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Mitch Perry Report for 9.4.15 — Sam Rashid is not backing down

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It was famed actor, celebrity and humanitarian George Clooney who once said that he doesn’t tweet. “Just because, I like to have a drink at night. I could easily say something stupid, and I also don’t think you need to be that available.”

But there are lots of folks who just can’t help expressing themselves via the tools of modern technology. Like Sam Rashid.

The GOP activist from East Hillsborough County has been busted for the second time this year for using inappropriate language on social media. In this case, disparaging PR specialist/lobbyist Beth Leytham for her work with Parsons Brinckerhoff on the Go Hillsborough Campaign.

Like more than a few other citizens in the county, Sam isn’t pleased about the taxpayer funds that have gone to the public outreach program of the Hillsborough transportation project, which is well over a million dollars. This is not new or even unfair criticism. Just yesterday, Tampa City Councilwoman Lisa Montelione also had issues with the city now paying out nearly $75,000 to the folks putting on the Go Hillsborough transportation outreach effort.

Rashid isn’t backing down from the negative coverage that his posting on Facebook has engendered, which has been reported on in both local dailies today. Hardly. In a new posting on his Facebook page, the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority member writes that he stands by his statement of calling Leytham a “slut,” but insists that any attempt to refer to the remarks as sexist are absurd, because “it’s quite clear that there is no gender associated with my reference to a really poor attempt to deceive the taxpayers of this county with disinformation in order to promote a failed plan that is going to cost the residents of this county approximately $600 million per year in perpetuity.”

No gender associated? Then what about the part that says that Leytham has made several million dollars “as an unregistered lobbyist by having an intimately close relationship with three of our local elected officials, two on the BOCC and one in the City.”

OK, so I guess only those of us with dirty minds might infer from that phrase and “slut” and assume sexism at play.

Leytham has called the comments unfair. “If he wants to yell about Go Hillsborough or no taxes, that’s fine,” she told Mike Salinero with the Tampa Tribune. But to then just sling mud and call into question someone’s sexual life is just beyond the pale. And he wouldn’t do it to a man.”

Critics say Rick Scott should reconsider Rashid’s role on the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority, an agency that held a press conference earlier this week to champion legislation that would enable it to charge more on airplane tickets to pay for the second and third phases of the big master plan for Tampa International Airport.

Rashid says that ain’t gonna happen. “As for the Governor, he has much more significant and time-consuming things to do than make a call over some whining from a taxpayer supported and funded member of a local organization that somehow takes a personal blog post, convolutes the implication and then sends it off to his or her friends in the press who then with complicity spin the story from whether he or she is indeed an illegal lobbyist to one which is personal and taken out of context.”

All that can be said about that is that in 2015 “personal blog post” isn’t a great defense.

In other news..

OK, you know it’s way too early to take anything in presidential politics seriously when a  low-key retired pediatrician is now second in a national GOP poll. The Monmouth University study shows that Dr. Ben Carson is the only Republican in the field today who would defeat Donald Trump, and it isn’t even close.

I have to say in my 15 years of covering the Tampa City Council, I’ve rarely seen the public as exercised as they were yesterday in arguing against a police Civilian Review Board whose membership will be chosen almost exclusive by Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

A GOP poll that looks like it was put out by folks supporting Jim Norman shows Democrat Pat Kemp leading Norman by nine percentage points, which perhaps is intended to tell Republicans about his viability.

Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano says that the controversial Tampa Bay Express isn’t the “silver bullet” to remedy Hillsborough County’s transportation needs, but believes it’s a start.

Patrick Murphy is saying “thanks but no thanks” to a request by Alan Grayson to take a pledge not to accept any third-party super PAC funding for their Senate Democratic primary run next year.

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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