Though many expected him to run, Brian Aungst Jr., son of the former Clearwater mayor, will not be a candidate for the North Pinellas seat on the county commission this Nov.
It seemed almost inevitable that Aungst, a 29-year-old lawyer with the firm Macfarlane Ferguson & McMullen in Clearwater, and the local GOP’s legal counsel, would run. And as recently as Tuesday night, Republican leaders were suggesting he would be in the running for the District 4 seat.
There are already nine candidates in the race to replace outgoing Commissioner Susan Latvala, and none has the full-throated endorsement of the Republican Party establishment (yet) or has raised a significant amount of money (yet). Aungst was positioned to do both.
But on Thursday Aungst emailed to say he’s staying out of the race. His announcement is below: …Full Story
TAMPA -- The Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Office debuted a new website this month that, among other things, allows users to make appointments and see live reports of office wait times.
The new hillstax.org, which went live March 7, was the product of more than a year of work between the tax collector's office and Bayshore Solutions web developers. The new site features easier navigation, a cleaner design, and cost $68,000, according to Nancy Millan, tax collector office director of community relations.
“This year marks an exciting milestone for us," Hillsborough Tax Collector Doug Belden said in a press release. "We’ve worked hard to provide our customers with a modern, innovative and intuitive site, and we are confident our customers will be very pleased with the improvements.”
ST. PETERSBURG – Out of an otherwise typical transit debate last night came a bit of news: the pro-transit campaign Yes for Greenlight is suddenly embracing financial transparency.
Started last month, the private campaign that's supporting a transit tax referendum this Nov., began collecting donations using a 501c4, a designation that allowed it to raise funds while hiding the identity of its donors. It was an unusual step for what’s essentially a group of local boosters for a local ballot issue and a departure from the way the pro-transit Hillsborough group went about its fundraising back in 2010.
The move immediately drew criticism, both from opponents of the proposed tax increase, a group called No Tax for Tracks, and from supporters who thought it made their side look like it had something to hide.
Asked about the tax-exempt designation at a debate in St. Petersburg last night among transit supporters and one opponent – it was four against one, more than a little lopsided – Don Ewing of the Yes for Greenlight campaign said the group is walking away from its 501c4. …Full Story
TARPON SPRINGS -- Tarpon's newest city commissioner had a lot of things going for her in Tuesday's city election, but she credits her victory to shoe leather.
Rea Sieber, 61, garnered more than 45 percent of the vote in a three-way race for the seat being vacated by term-limited Commissioner Susan Slattery.
A Sponge Docks business owner, Sieber got 1,742 of the 3,837 votes cast.
Realtor Joe Muzio, 62, came in second with 1,103 votes or 28.75 percent.
Professional hypnotist and environmental activist Chris Hrabovsky, 44, was third with 992 votes for 25.85 percent.
Sieber was the establishment candidate in the race. She was recruited by Slattery to run for the seat that Slattery was vacating. She was endorsed by Tarpon's police and fire unions after the unions interviewed each candidate.
She heads the Tarpon Springs Merchant Association and serves on the city's budget advisory committee and its tourism council. She had slick mailers. She had campaign volunteers calling registered voters for her. But she still credits her walking shoes. …Full Story
SKIP O'ROURKE | Times (2012)
The historic Armature Works Building, also known as the trolley barn, will be the setting for Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s state of the city speech on March 25.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn will give his annual state of the city speech inside the old Armature Works Building on the morning of March 25. As usual, he has chosen his setting to make a point.
“It’s similar to the message that we sent last year,” said Buckhorn, who delivered his 2013 address inside the vacant Kress department store in downtown Tampa. “Tampa’s got a great foundation. We’ve got a great history. … This is a signature building on a signature piece of property that, while it has seen tougher times, it’s got a much, much brighter future, and that’s very similar to Tampa.”
The red-brick warehouse, often known as the old trolley barn, is part of planned redevelopment of the area known as The Heights. Along with bringing about 1,900 units of multi-family housing to the neighboring property, developers Adam Harden and Chas Bruck have been working with the architect for the Oxford Exchange to renovate the trolley barn as an event space with restaurants and offices. …Full Story
SKIP O'ROURKE | Times (2011)
Then-USF student body president Cesar Hernandez speaks on campus in a 24-hour speech aimed at focusing attention on immigration reform and the impact of rising tuition.
Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione has hired former University of South Florida student body president Cesar R. Hernandez as a legislative aide.
"He's known to a lot of people, and he's very accomplished," said Montelione, whose single-member district covers North and New Tampa. "One of the things I like to do in my office is provide young people the opportunity to be involved and learn and advance their aspirations."
Hernandez, 27, is Montelione's fourth legislative aide since she took office in 2011. The previous three were Marcus.Garza, now an aide to Democratic New York Congresswoman Carolyn McCarthy; Kassandra Timothe, now a legislative aide to state Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa; and Michael Maurino, now working in governmental affairs at the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. …Full Story
DUNEDIN -- A Pennsylvania real estate development team confirmed Friday that it has reached a verbal deal to purchase the iconic Fenway Hotel.
Christy Bower said she and her father-turned-business partner James Bower got word from PNC Bank Thursday that their offer to buy the foreclosed 6.4-acre waterfront tract at 453 Edgewater Drive was accepted.
She said the bank made the closing date contingent on final approval by the city, which will present the plan in coming weeks to neighbors, a citizen advisory board and the City Commission. The property is in receivership and must also get a judge's approval before the Bowers can assume control of the land, officials said.
The announcement comes three months after the Bowers said PNC’s failure to promptly act on their offer had prompted them to back off the buy.
The Bowers plan to demolish the deteriorating landmark and build in its place a 90-room boutique hotel featuring 1920s interiors and artifacts, about 30 waterside condos and up to 19,000 square feet of conference space. The hotel would be similar in size and retain the same look and name as the original Fenway.
Read more here.Full Story
While campaigning to be St. Petersburg mayor, Rick Kriseman stressed the importance of building relationships with federal officials.
He's heading to Washington, D.C. on Thursday.
Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin will attend the "Mayors in Education Convening" hosted by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
The new mayor, a Democrat, will also meet Thursday afternoon with Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Neslon, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio and U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa.
Taxpayers are not paying for the trip, said Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman.
"He was invited by the Gates people," Kirby said. "At the local level, the mayors have a lot of influence over education policies."
Clearwater City Council Seat 5 candidate Jon-Paul Rosa might be a political novice, but the 30-year-old has managed to do what perhaps no veteran Democratic pol ever did: obtain GOP support in the final days of a contested race against a Republican.
Rosa opponent Hoyt Hamilton, a former council member and a registered Republican, was - let's say -- surprised Thursday when a mailer from the state GOP arrived in mailboxes that touted his own candidacy, but also Rosa's, as worthy of Republican support.
“Stand with Republicans Today!” read the bold type, followed by an appeal for Republican votes in the March 11 non-partisan contest.
Rosa, we repeat, is a Democrat. He switched parties in August. And he has received hefty financial support from the Democratic Party -- a first in Clearwater city politics.
So far, Rosa has netted $10,500 from the Pinellas County Democratic Executive Committee.
The state Republican Party quickly backtracked Thursday.
"This was an honest error by the vendor, and we have spoken to Hoyt and apologized for the mistake,” said Susan Hepworth, a state party spokeswoman.
Hamilton said he understood the mistake, calling it ‘funny.” …Full Story
LAND O’LAKES — Toll road supporters and detractors once again will get a chance to argue their positions at a meeting Monday, and for the first time officials from the state’s Department of Transportation will attend to hear public concerns about the proposed road.
Pasco Commissioner Kathryn Starkey said she’s holding the town hall meeting at 7 p.m. at Sunlake High School, 3023 Sunlake Blvd., in Land O’Lakes to talk about the toll road proposal as well as other transportation issues. She expects 300 to 400 people there.
Among those expected are DOT representatives involved in reviewing the project, called FL 54 Express.
This would be mark the first town hall involving both Pasco and DOT officials since the project was brought to the department last summer. Previous town halls involved Pasco County staff only.
Although the DOT is charged with reviewing and approving the project, its backers consist of a private consortium that includes local engineer Gerald Stanley, a New York-based financier and a Spanish construction company, OHL Infrastructure. …Full Story
With no other candidates to emerge so far in the race, Pasco County Commissioner Henry Wilson seems to be cruising to re-election.
Former Commissioner Michael Cox ended months of speculation this week when he said he would not challenge the Republican — leaving Wilson the lone candidate in the District 4 commission race. The filing deadline to enter the race is in June.
Wilson and Cox have a tangled political history: Wilson defeated Cox, then an incumbent, four years ago. Cox has since hinted at a rematch, most recently last summer, but the Democrat put all speculation to rest Wednesday when he said there was “too much going on in my personal life” to allow him to run.
Cox, a financial adviser, left Morgan Stanley two years ago to work for Wells Fargo. While his new employer has expressed no opposition to Cox re-entering politics, he said he’s been consumed with work and feels he owes Wells Fargo his full attention. The county commission job often involves all-day meetings as well as scores of public appearances and other activities.
Lately, Cox’s free time has been consumed setting up a new chamber of commerce in Trinity.
“There are a lot of good things going on in my life,” he said. …Full Story
Tampa, which says it suffered nearly $60 million in losses to tourism, business and local tax revenues as a result of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010, is being encouraged to think about teaming up with other cities that have similar claims.
Together, governments in Florida, Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama have claims totalling in the billions of dollars, according to a recent letter to Mayor Bob Buckhorn from Steven Yerrid, City Hall's special counsel on its lawsuit against BP over the oil spill.
"Without a concerted effort as a group towards settlement, we may not see a courtroom for an extended period of time," Yerrid told the mayor.
Last month, Yerrid traveled to New Orleans to meet with his counterparts in the litigation. As a result, attorneys are proposing to organize the government plaintiffs to make sure they are using similar methods to calculate their damages.
Yerrid said his firm also is reviewing the potential downside of the approach. City Attorney Julia Mandell said Wednesday she hadn't had the necessary follow-up conversations to determine whether the city wants to sign on to the proposed joint agreement.Full Story
TAMPA -- Democrat Elizabeth Belcher, a retired IRS investigator, filed this week to run against incumbent Republican County Commissioner Victor Crist in District 2.
Belcher filed to run Monday, according to the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections.
This will be the second run for office for Belcher, who lost in 2012 to incumbent Republican state Sen. Tom Lee. Belcher won 46 percent of the vote in that election.
Belcher, 63, has previously appeared at County Commission meetings to speak against incentives commissioners approved for Amazon and Bass Pro Shop to locate in Hillsborough.
“I spent my life watching people pull stunts, and I see it happening on the County Commission,” Belcher said Wednesday. “They are misusing our tax funds ... They only listen to the deep pockets of fat-cat developers.”
Crist is running for a second four-year term representing northern Hillsborough County on the commission.
Before being elected to his first term in 2010, Crist served 10 years in the state Senate, and eight years in the state House of Representatives.Full Story
A month after he filed to run for the Pinellas County Commission District 4 seast, Largo EMT Macho Liberti has put out a press release announcing he’s running and is holding a fundraiser on March 20th. It's posted below:
Macho Liberti is a Palm Harbor local seeking to gain the support of the community for his bid for Pinellas County Commission, District 4. Having lived in North Pinellas County for over 15 years, Mr. Liberti feels he is thoroughly in tune with the neighborhood’s issues and needs.
"I believe I have the ability and skills necessary to make a difference in Pinellas County. With current issues like Greenlight Pinellas, struggling small businesses and escalating EMS costs, District 4 needs an advocate that will fight on their behalf to ensure their opinions and feeling are heard on the Pinellas County Commission. I will proudly serve as a strong voice for the citizens of District 4." …Full Story