Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

$32 million in construction for additional tankers at MacDill expected in next few years

KC-135 Stratotankers take part in a nose-to-tail "elephant walk," as it's known in the Air Force, at MacDill Air Force Base in 2012. MacDill has 16 KC-135 tankers and is expected to receive eight more in 2018 once a new generation of KC-46 tankers starts to roll off Boeing's assembly line.

Senior Airman Melissa V. Paradis | MacDill AFB (2012)

KC-135 Stratotankers take part in a nose-to-tail "elephant walk," as it's known in the Air Force, at MacDill Air Force Base in 2012. MacDill has 16 KC-135 tankers and is expected to receive eight more in 2018 once a new generation of KC-46 tankers starts to roll off Boeing's assembly line.

The Pentagon expects to budget $32 million for infrastructure upgrades at MacDill Air Force Base to support new KC-135 jet tankers being transferred to Tampa, Department of Defense officials told five members of the Tampa Bay area's congressional delegation on Tuesday.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, and Repubican representatives Gus Bilirakis of Palm Harbor, David Jolly of Indian Shores, Rich Nugent of Spring Hill and Dennis Ross of Lakeland met at Castor's office with a group from the Pentagon that included Kathleen Ferguson, principal deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for installations, environment and logistics.

During the discussion, according to Castor's staff, the delegation focused on the infrastructure projects needed to support eight new KC-135 jet tankers and nearly 300 new personnel that the Air Force has said it plans to move to MacDill in 2018. MacDill already is home to 16 of the KC-135 "Stratotankers."

“Additional aircraft and personnel means economic expansion and jobs for the Tampa Bay area,” Castor said in a statement after the meeting. "Ensuring MacDill’s vitality helps to sustain the vitality of our local economy." …

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Lisa Montelione seeking re-election to Tampa City Council

Lisa Montelione

Lisa Montelione

Tampa City Council member Lisa Montelione on Tuesday filed to run for re-election to the council's District 7 seat representing North Tampa and New Tampa.

Montelione, 53, lives in the Terrace Park neighborhood and works as the business manager for Rising Force Construction, a firm that specializes in environmentally friendly green projects.

"There are a lot of things in the north and New Tampa and Tampa Palms areas that I think could use improvement," she said. "There are a lot of people who need representatiion, whether they are registered voters or just people who happen to live within those boundaries, that I want to serve." …

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Hillsborough government director finalist for Virginia job

A department director being forced out of Hillsborough County government is a finalist for a similar job in Virginia.

Venerria "Ven" Thomas is a one of two finalists to be director of human services at the city of Newport News, the city announced Tuesday. Thomas and one other candidate are interviewing with city officials this week. 

Thomas, 58, is director of Family and Aging Services in Hillsborough, and has been told her job will be phased out in September, she said Tuesday. Thomas makes $144,997 here. She formerly oversaw operations including the county's Social Services Division, which spawned several controversies for Hillsborough government, most notably problems that led to the closure of the Homeless Recovery program.  

"It's not something I took personally," said Thomas of the news she needed to start looking for work. "I've been in public service long enough to know that administrators, mayors, and chief executives make reorganization decisions all the time ... This sounds like it would be a great job." 

 

 

 

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St. Petersburg gets closer to refinancing some stadium debt

ST. PETERSBURG | The city advanced a plan to refinance a portion of its debt related to Tropicana Field on Thursday, though final approval by the City Council is required at next week's meeting.

Under a deal with SunTrust Bank, the city will refinance about $17 million remaining on debt that matures in 2025 and is covered by a $2 million annual payment from the state to the city.

SunTrust has agreed to give the city an annual interest rate of 2.63 percent, leading to a projected savings of about $1.7 million, finance director Anne Fritz told a city council budget committee. (See our earlier story on the issue here.)

The city will pour those savings into other Tropicana debts, Fritz said.

As part of the deal, the city will give up its right to a jury trial. City attorneys said that's become standard in these types of transactions.

The matter will go before the full council on July 24.

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And the winners of this year's Hillsborough Hob Nob straw poll are...

 

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Weatherford endorses Gregg in Pasco GOP primary

Republican House candidate Jim Mathieu, his party's leader in Pasco County, is getting snubbed again by outgoing House Speaker Will Weatherford.

Weatherford is endorsing Mathieu's opponent, Chris Gregg, in the House District 36 Republican primary.

"Pasco County needs effective leaders to help represent our great county in Tallahassee," Weatherford said in a statement released Tuesday.

He went on to praise Gregg for being a veteran, as well as his background in business and the health care industry.

Gregg was an Air Force medic and currently works for a laboratory testing company, Miramar-based American Health Associates.

“I’m thrilled and humbled to receive the support of such a great leader for our state and our county," Gregg said.

While Weatherford's choice of endorsement might seem surprising, it's not exactly precedent-setting.

When Mathieu ran for District 36 in last summer's special election, Weatherford endorsed Mathieu's GOP rival, Bill Gunter.

Other members of Pasco's Republican legislative delegation did the same also.

At the time, Mathieu said he posed a threat to the "old boy establishment." …

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Ybor City cigar factory's fight against proposed FDA rule gets national attention

Motorists on Interstate 4 can see banners hung from the clock tower of the J.C. Newman Cigar Co., in Ybor City urging people to comment on the FDA's proposed rules about tobacco products.

SUSAN THURSTON | Times (2014)

Motorists on Interstate 4 can see banners hung from the clock tower of the J.C. Newman Cigar Co., in Ybor City urging people to comment on the FDA's proposed rules about tobacco products.

National Public Radio on Tuesday weighed in on the health policy debate that Tampa officials say threatens the future of J.C. Newman Cigar Co., the city's lone surviving cigar factory.

Click here for NPR's story.

It wasn't part of NPR's coverage, but you can click here for a video Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made in support of the factory.

UPDATE: On Tuesday, the New York Times ran its own front-page story on J.C. Newman.

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Buckhorn, Kriseman to lead bay area's first joint trade mission to Chile

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, shown at an event in Tampa in April, will lead a trade mission to Chile along with Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Karen Seel and Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller Jr.

EVE EDELHEIT | Times (2014)

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman, shown at an event in Tampa in April, will lead a trade mission to Chile along with Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Karen Seel and Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller Jr.

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will be among the local elected officials leading a trade mission to Santiago, Chile from Dec. 1-5.

The mission is being organized by the Tampa Bay Export Alliance, a new collaboration between the nonprofit Tampa Hillsborough Economic Development Corp. and Pinellas County Economic Development.

“This mission to Chile is our first joint mission since we made that announcement (of the export alliance’s creation) in May,” said Jennifer Mikosky, the Tampa Hillsborough EDC’s vice president of marketing and communications.

Pinellas County Commission Chairwoman Karen Seel and Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller Jr. also will help lead the mission. The export alliance will use private funds to cover the $2,360-per-person travel costs for the elected officials going on the trip, Mikosky said.

This sort of trip is becoming increasingly familiar to Buckhorn who, as mayor, has traveled to Panama (three times), Germany, Switzerland, Colombia, Brazil, Israel and India to promote his city. …

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Yolie Capin, Charlie Miranda, Bob Buckhorn all on the move this week

Tampa City Council members Yvonne Yolie Capin and Charlie Miranda leave this week for separate trips to Cuba.

Capin, who went on a trip organized by the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce last May, is returning with a different group that will travel on the a similar “people to people” license for cultural and educational exchanges. Capin said she wants to get a better sense of what Tampa’s relationship to Cuba could be if and when the United States alters its embargo on trade and travel with Cuba.

“I feel like, if I go, even it’s for four days, you’re immersing yourself in the culture and the people and when the change comes, you feel like you have a better feel for Tampa’s position,” Capin said.

Like Capin, Miranda will miss Thursday’s City Council meeting for his own trip to Cuba. Miranda, who worked to arrange the University of Tampa’s baseball team’s exhibition games in Cuba earlier this year, said he will work on another baseball-related project. …

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Regions Bank gives $10,000 to Friends of Greenlight

The political committee supporting the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum got a boost recently from a couple of major corporate donors.

Regions Bank and BCC Engineering, Inc. each contributed $10,000 to Friends of Greenlight in the two-week fundraising period that ended July 4, a campaign finance report filed Friday shows.

BCC, which has offices in Tampa, Orlando, Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, specializes in planning, design and construction management for major transportation and government clients throughout Florida, according to its web site. Those clients include all of the Federal Department of Transportation districts and expressway authorities in the state.

Regions Bank's west Florida area vice-president is Marty Lanahan, a former member of the Florida Transportation Commission. The citizen's board provides oversight of FDOT and other transportation authorities.

The companies join other big name donors who donated in recent months, including the Tampa Bay Rays, Raymond James Financial and BayCare Health System. …

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Yolie Capin’s big night

How good was that kickoff fundraiser for Tampa City Council incumbent Yvonne Yolie Capin?

This good:

That one night accounted the vast majority of the $41,691 that Capin has raised through June 30, according to a campaign finance report filed this week. By comparison, that's within about $4,400 of what she raised for her entire campaign in 2011 (not including $23,000 that she loaned her campaign).

About 220 people attended Capin's June 17 fundraiser, which provided guests with a sneak preview of Richard Gonzmart’s Ulele Native-Inspired Food & Spirits and a glimpse of its menu (grilled oysters, lobster macaroni and cheese, craft beer and handmade organic ice cream).

“What I just did was raise my own bar,” says Capin, who is running for re-election in council District 3. “I am pleasantly surprised, to say the least.”

New monthly fundraising reports also show:

• District 6 candidate Jackie Toledo has raised more than any City Council candidate so far, with a total of $42,637 in cash and in-kind contributions. Thomas Castellano has raised $18,285. Guido Maniscalco raised $15,218.

• District 1 incumbent Mike Suarez raised $17,926.

• District 4 candidate Kent King has raised $5,950. …

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Dunedin to kick off 2015 budget talks next week

The city of Dunedin will kick off 2015 budget talks during a series of public meetings slated to begin next week.

Residents are invited to listen in on city commissioners' discussions from 9 a.m. to noon Monday, Wednesday and July 21. The workshops will be held at City Hall, 542 Main St., and streamed live via the city's website Dunedin.gov.

Read about city leaders' initial budget projections from early spring here.

 

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Pinellas school board candidates talk Common Core, engagement

The issues at stake for the candidates to replace Robin Wikle on the Pinellas School Board became clearer this week as the three contenders sat down with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board.

Ken Peluso, a recently retired chiropractor from Palm Harbor, and Beverley Billiris, a school teacher and former mayor of Tarpon Springs, have considerably different backgrounds. Ken Nygren, a math teacher and coach who retired from Pinellas schools in 2011, is also seeking Wikle's seat.

For more on what they told our editors, head over to this item our Gradebook blog.

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Mail-in ballot requests up in Pasco

Pasco Elections Supervisor Brian Corley is seeing huge vote-by-mail numbers.

Compared to the 2010 mid-term election season, requests for mail-in ballots are up roughly 400 percent to 42,000 so far this year.

"Most years we'd have 8,000 to 10,000 for a mid-term," Corley said.

Most of those wanting to vote by mail are "carry-overs" from the 2012 races, which also saw a spike in mail-in ballots.

With 11 amendments on the ballot that November, Corley and his staff pushed vote by mail as an alternative to long lines at polling places.

That spring, they launched an ad campaign and talked up the option at scores of community meetings. Utilities helped, inserting vote-by-mail reminders in customers' bills.

Voters apparently got the message, of whom many requested that ballots also be mailed to their homes for this year's races.

As a result, Corley's staff is feeling the impact of their 2012 efforts. But how that work translates on election day when all of the ballots are counted is hard to predict.

Generally speaking, based on turnout from last year's municipal races and the House District 36 special election, the candidates should see higher than usual vote totals, Corley said. …

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Frank Reddick seeking re-election to Tampa City Council

Frank Reddick represents District 5, which covers East Tampa, on the Tampa City Council.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2012)

Frank Reddick represents District 5, which covers East Tampa, on the Tampa City Council.

Frank Reddick on Wednesday filed to run for re-election to the Tampa City Council seat for District 5 in East Tampa.

It is an area, Reddick says, whose residents have felt neglected for years.

“I want to continue to be that voice that helps bring positive change to District 5 and to the city of Tampa,” Reddick said in an emailed statement announcing his candidacy.

Reddick, 58, was appointed to represent District 5 in late 2006 but in an election four months later lost the seat to former Hillsborough County Commissioner Tom Scott. In 2011, he was elected to replace Scott, who left the seat to run for mayor.

On the council, Reddick has taken on causes in East Tampa that have sometimes put him at odds with Mayor Bob Buckhorn or his administration. Last year, cutting the ribbon on a renovated and re-opened Williams Park Pool, Buckhorn said Reddick “fought for this pool for a long time” and gave him credit for “constantly keeping pressure on me and this administration” to budget the $1.3 million repair job after early indications that it might not happen. …

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