Tampa Bay Archives - SaintPetersBlog

Governor appoints three new Tampa Bay judges

Gov. Rick Scott on Monday announced the appointment of Gregory G. Groger to the 6th Judicial Circuit Court in Pasco and Pinellas counties.

Groger, 38, of Land O’Lakes, has served as an assistant state attorney for the circuit since 2003.

He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Florida and his law degree from Stetson University College of Law. Groger fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Walter L. Schafer, Jr.

Scott also announced the appointments of Darren D. Farfante and Christine Ann Marlewski to the 13th Judicial Circuit Court in Hillsborough County.

Farfante, 46, of Tampa, practices with Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, and previously served as a trial attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice Tax Division.

He received his undergraduate, master of laws, master of accountancy, and law degree from the University of Florida. Farfante fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge Brenda “Tracy” Sheehan.

Marlewski, 40, of Tampa, is an equity shareholder with the GrayRobinson law firm.

She received her undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Florida. Marlewski fills the vacancy created by the resignation of Judge William P. Levens.

Tampa Bay region marked for $33M in Florida TaxWatch ‘turkeys’

Florida TaxWatch, the nonpartisan government watchdog organization, served up its annual list of “Budget Turkeys,” naming almost $178 million in line-item projects part of the $82.4 billion budget passed May 8 by the Florida House and Senate.

For the Tampa Bay region, Florida TaxWatch targeted more than $33 million in local projects as individual line items added to the spending plans—usually last minute or in committee — without a thoughtful and thorough budget process.

The largest project in the region was Pasco County’s Interstate 75 and Overpass Road Interchange, priced at $15 million.

Hillsborough County had the lowest number of turkeys with three projects totaling $1,825,000; Pasco is the highest at $16,960,000 spread out over five projects.

For the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1, TaxWatch listed 111 budgetary turkeys, suggesting around $177.8 million in savings. In total, the final budget contains more than 700 member projects, worth more than $600 million.

A “Turkey” label does not pass judgment on the project’s overall worthiness, does comment on the process. The purpose of the label is to make sure all projects using public funds are properly vetted.

“The result was that only a handful of projects made into the budget during conference. While falling short of the goal of no conference additions, this is still a very positive improvement, as projects being added in conference have become an epidemic,” the report says.

Even so, “with a few exceptions, committee hearings on member projects were pro forma, with very little discussion or debate,” the report continues.

Among the TaxWatch 111 ‘turkeys’ worth $117.8 million: An engineering building for Florida International University worth $10 million. A $500,000 rodeo facility in Arcadia. Local transportation projects valued at $81.5 million.

Individual Tampa Bay-area projects on the list include:

Pasco ($16,960,000)

– Pasco County Fair Association: $860,000

– Interstate 75 & Overpass Road Interchange: $15,000,000

– Parkland Roadway Stabilization: $250,000

– PD&E Study of Clinton Avenue Intersection Realignment at U.S. 98 and U.S. 301: $500,000

– U.S. 301/ReImagine Gall Boulevard, Zephyrhills: $350,000

Pinellas ($4,300,000)

– Great Explorations Children’s Museum: $400,000

– Education and Access to Performing Arts Program: $500,000

– Pinellas Suncoast Transit Auth – Memorial Causeway Busway Project: $1,000,000

– State Road 687 (3rd & 4th Streets) and 8th/MLK Streets downtown St. Petersburg-Preliminary Engineering Study to Convert One Way to Two-Way Street: $200,000

– Forward Pinellas Waterborne Transportation: $1,000,000

– Treasure Island Causeway Multimodal Improvements: $1,200,000

Hillsborough ($1,825,000)

– Big Brothers Big Sisters – Bigs Inspiring Student Success: $500,000

– Self Reliance Inc. – West FL Health & Safety for Seniors Pilot Project: $575,000

– Plant City Collins Street Improvements: $750,000

Polk ($10,000,000)

– Polk SC – Renovate Campus Chiller Plant System Phase I: $2,500,000

– Bartow Northern Connector, Phase II: $7,500,000

The group is calling for Scott to veto the items when he signs the budget, expected within the next week.

Among its recommendations, the report suggests making the new project vetting process permanent. It also suggests extra scrutiny for categories given to abuse, including economic development, housing and community development, workforce, and water projects.

 

Rick Scott gets $178M serving of Florida TaxWatch ‘budget turkeys’

Thanksgiving is six months away, but Friday is “turkey” day for Gov. Rick Scott.

Florida TaxWatch, the nonpartisan government watchdog group, released its annual “Budget Turkey List,” of almost $178 million in line-item projects that are part of the $82.4 billion budget passed May 8 by the Florida House and Senate.

Budget Turkeys are individual line items added to the spending plans—usually last minute or in committee — without a thoughtful and thorough budget process. A “Turkey” label does not pass judgment on the project’s overall worthiness, does comment on the process. The purpose of the label is to make sure all projects using public funds are properly vetted.

“The result was that only a handful of projects made into the budget during conference. While falling short of the goal of no conference additions, this is still a very positive improvement, as projects being added in conference have become an epidemic,” the report says.

Even so, “with a few exceptions, committee hearings on member projects were pro forma, with very little discussion or debate,” the report continues.

The group is calling for Scott to veto the items when he signs the budget, expected within the next week.

For the 2017-18 fiscal year, which begins July 1, TaxWatch identified 111 budgetary Turkeys, suggesting around $177.8 million in savings.

“Budget Turkeys are items, usually local member projects, placed in individual line-items or accompanying proviso language that are added to the final appropriations bill without being fully scrutinized and subjected to the budget committee process or that circumvented established processes,” the organization said.

In the past 28 years, Florida governors vetoed more than $2 billion in projects that have appeared on the TaxWatch report. For example, in the first two years of Scott’s administration, the governor vetoed 70 percent of TaxWatch Turkeys for $244 million in savings.

Throughout the current state spending plan, Florida TaxWatch recognized surplus projects in a variety of state agencies, including the Department of Transportation, which had a majority with 79 projects (worth $139.4 million) that were not in the DoT Work Program.

The report says: “Because new appropriations rules resulted in many member projects being heard in committee and very few projects being added during the budget conference committee process, the budget contains approximately 600 additional member projects worth more than $425 million that do not qualify as Budget Turkeys.”

Among the TaxWatch 111 ‘turkeys’ worth $117.8 million: An engineering building for Florida International University worth $10 million. A $500,000 rodeo facility in Arcadia. Local transportation projects valued at $81.5 million.

The report credits budget rules pushed by House Speaker Richard Corcoran for keeping additional turkeys out of the budget. The rules required House members to file special requests and individual bills for every member project.

The Senate ultimately agreed upon joint rules barring projects not heard in committee for inclusion in the final budget.

“This rather cursory public review was expected, there is simply not enough time during Session to thoroughly debate each project when there are so many requested. This highlights the need for the establishment of more competitive review and selection processes that take place before the Legislature decides what to fund.”

Among its recommendations, the report suggests making the new project vetting process permanent. It also suggests extra scrutiny for categories given to abuse, including economic development, housing and community development, workforce, and water projects.

Joe Henderson: When NFL suddenly needed a Super host, it knew who to call

It wasn’t luck that Tampa was selected Tuesday to host its fifth Super Bowl.

When the National Football League learned the new stadium being built in Los Angeles won’t be ready in time for the game in 2021, it had to find a city not only ready to step in on short notice, but one with a proven record of excellence.

Tampa checks all the boxes, and that’s because the team Rob Higgins has assembled at the Tampa Bay Sports Commission is as fine as any in the country and better than most.

Bucs co-chairman Bryan Glazer deserves applause. Tampa’s battle-tested political leaders, especially County Commissioner Ken Hagan and Mayor Bob Buckhorn, should take a bow. Higgins is the guy who really makes it happen though.

Smart, well-connected and experienced, Higgins understands better than anyone what has to be done in the trenches to successfully pull off a Super Bowl. NFL owners and leaders know that, which is why I have to believe the decision about what to do took about 10 seconds.

“Hey guys, that new stadium in Los Angeles won’t be ready for the 2021 Super Bowl. What should we do?”

“Um, let’s move it Tampa.”

“All in favor?”

“Aye!”

“Opposed? Anyone? No, great. Let’s go eat.”

I would imagine Higgins’ No. 1 obstacle in the coming months will be keeping his cellphone charged. The man is going to be busy. He will have to get renewed pledges from business, civic and political leaders that were part of Tampa’s bid package for the 2019 and 2020 games, but I can’t imagine that will be much of a problem. I am certain he will have cooperation from all the major players in the area: the convention and visitors bureau, Tampa International Airport, local and state security agencies, and so on.

The Super Bowl occupies an outsized place in Americana. By the time 2021 rolls around, it will be 37 years since Tampa hosted its first Super Bowl.

That game represented important psychological validation to people here that Tampa Bay had a place among the important locations in the country. Interestingly, Tampa’s main competitor to host that game was Los Angeles. The winning team that year? The Los Angeles Raiders, who beat the Washington Redskins 38-9.

Tampa essentially turned itself over that week to the NFL, and in return team owners basked in the love. That set a standard for future bids by other cities, which meant Tampa had to keep getting better and more creative to stay among the regular sites that get to host this game.

It must have worked because with this game Tampa will rank fourth on the list of cities that have hosted the largest number of Super Bowls.

We live in a pretty cool place, huh?

“Aye!”

Opposed? Anyone?

Didn’t think so.

Florida’s unemployment rate drops to 4.5%, Tampa at 3.8%

Florida’s unemployment rate dipped to its lowest rate in nearly a decade in April, state officials announced Friday.

The state Department of Economic Opportunity announced the unemployment rate dipped to 4.5 percent in April, down from 4.8 percent one month earlier. The drop marks one of the lowest rates since September 2007, and is only slightly higher than the national unemployment rate of 4.4 percent.

The Tampa Bay-area led the state when it came to job demand, with 47,412 job openings. It also ranked first in the state for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) openings with 14,898 openings in April.

The region’s unemployment rate was 3.8 percent in April.

Of the Tampa Bay numbers, Gov. Rick Scott said: “It is great news that Tampa area businesses created nearly 32,000 jobs over the year in April. The Tampa area also led the state in job openings, which means there are thousands of opportunities for Floridians to find the opportunities they need to succeed in Tampa Bay. We will keep fighting to make Tampa, and our entire state, a top destination for job growth.”

“Florida businesses have excelled over the past six years thanks to the policies of Gov. Scott and his administration,” said Cissy Proctor, the executive director of the DEO, in a statement. “Unemployment continues to drop, private sector jobs are on the rise and Florida families are flourishing. We must not give up on our efforts to make Florida the best place to start and grow a business.”

The DEO reported there were more than 8.5 million jobs in April, up 215,400 jobs compared to a year ago.

Professional and business services saw the largest growth, adding 39,500 jobs over the year in April; followed by trade, transportation and utilities with 36,600 new jobs; construction with 34,400 new jobs; and education and health services with 32,700 jobs.

Twenty-three of the state’s 24 metro areas saw over-the-year jobs gains, according to the DEO.

Orlando once again led the state in job creation, adding 42,700 private-sector jobs year-over-year in April. The unemployment rate in the Orlando metro area was 3.6 percent.

“I am proud to announce today that the Orlando area continues to lead the state in job creation, which is great news for families and business in Central Florida,” said Scott in a statement. “Florida’s unemployment rate has also reached a nearly 10-year low, which is sending a message across the country that our state is a top destination for new jobs and opportunities.”

Leisure and hospitality saw the largest growth, with 13,400 new jobs; followed by trade, transportation and utilities with 8,800 new jobs; financial activities with 4,800 new jobs; and manufacturing with 1,600.

The Orlando-area was second among metro areas for job demand, with 37,024 job openings.

Scott is expected to highlight the job numbers during an event in Miami later today.

Amazon’s presence in Tampa area means booming cargo business

Tampa International Airport’s cargo business is growing, thanks in large part to the online retailer Amazon.

Seattle-based Amazon has opened two enormous distribution centers in the greater Tampa Bay area. To supply those warehouses with merchandise, Amazon is shipping goods to Tampa International Airport daily aboard a Boeing 767 cargo freighter plane.

The Tampa Bay Times reports that it’s a lucrative arrangement for Tampa’s airport, which has seen a spike of more than 20 percent in cargo activity over the last year.

The Amazon deal alone has generated more than $275,500 in revenue for the airport through fees and building rental payments, which continue to go up.

Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Bucs have prime-time games against Patriots, Falcons in 2017

They are coming up on their 10th year without a playoff game.

Still, the Tampa Bay Bucs have to feel as if they’ll be playing with the big boys in 2017.

The Bucs play a prime-time Thursday night game this year against the world-champion New England Patriots (Oct. 5), then later play a Monday night game against the Atlanta Falcons (Dec. 18). The Bucs also play two games against the Carolina Panthers, the Super Bowl runners-up of two seasons ago.

Tampa Bay closes its season with three divisional games, the Falcons, the Carolina Panthers and the New Orleans Saints.

The Bucs will play seven games against quarterbacks who were in the top 10 of the NFL in passing last year. They play two games against Drew Brees (first), two against Matt Ryan (second), one against Aaron Rodgers (fourth), one against Matt Stafford (sixth) and one against Carson Palmer (ninth). That doesn’t even count Tom Brady, who finished 20th after being suspended for four games. Still, most people acknowledge Brady as the best. Cam Newton, the league MVP in 2015, finished 21st with a bad shoulder last year.

2017 Bucs:

Sept. 10       at Miami

Sept. 17        Chicago

Sept. 24        at Minnesota

Sept. 31         New York Giants

Oct. 5             New England

Oct. 15           at Arizona

Oct, 22          at Buffalo

Oct. 29         Carolina

Nov. 5           at New Orleans

Nov. 12         New York Jets

Nov. 26         at Atlanta

Dec. 3            at Green Bay

Dec. 10          Detroit

Dec. 18         Atlanta

Dec. 24         at Carolina

Dec. 31          New Orleans Saints

Erasmo Ramirez gives the Tampa Bay Rays a reason to keep smiling

Most of the time, Erasmo Ramirez is smiling.

Sometimes, he makes other people smile, too.

Ramirez was terrific in his first start of the year Thursday, taming the Detroit Tigers in an 8-1 victory that completed a series sweep, their first since San Diego in mid-August of last season. Ramirez allowed only two hits – and one earned run – in the five innings he pitched. Chase Whitley went the three innings afterward and allowed only one hit, and Tommy Hunter finished up the ninth.

The Rays are now 8-2 at home on the season, averaging 5.4 runs per game.

It was a nice patchwork job, made necessary by the injury to Jake Odorizzi. Ramirez gave up a leadoff home run to Ian Kinsler but held the Tigers scoreless afterward.

The Rays had 11 hits, including three (and three RBI) from Steven Souza Jr. Kevin Kiermaier had two hits and two RBI. Souza now has 12 games of reaching base multiple times on the season, tying Anthony Rizzo of Chicago for the MLB lead.

“Great series,” said Rays’ manager Kevin Cash. “It was nice to bounce back. We had some timely hitting and took advantage of some mistakes. Anytime you’re able to jump on those it helps a lot, and we did that. Today, as far as Erasmo goes, both him and Whitley were outstanding.

“It’s funny with Erasmo starting and then getting back in the rotation, he decides he wants to be really efficient, and we have no problem with that. His stuff looked really good. It had a lot of late action, which was nice to see. How fortunate for us to have that coverage for when a guy like Jake goes down to be able to piece it together with those two guys. Good day. The bullpen was pretty taxed, so it was nice that we only had to use Whitley and Tommy after that.”

Cash took notice of Souza’s big offensive day.

“We all know Souza has all the tools in the world,” Cash said. “I think we are seeing him put it together a little bit. I know his relationship with Chad has been very beneficial. They talk back-and-forth constantly before the game, throughout the game. I think the biggest adjustment Steven has done is put himself in a position from pitch 1 where he’s ready to hit, and that’s helped him. He doesn’t have to hit the first pitch, but he’s ready to hit it if it’s something to his liking.”

Souza said the Rays are simply playing better at home.

“We’ve played a lot cleaner games at home, so far,” he said. “We played (seven) games on the road and are now at .500 baseball. Playing at Yankee Stadium and Fenway, those are two tough teams and two tough environments. I just think we’ve played clean baseball. Hopefully, at the end of the season, it all evens out.”

The Rays start their next series, against the Houston Astros, at home tonight when Alex Cobb faces Mike Fiers.

 

Rays capture strange victory over Tigers on misplayed grounder

Sometimes, baseball makes no sense. None at all. Sometimes, it is a bizarre, unexplainable game filled with strange bounces.

Take the Tampa Bay Rays’ 8-7 victory over the Detroit Tigers Wednesday. It was a confusing mess of a game in which everything you thought you knew was no longer true.

For instance, the Tigers launched a comeback when gold glover Kevin Kiermaier missed a fly ball, leading to a three-run triple.

For instance, the Rays came back from that when Juan Iglecias tripped over second base on a tailor-made double-play ball and threw wildly to first, allowing two runs to score.

For instance, the Rays knocked in the winning run with a routine groundball that would have ended the game with Detroit winning. It was misplayed, and Tampa Bay won.

Yeah. It was like that.

The Rays are now 7-2 at home on the year (1-6 on the road) and have won each of their three series this year. The Rays had 14 hits, including three each by Kiermaier and Evan LongoriaCorey Dickerson, Brad Miller, Steven Souza Jr. and Shane Peterson all had two.

The most surprising effort of the night, however, was by reliever Travis Pruitt. Pruitt had made six appearances this year, and he had given up a run in all of them. In all, he had a 15.88 ERA. But Wednesday night, he threw three and one-third inning and allowed only one hit and no runs to get his first major league win.

Pruitt said one of the keys was first-pitch strikes. “If you can do that, you’re in the driver’s seat,” he said. “If not, you’re in the passenger’s seat.”

Said manager Kevin Cash: “I really don’t know. I want to say that he’s been snake-bit by some unfortunate luck. He’s given up some hard-hit balls. We know this guy is going to be around the plate and he generally pitches ahead in the count. If it was anything, it was probably he was able to turn it into three innings where he could control the count a little better.”

The sight of Kiermaier failing to make a catch was shocking. He suggested the ball may have knuckled on him.

“Sloppy,” Kiermaier said. “We’ll take it anyway we can. I missed that ball. That’s a play I expect to make. Something went wrong with it, but I need to catch that. I hold myself accountable.”

The Rays play the Tigers again at 1:10 p.m. Erasmo Ramirez pitches against Daniel Norris.

Rowdies get a point with 1-1 draw against Cincinnati on the road

It’s a hard sport in which to score. Still, one goal will win only so often in the United Soccer League.

For the fourth time in five games, the Rowdies scored only one goal Wednesday night, and the team had to settle for a 1-1 draw with the home standing FC Cincinnati FC.

This time, Marcel Schaffer scored in the seventh minute for the Rowdies. Harrison Delbridge evened the game on a header in the 36th minute.

“We started off the game great with Marcel’s goal,” said Rowdies’ coach Stuart Campbell. “Despite not being able to get the three points, I think the draw is a positive result, especially against a tough team like Cincinnati. Now we have to turn the page and work on getting a win on Saturday at home.”

FCC almost scored in the 20th minute, but goalkeeper Matt Pickens made a nice save.

“I had a perfect angle with my left foot, so I decided to take a chance,” said Schafer. “Luckily it went as planned and I scored my first goal with the Rowdies. Despite the goal, I am disappointed we couldn’t get the three points, but I still think it’s a good result on the road.”

The Rowdies kept Djiby Falls, the USL’s leading scorer, without a point as Neill Collins and Damion Lowe did a nice job on him. Collins was named player of the match by USL.com.

With three games in a week, Rowdies’ coach Campbell didn’t play either Joe Cole (until the 80th minute) or Georgi Hristov (until the 65th).

“I felt that after our goal, we stopped playing the way we know how to play and that cost us,” Campbell said. “We defended well when they put the pressure on us, which is a positive takeaway.”

Tampa Bay had a chance after Cincinnati went down a man with 15 minutes to play, but they were unable to finish.

The Rowdies now return home to face Charleston Battery on Saturday, April 22.

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons