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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Oakley to make second run for Pasco commission

NEW PORT RICHEY – Pasco Commission candidates Debbie Wells and Rachel O’Connor spent Tuesday morning observing county commissioners at work during their meeting at the West Pasco Government Center. Ronald Oakley spent his time joining them in the District 1 race to succeed Commissioner Ted Schrader.
Oakley, 70, a citrus grower and cattle rancher in Zephyrhills, filed his candidacy papers Tuesday to make a second run for the county commission. Oakley and O’Connor unsuccessfully challenged Schrader in the 2012 winner-take-all, three-person Republican primary. Schrader is not seeking re-election to a fifth term on the commission and is running for Pasco property appraiser.
Oakley spent $176,000 of his own money in the 2012 campaign, a tactic he doesn’t plan to repeat this time around.
“I do not,’’ Oakley said when asked if he plans to spend his own resources in the race. “I have a lot of supporters and a lot of people say they’re going to support me. It won’t be like last time when you’re running against an incumbent. It’s a whole different deal when it’s an open seat.’’
 Oakley, a former chairman of the Southwest Florida Water Management District board of directors, said some of top issues facing the county include flooding, redevelopment and transportation.
The Republican primary is Aug. 30, 2016. No Democratic candidate has entered the race. …

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Hillsborough County commissioners to vote on Tampa's bid to host Super Bowl

Ian Hvozdovich, 13, of Palm Harbor celebrates during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Could Tampa host the Super Bowl again soon?

Times File 2009

Ian Hvozdovich, 13, of Palm Harbor celebrates during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa. Could Tampa host the Super Bowl again soon?

TAMPA — It’s Hillsborough County’s turn to offer its symbolic support for Tampa’s bid to host a Super Bowl in the near future.

Following the lead of the Tampa City Council last month, county commissioners will vote Wednesday on whether to pen a letter to the NFL backing Tampa’s bid for the 2019 or 2020 Super Bowl.

Raymond James Stadium, home of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is on the NFL’s short list of venues to hold the game those years.

Rob Higgins, executive director of the Tampa Bay Sports Commission, will present commissioners information about Tampa’s efforts to win the big game Wednesday at 10:45 a.m. at the Fredrick B. Karl County Center. 

Tampa last hosted a Super Bowl in 2009.

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South Shore development willing to triple contribution to widen Big Bend Road after commissioners protest

TAMPA — The company behind a South Shore development is willing to triple how much it pays to widen Big Bend Road after Hillsborough County commissioners complained it wasn’t enough.

Duke Realty had agreed to pay $34,000 for its share of the cost to widen Big Bend Road as part of its plans to build 1.5 million square feet of warehouse space and 28,000 square feet of retail on Big Bend Road near U.S. 41 in Gibsonton. Under an amended agreement submitted to commissioners on Tuesday, Duke increased its share to $102,000.

The concession means Duke would pay more than it is required to under the current system, but still only covers a fraction of the cost to widen the road. County staff estimates its a $4 million to $5 million project. Duke's move also comes as the county weighs a new fee system that would charge developers considerably more for the transportation and transit improvements needed to support new construction.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the new agreement at Wednesday's commission meeting. …

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St. Petersburg alley recycling to start in late January

It's official: the recycling battle of the summer of 2015 is over.

Peace, declared in September by Mayor Rick Kriseman when he announced the city would reverse what had been a stone-wall stance against alley pick-ups, has paid its dividends.

On Tuesday, Kriseman tweeted that alley pick-ups for the 40 percent of residents who get their trash collected in the alleys would start on January 25.

The issue had inflamed neighborhoods like Old Northeast and Kenwood, whose residents lobbied Kriseman incessantly to change course. The controversy possibly contributed to the downfall of longtime Public Works Administrator Mike Connors. 

Now it's history. Director of Neighborhood Affairs Mike Dove, who spent countless hours in the city's often overgrown alleys making sure slightly-larger recycling trucks could get through, told Kriseman in a cabinet meeting that the late January start is a go.

The City Council will get an update on alley pickups at its Thursday meeting. 

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Ban on LGBT discrimination to go before Hillsborough charter review board

Tampa Pride Parade participants march down Seventh Avenue in Ybor City on March 28.


Tampa Pride Parade participants march down Seventh Avenue in Ybor City on March 28.

Hillsborough County’s Charter Review Board is expected to decide Tuesday whether to cement LGBT protections in the county charter.

The review board, a 14-member body that meets every five years to recommend changes to the county charter, will hold the second of two public hearings on whether to include sexual orientation and gender identity in the county charter’s anti-discrimination section. From there, the board will likely vote on whether to recommend the change.

The provision must garner a supermajority of votes, or 10 of 14 board members, to pass. If approved, the question will go before voters as a ballot referendum in November 2016.

In 2014, the county commission moved unanimously to ban government discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Adding that language to the county charter, which is essentially the county’s constitution, would prevent future commissions from undoing those protections; it would take another ballot referendum to remove them. …

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Familiar face to head Pasco public safety

Brian Head, the former chief deputy of the Pasco Sheriff’s Office, is poised to return to public service as an assistant county administrator for public safety and administration. Confirmation of his appointment is scheduled to be considered Tuesday by the Pasco County Commission.
Head, 50, who had held the rank of colonel, retired abruptly and without public explanation from the Sheriff’s Office in July 2013, after serving as second in command under Sheriff Chris Nocco. Head retired immediately after leading the agency temporarily while Nocco had been out of town attending a law enforcement conference in Quantico, Va.
In announcing Head’s departure, Nocco issued a staff memorandum at the time stating:
“On behalf of the entire Pasco Sheriff’s Office, I would like to thank Colonel Brian Head for over a decade of outstanding service to our agency. He has been a leader in the law enforcement community for 27 years. It is with great sadness that we will see him retire from his position as the agency’s Chief Deputy. His commitment to the citizens of Pasco County and the members of this agency will be missed.” 
Head’s hiring by County Administrator Michele Baker will put him in charge of the county’s Fire Rescue, emergency management and the 911 communications center that had been a target of earlier complaints from Nocco.
Head worked for the Florida Department of Corrections for 14 years, rising to the rank of senior inspector before joining the Pasco Sheriff’s Office in 2001. Head was a major in charge of the jail in 2011 when then-Sheriff Bob White retired midterm. Head sought the appointment from Gov. Rick Scott’s to complete the unfinished term, but Scott, instead, tapped Nocco who then named Head as his chief deputy.
As assistant county administrator, Head will succeed Randy TeBeest who resigned to move closer to family members out of state. Head will be paid an annual salary of $115,000 and his state date is Dec. 14. …

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Unanimous Pinellas Commission to Legislature: Shoot down open carry bill

Add Pinellas County's seven county commissioners to the list of opponents of a bill that would allow Florida's concealed weapons permit holders to openly carry their handguns. 

A unanimous commission -- four Democrats and three Republicans -- voted this week to draft a resolution noting their opposition to send to the state Legislature.  

Ken Welch, a St. Petersburg Democrat, proposed the resolution against the "dangerous" bill, HB 163. He noted that there about 50,000 carry concealed carry permit holders in Pinellas. (The actual number as of Oct. 31 was 56,281, according to the Florida Department of Revenue). If even a fraction of those opt to openly carry, that's still lot of guns in the open, Welch said.

"I think it makes law enforcement's job incredibly more difficult when they're arriving on a scene," Welch said. He also worried about the impact on tourism. To allow openly carried weapons at places like Pier 60 in Clearwater, he said, "just doesn't make sense."

Chairman John Morroni said Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri told him a resolution opposing the bill would be a "fanastic idea."

"What's the rationale behind (the bill)?" Morroni wondered. …

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Tampa Bay area named 15th best major metro for college students

Students cross campus at the University of Tampa between classes on Nov. 13.


Students cross campus at the University of Tampa between classes on Nov. 13.

The Tampa Bay area is the 15th best place in the United States for college students, according to a new ranking from the American Institute for Economic Research.

The group, a nonprofit think tank that focuses on economic trends and personal economics, ranked metropolitan areas on everything from unemployment to diversity to nightlife. Tampa got its best marks for its cost of living minus rent, overall economic activity and, despite rising rents, the cost of rent. Here are the bay area scored in each category measured by the group:

Social and cultural life

Cost of rent — No. 5

City accessibility — No. 14

Arts and entertainment — No. 9

Culture — No. 14

Bars and restaurants — No. 14

Diversity — No. 12

Cost of living minus rent — No. 2

Work opportunities

Youth unemployment — No. 6

College-educated population — No. 15

Economic activity — No. 4

Science, technology, engineering, math (STEM) — No. 14

This is good news for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, who has spent the last five years talking about how Tampa's economic and social future depends on its success in keeping its brightest young minds and attracting others. …

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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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