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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Shocker: I-4 near Tampa's downtown one of 50 worst bottlenecks

Looking east from the Interstate 275 junction with Interstate 4 during a particularly bad rush hour in 2006.

Tampa Bay Times/Daniel Wallace

Looking east from the Interstate 275 junction with Interstate 4 during a particularly bad rush hour in 2006.

As anyone who's driven Interstate 4 near downtown Tampa knows, it's pretty bad.

How bad?

According to a study by the American Highway Users Alliance of America's urban freeways, it's one of the nation's worst bottlenecks, which are portions of highways that are routinely and consistently congested. 

The study estimates that a 0.4-mile stretch of I-4 between North 22nd Street and North Nebraska Avenue is responsible for 300,000 hours each year in delays, costing $7 million in lost economic opportunity, and wasting 191,100 gallons of fuel.


But hey, the study says that 44 other bottlenecks are even worse, so that's not too bad, right? And Miami has three of them. Plus, it's not as bad as 2004, when the the same study rated the I-4/I-275 interchange as the 16th worst bottleneck, responsible for 14 million hours in annual delays. 

I-4 doesn't come close to the misery found on the worst bottleneck in the nation: a 12-mile stretch on Interstate 90 in Chicago, which is responsible for 16.9 million hours in annual delays at a cost of $418 million and a waste of 6.4 million gallons of fuel, according to the study. …

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Jim Norman's campaign logo, colors appear Tampa Bay Lightning-themed

A campaign postcard sent from Republican Jim Norman.

Uploaded by Times staff

A campaign postcard sent from Republican Jim Norman.

Jim Norman is a Republican but his campaign literature is blue … and black and white.

The Hillsborough County commission candidate’s mailers and pamphlets have a distinct Tampa Bay Lightning theme to them, almost making it seem as though Norman is the team’s candidate.

He’s not, though. The team has not endorsed anyone at this point, a Lightning spokesman said.

Norman even has a lightning bolt for his logo that looks awfully similar to the one utilized by Tampa’s most popular sports team. And in his campaign handouts and on his Facebook page, the bolt is encased within the “O” in Norman. Take a look.

Here's the team’s logo.

Norman has used that symbol in previous races, including in 2012 when he ran re-election to the state Senate. He dropped out of that race amid questions about a vacation home in Arkansas owned by his wife and bankrolled by his close friend and local businessman Ralph Hughes.

As he looks to make a political comeback on the county commission, where he served for 18 years, Norman has resurrected the old logo. But it’s not the only part of his campaign literature that is distinctly Lightning-esque. …

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Artist who wrapped Tarpon Springs home in foil brings his art to St. Petersburg museum

Earlier this year, Polish artist Piotr Janowski decided to wrap his rental home and several trees in aluminum foil as part of his first outdoor art project.

His Tarpon Springs neighbors, some of whom complained to the city, were not impressed.

But St. Petersburg’s Museum of Fine Arts apparently was: Janowski is bringing his aluminum art to the museum’s grounds next month.

The exhibit, called Curiosity and sponsored by Reynolds Wrap (we’re not kidding), will begin Dec. 3 and run through Feb. 14 of next year.

“Paradoxically,” said Janowski in a statement, “the installation is revealing through concealing.”

He will be applying foil and attaching “abstract forms, suggestive of the human ear” to eight palm trees around the museum at 255 Beach Dr NE, an MFA statement reads.

Last December, Janowski, a graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, moved from Vienna to Tarpon Springs. He was instantly enamored by Florida’s tropical beauty and decided to create a project that reflected, literally, the nature around him, Janowski told the Tampa Bay Times in May. …

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Rick Scott's transportation budget: Roads, not transit

Gov. Rick Scott will dedicate a majority of the Florida Department of Transportation's budget to roads, leaving little for transit projects and pedestrian improvements. 

Scott announced Monday that FDOT will receive $9.9 billion in the "Florida First” 2016-2017 budget -- $84.87 million less than this year. The bulk of that will go to road projects. A third will be devoted to constructing highway projects. 

About 6 percent of the budget will go to public transit development grants. Less than half a percent will be spent on bike and pedestrian trails. 

Here are some of the highlights from the budget. The full itemized list can be found on the Florida First website.

-- $3.3 billion for construction of highway projects to keep Florida’s transportation infrastructure among the best in the country.

-- $153.9 million in seaport infrastructure improvements to keep Florida First in the world for ocean cruise passengers and a major U.S. cargo gateway.

-- $237.6 million for aviation improvements to keep Florida First in airport infrastructure investments. …

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Tampa Chamber vague on support of Hillsborough transportation sales tax increase

Traffic backup on eastbound Lutz-Lake Fern Road at Sunlake Boulevard.

Times Photo

Traffic backup on eastbound Lutz-Lake Fern Road at Sunlake Boulevard.

Tampa’s business community weighed in on Hillsborough County’s transportation funding debate — kind of.

In a somewhat cryptic statement approved Thursday and released today, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce board of directors said it would “support a referendum that includes measureable (sic) transportation outcomes, including mobility options and additional funding sources.” It also said that the board believes “transportation investment in the community requires additional funding sources to solve our transportation challenges.”

The statement stopped well short of endorsing a referendum for a half-cent sales tax increase to fund transportation projects, the option recommended by Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill and advanced Nov. 5 by the Policy Leadership Group, a body of Hillsborough commissioners and leaders from the three cities. Hillsborough commissioners are expected to vote in the next couple months whether to put the sales tax hike on the 2016 ballot.

The chamber’s statement did not mention the sales tax at all, and it’s not clear if the chamber believes the construction plan tied to the sales tax proposal has “measurable transportation outcomes.” …

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Contenders emerging to replace Lisa Montelione on Tampa City Council

Assuming Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione resigns her seat to run for state House District 63, as she announced last week, some candidates already are considering running to replace her. Among them:

Gene Siudut, longtime managing editor of Ybor City's La Gaceta newspaper, a Democrat and also a civic activist. Siudut says he's definitely interested.

Mark Danish, a Democrat who once held the District 63 House seat. Danish, a retired teacher, has said in the past he'd be interested in the seat, and said this week he'll consider it.

• Tampa lawyer Luis E. Viera, a civic activist and Democrat, also confirms he's interested.

When the election would be held isn't clear. Elections Supervisor Craig Latimer said he has asked for advice from the city attorney's office, but believes it could be on Election Day in November 2016.

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Belcher to resign as chairwoman of Hillsborough Democratic Party

In a surprise this week, Elizabeth Belcher announced she will resign as chairwoman of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party next month. She has served less than a year.

Former Pinellas County chairman Mark Hanisee says he'll run to replace her.

Hanisee, who is employed as development director for the party, is given credit by some for boosting its fundraising this year. He still lives in Pinellas County, which would make him ineligible for the Hillsborough Party post, but said he intends to move.

Hanisee also said if elected, he'll keep the development director position, which pays him a $1,000 salary and $500 for expenses per month.

Hanisee served as Pinellas chairman from 2010 to 2014, when he lost a re-election battle to Susan McGrath, in the wake of a controversy over his urging a prominent black minister not to oppose Alex Sink in a U.S. House primary.

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Single women with cats flock to Tampa Bay

Yes, believe it. Nielsen Scarborough, the market research firm, has ranked the cities with the highest percentage of single women who live alone with at least one cat.

No, really. 

And Tampa/St. Petersburg ranks ninth at 7.5 percent, just a wee bit behind Minneapolis/St. Paul and Harrisburg, PA, with 7.7 percent. No. 1 is, of course, Portland, with 9.9 percent.

Read all about it in The Seattle Times. (Seattle ranks No. 2 at 9.3 percent -- it could be all that rain.)

Here's the Top 10

1. Portland -- 9.9 percent

2. Seattle -- 9.3 percent

3. Pittsburgh -- 8.7 percent

4. Kansas City -- 8.4 percent

5. Denver -- 8.3 percent

6. Albuquerque/Santa Fe, N.M. -- 8.2 percent

7. Minneapolis/St. Paul; Harrisburg, PA -- 7.7 percent

9. Tampa/St. Petersburg; Columbus, OH -- 7.5

Nielsen Scarborough surveyed 400,696 respondents nationwide on a wide range of lifestyle and consumer behaviors. The surveys were conducted between February 2013 and March 2015. Nationally, single-person cat households are 2-1 in favor of women. 





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Third candidate joins Pasco judicial race

Pasco County Court Judge Debra Roberts has drawn a second challenger in her bid for re-election in 2016.
Scott Tremblay, 38, a former prosecutor who now has his own practice in New Port Richey, filed candidacy papers this week.
“I feel I am well-qualified, based on my background, and a good candidate for that position,’’ Tremblay said Thursday afternoon.
Roberts, the first Afrian-American to serve on the Pasco bench, filed her re-election papers for the Group 4 seat in September. She was appointed to her seat by Gov. Jeb Bush in 2001 then won election in 2004 and again in 2010.
The other candidate is Michael P. Wilson, a former private-practice attorney who now is a Pasco Sheriff’s deputy serving a detective in the professional standards office. He announced his candidacy in June.
The non-partisan race will be on the Aug. 30, 2016, ballot.


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Cities struggle with preventing pedestrian deaths

The people of Columbus, Ohio, are quarreling over what has led to the nine pedestrian deaths the city has seen this year.

Police sgt. Brooke Wilson told the local NPR station that every one of those deaths, to some extent, is preventable.

"It’s not just enough to be legally correct in your actions as a pedestrian. You need to give yourself every advantage which includes wearing bright, reflective clothing, paying attention to your surroundings, looking for other vehicles, being aware of cars that might not be seeing you," Wilson said.

Joshua Lapp at Transit Columbus fired back, calling the comments "anti-pedestrian." 

"Sidewalks aren’t sexy, yet 50 percent to 60 percent of Columbus remains without them. Crosswalks aren’t in the news, but all too often they’re ignored by drivers and unmarked for pedestrians," Lapp wrote. "We all deserve a safe way to cross the street, a smooth sidewalk for our feet, or a safe ramp for our wheel chair." …

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Study: Minor increase in bike use would save U.S. trillions

As the 25th anniversary of the Pinellas Trail approaches, it's important to remember that when it debuted, only three other locales had something like it. Now, more than 1,000 cities do.

With bike share programs now provided by Tampa, and perhaps soon in St. Petersburg, bike use should only go up, here and nationally.

And that would be very good news, according to a University of California, Davis report released this month.

Right now, city dwellers worldwide use a bike for 6 percent of their trips. If that climbs to 11 percent by 2030, and then 14 percent by 2050, carbon dioxide emissions would be cut by 7 percent to 11 percent, the report concludes. The increase in cycling would save the U.S. a total of $6 trillion over the next 15 years and up to $24 trillion between 2015 and 2050.  …

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Commissioner Beckner defends Hillsborough's 'Welcoming County' program amid Syrian refugee debate

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner sent a letter about the county's 'Welcoming County' program to citizens concerned about Syrian refugees

Times Photo

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner sent a letter about the county's 'Welcoming County' program to citizens concerned about Syrian refugees

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner reached out to concerned citizens Wednesday to clarify that the county has no say in whether Syrian refugees settle here, despite a recent resolution that designated Hillsborough a “Welcoming County.”

After a handful of angry and concerned calls and emails in the wake of the Paris attacks, Beckner sent a letter to constituents explaining that the “Welcoming Cities and Counties” program Hillsborough joined this summer merely acknowledged that Hillsborough would be more inclusive and improve outreach toward refugees assigned to relocate here. It didn’t, however, mean Hillsborough was committed to taking on more refugees.

Nevertheless, Beckner, who was vocal in encouraging the county to join the program, was critical of the resistance to helping refugees fleeing oppression, violence and terrorists in Syria. …

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Uber to deliver flu shots around Tampa Bay Thursday

Need a flu shot this season? Uber wants to deliver one to you tomorrow as part of its UberHEALTH campaign.

The rideshare company is making house calls Thursday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Users just have to open their apps, choose UberHealth, select a suitable indoor location, and wait for Uber to arrive with a registered nurse from Passport Health.

With the purchase of one $10 wellness pack, that nurse will then administer flu shots for up to 10 people at no additional cost. The nurse will also handle all paperwork and consent forms.

Demand for UberHEALTH is expected to be high, and users are asked to be patient.

Uber will deliver flu shots in more than 35 U.S. cities, including Tampa Bay. Less than 50-percent of adults receive a flu shot, Uber said.


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Lynn picks up local endorsements

Eric Lynn, facing off against Charlie Crist in the 13th Congressional District's Democratic primary, announced a slew of local elected officials' endorsements Wednesday.

St. Petersburg City Council chairman Charlie Gerdes and Pinellas County School Board member Linda Lerner top the list of those supporting Lynn.

Other elected officials backing the former Obama admnistration defense official are Indian Rocks Beach commissioners Terry Hamilton-Wollin, Jim Labadie and Joanne "Cookie" Kennedy, Gulfport council member Michael Fridovich and South Pasadena Commissioner Gail Neidinger. 

 “With their combined 46 years in public service, Charlie, Linda, Terry, Jim, Michael, and Gail have worked and continue to work tirelessly for the district,” said Lynn in a news release. “I hope to demonstrate their same commitment as a proud Congressman from Pinellas County. We need more leaders like them in Congress to fight on behalf of this district on crucial issues like protecting our veterans, environment and access to women’s health. I deeply appreciate their support and I look forward to working alongside them to ensure our district’s voice is heard in Washington, D.C.”


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Starkey named chair of Pasco Commission

DADE CITY - Commissioner Kathryn Starkey assumed the chairmanship of the Pasco County Commission today, being elevated from vice chairman during the board’s annual reorganization.  
Starkey is starting the final year of her four-year term. She has said she will seek re-election in 2016, but she has not yet filed her candidacy papers to open a campaign account and begin fund-raising. 
It’s a familiar role for Starkey. She previously served as chairman of the Pasco School Board in 2007. Starkey resigned from the school board after six years to make  an unsuccessful run for the state House of Representatives in 2010. 
Tuesday morning, Commissioner Mike Moore nominated Starkey for chairman.  Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. seconded the motion. 
Commissioner Ted Schrader, the outgoing chairman, nominated Moore as vice chairman. It puts Moore, elected a year ago,  in line to become chairman in November 2016. Again, Wells seconded the nomination. 
Both votes were unanimous. All five board members are Republicans.   


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