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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

St. Petersburg announces parental leave benefit

ST. PETERSBURG---Come 2015, city employees will get six weeks of paid parental leave after the birth, adoption or foster-care intake of a child, Mayor Rick Kriseman announced Wednesday. 

The policy applies to both men and women who are full-time employees. 

Previously, employees had to take unpaid leave under the federal Family Medical Leave Act if they wanted to take time off after welcoming a new child into their family, said Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman. 

Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin said in a news release that the new benefit should increase employee morale and retention.  

St. Petersburg, which recently announced a minimum wage increase for its employees, needs to show leadership on the issue, Kriseman said. 

The policy takes effect on Jan. 1.  

 

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April Griffin endorses Guido Maniscalco for Tampa City Council District 6

Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin has endorsed West Tampa businessman Guido Maniscalco in the race for Tampa City Council District 6.

“Guido has the necessary skills and knowledge to help move Tampa forward,” Griffin said in a written statement released Tuesday by Maniscalco’s campaign. “He will serve the city well with his professionalism and knowledge of city issues."

Maniscalco is running to replace term-limited council chairman Charlie Miranda in District 6, which covers parts of West Tampa and South Tampa. He faces West Tampa air-conditioning company owner Tommy Castellano and South Tampa civil engineer Jackie Toledo, who has been endorsed by City Council member Lisa Montelione and the union for Tampa’s firefighters, International Association of Firefighters Local No. 754.

Qualifying for city elections ends Jan. 16. City elections are March 3, with runoffs, if necessary, on March 24.

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Council moved Rays vote, Newton objects

St. Petersburg---The City Council approved Mayor Rick Kriseman's request to delay a vote on a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays to look at possible stadium sites across the bay, but not without some grumbling from Wengay Newton.
In brief remarks at the beginning of the meeting Thursday, Kriseman told the council that he expected an up or down vote on the agreement that would pay the city between $2 million and $4 million a year if the Rays leave before their contract expires in 2027.
City Attorney John Wolfe told the council that the Rays wouldn't accept anything more than minor changes in the agreement.
"If you do change it, it's probably the same as voting it down," Wolfe said.
Council member Wengay Newton said he thought that was unhappy with those terms, saying it constricted council's input and duty to its voters.
The agreement will now be voted on at the Dec. 18 meeting, which begins at 3 p.m. in the second-floor council chamber at City Hall.

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Opponent-less Bob Buckhorn now up to nearly $292,000 in fundraising

A week after his only declared opponent dropped out the race, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn has reported raising nearly $109,000 in November, bringing his total so far for his re-election campaign to $291,725, according to monthly campaign finance reports due Wednesday.

In City Council races:

• In citywide District 1, Council member Mike Suarez has raised $36,605. Seminole Heights civic activist and economist Susan Long has raised about $600.

• In citywide District 2, longtime volunteer and activist Joseph Citro has raised $2,950. Julie Jenkins, the director of development at St. Peter Claver Catholic School, did not file papers to run until this week and thus did not have to file a November report.

• It was a quiet month in citywide District 3. Both Council member Yvonne Yolie Capin and challenger Paul Erni filed reports, and both reported that they neither raised nor spent a dime during November. Capin’s fundraising total stands at $48,045 and Erni’s is $3,290. …

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Julie Jenkins files to run for Tampa City Council District 2

Julie Ann Jenkins.

Times files (2011)

Julie Ann Jenkins.

Julie Jenkins on Monday filed papers to run for the citywide Tampa City Council seat that will come open in April when Mary Mulhern leaves because of term limits.

"The city's been good to me, and the people have been good to me," said Jenkins, a Bel Mar Shores resident and the director of development at St. Peter Claver Catholic School. "I've always given back in many ways ...  I’ve got a lot energy. I’ve got ideas. I’m a get-things-done type of person."

Jenkins, 52, ran for the District 4 seat representing South Tampa in 2011. She finished second in a five-candidate primary to make the runoff, then she lost to Harry Cohen by about 21 points. She also ran unsuccessfully for a citywide council seat in 2007.

Over the years, Jenkins has been active in parent-teacher and neighborhood associations and founded crime watch groups that helped clean up north Hyde Park in the 1990s. Prior to going to work at St. Peter Claver, she held sales and marketing positions for AirTran Airways, Holiday Inn and Virgin Atlantic Airways. …

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Bob Henriquez endorses Guido Maniscalco in Tampa City Council District 6

Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez on Monday endorsed West Tampa businesman Guido Maniscalco in the race for Tampa City Council District 6, which represents parts of West and South Tampa.

“Guido has lived, worked and played in this district his entire life," Henriquez said in a prepared statement released by Maniscalco's campaign. "He not only cares about the issues we face, he understands them.”

Maniscalco runs his family's jewelry store, is president of the MacFarlane Park Neighborhood Association, is a member of the city's Code Enforcement Board and Hillsborough County's Human Rights Council.

He is one of three candidates running to succeed council chairman Charlie Miranda, who must leave the District 6 seat because of term limits.  Also running are West Tampa air conditioning company owner Tommy Castellano and civil engineer Jackie Toledo.

Of the three, Toledo has raised the most money so far: $67,486. Castellano has raised $25,490 and Maniscalco has raised $21,420. Those totals reflect funds raised through the end of October. Fundraising reports for November are due this week.

The election is March 3.

 

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Susan McGrath unseats Mark Hanisee as Pinellas Democratic chair

Pinellas Democrats for the first time in decades hold a majority of county commission seats as well as the mayor's office in St. Petersburg.

But those successes over the past two years were not enough to stop local party officials from unseating chairman Mark Hanisee, and replacing him with vice chairman Susan McGrath. McGrath won the seat Thursday night, 57 votes to 41, after a particularly nasty campaign among party activists that included personal attacks.

Hanisee was known among activists and elected officials as a strong money-raiser who helped make the local party competitive again, but he may have been more widely known for his clumsy handling of candidate recruitment to take on Republican U.S. Rep. David Jolly of Indian Shores. Hanisee earlier this year left a voice mail message threatening a prominent black minister, Manuel Sykes, that he would be "persona non grata" if he ran for the seat, only to wind up with no Democrat running after their preferred choice dropped out. …

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Midtown development gains St. Pete city council approval

 

Former mayoral candidate Deveron Gibbons received City Council's stamp of approval Thursday to build a Circle K gas station and convenience store in Midtown. 

The project, part of the Tangerine redevelopment area in Midtown, has been ushered by Mayor Rick Kriseman, who selected Gibbons' proposal over an out-of-state bidder late this summer. 

The city will lease the two acre parcel at the southeast corner of 18th Avenue S and 22nd Street to Gibbons' development group, TLM Investment Group I, LLC for $30,000 a year.  

Gibbons said that while growing up in Midtown he often heard laments that the neighborhood didn't have a bank, a grocery store or other essential services. In recent years, Walmart and other businesses have arrived.  

"This is one of the last planks in the plan," Gibbons said. 

Council member Karl Nurse said Midtown doesn't have a safe, clean and reasonably-priced gas station. 

Gibbons said his gas station would drive gas prices down in Midtown and provide a safe environment. 

"We're plan to run bad actors out of business by being competitive," he said.  …

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St. Pete Council approves waterfront condo tower

ST. PETERSBURG-- The City Council approved a condo high-rise near Beach Drive on Thursday after tweaking its parking garage regulations to allow car elevators.

The Bliss project, a 30-unit , 18-story tower, was delayed last month after council members Jim Kennedy and Charlie Gerdes cautioned that the project could be vulnerable to a lawsuit if the parking garage ordinance wasn't updated to allow car elevators.

Developer Brian Taub plans to use a car elevator on the narrow lot at 176 Fourth Ave. NE.

The opposition to the project was lead by residents of the Parkshore condo, who said the alley that runs between the buildings would be blocked with the cars of Bliss residents waiting to get on the elevator. Some supporters of the project countered that the Parkshore residents' real worry was blocked views of Tampa Bay.

David Bacon, a lawyer representing Parkshore, who said the city was fixing its ordinances to please Taub.

"It's a quickly worded addition to accommodate the desire of a particular developer and an effort to defend a decision already made," Bacon said. …

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St. Pete police chief backs out of Uhuru forum, forms new group to plan community discussion on race relations and law enforcement

ST. PETERSBURG | A week ago, local Uhuru members announced they wanted to have a community forum about race relations and law enforcement. And they wanted a special guest: new St. Petersburg Police Chief Tony Holloway, to be there.

"I think it's a good conversation to have about perception versus reality," Holloway told the Tampa Bay Times Nov. 25, a few hours after an Uhuru-led demonstration downtown in protest of a grand jury's decision not to indict a police officer who shot and killed an unarmed teen earlier this year in Ferguson, Mo.

On Monday, the Uhurus sent a press release to the media with details of the event, dubbed "Could Ferguson Happen Here? Should Ferguson Happen Here?" set for 4 p.m. Sunday at the Uhuru House, 1245 18th Ave S.

Most interestingly, the release said confirmed guests included Holloway, NAACP president Rev. Manuel Sykes, SCLC executive director Jeff Copeland, Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the African People's Socialist Party and a representative of the Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists.

But by Tuesday, city officials said the police chief would not, in fact, attend the meeting.

"After he accepted the invitation, and had some further conversation with some others, he decided he needed a broader discussion," police spokesperson Mike Puetz told the newspaper on Tuesday.

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Safety Harbor seeks feedback on proposed tree law

SAFETY HARBOR| Residents get to weigh in on a new tree ordinance during a town hall meeting set for 6 to 8 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 750 Main St.

The proposed ordinance would strengthen existing tree protection rules by expanding Safety Harbor’s authority beyond grand trees of a certain size to all trees.

City commissioners have been working on the updated legal language for months. But controversy this summer over trees razed with county permission by the Safety Harbor Resort and Spa hastened leaders to enact a temporary ban on tree cuts until the new law is in place.

Read a draft of the ordinance here. Residents who can’t attend Monday’s meeting can email comments to tree.feedback@cityofsafetyharbor.com.

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Engineers studying Dunedin Causeway repair, replacement options

DUNEDIN| The Pinellas County Commission has hired an engineering consultant, URS Corporation Southern Inc. of Tampa, to study repair or replacement options for the Dunedin Causeway Bridge.

The bridge leading to Honeymoon Island State Park reached its 50-year estimated useful life in 2013, so county officials in 2009 tried to get a head start by doing a routine feasibility study, which recommended a new bridge.

But to get federal funding for the project, the county has to hire consultants and embark on yet another study using federal guidelines.

The $1.356 million, two-year contract with URS will be funded by Penny for Pinellas.

Read more about the project here.

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City Commission candidates lining up for Safety Harbor election

SAFETY HARBOR| Residents are already lining up to run for the City Commission this March.

Seats 1 (Richard Blake), 2 (Cliff Merz) and 3 (Andy Zodrow) are up for re-election.

Candidates must be registered voters who have lived in Safety Harbor at least a year. Qualifying lasts from noon Dec. 29 to noon Jan. 6.

City clerk records show that Merz has filed to retain his seat and Janet Hooper, executive director of the Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center, has announced plans to run for Seat 1.

Residents who want to vote in the March 10 election must register by Feb. 9.

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Saying 'We're done,' Becky Rubright ends campaign for mayor of Tampa

Acknowledging that “campaigns don’t run on good intentions,” Becky Rubright says she has decided to drop out of Tampa’s race for mayor.

“Unfortunately, we’re done,” Rubright said Monday. She announced the decision in a Facebook post over the weekend. (UPDATE: On Wednesday, Rubright made it official, formally withdrawing from the race, according to the Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections web site.)

Rubright, 41, a Seminole Heights acupuncturist who was active in Occupy Tampa, had intended to gather signatures rather than pay a qualifying fee to get on the March 3 ballot.

But she said Monday that she and her supporters had only gathered about a quarter of the 4,000 signatures she needed and acknowledged that there were problems with many of those signatures. It wouldn’t be realistic, she said, to expect that she could gather the remaining signatures by the January qualifying deadline.

“I don’t want to waste my time,” she said. “I don’t want to waste other people’s time and energy.”

Rubright’s platform had called for a citywide minimum wage of $15 per hour, the decriminalization of marijuana and a citizens review board to hear allegations against police. …

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Tampa Bay Young Republicans take a side: For Lyft and Uber; against PTC

The Tampa Bay Young Republicans group is the latest group to take sides in Hillsborough County's ongoing dispute over ride-sharing.

The organization, comprised of conservative young professionals ages 18 to 40, voted Nov. 25 to support ride-sharing businesses such as Uber and Lyft.

The two companies, which use smartphone apps to connect passengers with drivers who use their own cars, have been operating here since April. The Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission, which regulates for-hire vehicles such as taxis and limousines, says the companies are illegal and do not have the proper licensing and certification.

Members of the Tampa Bay Young Republicans counter that the PTC opposes the companies in order to protect the taxi industry from competition. The ban, they said, “violates conservative principles by limiting consumer's choice and impeding the free market to flourish.” …

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