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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jack Latvala got hip surgery on eve of primary election

CLEARWATER -- Sen. Jack Latvala gets a pass for leaving his primary election night party early on Tuesday night. He was recovering from hip replacement surgery that he underwent the previous Friday.

Latvala, R-Clearwater, shared a victory party with fellow legislator Ed Hooper, who won the Republican primary for Pinellas County Commission District 2.

Hooper was marveling that Latvala had even shown up, given that he'd a hip replaced a few days prior. "He's a tough guy," Hooper said.

Latvala previously had hip replacement surgery in 2011.

On primary night, Latvala sat a table talking with his wife and his son Chris Latvala, who won his own Republican primary for House District 67. The primary night party at Quaker Steak & Lube in mid-Pinellas drew an exuberant crowd of supporters and politicos, including Rep. Kathleen Peters, Clearwater Vice Mayor Doreen Hock-DiPolito and Clearwater City Council Member Hoyt Hamilton.

After the elder Latvala left early, the younger Latvala worked the room like a pro.




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Bucs, Home Shopping Network give big to Greenlight Pinellas transit campaign

ST. PETERSBURG — The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Home Shopping Network are the latest big corporate names to back the Greenlight Pinellas transit campaign.

A report filed Friday with the Pinellas Supervisor of Elections Office shows The Buccaneers Limited Partnership kicked in $25,000 and St. Petersburg-based HSN gave $10,000 to the Friends of Greenlight, the political committee working to pass the transit referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot. Parsons Brinckerhoff, a multinational engineering and design consulting firm that has an office in Tampa, gave $25,000, doubling its total contributions to the campaign.

The donations helped the Friends raise $69,160 in the fundraising period from Aug. 9 to Aug. 21. The group to date has raised nearly $723,000, putting its $1 million fundraising goal in sight, said spokesman Kyle Parks

If approved, the plan would raise the county’s sales tax by a penny, to 8 cents on the dollar, to expand bus service and build a 24-mile light rail system between St. Petersburg and Clearwater. 

No Tax for Tracks, the political committee trying to defeat the referendum, so far has raised $46,103.

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St. Pete employees get reminder about city's new vision after revelations about racial tension in some city departments

ST. PETERSBURG | Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin issued a memo to all employees this week in the wake of stories in the Tampa Bay Times about racial tension among employees, most noticably in the Stormwater Department, where a white supervisor spray-painted the back of a black worker's back and made reference to the Klu Klux Klan.

Tomalin began her letter, which went out Thursday, by reminding people of the city's new vision, unveiled when Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration took office this year. One of the chief values, Tomalin said, is diversity and inclusiveness.

"Recent media coverage regarding race relations among our team presents an opportunity for us to affirm our commitment to a culture of inclusivity where everybody is treated with dignity and respect," Tomalin wrote.

On Sunday, the Times chronicled the story of a black worker whose white supervisor spraypainted his back, an event came to be known as the "KKK incident." But past and former city workers told the newspaper the incident is just one of the frustrations of many black employees within some city dapartments.  …

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Joyner, Cruz to endorse USF prof in Senate District 22 race

ST. PETERSBURG | State Sen. Arthenia Joyner and state Rep. Janet Cruz are expected to endorse University of South Florida St. Petersburg professor Judithanne McLauchlan for the Senate District 22 seat currently held by Republican Jeff Brandes.

The Democratic lawmakers are making it official Saturday at the "Diversi-Tea" event at the Manhattan Casino, hosted by Business and Professional Women/St. Petersburg-Pinellas. The event is aimed at celebrating the 9th Amendment.

McLaughlan, endorsed earlier this month by Mayor Rick Kriseman, is trying to unseat Brandes, who has represented the 22nd district since 2012. The district encompasses parts of south Pinellas, the beaches, and south Tampa.

Neither faces a primary challenge.

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Littlefield mailer features Fasano

Pasco County Commission candidate Ken Littlefield this week rolled out a mailer featuring a smiling photograph and glowing quotes from Tax Collector Mike Fasano.

"It's not an endorsement. He just said some nice things about me," Littlefield, 70, said of the mailer that shows the two men smiling and standing side by side.

Littlefield said he sent 13,000 of the ads to west Pasco voters.

It reads: "I have known Ken Littlefield both personally and professionally for many years. We served in the Legislature together as part of the Pasco County delegation. As a colleague in the Florida Legislature, we worked closely on legislation of great importance to Floridians. Ken Littlefield is a man of honesty, integrity and strength of character. He cares about the little guy and gal!"

Littlefield posted a picture of the mailer on Twitter Thursday, thanking Fasano.

Littlefield, a former state legislator, is running against Mike Moore and Bob Robertson in the Republican primary on Tuesday. The winner will take on Democrat Erika Remsberg in the general election in November. …

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Pinellas Democrats tout Greenlight Pinellas, stop short of endorsement

The Pinellas County Democratic Party has decided not to take an official stance on the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum on the Nov. 4 ballot.

The party’s message: Research it and make up your own mind.

“Greenlight Pinellas is too important to the future of our communities and county to reduce it to partisan politics,” the party said Wednesday in a statement.

But the rest of the three-paragraph news release reads like an endorsement of the plan that would increase the county’s sales tax from 7 to 8 cents on the dollar to pay for expanded bus service and a 24-mile light rail system between St. Petersburg and Clearwater. 

“It’s unfortunate that some local Republican Tea Party types oppose the Greenlight Pinellas as they oppose virtually everything else,” the release said. “But in fact, most commissions and councils in Pinellas made up of Republicans, Democrats, Independents, top local GOP elected officials, the Tampa Bay Rays organization, the chambers of commerce and most residents of Pinellas County realize we need much better mass transit so our residents will have state-of-the-art travel options of expanded buses and local trains.” …

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Pasco commission candidate holds superintendent's backing despite opposition to school impact fee hikes

In press releases and robocalls, Pasco County schools superintendent Kurt Browning has endorsed County Commission candidate Mike Moore, who is on the record as being opposed to tax and fee increases – including to the school impact fees which Browning and his administration have backed.

The district has seen its enrollment grow lately after a few static years, and officials have planned new schools to cope with the increase. Revenue from higher impact fees on new construction could help pay for the construction.

Browning's administration has been researching the possibilities, which would depend upon a commission vote. On Wednesday, Browning said he stands by his backing of Moore, one of three Republican candidates seeking to replace the retiring Pat Mulieri in Commission District 2.

Moore said at an early August candidate forum that he was "not for raising" school impact fees.

That did not dissuade the superintendent.

"The candidate assured him that he would be open to considering input on fee increases, but the district would have to make the case," school district spokeswoman Linda Cobbe said for Browning.

Reached while campaigning, Moore backed Browning's view. …

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Dunedin hosts meetings this week on proposals for new City Hall

DUNEDIN| The public is invited to listen in as city officials discuss revised proposals from two developers interested in building a new municipal services annex.

The annex would house a new City Commission chambers, consolidate government services into one location and possibly include an adjacent parking garage or mixed-use element.

The meetings are set for 9 a.m. Thursday and 11:30 a.m. Friday in the conference room at Dunedin City Hall, 542 Main St.

Read about past discussions here and here. Call (727) 298-3001 for more information.


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Last hurrah at the Bro Bowl

Bro Bowl designer Joel Jackson, center, holding poster, with skateboarders on Sunday.

Courtesy of Joel Jackson

Bro Bowl designer Joel Jackson, center, holding poster, with skateboarders on Sunday.

Skateboarders gathered Sunday at the Bro Bowl in advance of next month’s anticipated closure, demolition and eventual relocation of the skateboard basin as part of a $6.9 million update of Perry Harvey Sr. Park.

Also in attendance: non-skater retiree Joel Jackson, 72, who designed the skate bowl in the 1970s while working as an urban planner at Tampa City Hall.

In an email, Jackson said skaters “wanted to have one last go at it.”

“I was seriously moved to hear so many express how much bowl meant to them,” he said.

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House candidate Sprowls nets big-ticket law enforcement endorsements

Chris Sprowls, one of two Republican primary candidates vying to unseat Democratic State House District 65 incumbent Rep. Carl Zimmerman in the general election, has picked up a slew of big-ticket endorsements from heavy hitters in the law-enforcement arena.

Sprowls has worked six years at the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, where he is a special prosecutor in the gang unit and director of the Veterans Treatment Court.

His boss State Attorney Bernie McCabe and Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri give glowing reviews in a television commercial which touts Sprowls' dedication to putting criminals behind bars.

Sprowls, whose resume includes past stints as a congressional page and legislative intern for Sen. Mike Fasano and Rep. Gus Bilirakis, also features statements of support from both on his website.

Other supporters include Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi, Florida Chief Financial Officer Jeff Atwater, Pinellas Property Appraiser Pam Dubov and a bevy of prominent veterans and local elected officials.

Meanwhile, Sprowls' opponent, Debbie Faulkner, told the Tampa Bay Times days ahead of the Tuesday primary that she was unsure whether she had any formal endorsements. …

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Donor returns to aid Gregg campaign

A conservative campaign donor who gave big in last fall’s contentious House District 36 race in west Pasco is making another appearance and looks to be getting local help.

Melbourne-based Carmela Falcone, whose electioneering committee sent out thousands of mailers last summer slamming Democrat Amanda Murphy, is throwing support — and funding — behind Republican Chris Gregg’s candidacy for state House District 36.

Gregg, 44, is running against local party chairman Jim Mathieu, 60, in the Aug. 26 Republican primary. The winner will face Murphy in the Nov. 4 general election.

Falcone’s Citizens for Fairness last fall produced mailers labeling Murphy as out of touch with voters and accusing her of having ties to “Big Insurance” and “Big Utilities.”

Now another group headed by Falcone called Families for Lower Taxes is touting Gregg’s conservative credentials in a pair of political ads that hit Pasco mailboxes this week.

One says “Chris Gregg is the only candidate looking out for our wallets.” The back outlines three steps to save taxpayer money, including “Stop government giveaways to illegal aliens.” The other touts Gregg as a conservative businessman, veteran and family man. …

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Greenlight Pinellas wins backing from Redington Shores Commission

The Greenlight Pinellas transit plan has won the backing of another city's governing body.

The Redington Shores Board of Commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to endorse the referendum that will appear on the Nov. 4 ballot. Elected officials in 15 of the county's 24 cities have now supported the plan.

The margin was closer in Safety Harbor earlier this month, when the City Commission there voted 3 to 2 to endorse Greenlight.

The other cities that have endorsed the plan are Belleair, Belleair Bluffs, Clearwater, Dunedin, Indian Rocks Beach, Largo, Madeira Beach, Redington Beach, South Pasadena, St. Petersburg, St. Pete Beach, Tarpon Springs and Treasure Island.

One city body, the Seminole City Council, has voted against an endorsement.

If approved, Greenlight would raise the county sales tax from 7 cents to 8 cents on the dollar to expand bus service and build a 24-mile light rail system between St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

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Pasco Fiasco backs Wilson, Robertson

Pasco commission candidates Henry Wilson and Bob Robertson won endorsements this week from the south Pasco civic group Pasco Fiasco.

The group recommended incumbent Wilson for the District 4 commission seat and Robertson for District 2, saying both are staunchly against the ill-fated toll road plan.

The state Department of Transportation dropped support for the developer-led project in May, but it remains part of the county's long range transportation plan. Pasco Fiasco said it backs candidates who support removing the road idea from the county plan.

The group, which formed late last year, pulled no punches in explaining why other GOP candidates didn't win its support.

"As for the remaining GOP candidates, we will say this much: They either failed to impress on their opposition to the SR54/56 toll road or disappointed altogether with their lack of sincerity on the issue."

Until now, Wilson and Robertson haven't been endorsed by the same group.

Robertson has won recommendations from the Times and out-going Commissioner Pat Mulieri. Robertson is running against Ken Littlefield and Mike Moore to replace Mulieri. …

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Pinellas County shelter awarded federal funding to assist homeless veterans

CLEARWATER| The Homeless Emergency Project has received a federal grant that will cover 16 housing vouchers for Pinellas County veterans.

The United States departments of Housing and Urban Development and Veterans Affairs are jointly distributing $7 million to 24 public housing agencies across the country in an effort to help nearly 1,000 homeless veterans find permanent housing.

In June 2012, HEP opened its West Apartment Complex, which houses both male and female veterans in 32 fully furnished one-bedroom, one-bath apartments. They receive case management, on-site medical and mental health care, transportation to Bay Pines VA Hospital and more.

The Pinellas County Housing Authority, one of two Florida entities to receive the federal funding, awarded the vouchers  to HEP.

HEP chief operating officer Libby Stone said the agency will use the funds to expand existing housing and service offerings in Pinellas, which she said has the state’s third largest veteran population.

HEP says it served 508 veterans last year, including 67 who did tours in Afghanistan and 76 in Iraq.

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Pinellas Republican Party officially opposes Greenlight Pinellas referendum

The Pinellas County Republican Party has made official its opposition to the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum.

The party's Executive Committee on Monday unanimously approved a motion to oppose the plan that would increase the county's sales tax from 7 cents to 8 cents on the dollar to pay for expanded bus service and a 24-mile light rail system between St. Petersburg and Clearwater.

“Republicans stand for small, efficient, and effective government with reduced taxation and regulation," committee Chairman Michael J. Guju said in a statement. "We believe that this proposed sales tax increase would do more harm than good, especially to the county’s poorest residents, disabled veterans and our seniors on fixed incomes. Though many Pinellas Republicans support public transportation, and want to see it expanded and made more efficient, a sales tax increase which would unduly hurt those who most use public transportation makes little sense.”

The party notes in a new release that the tax increase would make the county's sales tax the highest in Florida "with minimal exclusions."  …

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