St. Petersburg residents can now get daily updates on the future referendum to stop the Lens from moving forward.
The Pinellas Supervisor of Elections is posting daily updates on how many signatures have been verified on the more than 20,000 petitions turned in to the city clerk.
As of Tuesday, the county has processed 2,200 signatures, and 98 percent have been verified. The office will update the total at the end of each day on its website.
Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg handed in more than 20,000 petitions demanding a referendum to cancel the contract with Lens’ designer, Michael Maltzan Architecture.
The group needs 16,652 verified signatures to get the referendum on the ballot. If successful, the vote will most likely be on Aug. 27, the day of the city’s primary election.
For Tallahassee, refusing additional federal funds to expand Medicaid may turn out to have been the easy part.
It will take longer, a half-dozen Hillsborough legislators acknowledged Tuesday, to come up with an alternative to provide health care coverage to an estimated 1 million uninsured Floridians.
The business impact of legislative decisions on health care was a main issue when about 120 members of the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce sat down for lunch with seven Hillsborough County legislators at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Tampa.
After an easy opening question, chamber chairman Gregory Celestan told the lawmakers to prepare for a hardball.
Some Tampa businesses, he said, are “very concerned about significant additional health insurance costs” because of the Legislature’s “refusal to expand Medicaid.”
“We will be at a competitive disadvantage when recruiting new businesses or adding jobs,” Celestan added. “How would you respond?” …Full Story
What’s that line about a tree falling in the forest and nobody being around to hear it?
That’s what comes to mind when Mayor Bill Foster tweets campaign news on Twitter. He launched his Twitter account last month and can be followed @Foster4Mayor.
On Friday, he told his 10 followers about his first fundraiser next week at Ferg’s Sports Bar and Grill. On Tuesday, he told 33 followers about his new website: BillFosterformayor.com.
Foster is running against former City Council member Kathleen Ford and former City Council member and state lawmaker Rick Kriseman. They are seeking to lead Florida’s fourth-largest city.
Buzz wonders if Foster is trying to avoid the media in this campaign. He has sent only two press releases since announcing his reelection bid.
A dozen people have applied to fill the vacancy on the Hillsborough Aviation Authority created by the April 21 death of lawyer and board chairman Steve Burton.
Gov. Rick Scott has not indicated when he will make his choice. The day after Burton’s death, Scott told reporters, “we'll do this in a methodical manner, try to find somebody as good as Steve to be there, but Steve will be tough to replace."
Those who have filed applications with the governor’s office include:
• Architect and past congressional candidate Eddie Adams Jr., 59, of Temple Terrace.
• Gregory W. Bryant, 49, of Tampa. Bryant is president and CEO of Bay Cities Bank.
• Steve Cona III, 38, of Tampa. Cona is the president of the Florida Gulf Coast chapter of Associated Builders and Contractors, which represents the interests of 450 construction-related companies from Gainesville to Naples.
• Retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Arthur “Chip” Diehl III, 59, of Tampa. Diehl is a pilot and former wing commander at MacDill Air Force Base.
• Attorney and businessman Martin Garcia, 57, of Tampa. Garcia is founder and managing director of Pinehill Capital Partners. …Full Story
Melissa Snively kicks off her campaign for the District 4 seat on the Hillsborough County School Board at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Winthrop Theater, 11349 W Bloomingdale Ave., in Riverview.
Snively, a 42-year-old insurance agent who lives in Valrico, is one four candidates who have filed papers to run for the District 4 seat. The others are Terry Kemple, Jereme Monette and Dee Prether. The election is next year.
ST. PETERSBURG -- City Council chairman Karl Nurse is running for reelection to his District 6 seat.
"I believe there is much work to do in the next four years,” he said in his announcement Friday. “I will continue to focus on public safety, jobs, neighborhood renewal, children and the efficient delivery of basic services.”
Nurse, president of Bay Tech Label, a specialty printer, touts his business experience and says he tries to use it to help the city save money, remove roadblocks to job creation and to look for ways to attract business to the city. He is proud of the passage of a foreclosure registry, a new lien release system tied to renovations and the “Rebates for Rebates” program, all of which are designed to spur neighborhood renewal. His website is www.electkarlnurse.com. Full Story
On second thought, former state Rep. Peter Nehr will not be running for the Pinellas County Commission after all.
Nehr, a Republican who served six years in the state House, from 2006 to 2012, but lost his bid for a fourth term last year to Democrat Carl Zimmerman, officially withdrew from the commission race in late April. He sent the Supervisor of Elections a letter stating: "Effective immediately I am withdrawing as a candidate for the elected position of Pinellas County Commission District #4."
2012 was not the smoothest year for Nehr. In July, he made national news for sending his friends pictures of himself shirtless - intended, he said, to show them how much weight he'd lost while struggling with diabetes. Then after he lost the election for House District 65, the Times' Steve Bousquet found that Nehr had used leftover campaign money to pay his live-in girlfriend, an acupuncturist, $22,000. Nehr said the payments were for "consulting, editing and fundraising" work. Full Story
Arborists are working to revive what may be the oldest and most treasured tree in Pinellas County after an effort to showcase the majestic Baranoff Oak blocked its ability to get the nutrients it needs to survive.
Safety Harbor spent $350,000 in 2005 to construct a decorative tribute to the downtown oak, including a parking lot, red brick plaza, statues, a pedestrian walkway and benches where people can sit and admire the thick branches draped with moss.
Read more here. Full Story
As rumors swirl around Midtown about a new grocer opening in Tangerine Plaza, residents might know details in August about efforts to fill the space partially built with tax dollars.
Larry Newsome, head of Urban Development Solutions, told the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday that he is still seeking a retailer to replace Sweetbay Supermarket.
“We’re negotiating for a new tenant,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have news to share in the next 60 to 90 days.”
The City invested million in public money to help bring Sweetbay to the plaza in 2005. The project was viewed as the catalyst to revitalize Midtown. But Sweetbay closed in February, leaving an oasis of empty parking spots and struggling businesses.
Sweetbay still pays rent to Urban Development Solutions. Full Story
After getting plenty of phone calls and emails this morning from people looking for the Pinellas term limits ruling, I thought I'd put it online.
Here's a link to the pdf.
And a link to my story in today's paper about the judge's order.Full Story
After a slow start, East Lake Fire Rescue has launched an investigation into whether a lieutenant sent racist text messages to firefighters and harassed the department's only minority.
Lt. James Finley is accused of sending at least two messages, including one of a black man popping out of a brown box with this message: "Thanks for the gift, but I am sending it back it won't f------ work."
Fire Chief Tom Jamison originally said he couldn't punish Finley because the texts were sent while he was off duty. After records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times showed Finley was on duty, Jamison said he had made an error and would investigate.
Read more here. Full Story
ST. PETERSBURG -- Candidates in the St. Petersburg District 4 City Council race have been busy – with fundraisers, endorsements and a news conference.Full Story
St. Petersburg neurosurgeon David McKalip held a news conference near the Pier on Wednesday to discuss his proposal for redeveloping the St. Petersburg icon.
Instead of proceeding with the proposed replacement called the Lens, which he described as “a glorified sidewalk that no one wants,” he suggested opening the process to a private developer. A private business would build a new Pier on its own, without government financing. Options might include a hotel, an entertainment complex, sports facilities, TV studios or some other venture, he said.
The privately financed plan would then go to voters for approval.
McKalip said the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan was developed this way, to great acclaim. And even though it went over budget, it was private developers, not the city, that paid the bills, he said.
With this plan, he said, the city gets a nice new attraction and taxpayers would be off the hook. Also Wednesday, McKalip went to have a fundraiser – at the Pier.
Also this week, Darden Rice gave the City Clerk’s office more than 500 petitions signed by residents of District 4 as a way of qualifying for office. She’s the only candidate in the district who did so by Tuesday’s deadline. The other candidates must pay a qualify fee of $150.
Rice said it was important to her to gather the petitions because it shows her campaign as a solid grass-roots organization. “We wanted to walk the streets, talk to voters directly,” she said.
She also received the endorsement of the Suncoast PBA, which she called an important show of support.
“Ensuring the public's safety and working collaboratively with our city's police force is one of the Council's top responsibilities and we have to get it right,” Rice said in a news release.
Meanwhile candidate Carolyn Fries, who describes herself as a “technology entrepreneur and community leader,” has scheduled a fundraiser for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Doyle Wealth Management, 333 Third Ave. N., suite 300. Attendees are asked to RSVP to (727) 898-3063 and to make a contribution of $25 to $500.
Host committee members are: Hope Botterbusch, Robert and Jillian Doyle, Dr. John Harrison, Chris Kelly, William R. Lane Jr., Daniel James Scott.
Campaign news is emerging in the quest to become the next mayor of Florida’s fourth-largest city.
While Foster racks up support from police unions, Buzz wonders how much this will help him when voters cast ballots. Hundreds of police officers live outside of St. Petersburg and can’t vote in city elections.
Months after launching a new city logo and slogan, Dunedin city staffers are looking into the cost of hiring an advertising or public relations firm to help promote the new brand.
The proposal will be presented to the City Commission Thursday, along with a briefing on the final marketing plan crafted by Wilesmith Advertising and Design (which designed the new brand).
Under the first phase of the brand rollout, Dunedin installed street banners featuring the new image and magnetic decals for city vehicles, among other things. For phase two, Wilesmith is recommending that the city wraps funds into its 2014 budget for billboard or airport advertisements, as well as embark on agressive social media and mobile marketing campaigns.
In a memo to commissioners, economic development director Bob Ironsmith has suggested that the city also gather cost estimates on firms that could help the city get the word out. …Full Story
TAMPA - Hillsborough County will explore the idea of reconfiguring its county commission seats to create a district that concentrates Hispanic residents. Commissioners voted 6-0 Wednesday to hold public workshops and hearings that could lead to a referendum on the November 2014 ballot.
If passed, it would take effect in 2016. Commissioner Les Miller's proposal would reduce from three to two the number of commissioners who are elected to countywide seats on the seven-member board.
The at-large seat that would likely be converted to a district is now held by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who must leave office in 2016 due to term limits. The proposal would also require the county commission to redraw boundaries for all of the district-based seats.
The so-called Hispanic opportunity district is needed, Miller said, because of the county's growing number of Hispanics. Read more.Full Story