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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Longtime St. Pete administrator quietly retires

The old guard is changing in St. Petersburg.

On Friday, news broke that City Attorney John Wolfe was preparing to retire after forty years of working for the city. Two weeks ago, Dave Metz, another four decade veteran retired, but news of his career's end was a quiet affair.

City Administrator Gary Cornwell said that Metz's last day on April 3 was uneventful for a reason---he wanted it that way.

Metz was hired by the city as a labourer in 1971. He left after a few months only to return in 1974 steadily working his way up the ranks from maintenance worker to manager of Park Operations in 1982. 

From there he managed the city's marina and ports until retiring for the first time in 2000. He was rehired in 2003 as Downtown Enterprise Facilities Director among other tasks until being made interim City Development Administrator in March 2014.

After Alan Delisle was hired for that job, Metz served as interim deputy administrator. In all, Metz logged 37 1/2 years with the city.

 

 

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St. Petersburg touts app's success for nuts and bolts of city government

Mayor Rick Kriseman doesn't always see eye to eye with his often fractious City Council. But Thursday, one of the mayor's intiatives was praised by council.

The biggest gripe was that not enough people know about it.

See Click Fix debuted last June as a website and mobile phone app allowing residents to report an array of problems from potholes to illegal dump sites. 

At a workshop Thursday, David Flintom, who runs the mayor's action center, said the fledgling program had provided city staff with a wealth of data about what needs fixing. And the data will be used in the future to grade city departments on their performance.

"Transparency is overdue in some parts of the way the city operates," Flintom said. 

Council members said the resident who know about the app, love it.

"People are really jazzed up about this," said Karl Nurse.

But plenty of people don't know to go online or download the app to report what they want fixed. Flintom showed a slide in council member Wengay Newton's Midtown district with a large hole of no reports. City offiicials are considering door hangers to spread the word, he said.

But the program is not without its glitches. …

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St. Petersburg's Waterfront Plan clears first hurdle

The city's downtown waterfront master plan--- or DWMP as one consultant recently referrred to it---won the stamp of approval from the Community Planning and Preservation Commission on Tuesday.

The plan, vetted in series of public meetings and workshops (and plenty of private "stakeholder" gatherings) since August, seeks to create a "conceptual glimpse of the future" (in the words of one city staffer) along the nearly seven-mile stretch of Tampa Bay between Coffee Pot Bayou and Lassing Park. 

The commission agreed that it meshed with the city's comprehensive plan with one dissession: member Will Michaels.

Michaels cast the lone vote against the proposal, saying that it set a dangerous precedent of commercializing the waterfront by including provisions to allow a private partner to develop a hotel and/or conference center near the Mahaffey Theater.

Michaels sought compromise language that would have said the plan "on balance" was consistent with the comprehensive plan, but Dave Goodwin, the city's director of planning and economic development, protested saying that language cast doubt on the waterfront proposal. …

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Former state Rep. Jim Frishe files to run for Pinellas County Property Appraiser

Former state House Rep. Jim Frishe has filed to run for Pinellas County Property Appraiser.

The 66-year-old St. Petersburg Republican is the first person to file for the seat that will be left vacant next year after Property Appraiser Pam Dubov steps aside. Dubov, who was first elected in 2008 and ran uncontested in 2012, said last summer that she won't run for a third term in 2016 because she wants to serve as a deacon in the United Methodist Church.

Frishe served in the House from 1984-1990, then returned in 2006 and served another six years. He was defeated by Jeff Brandes in the 2012 Republican primary for the state Senate's District 22 seat that sprawls from south Pinellas to south Tampa. Brandes went on to win the seat.

The property appraiser post currently pays about $154,000.

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Kriseman throws his support behind wage-dispute ordinance

Mayor Rick Kriseman joined City Council member Darden Rice's efforts to advance a proposed ordinance to redress wage disputes on Tuesday, saying it would represent the latest attempt by the city to improve workers' lives.

Kriseman touted his administration's accomplishments of raising the city's minimum wage to $12.50 an hour, eliminating city job applicants requirement to disclose criminal histories and implementing a parental-leave policy.

"This is an opportunity to extend our reach," he said.

Rice said the city would be among the first in the country to enact a "wage-theft" ordinance giving workers an avenue to file a complaint with city staff if they haven't been paid, underpaid or forced to work for free. The measure has enjoyed unanimous support so far among council members.

"It send the right kind of message about our values as a city," Rice said.

Council chair Charlie Gerdes and Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch also attended the press conference on the steps of City Hall.

The final vote will come on Thursday. If it passes, the city will set up its office to handle complaints within three months.

 

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PAC with ties to GOP campaign firms paid for anti-Maniscalco, pro-Toledo ads

Gainesville political consultant Stafford Jones chairs the Committee for Responsible Representation, which gave Moving Tampa Forward $16,500.

Times files (2012)

Gainesville political consultant Stafford Jones chairs the Committee for Responsible Representation, which gave Moving Tampa Forward $16,500.

A Tallahassee-based political action committee with ties to Republican campaign firms is now listed as the major donor to Moving Tampa Forward, the mysterious political committee whose third-party attack ads stirred up last month’s Tampa City Council runoff between Guido Maniscalco and Jackie Toledo.

The Committee for Responsible Representation contributed $16,500 of the $23,500 that Moving Tampa Forward has said it received, according to a report filed late Friday with the Florida Division of Elections. The other $7,000 came from a law firm run by former Fort Myers Mayor Wilbur C. Smith III.

The chairman of the Committee for Responsible Representation is listed as William S. Jones, who is involved in more than two dozen political committees or electioneering organizations registered with the state. Jones, who goes by Stafford Jones, runs the Gainesville political consulting and polling firm War Room Logistics and is chairman of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee. He did not return calls Monday from the Tampa Bay Times. …

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PAC tied to GOP campaign firms paid for anti-Maniscalco, pro-Toledo campaign ads

A Tallahassee-based political action committee with ties to Republican campaign firms is now listed as the major donor to Moving Tampa Forward, the mysterious political committee whose third-party attack ads stirred up last month’s Tampa City Council runoff between Guido Maniscalco and Jackie Toledo.

The Committee for Responsible Representation contributed $16,500 of the $23,500 that Moving Tampa Forward has said it received, according to a report filed late Friday with the Florida Division of Elections. The other $7,000 came from a law firm run by former Fort Myers Mayor Wilbur C. Smith III.

The chairman of the Committee for Responsible Representation is listed as William S. Jones, who is involved in more than two dozen political committees or electioneering organizations registered with the state. Jones, who goes by Stafford Jones, is a Gainesville-based political consultant who runs the political consulting and polling firm War Room Logistics and is chairman of the Alachua County Republican Executive Committee. He did not return calls Monday from the Tampa Bay Times. …

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Environmental non-profit pulls out of St. Pete Earth Day, citing Duke Energy sponsorship

St. Petersburg's second Earth Day in South Straub Park on April 18 won't include the Center for Biological Diversity.

The state chapter of the Arizona-based non-profit requested $75 refund of its non-profit fee  after learning that Duke Energy was one of the sponsors of the second-annual event.

"From multiple instances of air and water contamination events resulting in dozens of Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act violations, to millions of dollars of unpaid property taxes to Citrus County, Duke Energy has proven itself an enemy of the environment," wrote Jaclyn Lopez, the non-profit's state director. 

The Center for Biological Diversity had planned to have a booth at the event, said organizer Emmanuel Cerf.

Duke Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

Cerf  said he would return the Center's fee, but said he doesn't regret agreeing to Duke's request to be a sponsor. The energy company contributed $5,000.

"They're trying to change their attitude. To me, that's how you move forward," Cerf said. …

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Port to throw party to lure visitors

Food Trucks at the Port

City of St. Petersburg

Food Trucks at the Port

The city's little-used port is throwing itself a debutante party to show off its new role.

On Friday, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., live music, tours of an oceangoing research vessel and a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and a bevy of food trucks will welcome visitors to the wharf overlooking Bayboro Harbor, according to a news release.

The troubled history of the port, which has previous failed cameos as a destination for cruise ships and mega yachts, will get a makeover later this year as a educational and research "experience" center in partneship with the University of South Florida's College of Marine Sciences. 

The crystallizing waterfront master plan also envisions the port as a point of entry for residents and tourists to experience the waterfront. And the part is meant to reacquaint the city with the space, said Walt Miller, the city's marina and port manager. 

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Newton says he's just calling media's bluff on Montreal

Wengay Newton says he wasn't wishing the Tampa Bay Rays a fond farewell to Montreal when he called into a WDAE sports show Tuesday. 

The radio station tweeted that "Councilman Newton is resigned to the fact that the #Rays are moving to Montreal!"

 Newton, one of five St. Petersburg council members who voted in December against a tentative agreement to let the Rays look in Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, said he was just addressing the elephant in the room--or large Canadian city--that has shadowed the saga between the city and its baseball team.

In the 21-minute interview (available here: http://www.iheart.com/show/182-Steve-Duemig/?episode_id=27204511), Newton raises the subject of Montreal, daring host Steve Duemig to "say the M word."

"They got to go to Tampa to get to Montreal," said Newton, who spent most of the interview voicing his long-held belief that the Rays can be successful in St. Petersburg. 

Newton noted Monday's sell-out crowd, contending that it proves that St. Pete isn't too hard to reach for Tampa residents. …

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Montanari has clout-heavy campaign backers

Ed Montanari, the well-connected civic activist running for Bill Dudley's term-limited District 3 seat has powerful backers, including former mayors Rick Baker and Bill Foster, state senator Jack Latvala and council members Dudley and Amy Foster.

All of the above co-chair his campaign. No one else has ventured into the race yet. The qualifying period runs from June 9-22. 

http://edforstpete.wpengine.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/Campaing-Annoucement-Ed-Montanari.pdf

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St. Petersburg City Council schedules Rays workshop

A City Council workshop to discuss Mayor Rick Kriseman’s latest proposal to let the Tampa Bay Rays to explore possible stadium sites in Pinellas and Hillsborough counties has been scheduled for May 7. 
The council voted unanimously last Thursday to hold the workshop and several council members voiced their desire that the team send a representative to the meeting.
Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg said earlier this year that team officials wouldn’t attend any more public meetings after the council rejected an earlier plan in December by a 5-3 vote. On Monday, Sternberg said the team wouldn't negotiate with the city on a stadium deal. 
The Rays haven't commented if anyone from the team would attend the meeting. Council member Karl Nurse proposed the workshop as a way to persuade his colleagues on the merits of the new agreement — which gives full development rights after the Rays announce they are leaving Tropicana Field. The revised memorandum of understanding also requires the team to provide criteria and updates on the stadium search.
“We’re going to have to educate some council members on what the real value of redeveloping the Trop is,” Nurse said.
Kriseman has indicated that he or a representative would attend the workshop.
The mayor’s revised plan hasn’t been brough to the council for a vote because Kriseman couldn’t find five members that would support it. 
The workshop is scheduled for 2 p.m. at City Hall’s Room 100.  If the regular council meeting, scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. that day, runs long, the workshop will start after the regular meeting ends, said City Clerk Chan Srinivasa.  …

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Safety Harbor City Attorney: New commissioner can keep day job

SAFETY HARBOR| A new opinion issued by City Attorney Alan Zimmet says Safety Harbor’s newest city commissioner can keep her day job.

Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center executive director Janet Hooper’s employment became a point of contention during the March campaign after several voters questioned whether her election would represent a conflict of interest since the nonprofit receives city funding.

At the time, Zimmet said the matter did not need to be addressed unless Hooper won. She said she would quit her job at the center if needed.

However, in an opinion Friday, Zimmet said he believed Hooper had met exemptions under Florida Statute 112 after showing proof that her salary is in no way funded by the city and that a recent vote by the center’s board now prohibits her from advocating on the group’s behalf. 

“So long as you abstain from voting on any matter which may come before the city involving the center,” Zimmet wrote, there is no recurring conflict.

As a result, Hooper told the Tampa Bay Times today, she has no plans to leave the center. She and her lawyer will decide whether to seek a binding opinion from the Florida Commission on Ethics. …

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Pasco commissioner tepid on charter government

Pasco County Commissioner Mike Wells Jr. is tepid on the ongoing plan to study charter government and potentially overhaul how local government operates.

"I've said it before, if it's not broke, why are we making changes?'' Wells told 80 members of the West Pasco Republican Club Tuesday evening at the Heritage Springs Country Club.

During a question-and-answer session, Wells said he expected the cost of government probably would increase under a charter because "it's more layers of government, in my opinion.''  He also indicated he is no fan of term limits.

"As long as I'm being effective, I'm going to run,'' said Wells, a Republican, who won election to the commission in the August 2014 primary over one-term incumbent Henry Wilson Jr. 

"We have term limits now,'' Wells told the audience, "you can be voted out after four years.''

Wells father, Mike Wells Sr., is seeking his sixth four-year term as Pasco property appraiser in the 2016 election. Commissioner Wells said he believe the constitutional officers should remain elected positions, rather than appointed as a charter could require. …

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40 years in the making, new section of Tampa’s Riverwalk set to open

The newest section of Tampa’s Riverwalk, going north under the Kennedy Boulevard bridge and ending at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, officially opens today at 5 p.m. Its whale-ribbed frames hold up large fabric awnings to shade passing walkers.

RICHARD DANIELSON | Times

The newest section of Tampa’s Riverwalk, going north under the Kennedy Boulevard bridge and ending at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park, officially opens today at 5 p.m. Its whale-ribbed frames hold up large fabric awnings to shade passing walkers.

UPDATE: Because of expected rain, city officials have cancelled the free showing of Dolphin Tale at 8 p.m. The ribbon-cutting will take place at 5 p.m., and if it's raining then, the ceremony will be under the overhang at the Tampa Museum of Art. Other scheduled activities will go on as planned starting at 6 p.m.

 

 

Tampa’s newest section of the Riverwalk doesn’t officially open until 5 p.m. today, but who could blame René Girven for going by early for a sneak peek?

“I live in the Element, and I’ve been watching this project since its inception,” said Girven, 47, a regular walker and biker in downtown. Kept out by a single strand of yellow caution tape, she was tempted by the idea of a quick, unauthorized stroll.

“Can we?” she wondered aloud to a reporter who also dropped by for an advance look late Thursday. “I’m sitting here chomping at the bit.”

So is Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

“Six mayors,” he says of the project, “40 years in the making.”

The 1,460-foot-long section on which Buckhorn and four previous mayors — Pam Iorio, Dick Greco, Sandy Freedman and Bob Martinez — will cut the ribbon today is the marquee section of the Riverwalk. …

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