their game extended more than an hour over lightning strikes.

Coincidentally, it was their second straight 4:05 p.m. game.

Maybe the NFL should start scheduling late September/early October games at the regular 1:05 p.m. kickoff, which might preclude such delays in the future?

The Major League Baseball regular season has ended, and not a day too soon for the Tampa Bay Rays, whose 68-94 record ties them with San Diego and Cincinnati as the second-worst team in the game.

And attendance-wise? Their average home attendance of 15,878 was again the worst in the game, nearly 3,000 fewer fans than in Oakland.

“The losing stings. It burns,” Rays baseball operations manager Matt Silverman was quoted as saying in Sunday’s Tampa Bay Times.

Meanwhile, Rays’ former manager and South Tampa restaurateur Joe Maddon’s Chicago Cubs begin the postseason later this week as the prohibitive favorite to win it all for the first time in more than a century. I get that it will be “America’s story,” but, sorry kids, I ain’t a Cubbies fan. Will the Cubs suffer the same fate of the Golden State Warriors, who set an all-time NBA record for most regular season wins, yet failed to win it all at the end?

There’s big-time pressure on the Cubs to come through this fall.

They could be facing my San Francisco Giants, who will play a one-off against the New York Mets this Wednesday night, with the winner facing the Cubs, starting on Friday. And maybe this is the year the L.A. Dodgers and Clayton Kershaw and their expensive payroll find a way not to choke and go to the Series?

In other news …

In Ybor City on Sunday, Patrick Murphy labeled Marco Rubio a “puppet of the Koch Brothers,” among other unpleasantries expressed about his GOP Senate opponent.

Jeff Zampitella labels Sandy Murman’s transportation proposal ‘a gimmick’

(UPDATED) The Democrat trying to oust Sandy Murman from the Hillsborough County Commission says she was disingenuous when she offered an alternative to a proposed transportation tax last fall.

“I think Sandy Murman’s plan was a gimmick to get in the headlines,” Jeff Zampitella said Tuesday night at his campaign kick-off event at Anise Global Gastrobar in downtown Tampa.

Ken Hagan‘s words — it was irresponsible because it jeopardized our credit rating, our reserves, and our essential services. So that being said, I think it was a gimmick, that’s what the Tampa Bay Times said, and that’s what I say.”

Murman disagreed, telling SPB later on Wednesday that,”The transportation plan we put forward and passed dedicated $600 million from within our budget for back logged transportation projects over the next 10 years without raising taxes.   That’s funding for transportation projects we could begin immediately.   There are no gimmicks
to finding common-sense solutions to our communities’ problems, which I have been doing my entire career.  At the same time we have started to create the robust transit plan that our community needs and wants for the future. Over the next 18 months after people see the value of transit projects, we can present a comprehensive mobility plan with a long-term funding source to the public for their input and approval.  I listen to my constituents and our community wants a proven leader who will put forward plans to solve the challenges we face.   I will always fight hard for my constituents to produce the right solutions that will create jobs and keep our county vibrant for the future.”

The 47-year-old Zampitella is a commercial airline pilot and downtown Tampa activist attempting to take on Murman, who has been elected by Hillsborough County voters six previous times over the past two decades in her previous runs for the Florida House and county commission. In order to defeat his much better-known and better-financed opponent, he needs to show clear differences with her. He puts transportation at the top of his agenda.

Murmun’s introduction of an alternative plan to the Go Hillsborough proposed transportation tax was initially met with disdain by her colleagues on the board and the Policy Leadership Group last fall, who had worked for a couple of years building up toward putting a the sales tax referendum for transportation on this November’s ballot. In lieu of a sales tax, Murman proposed a plan that would use funds from a gas tax, mobility fees, a trust fund for transportation based on new growth, money from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil settlement, and reserves. It was not an immediate hit with some of her colleagues.

“Any plan that uses reserves, and one-time funding to solve long-time needs is irresponsible and risks adverse credit rating consequence for the county,” responded County Administrator Mike Merrill.

“We have voted to move the half-cent sales tax forward and you’re still proposing that you bring your plan forward?” added Commissioner Les Miller. “You’re digging a deep, deep hole that future county commissioners would have a real problem trying to fund,” he said.

Although commissioners ultimately didn’t approve Murman’s original plan, they came close. After twice rejecting putting the Go Hillsborough measure on the ballot, they approved Commissioner Al Higginbotham’s plan last month, which would dedicate $600 million over the next decade toward transportation, beginning with $35 million in 2017 and increasing the amount by $5 million each following year. Murman took credit for its approval last week.

“If it hadn’t been for me bringing my new plan forward, we would not have $600 million in transportation approved a couple of weeks ago,” the Davis Islands Republican said last Friday.

Zampitella calls the Higginbotham plan a gimmick as well, and accuses Murman of a lack of leadership on the issue.

“The week after Sandy Murman agreed to mobility fees, she started walking that back,” he said. “I would actually strengthen those. I would further encourage urban infill. I would encourage a true transportation plan. She had three-and-a-half years to be a leader on Go Hillsborough, she could have inserted herself in the process and have been the champion of Go Hillsborough.”

Murman tells SPB that the BOCC “imposed mobility fees at a level that will  help pay for infrastructure costs for projects and at the same time keep us competitive in the marketplace to attract new homeowners and create jobs.  Our commission board has started work on a master plan to modernize our land use policies to target sprawl and build densities in areas where we want growth to occur and where county services already exist or can be connected.   With over 500,000 new residents expected by year 2040 it is imperative now to get us on the right track with our growth policies.”

Having lived in Spring Hill from 1991-2003, he calls himself a “reformed suburbanite.” He moved to Tampa’s Hyde Park in 2004, and downtown Tampa in 2009. He says he’s running on a smart growth platform. He says he wants to reverse the growth patterns that have occurred in Hillsborough County over the past three decades. He wants mobility fees, transit corridors, and to encourage urban infill. “That means giving tax incentives and incentivizing people to build within the urban service core,” he says.

Zampitella was the former chair of the Downtown Tampa Parking Task Force, a treasurer with Walk Bike Tampa, and the president of SkyPoint Condominiums since 2012. He’s also been an active critic of the Florida Department of Transportation’s Tampa Bay Express toll lane project that has roiled the Seminole Heights and Tampa Heights communities.

District One encompasses not just parts of downtown and South Tampa where the two candidates live, but also stretches out to Ruskin, Apollo Beach, and Gibsonton; and out to the northwest, including Town N’ Country, Westchase, and Keystone.

“I was in Keystone the other night and it was an eye-opening experience,” he says. “Everything that we love about downtown, they are exactly the opposite. But I totally got it. They want low density. …They want to preserve their way, pristine way of living, and I get that and that’s all about not promoting sprawl. They want that for themselves, so that’s great, so that feeds into building the urban core.”

 

 

Gwen Graham wants to know why the DEP didn’t tell the public about Mosaic’s toxic sinkhole

Tallahassee U.S. Representative and potential gubernatorial candidate Gwen Graham is blasting the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection, claiming it failed local citizens by failing to alert them of the massive leak of contaminated water that occurred through a sinkhole at Mosaic’s New Wales Facility in Polk County last month. 

The company did immediately inform the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection and other agencies, but many members of the local community said they had no idea about it until they saw media reports about it last weekend.

The DEP issued its own press release on Tuesday, where they claimed that the Tampa Bay Times had failed to report that they had notified the nearest adjacent homeowners who may want their drinking water wells tested.

“This information was provided in writing to the Times, but the paper chose to omit this fact and mislead their readers,” the statement read.

In a letter sent to Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Jonathan Stevenson on Wednesday, Graham is criticizing the agency for failing to alert surrounding communities of a toxic sinkhole, and calling on the DEP to use all means available to protect Florida families and the environment from a potential health crisis.

“I was extremely disappointed to learn the Department of Environmental Protection had known about this toxic sinkhole for almost a month before taking measures to alert the public. The DEP should warn Florida families of potential contamination before they’re drinking toxic water, not after it’s been contaminated,”  Graham said. “Their excuse for inaction – that they weren’t legally required to do so – is appalling. It’s an excuse we should expect from a special interest group – not from a group whose only interest should be protecting Florida’s environment and citizens.”

“This failure is just the latest example in an alarming pattern of the state placing polluting special interests ahead of the environment and communities they’re charged with protecting,” Graham added. “I hope they will quickly change course and use all resources available to remedy this immediate threat, and in the future work with greater transparency and respect for the public.”

Governor Scott weighed in later on the issue on Wednesday. Spokesperson Jackie Schutz said that Scott has directed the DEP to expedite their investigation “which began almost a month ago.”

“This includes directing DEP to expedite all water quality tests to ensure safe drinking water for residents,” Schutz said in a statement. “Governor Scott has also directed the Department of Health to partner with DEP in their investigation to ensure all drinking water in the area is safe.  We know Mosaic has taken responsibility, but our job is to ensure 100 percent safe drinking water in Florida and to protect our pristine environment.  We will continue to expedite this process until all questions are answered.  We encourage lawmakers and others to make decisions on this issue based on facts and not on their own political interests.”

In a statement issued on Tuesday, DEP Secretary Jon Stevenson said that his agency is “absolutely committed to the safety of all Floridians and our shared environment, which is why we have worked closely with Mosaic since learning of this issue to ensure that proper actions are taken”

“In an abundance of caution, and above and beyond the requirements of law, DEP is working with Mosaic and through the company’s ongoing efforts to ensure families in the community who want testing for their drinking water wells are offered that service,” he said. “While there continues to be no evidence of offsite movement or threat to offsite groundwater supplies, DEP will continue to ensure Mosaic’s efforts properly resolve this issue. Once the issues surrounding this sinkhole are resolved, DEP will finalize its ongoing investigation to determine any necessary accountability measures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Here is Graham’s letter in full:

Dear Secretary Steverson:

I was troubled to learn that the public was not immediately notified about possible groundwater contamination from more than 200 million gallons of industrial waste leaked into a sinkhole at a Mosaic phosphate plant in Polk County. Given the potential consequences, I urge you to conduct a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the leak and to ensure the site is fully remediated to prevent long term environmental and public health risks.

Media has reported that the leak was discovered by plant personnel and reported to county, state and federal officials nearly a month ago. Yet, most of the general public did not become aware of the potential problem until it was reported by the press last Friday, September 16. Your office claims to have followed notification requirements prescribed by current law, but I believe the Department of Environmental Protection has a greater responsibility to the public. When public health is at risk, the state has a duty to notify nearby residents as soon as possible and before their wells are polluted so they can take appropriate action.

I urge you to exercise your full ability to investigate the causes of and response to the leak by public and private stakeholders. If this was purely an unforeseen natural event, we may still be able to take action to prevent future incidents. If this leak was inadvertently man-made, we need to know that so we can keep it from happening again. If there was mismanagement either before or after the fact, we need to hold the responsible parties accountable. Only a thorough and timely investigation can answer these questions.

Most importantly, we need to do everything we can to clean up the damage that has been done. The substances reported to have leaked from the site are potentially harmful to people and the environment. Given the enormous size of the leak, I expect this remediation to be a substantial undertaking, but it is essential. As we have learned from the contamination of Florida springs and pollution in the Everglades, the hydrology of Florida is uniquely connected. All Floridians are heavily invested in this clean up. Please use your authority to make sure it is done thoroughly and completely.

Thank you for your attention to this matter. Please let me know if I can be of any assistance to you.

Sincerely,

Gwen Graham

HART board member Kathleen Shanahan latest to call for abolishing PTC

The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission’s vote last week to approve new rules that could compel ridesharing companies Uber and Lyft to leave the area has given new life to those who believe the agency should be abolished.

The latest entrant in that camp is HART board member Kathleen Shanahan, who, in a letter published in Monday’s Tampa Bay Times, invokes the U.S. Constitution in arguing why the PTC should not be imposing any rules on the transportation network companies.

“The rationale behind the interstate commerce clause in the U.S. Constitution is to promote fluid commerce between states for those doing business in multiple states,” Shanahan writes. “For the exact same reason, ridesharing companies doing business in multiple Florida counties should be subject to statewide standards, not inconsistent county-by-county rules that potentially impede regional commerce.”

In a letter calling on the PTC to resist passing the regulations (which include Level II background checks which include fingerprinting drivers) last week, Tampa Republican state Representative Dana Young said that the agency should hold off and wait for the state Legislature to address the issue in the 2017 session. A year ago the PTC essential made that decision – they opted not to pass new rules, and also said they would no longer issue citations to Uber and Lyft drivers – until the Legislature dealt with the issue in the 2016 session.

That never happened, however, as talks broke down in committee with bills sponsored by Fort Walton Beach Republican Matt Gaetz in the House and Altamonte Springs’ Dave Simmons in the Senate.

Shanahan was named by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn to serve as the City of Tampa representative on the HART board in October of 2014. A former chief of staff to both former Florida Governor Jeb Bush and former Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, Shanahan has definitely made her presence felt at HART meetings, particularly in making sure that the agency has fostered good relationships with lawmakers in Tallahassee and Washington D.C. to secure federal and state money for the transit agency.

Shanahan’s call for the PTC to be abolished echoes similar comments made over the years by Buckhorn, as well as Tampa Bay area state Republicans like Senator Jeff Brandes and Jamie Grant.Those two lawmakers have been unsuccessful in recent years in trying to get legislation passed to kill the agency.

“This is a perfect example of government run amok,” Brandes wrote in August of 2015 on his Facebook page after the agency resumed citing Uber and Lyft drivers. “Enough is enough. I’m drafting sweeping legislation to reform the PTC. It’s time our leaders stood up on behalf of our residents, tourists, and businesses to make sure Tampa Bay has the most robust network of transportation options available.”

The PTC is the only agency of its type in Florida. It was created by the state Legislature in 1976 as a Special Act, which means that the Legislature has the power to end it.

Tampa Bay Times front page

Tampa Bay Times tweaks paywall temporarily

No, the Tampa Bay Times hasn’t dropped its paywall.

A couple of FloridaPolitics.com readers on Wednesday mused whether the St. Petersburg-based newspaper, Florida’s largest by circulation, had done so, judging by a “seeming plethora of free content.”

But a Times spokeswoman says the paywall has been temporarily loosened but not lifted.

As a refresher, a paywall “prevents Internet users from accessing webpage content (most notably news content and scholarly publications) without a paid subscription,” according to Mashable, the tech news and digital culture website.

The Times and other newspapers use what’s known as a “soft” paywall. They allow “more flexibility in what users can view without subscribing, such as … a limited number of articles per month.”

The Times instituted its paywall in 2013, leaving viewing of PolitiFact and Things to Do content, as well as ad sections, totally free.

Times Publishing spokeswoman Sherri Day said Wednesday the paper’s “pay meter and digital subscription program for tampabay.com is still active.”

“We have temporarily increased the threshold of pages allowed to non-subscribers in order to provide ample transition time for all of our new total access subscribers joining us from the Tampa Tribune to register and set up their logins and passwords,” she said in an email.

In May, the Times bought the 123-year-old Tribune, its longtime cross-Bay competitor, and closed it.

“We expect to have that customer outreach effort and transition completed some time this fall,” Day added. “At that point, we will restore the meter to its previous level of 15 page views (per month) for non-subscribers.” She didn’t say where it is currently set.

Andrew Warren campaign now bringing up Mark Ober quote from 2004 regarding underage rape case

Andrew Warren, the Democrat who is challenging GOP incumbent Mark Ober in the Hillsborough County State Attorney’s race, is now claiming that Ober’s recent statement at a Tampa Tiger Bay Club about an ongoing sexual assault case isn’t the first time that he has made provocative comments on this topic.

In a statement issued out on Monday morning, Warren referred to a 2003 incident in which three Plant High school athletes and a former student had sex with a 14-year-old Plant High girl. Ultimately, the four boys pled no contest to felony battery, a charge that came with no sexual connotation. According to a report by the Tampa Bay Times in 2004, Ober said that the reason he didn’t purse stronger charges was that the victim had a “fragile psyche” and would have been victimized a second time if she had to go through a trial. The story also reported that Ober had said that “the four accused did not go unpunished, noting that one of the accused, a star baseball player who graduated in May, lost a college scholarship.”

That story also included an excerpt from a letter the victim wrote to the judge in the case, in which she wrote, “They RAPED me. I did not have sex with them.”

The incident was an issue in Ober’s first run at re-election for office in 2004, with his challenger that year, Robin Fuson, implying that suspects who hire high-profile attorneys get preferential treatment from Ober’s office, according to that Times report.

Ober responded late Monday afternoon, saying in a statement that “the case was handled appropriately, and to the satisfaction of the victim’s family.”

He went on to say that the terms of the plea were reached after “extensive consultation” with the victim’s family, adding that if the case had gone to trial, the victim would have had to testify, “and that clearly would not have been in her best interests.” And he alluded to a Times story that quoted the attorney for the young girl’s family, Steve Crawford, as having said that the “family did not want to destroy the boys’ future.”

The Warren campaign is promulgating the notion that Ober’s “comments show a concerning pattern regarding rape, victims, and punishment,” which was the actual  subtitle of the statement they issued early Monday. The “pattern” is a reference to what’s been in the news over the last week: Ober’s comments at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club  on September 2nd about a sexual assault case involving in avenge girl, a case that Warren has accused Ober of initially failing to pursue until he was prodded to by a local media report.

Ober has pushed back strongly from that allegation, saying that while his office initially declined to pursue charges against Maryland resident Alexander Pelzer, they ultimately did so of their own volition, disputing Warren’s contention that it was only after WTSP reporter Mike Deeson’s story was aired that charges were ultimately filed.

Warren has seized on Ober’s remarks at the Tiger Bay Club on Sept. 2 about the then-16-year-old girl, who Ober said went voluntarily to fly to see Pelzer.  “I have a picture of what I call a sex slave, and by no means, do not read between the lines,” Ober said at Tiger Bay. “This young girl … this man has committed a crime, so don’t read between the lines, here. She was with him voluntarily. She flew to see him.”

The mother of the unidentified youth, who has not publicly stated her name, issued a statement last week claiming that Ober’s comments were tantamount to blaming her daughter, adding that its comments like those that make such victims reluctant to go public.

Ober has denied that he has ever attempted to blame the victim in this case. And later in the day, he also blasted Warren for “using” the female victim from the 2004 case.

“The results show my office properly handled this case,” he said in a statement. “I call on my opponent to stop bringing more harm to victims and their families by politicizing their cases, their tragedy and their suffering, in order to further his own agenda.”

Florida Chamber stands by assertion there are high numbers of “unlikely” primary voters

The Florida Chamber of Commerce stands by its assertion that a high number of unlikely voters have already cast ballots in Tuesday’s primary.

The Tampa Bay Times reported last week that the political team at the Florida Chamber of Commerce had noticed a trend in the number of people rarely voting in primary elections. The Tampa Bay Times reported that about half the mail ballots were from Floridians who either voted in one or zero of the past four primaries.

The paper reported that as of last Thursday, more than a quarter of the 855,000 mail ballots came from Floridians who hadn’t voted in the last four primaries. According to the paper, 20 percent came from people who voted in one of the last four primaries.

The report had Dan Smith, an elections expert at the University of Florida, scratching his head. In a post on his blog, Smith said the figures seemed odd, “if not implausible.”

Smith wrote that of the 1.1 million vote by mail ballots sent to supervisors of elections as of Saturday, 13,2000 were from voters who registered since Jan. 1. Another 20,500 ballots, he wrote, came from voters who registered in 2015.

“These new voters had no chance of casting ballots in the 2014 August primary election, and thus, there’s no reason why they should be included in the Chamber’s analysis, much less be assumed to be ‘unlikely voters,’ wrote Smith.

Not so fast, says the Chamber of Commerce. In a memo to Chamber President Mark Wilson, Marian Johnson, the senior vice president of political strategy, that “among voters registered prior to July 2008 who returned ballots as of Saturday, 285,362 0 and 1 score voters had returned their ballots out of 784,165 total votes returned.”

“The 0 and 1 score voters account for approximately 36 percent of this group,” she wrote in the memo, posted on the Miami Herald website. “For those working to influence elections, 36 percent is a significant size.”

As contentious primary campaign comes to a conclusion, Kevin Beckner has no regrets

On the eve of what has been the most raucous primary race in Hillsborough County, Kevin Beckner says he wouldn’t do anything differently in his campaign to defeat Pat Frank for Clerk of the Circuit Court.

“No regrets whatsoever,” Beckner said while attending the NAACP sponsored “Souls to the Polls” event at the College Hill Public Library in East Tampa on Sunday afternoon. “Some people have characterized it as a negative campaign, but I have based it on a campaign of facts, so it’s unfortunate that some of the media outlets like the Times have characterized it like they have, and they haven’t covered the facts of the campaign,” he said, going as far as claiming that the Tampa Bay Times has displayed bias in their reporting of the campaign.

Beckner has hammered Frank on a number of fronts since entering the race in the spring of 2015, upsetting some local Democrats who say they have been turned off by the negative campaign. However it’s also true that some of those Democrats opposed Beckner having the temerity to take on Frank in the first place, a woman long considered an icon in Hillsborough Democratic politics. After he announced his candidacy last year, several Democrats went off the record with this reporter to express their anger at Beckner, who made history in of his own in 2008 by becoming the first openly gay elected official in the county – just three years after the county government passed an ordinance banning gay pride events.

Beckner has issued statements questioning Frank’s work ethic,  for failing to hire women and minorities in top positions in the office, and for not supporting Barack Obama in his historic run for president in 2008.

Those allegations have made him the aggressor in the race. Beckner says it’s all about Frank’s record, and insists there’s nothing personal. But some observers have criticized him for the attacks, none more vociferously than Tampa Bay Times columnist Daniel Ruth in a piece that ran this weekend.

“It’s unfortunate,” Beckner said of the Ruth column. “It seems like they’re been using the talking points of the (Frank) campaign, so I would raise questions about bias that they might have. They’ve refused to cover the facts that I’ve provided them about her record, and so everything that we’ve ever talked about in the campaign has never been a personal attack, but it’s been statements based on facts.”

“Even the most recent issue with the PTC, I find it very interesting that they’ve even refused to print any column or any article about the problems with the PTC. So once again, it illustrates the problems inside the office, but they just refuse to cover it.”

Beckner was referring to a recent piece done by WTSP-Channel 10 reporter Mike Deeson that accused Frank’s office of not paying vendors on time, sending invoices to the wrong department and deducting funds from the wrong account. Frank has pushed back strongly to the charges, both in Deeson’s piece and in a separate article in the Tampa Bay Business Journal. The Times has yet to report on the allegations.

Times Managing Editor Jennifer Orsi declined to comment on Sunday.

Frank disputes Beckner’s account that he’s just been running a fact based campaign. “That’s absolutely untrue,” she said while also doing last minute campaigning at the Souls to the Polls event. “What he’s done is taken things out of context. He took problems that I had in the office that I corrected years ago, and acted like it happened yesterday. And that’s misleading the public.”

The polls open at 7 a.m. on Tuesday statewide for the primary election. The winner of the Frank/Beckner duel takes on Republican Eric Seidel in November.

 

Hillsborough Group 24 judicial candidates get into tete-a-tete over firefighter endorsement

Last week in Tampa before a Tiger Bay meeting began, Gary Dolgin and Melissa Polo, two of the four candidates running for Hillsborough County Circuit Court Judge in Group 24, had an animated discussion regarding a Polo flier that says she was endorsed by the Hillsborough County firefighters.

In fact, Dolgin was endorsed by that group, while Polo has been endorsed by the Tampa Firefighters. Polo told Dolgin that was a printing mistake,and that she would make sure to indicate that on her website.  The two then ended their discussion seemingly on that amicable note, and that was that.

But supporters of Dolgin became upset earlier this week when they saw Polo’s father distribute a flier at an early polling location that said simply that Polo was endorsed by “firefighters,” not indicating the actual group. The flier had blacked out the words “Hillsborough County,” and just indicating “firefighters.” Dolgin also said the website hadn’t been corrected.

“She came up to me last Friday and apologized and promised me that these cards would not be used, and that she would publicly say on her website that the Hillsborough County Firefighters would endorse me,” Dolgin said Thursday night. “When someone comes up and apologizes and make a promise to you, you expect them to keep it. I wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, but judicial races are held to a higher standard, and when you say your not going to use the cards, you don’t use the cards. “

“I’m disappointed obviously,” Dolgin says. “At best it’s sloppy and careless and unprofessional, and at worse it’s an intentional unethical violation.”

Polo said on Friday that she is endorsed by the City of Tampa firefighters, and again admitted it was a printing mistake that listed Hillsborough instead of Tampa firefighters on a mailer and handout.

“When I saw Mr. Dolgin at Tiger Bay, I apologized for the mistake and indicated that my website would mention the error. The last time I viewed my website, it in fact clearly brings immediate attention to the mistake in the mailpiece and clarifies the fact that I was not endorsed by the county firefighters, only the city firefighters.  My third mailer correctly states that I was endorsed by the city firefighters and further clarifies that the previous mailer mistakenly read county firefighters in error.”

Dolgin has been endorsed (or should we say recommended by the Tampa Bay Times), Polo by La Gaceta, and both of them (along with Lanell Williams-Yulee) have been co-endorsed by the Florida Sentinel-Bulletin.

Ken Forward, Vice President Hillsborough County Fire Fighters Local 2294, said Polo was apologetic in informing him about the error in her campaign literature. “She basically did everything that we asked her to do,” he said regarding Polo’s correcting the mistake in her and updating her website.

“We think both of them are great candidates,” Forward said, adding that “Gary Dolgin has our support.”

Isabel Cissy Boza Sevelin and Lanell Williams-Yulee are also running next Tuesday in the Group 24 contest. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent, the top two will enter into a runoff on November 8.

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