Tampa Bay Times Archives - Page 7 of 28 - SaintPetersBlog

Jeff Greene’s lawyer calls out Tampa Bay Times

Jeff Greene‘s lawyer is berating the Tampa Bay Times over a story on its settlement of Greene’s libel suit against it.

Greene, a Palm Beach billionaire, also is “demand(ing) that the Tampa Bay Times now disclose the amount publicly.” He sued the Times and the Miami Herald in 2010 but settled confidentially with both papers in recent weeks.

Times attorney Alison Steele, who negotiated the settlement, could not be immediately reached by phone Tuesday afternoon.

The real estate developer, who ran as a Democrat, claimed both newspapers derailed his U.S. Senate campaign that year with coverage of alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht.

Democrat Kendrick Meek, a former state senator, went on to win the Democratic primary. The seat eventually was won by current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

The newspaper ran a 226-word story on the settlement last week.

In it, Times editor Neil Brown said the settlement “represents our insurance company’s calculation of acceptable legal expenses. On the central dispute, the Times does not retract or correct our coverage, nor will we limit any future reporting.”

On Tuesday, Atlanta attorney L. Lin Wood fired back with a nearly 800-word statement released to FloridaPolitics.com and other news media.

“The statement of Neil Brown is false and misleading,” Wood said. “The Tampa Bay Times is attempting to spin this settlement as a victory for the newspaper when, in fact, it was a well-deserved defeat for the Times and a victory” for Greene.

“I stand by the statement in the previous article and the Times has nothing further to add,” Brown said in an email Tuesday evening.

Wood added that the “requirement that the amount be confidential and not be disclosed was a condition imposed by the Tampa Bay Times.”

“Having focused on defamation cases for over 20 of my 39 years of law practice, I would accurately characterize the amount paid as a significant payment for the settlement of a public figure libel case, consistent with an acknowledgment of wrongdoing,” Wood said.

He added: “I can state unequivocally that the settlement amount bears no reasonable relationship to the amount of legal expenses that would have been incurred by the Tampa Bay Times if it had elected to have the case resolved by a jury trial, as opposed to a settlement.”

Greene, Wood said, “did not file and pursue this litigation for the primary purpose of financial gain.”

Rather, he did so to publicly correct the false and defamatory statements which impugned his personal and business reputation. Mr. Greene’s primary goal was accomplished by the publication of the Editor’s Notes for each article.

Mr. Greene is a multi-billionaire and philanthropist who, along with his wife, Mei Sze, have signed the Giving Pledge started by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates. While Mr. Greene was less concerned with the settlement amount, he wanted to make certain that the amount was large enough to be consistent with an acknowledgement of wrongdoing and could never be correctly characterized as a “cost of litigation” payment – which is exactly the mischaracterization set forth in the Brown statement.

The Tampa Bay Times did not attempt to contact Mr. Greene or me for comment prior to publishing its own self-serving article based on the Brown statement. The circumstances surrounding the Brown statement, and the Tampa Bay Times article based on it, should raise serious questions of journalistic integrity and credibility in the minds of readers of the Times.

A Miami-Dade circuit judge dismissed Greene’s suit in 2012, saying he couldn’t “prove the paper acted in malice,” a legal standard in libel actions brought by public figures.

Greene would have to show the Times and Herald knew their stories were wrong or that they had a “reckless disregard” of whether their reporting was false or not.

An appellate court reversed the judge’s decision and revived the suit, saying Greene’s claims were “legally sufficient” to move forward.

Got a job? #HireATribber

Former Tampa Tribune staffers are hoping what the internet takes away, it can also give back.

Several reporters, editors, designers and others have banded together to find work through social media using the hashtag, #HireATribber.

Elaine Silvestrini, the former Tribune courts reporter who came up with the idea, has become the group’s unofficial leader and cheerleader in chief.

Her first tweet with the hashtag was this past Friday: “You won’t regret it if you #HireATribber.”

It’s since appeared in several dozen tweets, including this from former copy editor Ecton Theriot on Monday: “The top 7 reasons to #HireATribber: Award-winning writers, editors, designers, graphic artists, photographers, IT pros, ad sales staff.”

“I was applying for a marketing job, and on the application it asked for my Twitter handle,” Silvestrini said in an email. “I realized I hadn’t tweeted since the layoff because all I used to tweet about (with some small exceptions) was my work. And I wasn’t working.”

Two weeks ago, the Tampa Bay Times bought the 123-year-old Tribune, its longtime cross-bay rival, and shut it down. Hundreds of former Tribune workers are now out of work, though they’ll continue to be paid for 60 days after the sale.

The Tribune suffered from the same problem as many newspapers across the country: Weakening advertising revenue caused by fewer people subscribing and reading. More people, especially younger readers, turn to free online sources to consume news.

“I realized I needed to start tweeting again,” Silvestrini added. “But what to tweet about? I wasn’t working. But my job now is to find work. So it dawned on me that I should tweet about that.”

Now, former colleagues are not just sharing remembrances of Hillsborough County’s newspaper of record online, they’re also helping each other out with job leads and advice.

“And so I invited them to join me on Twitter,” Silvestrini said. “Many have, and I expect more will because this has been going on for only a few days.”

Besides Theriot, joining her in the Tweetstorm are web producer and writer Rick Mayer; web producer and writer Chris Spata; web producer and editor Robert D’Angelo; IT professional Rachel Johnson; copy editor Sue Anastasia; Tampa Bay Lightning beat writer Erik Erlendsson; sports editor Joanne Korth; county government reporter Mike Salinero and copy editor and web producer Tim Chong. 

Chong’s approach is more arch than others. He tweeted Monday, “Why #HireATribber? We kick butt and chew gum, and we’re all out of gum.”

Later, he added: “Why #HireATribber? It will bring balance to The Force.” (Maybe it’s just a coincidence that the nickname of the Times’ and Miami Herald’s combined capital bureau is the “Death Star.”)

Her former officemates “have come in full force, because that’s what Tribbers do,” Silvestrini said. “We know something needs to be done—we need to get jobs — and we do what we need to make it happen.”

“We have developed skills that can benefit pretty much any industry and we need to get the word out,” she added. “We know this community as well as anyone … And we’re not just newsroom types. There are all kinds of other staff who can contribute to your company, from facilities to receptionists to operations and more.”

Silvestrini said many people on Twitter have offered encouragement, ideas, and retweets — but no one’s gotten a job. Yet.

“It’s really been kind of overwhelming, in a good way, how much it’s taken off in such a short time,” she said.

“One challenge for most of us is that a huge percentage of the leads we’re getting require relocation,” Silvestrini said. “That’s difficult, if not impossible for many of us. We’ve put down roots. We have homes and families we can’t leave. So any leads that allow us to stay put, whether by working locally or telecommuting, are especially appreciated.”

Mitch Perry Report for 5.13.16 – Friday 13th edition

Well, so much for that much anticipated San Antonio-Golden State NBA Western Final. Congrats to the Oklahoma City Thunder, who took down the Spurs in six. Gotta love the unexpected.

 Today the Republican Party of Florida hosts their first of a two-day spring meeting in Tampa. I just realized that the Republicans always hold these type of events in Tampa, while the Democrats generally prefer Orlando. ….A transgender student who was suspended for using the restroom at school is challenging a new Marion County School District policy that prohibits transgender students from using restrooms consistent with their gender identities violates federal anti-discrimination law. That happens while the Obama administration is going to send a directive to that school board – and every other one in the nation – telling them to allow transgender students to use the bathrooms that match their gender identity. Cue the hysteria.

Some people considered yesterday’s television coverage of the just a little hyped tete-a-tete between Paul Ryan and Donald Trump was cable news at its worse. Really? Others called it for what it really was – Thursday.

Nice to see Jerome Stockfish’s byline in today’s Times, or Times/Tribune hybrid. Times management could have done us all a service and published the names of the staffers with the Trib who were offered jobs at the paper. Instead, we get a small trickling everyday of what lucky reporters made the cut, and they’re really aren’t that many.

CD 18 Democratic hopeful Randy Perkins tells POLITICO Florida’s Marc Caputo that he’s going to give up fundraising. Considering the guy’s a multi-millionaire, is this what qualifies as bravery in national politics these days? If elected, however, he says he’ll also refrain from fundraising, meaning he could be another co-sponsor for David Jolly’s Stop Act.

In other news…

Who says that Dems and R’s don’t come together? In the House, the body overwhelmingly voted on 18 different anti-drug bills this week, and now Sarasota’s Vern Buchanan is calling on the Senate to follow up.

HD 49 Democratic candidate Carlos Guillermo Smith is now campaigning for a statewide marijuana decriminalization bill, after Orlando became the latest Florida municipality to pass their own ordinance on the issue.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz refuses to debate her CD 23 challenger, Tim Canova, but for how long can she get away with that?

There are some excited local Democrats – delegates for Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton – who found out this week that they’re going to Philadelphia for the convention.

And for the first time this year, Hillsborough GOP incumbent state attorney Mark Ober raised more money in a month than did his Democratic upstart challenger, Andrew Warren.

Tampa Bay Times settles suit with Jeff Greene

The Tampa Bay Times settled a libel suit filed against it by Palm Beach billionaire Jeff Greene, the newspaper reported Thursday.

The terms of that settlement were not released.

“We have been in this legal standoff for nearly six years,” Times Editor Neil Brown said in a statement. “The settlement represents our insurance company’s calculation of acceptable legal expenses.

“On the central dispute, the Times does not retract or correct our coverage, nor will we limit any future reporting,” he added.

Greene, a real estate developer, ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2010. The seat eventually was won by current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Greene claimed that both newspapers derailed his Senate campaign with coverage of alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht.

Democrat Kendrick Meek, a former state senator, went on to win the Democratic primary.

One story insinuated that former boxer Mike Tyson – best man at Greene’s wedding – had used drugs on the yacht. The Times later ran a rare front-page clarification, with Tyson saying he did not use drugs on Greene’s yacht.

A Miami-Dade circuit judge had dismissed Greene’s suit in 2012, saying he couldn’t “prove the paper acted in malice,” a legal standard in libel actions brought by public figures.

Greene would have to show the Times and Herald knew their stories were wrong or that they had a “reckless disregard” of whether their reporting was false or not.

An appellate court reversed the judge’s decision and revived the suit, saying Greene’s claims were “legally sufficient” to move forward.

Greene already settled last month with The Miami Herald, the Times’ co-defendant in the case. The terms of that arrangement also weren’t disclosed.

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers

A roundup of Sunday editorials from Florida’s leading newspapers:

Tampa Bay Times — Work together to cut arrests for petty crimes

The St. Petersburg City Council has wisely decided to pause in its march toward creating a civil citation program that would decriminalize small amounts of marijuana and other minor offenses. The council members delayed their vote to give Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri time to complete a proposal for a countywide prearrest diversion program. This was the right call. The city and county are working toward the same important goal, and they should agree on how to proceed on such an important policy issue so the community has consistency and clarity.

In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the City Council delayed a vote on a proposal to create a civil citation program that would reduce arrests for minor crimes such as littering, petty theft, disorderly conduct and possession of small amounts of marijuana. The council was reacting, in part, to pleas from law enforcement officials such as police Chief Tony Holloway, who favors a single measure that would address the issue for the entire county. The council has led on this issue from the beginning, first by introducing the issue and later by seeing the need for a coordinated effort beyond the city limits.

Bradenton Herald — Cruise to Cuba marks progress on several fronts

President Barack Obama correctly sensed that engagement with Cuba is the best way to change the Castro regime’s behavior. A cruise ship docking in Havana, whose passengers include Cuban-Americans, is the latest concrete example of a policy that succeeds in forcing change by working with Cuba, not freezing it out. The Cuban people will be the ultimate winners.

Carrying more than 700 passengers, Carnival Corp.’s Adonia had a smooth 90-mile trip across the Florida Straits, arriving in Havana on Monday as hundreds of Cubans watched from shore. But the voyage was almost scuttled before it began.

Cuba had originally insisted that Cuba-born passengers would not be able to enter port. Facing fierce criticism from both U.S. officials and the Cuban-American community, Carnival threatened to delay any voyages until the matter was resolved.

Then late last week, Cuban authorities lifted their decades-old restriction. The Adonia will make calls at two more Cuban ports before returning to Miami next week, the first of many voyages to come.

Daytona Beach News-Journal — Volusia profits from Orlando’s boom

In recent years, local tourism officials have convened focus groups in Houston and Charlotte, North Carolina. They put on a marketing blitz in New York City to capitalize on JetBlue’s new service to Daytona Beach. They’ve worked to boost visitors from England and Canada; there’s even some talk about emerging tourism from China.

Those efforts are working. Daytona Beach-area officials were “dancing in the aisles” this week over March tourism numbers that showed a staggering 25 percent increase in revenue compared to last year. But even as they cast a wider net for visitors, local tourism leaders are keeping their eyes on an asset that’s much closer: Orlando, and specifically, the theme-park region that is, once again for 2016, the No. 1 tourist destination in the United States — and an easy drive away for Volusia beaches and other local attractions. That’s a smart move: Volusia County should continue to challenge Brevard County’s quest to be the premiere beach destination for the 66-million-plus people who visited Orlando-area theme parks or attended conventions there last year.

Florida Times-UnionCheers: Walk to defeat ALS is a rousing success

Cheers to all of the generous people who came out to make the recent Jacksonville Walk to Defeat ALS a success!

In all, 1,619 participants took part in the walk, which began at the Seven Bridges Grille restaurant near Tinsletown.

The event raised $330,064 to back the fight against ALS — the acronym for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a progressive disease that affects the nerve cells and muscles.

The great turnout was heartwarming because the event — which had a fun, tropical theme — took place during a steady rainstorm that caused some festivities to be moved indoors.

Florida Today – Trump’s GOP won’t be party of no

Of all the Republican pillars smashed to shards by Donald Trump’s wrecking ball, the most fundamental repudiation is this: The presidential nominee for the “party of no” will likely be the guy who wrote The Art of the Deal.

With a big Indiana win behind him, a 34-point lead in the latest poll of California and Ted Cruz out of the race, Trump appears to have lost nothing and perhaps has gained much by talking constantly about the need for deals. It’s possible, in fact, to view his entire campaign as one big opening bid. Making deals is his core identity and, like so many things he says and does, completely counter to the GOP line.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell was unable to make Barack Obama a one-term president, but even in Obama’s second term he has stuck to the strategy that failed: opposing nearly anything Obama wants. The result is mostly paralysis, even in areas where there is common ground.

Gainesville Sun – Cheers and jeers

Our community showed its great generosity during a whirlwind charity event this week.

Cheer: More than 1,400 donors across the area, for contributing around $286,000 during the Amazing Give.

The Community Foundation of North Central Florida put together the 24-hour fundraising campaign, bringing together nearly 50 nonprofits for the effort. People donated to their favorite nonprofits, with the groups getting additional grants based on meeting different fundraising goals.

Around $282,000 was collected when the event officially ended Tuesday at 6 p.m., but additional money has since been taken in. The groups collecting the highest amount of donations included the Ronald McDonald House Charities of North Central Florida, the Bread of the Mighty Food Bank and the Alachua County Humane Society.

Lakeland Ledger — Speaking of pot, let’s do so

In April 1865, Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, cut off and surrounded by Union forces and exhausted from four years of war, exchanged a series of notes with his Union counterpart, Lt. Gen. Ulysses S. Grant, inquiring about a possible surrender. In replies to Grant’s letters, issued within 48 hours of their war-ending meeting at Appomattox Courthouse, Lee maintained that while he did not share Grant’s assessment that his situation was hopeless, he did say he reciprocated Grant’s “desire to avoid useless effusion of blood” and agreed that “the restoration of peace should be the sole object of all.”

For those same reasons, many across America believe it’s time to call a truce in the four-decade-old War on Drugs, particularly when it comes to marijuana.

Miami Herald — Where’s Congress on Zika? Nowhere!

More than 100 days after the first cases of Zika were reported in Florida, leaders of Congress stubbornly continue to turn a deaf ear to pleas for additional federal funding. The indifference shown by lawmakers in the face of an identifiable health threat is both impossible to ignore and hard to fathom.

President Obama wants $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika, and he’s drawn rare — and commendable — bipartisan support from Florida’s two U.S. senators.

Democrat Bill Nelson calls the spread of Zika in Florida a “full-blown crisis.” Republican Marco Rubio has been equally emphatic: “It is the obligation of the federal government to keep our people safe, and this is an imminent and real threat to the public safety and security of our nation and our people.”

Both have beseeched colleagues to support additional funding. Yet Congress has resisted this plea for help since February, when President Obama first sought emergency aid.

Orlando Sentinel — Don’t lessen manatee protections

Many Floridians love manatees. Maybe it’s because the slow-moving giants are gentle reminders of the state’s natural wonders. And maybe it’s because we recognize that as the manatee’s survival goes, so goes coastal Florida.

For proof, look no farther than the Brevard County‘s Indian River Lagoon, a popular manatee thoroughfare. A toxic algae outbreak there in March was so severe it killed thousands of fish, creating a smelly environmental disaster. Past blooms of algae — fueled by fertilizer runoff and septic tank leaks — have led to a collapse of the food chain, killing manatees and other marine life.

Yet the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, yielding to pressure from property-rights groups, has proposed reducing the level of protection manatees now get from the federal government. The bureaucratic process is known as “downlisting” the manatee from “endangered” to “threatened.” It may not sound like a big step, but it is.

The federal government considers a species endangered when it is in imminent risk of extinction. Then federal agencies work with state and local governments to put protective measures in place. For manatees, that includes creating marked sanctuaries on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts and setting speed limits for boats in waters where manatees congregate.

Ocala StarBanner — Answers needed on Sabal Trail

The proposed Sabal Trail natural gas pipeline would traverse 30 miles of western Marion County and travel within less than a mile of Rainbow Springs and then go under the Withlacoochee River. Yet, according to a letter sent to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers by the County Commission, local officials “are unable to find specific details associated with (Sabal Trail’s) analysis of the Marion County portion of the project.”

In the letter, the commission is asking the Corps to conduct an “independent supplemental environmental impact statement” to answer a litany of questions about the massive project, which will run 515 miles from central Alabama to Osceola County, south of Orlando. The pipeline, most of which is 36-inch pipe, would pass through a dozen Florida counties and pass near or under a significant number of important waterways, including the Suwannee, Santa Fe and Withlacoochee rivers. Yet, Sabal Trail is woefully short on details in its report on what steps it would take to protect these natural treasures. The same goes for Rainbow Springs.

Pensacola News-Journal — Bayview Cross: A shallow fight along bayou’s shore

We wholeheartedly endorse meaningful legal battles in defense of constitutional liberties — but the suit filed over the Bayview Cross is not one of them.

The PNJ’s Will Isern reported last week that the “two Washington, D.C., groups that last year threatened to sue the city of Pensacola if it did not remove the large white cross at Bayview Park have now followed through with that threat, filing a complaint Wednesday in federal court.

“The American Humanist Association’s Appignani Humanist Legal Center and the Freedom From Religion Foundation filed the suit on behalf of four Pensacola residents.”

Palm Beach Post — Trump would need to sway broader group of voters in November

Nomination within his grasp, Donald Trump would need to win over a broader group of voters in November beyond those who have helped clear the Republican presidential field for him.

As a whole, voters in the general election will be younger, more likely to be female and vastly more diverse than the predominantly white groups of the Republican primaries. In recent elections, those sets of voters have leaned sharply toward the Democrats.

To counter the Democrats’ advantage among women, young people and black, Latino and Asian-American voters, Trump will have to maximize his support among whites — especially white men — to levels rarely seen.

Panama City News-Herald — Veep sweepstakes fantasy league draft choices

It’s been a tough month for Ted Cruz. In an odd and desperate turn of events, Ted Cruz threw up a Hail Mary by naming Carly Fiorina as his running mate. This would’ve put her “just a heartbeat away” from never being the vice president – had Cruz not abandoned his bid after a crushing loss in Indiana.

She wanted to become the first person to lose twice in the same presidential election. Ted Cruz naming his VP when he did was a bit like the Atlanta Braves naming where they are going to have their World Series victory parade.

He picked Carly in a hasty manner. It was a three-question vetting process: 1. Are you a woman? 2. How would you be working with Lucifer in the flesh? 3. Are you good at suffering humiliating losses?

South Florida Sun Sentinel – Put school construction on firmer ground

At state and local levels — including Broward and Palm Beach counties — too much that is not constructive is going on with school construction.

Or, in the case of Broward, too much is not going on at all. As the Sun Sentinel reported, nine approved school renovation projects have languished because district staff failed to put the work out for bid.

Those projects, budgeted at more than $25 million and approved before voters passed an $800 million bond issue in November 2014, include work on leaking roofs, balky air-conditioning and library expansion.

Meanwhile, the bond-issue projects also lag. The district has offered excuses that, frankly, amount to bureaucratic blah blah blah. It is a blessing to have construction funds in this increasingly anti-tax, anti-government atmosphere. Not spending those funds on time and on budget is a sure way to lose voter trust.

Tallahassee Democrat – Don’t trivialize Sunland’s history as fun ghost story

The first time I visited Sunland Tallahassee was in 1977. I was a young, enthusiastic public information officer with the state, responsible for press contact in the Tallahassee district, which included Sunland and four other state institutions.

My tour began on a top floor. It was filled with cage-like metal cribs. The staff person brought us to one specific crib, to help us appreciate the challenges of her job – and, no doubt, for the shock value.

Inside, was an infant whose brain was outside his skull, a condition call exencephaly. He would die soon. It was a mind-jarring introduction to the facility.

Whither Jeff Greene’s lawsuit against the Tampa Bay Times?

The last week of April has come and gone without a trial on billionaire Jeff Greene‘s libel suit against the Tampa Bay Times.

“We have a trial date set for the end of April,” Times attorney Alison Steele told FloridaPolitics.com last month.

With no trial, is a settlement in the offing?

Greene already settled last month with The Miami Herald, the Times’ co-defendant in the case. The terms of that arrangement weren’t disclosed.

On Friday, Steele was mum and didn’t return calls.

Greene’s attorney, Lin Wood of Atlanta, was not in the office Friday.

Coincidentally, the trial had been scheduled the week before the Times’ purchase and closure of its cross-bay rival, The Tampa Tribune.

On Friday, The Associated Press reported the paper still wasn’t saying what it paid for the Trib.

But the Times reported Wednesday it took on about $13.3 million in new debt just before the purchase, according to a mortgage filed Wednesday in Pinellas County … The new mortgage is the latest installment of financing the Times has taken out over the past three years with Crystal Financial of Boston. The Times now owes Crystal $18 million, the Times reported.

Greene, a Palm Beach real estate developer, ran as a Democrat for the U.S. Senate in 2010. The seat eventually was won by current Republican Sen. Marco Rubio.

Greene has claimed that both newspapers derailed his Senate campaign with their reporting of alleged fraudulent real estate deals and wild parties on his 145-foot yacht.

Democrat Kendrick Meek, a former state senator, went on to win the Democratic primary.

According to a New York Times account, one story insinuated that former boxer Mike Tyson – best man at Greene’s wedding – had used drugs on the yacht.

The Tampa Bay Times later ran a rare front-page clarification, with Tyson saying he did not use drugs on Greene’s yacht.

A Miami-Dade circuit judge had dismissed Greene’s suit in 2012, saying he couldn’t “prove the paper acted in malice,” a legal standard in libel actions brought by public figures.

Greene would have to show the Times and Herald knew their stories were wrong or that they had a “reckless disregard” of whether their reporting was false or not.

An appellate court reversed the judge’s decision and revived the suit, saying Greene’s claims were “legally sufficient” to move forward.

Responding to Times reporter Robert Trigaux’s ‘three pointed questions’ for Duke Energy

On Wednesday, Robert Trigaux penned a column asking “three pointed questions” for Duke Energy in the fallout of a flat quarterly earnings report and its annual shareholder meeting in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Trigaux prefaces his piece by proposing a mild winter is what brought lower demand for power – hence the softer earnings report. Next, he piles on several “missteps,” including Duke’s shelved nuclear power program and a “less-than-inspiring role as a bully of Florida’s young solar power industry.”

Trigaux then suggests CEO Lynn Good will assert the “industry challenges” facing Duke, where she argues the company is “well positioned to handle them all.”

He also questions Duke’s touting it’s lower electric rates in Florida, which are higher on average than the rest of the nation.

Next, he wonders why Duke and “fellow monopoly power providers” are not upfront with consumers about its role in the proposed Florida solar energy amendment.

Finally, Trigaux asked when – if ever – Duke will give up the ghost on the “hideously expensive and economically absurd idea” of using nuclear power to generate energy.

Overall, Trigaux appears to be trying to make a splash with recently acquired Tribune readers by digging up old tired issues.

So while he floats rhetorical questions, here are a few thoughts in response.

First, Trigaux posed his questions by way of a newspaper column, rather than contacting the company for an interview, according to Florida Politics’ sources at Duke. Nor did he participate in the status meeting held with the Times editorial leadership in March.

If he did, Trigeaux would learn that Duke Energy Florida residential prices are indeed lower than the majority of electric utilities in the state, as well as below the national average. And it’s commercial and industrial rates are some of the lowest in Florida.

Duke has made significant efforts to reduce rates by refinancing costs for the Crystal River nuclear plant at a lower interest rate. The change was included in a Public Service Commission reform measure sponsored by Sen. Jack Latvala and unanimously supported in the 2016 Legislative Session by the Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee.

The move sought to save customers more than $700 million over the next 20 years. The estimated $2.93 charge per 1,000 kWh/per month is approximately $2.00 less, or 40 percent, than the rate without these bonds.

As for the Levy nuclear project; it has not been “shelved.” Duke Energy is currently pursuing an operating license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission for the project, which is expected this year.

Trigaux is well aware that a balanced power generation mix is needed in both Florida and the country. Power plant planning takes years; states and communities are best served by keeping options open and staying prepared to react to market and industry changes. Duke has also taken advantage of significant drops in natural gas prices with plans for additional clean-burning natural gas plants.

In Florida, solar is a vital component of the energy mix; Duke Energy recognizes that. As costs come down, and output improves, Duke continues to build and expanded its commitment to solar capability. To that end, the proposed solar amendment seeks to protect individual businesses and homeowners interested in adding their own panels. Duke has not only supported the measure from the beginning but has publicly endorsed it and contributed to its campaign.

What part of that is not transparent?

It could entirely be possible that Trigaux is seeking headlines over information, sensation over sensibility.

Transit tax foe to Pinellas County commission: Reprimand or fire county administrator — or else

Two anti-transit-tax activists fired off emails to Pinellas commissioners this week demanding that County Administrator Mark Woodard be disciplined for discussions he held with Mike Merrill, the Hillsborough county administrator.

They were reacting to a report in the Tampa Bay Times that Woodard had met with Merrill to discuss, among other things, regional transportation issues.

According to the May 3 article, the two had discussed simultaneously asking voters in both counties to approve a half-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements. Some of those improvements would link Pinellas and Hillsborough counties.

Voters in Pinellas overwhelmingly turned down such a proposal, known as Greenlight Pinellas, in 2014. Just a week ago, Hillsborough commissioners declined to put a similar proposal on the upcoming ballot.

“Mr. Woodard has stepped out of line and out of the scope of his job description,” Barbara Haselden wrote in a May 4 email to commissioners and Woodard. “Mr. Woodard is an EMPLOYEE (sic) serving at the pleasure of the people. I call for his resignation immediately for going to the newspaper and attempting to rally another sales tax increase. … He needs to leave our county employment now.”

Haselden’s comments were echoed in an email from Tom Rask:

“Please tell me when it became the board position to do what Mr. Woodard proposes. Please consider my question a public records request for records reflecting the adoption of that very board position.

“If this isn’t the board’s position, then you must rein in such imperious behavior by an unelected official by either publicly reprimanding Mr. Woodard, or firing him. You should also vote on a proclamation stating that it is NOT (sic) to (sic) board’s position to seek another sales tax hike. Then issue a press release attaching the proclamation.”

Rask went a step further, saying he would take action should commissioners not heed his demands:

“You do as you want, but if you do not take these steps, then expect 200,000 emails to be sent to county residents (perhaps from one of your political opponents) stating that it is your position to seek another sales tax hike. … The names of those commissioners who refuse to renounce the ‘let’s seek a sales tax hike’ position will inevitably be hog-tied to the wagon wheel called ‘tax hike.’”

Both Haselden and Rask had campaigned against Greenlight Pinellas.

County Commissioner Karen Seel responded to Rask in her own email, saying, “I was shocked to hear this. We have not had any discussions amongst the County Commission about this. I intend on bringing this up on Tuesday, May 10, 2016, under county commission miscellaneous.”

Woodard declined to comment Thursday, saying what happens next is the commission’s decision.

But at least three of the seven commissioners appeared less than impressed by Haselden’s and Rask’s comments.

“I refuse to have a reaction,” Pat Gerard said.

Ken Welch said he stands behind Woodard “100 percent.”

“I’m fully in confident in our county administrator,” Welch said. “Consider the source. I have no intention whatsoever in asking Mark to step down.”

Janet Long said she would have been surprised had Woodard not had conversations with other nearby officials about transportation and other regional issues. Holding such conversations and building relationships is part of the job, she said.

Long was equally unperturbed that the two administrators might have tossed around ideas about funding. Commission members have told him to explore all avenues of funding for all projects and discussions about funding transportation improvements would “of course” be a normal part of any discussion. Just because Woodard holds discussions, she said, doesn’t mean they’ll go anywhere.

“He doesn’t set policy,” Long said. “If he wants to have a discussion about that, I’m fine with it. It doesn’t mean the policymakers will do it.”

Today on Context Florida: Mourning the Tampa Tribune, never Donald Trump and forgetting American history and values

Today on Context Florida:

Sports writer Gary Shelton, a veteran of the Tampa Bay Times, talks about his feeling of loss for the Tampa Tribune, a formal rival that shut down this week. When you look at your doorstep, a doorstep that may be emptier than yesterday, Shelton says to lift your cup for a newspaper that died young.

Martin Dyckman also reminisces about the Tampa Tribune and its fine journalists. He’s not sure which was the bigger shock — the hostile takeover of the Republican Party or the Tribune’s surrender to the Times. But it wasn’t really that much of a surprise, Dyckman says. For years, the only questions had been which paper would perish and when that would happen. That is what the Internet has wrought.

Veteran political operative John “Mac” Stipanovich pens an open letter to his fellow Republicans with a call to deny Donald Trump the presidency by not voting in the election at all – or voting for Hillary Clinton “if conscience permits.” A drop of a few percentage points in the Republican vote for Trump will be enough, which is why the pressure to conform, to toe the Party line, will be enormous. We cannot depend on our elected leaders to lead us. They, for the most part, will fold like cheap lawn chairs, cowed by fear and fueled by ambition.

Ed Moore believes young Americans need to learn about our country’s history and values. Seemingly, he says, we now live in an era where knowledge of our past is a thing of the past. Instead, we get caught up in the issues carried by E!, Access Hollywood and TMZ. When more of us know about Beyonce’s Lemonade! than the names of five former U.S. presidents or even one U.S. Senator from your home state, we have altered our priorities. Moore notes a change in what is important in a civil society and it is beginning to unravel the fabric that has bound us as a nation for over 200 years.

Visit Context Florida to dig in.


Patrick Manteiga was right about demise of Tampa Trib; so was Noah Pransky

The shock from the news that the Tampa Bay Times has purchased and folded the Tampa Tribune has yet to wear off. In fact, there are probably a few hundred (maybe thousands) subscribers to the Trib who don’t pay attention to social media (think of all those seniors at Sun City Center) and were likely surprised this morning to see their regular newspaper replaced with the Times.

While those folks may be caught off guard, two local journalists were definitely not surprised by The Empire’s attack on Alderaan: Patrick Manteiga, publisher of La Gaceta, and Noah Pransky of 10 News.

Just last week, Manteiga demonstrated just how good his sources were when he wrote that “sales and circulation staff, writers, graphic artists and just about everyone else at the Tampa Tribune are looking for jobs.”

Continued Manteiga, “The rumors are hot and heavy that the Tampa Tribune won’t last past the summer.”

Clearly Manteiga was wrong — The Tribune didn’t last past the spring.

Before Manteiga made his prediction, Pransky produced a segment which asked, Could Tampa Bay lose a newspaper?

The best part of Pransky’s reporting is the email he received, perhaps inadvertently:

“Guys see below there is a leak here somewhere this is BS,” wrote Tribune managing partner Robert Loring Jr.

So kudos to Manteiga and Pransky for sniffing out this important story.

Of course, there was that one blogger who made this bold prediction at the beginning of year:

“One of the major Florida newspapers will cease daily publication in 2016.

“There are just too many cars on the street for the horse-and-buggy to remain in existence. Just as New Orleans’ Times-Picayune cut staff and went to putting out a hard-copy three days a week, so will one of the Sunshine State’s daily newspapers, many of which are still struggling to adjust to a digital environment.

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