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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Reappointment of housing authority board member could be blocked after controversial museum vote

ST. PETERSBURG | Will there be any political fallout from the St. Petersburg Housing Authority's decision this week to sell the building that houses the city's only African American museum?

At least one board member may find out next week.

Ann Taylor has served on the housing board since 2011 and was one of four members who voted on Thursday to sell the property at 2240 Ninth Ave, S, which has housed the Dr. Carter G. Woodson African American Museum for the past several years.

Originally appointed by former mayor Bill Foster, she is currently up for reappointment under Mayor Rick Kriseman.

But before she can begin another 4-year term, she must be confirmed by St. Petersburg city council members, a majority of whom opposed the housing authority's plan to evict the museum.

And at least one council member has vowed to block Taylor's reappointment, scheduled for next Thursday.

"I will do my best to make sure she doesn't get a single affirmative vote," council member Karl Nurse said Friday. "I hope that will send a signal to the board about the job we think they are doing."

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St. Pete mayor's wife circulates petition against proposal to allow guns on college campuses

ST. PETERSBURG | Mayor Rick Kriseman's views on gun control are well known.

But it's his wife who has taken the unusual action to try to drum up awareness about a proposal to allow guns on college campuses in the Sunshine State.

Kerry Kriseman is circulating a Moveon.org petition against the measure, approved this week by a state subcommittee.

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Safety Harbor votes to bring arborist on board

SAFETY HARBOR| The city is looking for a full-time arborist to handle permitting and public education surrounding Safety Harbor’s retooled tree ordinance.

City commissioners gave City Manager Matt Spoor permission to begin advertising the position after nearly an hour of debate Tuesday.

Commissioners Carlos Diaz, Cliff Merz and Richard Blake initially said they were hesitant to hire someone before approving a final draft of the law for fear that the city or new employee would misjudge the required duties or workload.

Ultimately, all but Blake sided with Spoor, who insisted that upgrading city forms and computer coding ahead of approval then managing citywide business and homeowner requests plus community relations afterward would keep a full-time worker busy.

Commissioners voted 4-1 to pull the arborist’s $50,000 salary plus benefits from reserves, and spend $20,000 in capital project funds on a work vehicle. Spoor will evaluate in several months and reduce the arborist to part-time if needed. …

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Kriseman off to mayors' gathering in D.C.

St. Petersburg----- Mayor Rick Kriseman is  heading to Washington, D.C.  Wednesday for the 83rd winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors where he'll listen to remarks by Vice President Joe Biden and attend meetings with other mayors at the White House. 

He'll also informally trade tips with mayors from around the country and soak in information from dozens of panels and workshops, said his spokesman.

Kriseman is traveling alone, said spokesman Ben Kirby. His travel expenses come of of the city budget, but Kirby didn't know the exact amount. 

Aside from hearing from Biden and going to the White House with other mayors on Friday, the mayor sees the conference as an opportunity to make St. Petersburg part of the national discussion, Kirby said. 

"One of the best benefits of raising our city profile at meetings like this is to work with other mayors and hear what works--and what doesn't--in other cities," Kirby wrote in an email Tuesday. 

Kriseman will return Friday, a day before his "State of the City" address at City Hall.  

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Tampa again hosting Obamacare navigators, plus focusing on small business, hospitality industries

Health care navigator Ruth Bessant helps residents looking to sign up for health insurance during an Affordable Care Act enrollment event at the Jackson Heights NFL Youth Education Town Center in Tampa in March 2014. The event was organized by the Family Healthcare Foundation in Tampa.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times (2014)

Health care navigator Ruth Bessant helps residents looking to sign up for health insurance during an Affordable Care Act enrollment event at the Jackson Heights NFL Youth Education Town Center in Tampa in March 2014. The event was organized by the Family Healthcare Foundation in Tampa.

For a second year, Tampa is letting healthcare.gov navigators set up desks at city parks and recreation facilities to sign up residents for health insurance under the Affordable Care Act.

The city also is expanding its efforts to help navigators reach out to workers at small businesses and in the hospitality industry.

"We all benefit when residents have access to the care they need,” Mayor Bob Buckhorn said.

Asked whether he expects to build up political good will by helping President Barack Obama's signature program at a time when Tampa is getting ready to seek federal funds for the West River redevelopment plan, Buckhorn said that's not the point.

"If this were a Republican administration, and this was a project that I thought would help the folks I represent, I'd be just as enthusiastic about it," he said.

"Putting the politics aside, which, at this point, I couldn't care less about, the more people in our city that have health care coverage, the better a city we are, the healthier we are, the less of a burden they become on all of us by having to show up in the emergency room," Buckhorn said. "So we will do everything that we can to get as many people as we can signed up for it." …

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South Tampa neighborhood groups to hold City Council candidate forum

A coalition of South Tampa neighborhood associations representing about 20,000 residents will hold a City Council candidates forum on Feb. 11 at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church, 4311 W San Miguel St.

Candidates in all five contested council races have been invited. The event starts with a meet-and-greet at 6 p.m., followed by a two-hour forum at 6:30 p.m.

Sponsoring associations include Sunset Park, Virginia Park, Bayside West, Bayshore Beautiful. Gandy/Sun Bay South, Culbreath Heights, Swann Estates, Port Tampa and the Bayshore Condominium Council.

The forum is free and open to the public.

Tampa's election will take place March 3, with early voting from Feb. 23 to March 1. The deadline to register to vote is Feb. 2.

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Bob Buckhorn pings donors after write-in qualifies

How much campaign fundraising is enough? If you are Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and you get opposition — any opposition — $365,000 is not enough.

At noon Saturday, 24 hours after qualifying closed with Jose Vazquez qualified as a write-in in the mayor's race, Buckhorn sent supporters a fundraising email with the subject line "Not done yet":

Dear Friend,

In spite of all the positive support from friends like you, yesterday we learned that a candidate has filed to run against us.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in Tampa and I welcome the opportunity to showcase the progress we’ve made. From Jeff Vinik’s billion-dollar investment in our downtown to the record $2 billion in building permits issued last year, we’re well on our way to a brighter, more prosperous future.

With all the great things going on in Tampa, we cannot afford to miss a beat. If you believe we’re on the right path, can you contribute $25, $50, or $100 today?

Our success is a direct result of all of us uniting to work toward a shared mission. We’ve already done so much together, but I know that this is just the beginning. …

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Tampa City Council District 6 endorsements: Mary Mulhern for Guido Maniscalco, Tom Lee for Jackie Toledo

The District 6 race for Tampa City Council promises to be one of the city's most competitive this year, with two candidates touting endorsements from elected officials.

• Incumbent City Council member Mary Mulhern is backing jewelry retailer and civic activist Guido Maniscalco. "Guido has proven himself to be dedicated to the support of our neighborhoods and is a champion for small businesses," Mulhern said in a statement released by Maniscalco's campaign. "That commitment will serve our city well."

• State Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, supports civil engineer Jackie Toledo. “Jackie’s energy and tireless dedication to this community are exactly the traits we need from the new members serving on the Tampa City Council,” Lee said in a statement released through Toledo's campaign. “I’m confident in her ability to be a good steward of taxpayer initiatives and dollars and am proud to lend my support to her campaign.” …

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Looking at Buckhorn TV ad, PolitiFact Florida rates claims as 'Mostly False' and 'Half True'

Over the last two weeks, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has spent about $160,000 broadcasting a TV ad titled "Tampa's Got Its Swagger Back."

Now PolitiFact Florida, the political fact-checking initiative of the Tampa Bay Times, scrutinized three claims in the ad.

Two, that "we’re leading the state in jobs creation" was rated "Mostly False" and that Buckhorn "balanced the budget without raising taxes," each were rated "Mostly False."

The third, that Buckhorn "secured the highest possible bond rating" for the city, was rated "Half True."


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Write-in candidate qualifies for Tampa mayor's race

Write-in candidate Jose Vazquez lives in Sulphur Springs and once filed to run for the Legislature while serving time in state prison.

Times files (2012)

Write-in candidate Jose Vazquez lives in Sulphur Springs and once filed to run for the Legislature while serving time in state prison.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn won’t cruise unopposed to a second four-year term after all.

Write-in candidate Jose Vazquez, who once filed to run for the Legislature while he was serving time in state prison, qualified late Thursday afternoon for the city’s March 3 election.

That means Buckhorn’s name will be on city ballots for the election, which will include seven City Council races. Vazquez’s name will not appear on the ballot. Instead, there will be a blank space for write-in votes.

“I decided to run for mayor because for so many years, I’ve seen what’s happened in the city of Tampa with education, with homelessness problems, with housing problems,” Vazquez, a 40-year-old Sulphur Springs resident, said Thursday night.

But when he tried to call City Hall about those problems, he said he was ignored. He assumes that’s because he’s Puerto Rican, so he decided that if he wanted to get taken seriously, he needed to run for a serious office.

Vazquez, who said he is self-employed with a business that provides security, advertising and recycling services, has run for office several times before, once while he was in prison. …

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Safety Harbor orders $5,000 fine for tree moratorium violator

SAFETY HARBOR| The Code Enforcement Board has ordered a couple who cut down an oak tree on their property in violation of the city's tree moratorium to pay a $5,000 fine.

James and Helena Reagan's case was brought before the code board's resident volunteers after an anonymous tipster alerted the city.

James Reagan admitted that he forged City Manager Matt Spoor's signature on a slip of paper mimicking a permit in an effort to dupe passersby into thinking he had permission to fell a tree damaging the sidewalk and roof of his Eaton Court home. But he denied knowledge of the moratorium.

At an initial hearing on Dec. 17, the board -- acting on the advice of an attorney appointed by the city to assist members -- reluctantly followed normal procedure and ordered Reagan to obtain an after-the-fact permit within a day of the ban's lift or pay $250 a day.

However, City Attorney Alan Zimmet filed an appeal insisting that state law gave the board power to enforce city commissioners' moratorium, and that not doing so would negate the ban's purpose. Members decided at a Jan. 7 rehearing to impose the maximum fine allowed under the moratorium. …

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Hold the Mangroves on St. Pete waterfront


ST. PETERSBURG---Mangroves aren't a major part of the mix to create a more storm-resistant waterfront, the city's top official overseeing a waterfront master plan said Wednesday. 

Dave Goodwin said the idea of planting mangroves along vast stretches of the nearly seven miles stretch of the city fronting Tampa Bay to help protect the city from rising seas and storm surges didn't pass community muster and won't be part of the final plan.  

 A consultant-generated map shown at a recent meeting  that later appeared in the Tampa Bay Times was ambiguous on where mangroves might be introduced, said Goodwin, the city's director of planning and economic development.  

"It was discussed and hasn't received community support, " Goodwin said.  

Mangroves are planned for the eastern edge of Albert Whitted Airport, he said. 

Residents' primary concern was as the mangroves grew they would block water views, he said. 


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Bob Buckhorn: Hillsborough School Board 'absolutely' should keep MaryEllen Elia

Answering a reporter's question, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Wednesday that the Hillsborough County School Board "absolutely" should keep Superintendent MaryEllen Elia and not dismiss her next week.

"Terminating Mary Ellen's contract would be a huge mistake," Buckhorn said. "I think she's a world-class leader. I think she's put the Hillsborough school district on the map. I think to lose that kind of talent over petty, personal disagreements would do a disservice to the city. You don't have to like someone to recognize talent and to recognize that they are capable of running a great organization. I think she does. I think the current dynamic over there is the only dysfunctional agency in the Tampa area. Everyone else is singing off the same page. They're focused, they're executing, and I think that kind of drama is really not necessary, and I hope the new members recognize what a mistake that would be."

Speaking to reporters outside the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections Office, where he paid a $9,000 qualifying fee to get his name on the March 3 city ballot, Buckhorn said he may speak to some School Board members before next week's discussion on Elia's future. …

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Qualifying begins for Tampa city elections

Now we see who’s serious, who lost interest and who comes to the party at the last possible moment.

Qualifying began at noon Monday for Tampa city elections on March 3. District 1 candidate Susan Long was the first to be listed as a qualified candidate at the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections’ web site, votehillsborough.org.

Council candidates have until noon Friday to pay a fee of $2,415 to qualify, and council member Mike Suarez, who will face Long in the citywide race, did so Monday morning to make certain he hadn't overlooked anything.

“I’d rather do something early and make sure I have all my ducks in a row than to wait until the last minute,” Suarez said.

Anyone who wants to take on Mayor Bob Buckhorn will have to pay a qualifying fee of $9,000, which represents 6 percent of the mayor’s annual salary of $150,000.

Three candidates — City Council District 5 member Frank Reddick and District 6 candidates Tommy Castellano and Jackie Toledo turned in 868 or more voters’ signatures by Jan. 2 to qualify by petition.

Including Buckhorn, there are 19 active candidates listed on the supervisor’s web site, but new ones have until Friday file their paperwork and qualify. …

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Where in Tampa you'll see Coast Bike Share the most

Coast Bike Share

Here's something that goes with the first-month numbers for Coast Bike Share, Tampa's new bike rental program. Coast's bikes have GPS technology that track their location and movements in real time. That allows the program to create heat maps, like this one, showing the routes where Coast members ride the most.

There's lots of activity on the Riverwalk, including around Water Works Park and Ulele Native-Inspired Food & Spirts. There's slightly less but still substantial riding in Hyde Park, Ybor City, the Channel District, and on Bayshore Boulevard, Harbour Island and Davis Islands. Riders have ventured as far north as Columbus Drive, east to N 25th Street, south to Ballast Point and west beyond N Dale Mabry Highway.

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