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Tampa Bay Times still hammering away on candidates based on the Rays

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

The Tampa Bay Times editorial board has taken one last chance to hammer home its unwavering support for anyone who may break the Tampa Bay Rays stadium saga stalemate.

Even if it means endorsing a candidate for no other good reason.

In its latest editorial, the Times continued its anti-Steve Kornell rhetoric based solely on the Rays issue. After having been criticized numerous times for endorsing Philip Garrett in the District 5 race despite a lackluster campaign and arguable lack of viability, the editorial board added to it another reason to deny Kornell a final term in office.

The Times said Kornell “has been a disappointment.” But they don’t say why and instead jump right back in to calling him an obstructionist based on the stadium stalemate. Garrett, they write, “is the better choice.” That endorsement comes despite wishy-washy campaign finance reporting in this and other elections.

Garrett has offered little to the City Council discourse saying only that Kornell hasn’t done enough for his community. Garrett also wants to lower taxes and increase city services. He’s laid out no plans on how to get that done.

The latest editorial does get one thing right in the stadium dilemma. The editorial board is still unabashedly in favor of Lisa Wheeler-Brown based on her support of Mayor Rick Kriseman’s previously brokered plan to let the Rays look outside St. Pete for alternative stadium sites in the region.

Now, though, they finally offer an additional reason to get behind Wheeler-Brown and not Will Newton.

“The former firefighters union president has received more than 40 percent of his campaign money from political action committees for firefighters,” they wrote.

Newton, who’s an official for the state firefighters union, won’t commit to quitting if he’s elected to City Council. He also said he wouldn’t recuse himself from votes on police and fire union issues.

“Newton has an obvious conflict of interest, and the firefighters union should not be able to buy its own council seat,” the editorial reads.

It’s good to see the Tampa Bay Times finally adding something more substantive to its pro-Wheeler-Brown dialogue.

It even finally acknowledged that her campaign finance mistakes including spending campaign funds on personal dental work and failing to report in-kind contributions are “fair game.”

However, considering the Time’s endorsement of Garrett over a sitting councilmember, who has spent six years bettering his community, for no other meaningful reason than the Rays means voters should take with a grain of salt – perhaps even a pound of salt – any endorsement coming from the Times that even mentions the Rays.

The paper’s unwavering bias in this election has been shameful.

Voters are right to weigh the candidates in this election. Wheeler-Brown’s campaign finance issues are troubling. So too are negative attacks against her and Newton’s mostly unanswered tax liability issues.

Those are the questions voters should consider when making a choice. City Council is a robust board responsible for making numerous decisions in St. Pete. It’s not all about the Rays.

The latest Times editorial gets one thing 100 percent right.

“The city is on a roll, and the best way to ensure it keeps moving in the right direction is for voters to go to the polls and make their voices heard.”

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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