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From the Times: Cities’ BP payouts are far less than asked for, but that’s OK

in Apolitical/Top Headlines by

Both Tampa and St. Pete asked for the same amount of money from a BP oil settlement to cover estimated losses as a result of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill. Tampa is getting a little less than half of the $60 million it petitioned for while St. Pete is getting just $8 million.

And city leaders signed off on that.

In Sunday’s paper, Tampa Bay Times reporter Tony Marrero explained why.

Specific calculations are unknown and city attorneys can’t explain too much because the judge who ruled on the settlement also issued a gag order keeping people in the know from talking about it.

However, there are some vague explanations as to why St. Pete would vote in favor of a settlement just about 13 percent of what they asked for. First up is what Marerro calls the “everything-but-the-kitchen-sink” approach.

Basically, cities like St. Pete included more than just lost sales tax and tourist tax revenue. They threw anything that could even be remotely tied to the spill into their own reports to protect the ability for future redress.

The settlements were also not necessarily determined based on a city’s individual reports. Instead, independent court-appointed panels calculated proposed awards using some of the same formulas used by cities, but not all of them. That could explain the vast differences in city asks and actual take-aways.

Marrero documents a couple of reasons why cities may have been OK with the disparity. Tampa attorney Steve Yerrid said it was better to settle now than to drag out litigation for years.

And Marerro ventured, perhaps attorneys were hesitant to gamble on whether or not their claims could be adequately argued in front of an attorney.

Clearwater also voted to approve the award. They are set to get about as much as St. Pete, but only asked for $20 million.

Two Pinellas cities rejected the awards. St. Pete Beach and Treasure Island have not disclosed what their proposed settlement was.

Meanwhile, a South Florida city got paid a 10th of its operating budget. Florida City, considered a gateway of sorts to the Florida Keys, is set to receive $1 million from the settlement.

Read the full report here.

Janelle Irwin has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. She also hosts a weekly political talk show on WMNF Community radio. Janelle formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for Patch.com and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a diehard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and the ongoing Pier debacle. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also the devoted mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder. To contact, email janelle@floridapolitics.com.

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