Overcast83° FULL FORECASTOvercast83° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page
Instagram

Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Former St. Petersbug mayor to be named tree czar

David Fischer, who served as St. Petersburg's mayor from 1991 to 2000, will be named the city's tree czar by Mayor Rick Kriseman on Saturday.

Fischer led efforts to plant more than 10,000 trees during his time in office, according to a news release.

As tree czar, Fischer will promote "awareness and appreciation" of trees. It's an honorary position that will be officially minted at the city's Green Thumb Festival at Walter Fuller Park at 1 p.m. 

 

Full Story

Pedalpubs and the Sunshine Law: St. Petersbug Edition

The city's transportation and parking director had a suggestion during Thursday's discussion of amending regulations on pedalpubs.

Why doesn't the council go on a fact-finding tour on the mobile pubs that ply the downtown streets?

"I know you'll laugh at this," said Evan Mory before he made his pitch at the Public Services and Infrastructure Committee meeting.

Newly-nominated City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch quickly quashed the idea. Eight council members sipping brews and pedaling through the streets would be a violation of the Sunshine Law, she said.

Even if it was publicly advertised? Mory asked.

"A rolling public meeting," roared an apparently intrigued council chairman Charlie Gerdes. 

Eventually, it was decided that if council members wanted to learn the ins and outs of the pedalpub experience, they should do it alone--or at least without their colleagues. 

"Perhaps I should have consulted with legal before suggesting this," Mory said. 

Full Story

Pedalpubs and the Sunshine Law: St. Petersbug Edition

The city's transportation and parking director had a suggestion during Thursday's discussion of amending regulations on pedalpubs.

Why doesn't the council go on a fact-finding tour on the mobile pubs that ply the downtown streets?

"I know you'll laugh at this," said Evan Mory before he made his pitch at the Public Services and Infrastructure Committee meeting.

Newly-nominated City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch quickly quashed the idea. Eight council members sipping brews and pedaling through the streets would be a violation of the Sunshine Law, she said.

Even if it was publicly advertised? Mory asked.

"A rolling public meeting," roared an apparently intrigued council chairman Charlie Gerdes. 

Eventually, it was decided that if council members wanted to learn the ins and outs of the pedalpub experience, they should do it alone--or at least without their colleagues. 

"Perhaps I should have consulted with legal before suggesting this," Mory said. 

Full Story

St. Petersburg Noise Ordinance Advances

Downtown bars that don't pull their speakers off the street and close their doors at a decent hour will face increasingly hefty fines if a measure approved a City Council committee Thursday becomes law.

A revamped noise ordinance requires bars and venues that have music blaring from speakers to quiet the noise by 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. 

The proposal is a modest request, said council member Karl Nurse.

"We're just asking for what I would consider is simple, honest decency," he said at the Public Services and Infrastructure Commitee meeting.

Council member Jim Kennedy worried that downtown's vibrant nightlife might be circumscribed by limiting the outdoor noise. Travis Norton of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce said some business owners preferred police enforce noise violations with decibel counters rather than the current standard which allows for more officer discretion. …

Full Story

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.

 

 

Full Story

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. …

Full Story

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. …

Full Story

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.

Full Story

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.

 

Full Story

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. …

Full Story

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. …

Full Story

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. …

Full Story

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. 

Full Story

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. …

Full Story

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

Full Story