Partly Cloudy87° FULL FORECASTPartly Cloudy87° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page
Instagram

Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas County commissioners react to Supreme Court's gay marriage ruling

Pinellas County commissioners are at a level of government far removed from the halls of the Supreme Court, but they also happen to be in office at a time of landmark Supreme Court rulings. So what do they think? Bay Buzz reached out to all seven commissioners (four Democrats and three Republicans). Here's who we've heard from so far and what they said on today's gay marriage ruling:

Ken Welch, Democrat: "The Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality provides for equal treatment for all citizens, without impacting the personal religious convictions of any individual or denomination. It also highlights the absolute necessity for a strong and independent judiciary."

Pat Gerard, Democrat: "I love it. It probably doesn't end the controversy, but I'm glad (the court) has affirmed what so many states have already done. I think it gives people a lot of comfort go to any state of the union and have their marriage recognized." …

Full Story

Democrat Lynn responds to carpetbagging attacks in Pinellas congressional race

As the jockeying for position intensified this week among possible Democratic candidates in the 13th Congressional District, a familiar line of attack surfaced: political carpetbagging.

In 2014, Republicans successfully used the claim against Hillsborough Democrat Alex Sink in the special election won by incumbent David Jolly.

Earlier this week, St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice referenced Sink's defeat when she cautioned against a repeat of Democratic candidates without long-standing ties to Pinellas County. Rice will make a decision on the race early next month.

On Thursday, speaking before a friendly crowd of Pinellas Democrats, Eric Lynn, a former defense advisor in the Obama administration and Seminole native, pushed back against Rice's suggestion that he had been out of the district too long. Lynn left Pinellas after high school, returning briefly to St. Petersburg after Georgetown University Law School before going to work for the president in the 2008 campaign, and later, in Washington, D.C.. …

Full Story

Scott's #Pasco vetoes disappoint legislators

Gov. Rick Scott grounded expanded aeronautics projects in Pasco County as part of his $461 million in budget vetoes Tuesday.

Scott cut two separate appropriations totaling $1.5 million to expand the Pasco School District’s aeronautics academy to Zephyrhills High School and $100,000 to the Pasco Economic Development Council to study potential aeronautics-related commerce at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.

Left in tact, however, was $750,000 for the existing aeronautics academy at Sunlake High School.

“The governor laid out that he didn’t want anything duplicative in nature. It doubled on what was at Sunlake, I’m very disappointed, but the governor kind of made good not do to anything that was being done already,’’ said Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity.

District officials said they would begin offering aeronautic classes at Zephyrhills High School through its existing partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, but would not have be able to construct standalone classroom facilities at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport for airplane mechanics and drone technology. …

Full Story

Pasco vetoes disappoint legislators

Gov. Rick Scott grounded expanded aeronautics projects in Pasco County as part of his $461 million in budget vetoes Tuesday.

Scott cut two separate appropriations totaling $1.5 million to expand the Pasco School District’s aeronautics academy to Zephyrhills High School and $100,000 to the Pasco Economic Development Council to study potential aeronautics-related commerce at the Zephyrhills Municipal Airport.

Left in tact, however, was $750,000 for the existing aeronautics academy at Sunlake High School.

“The governor laid out that he didn’t want anything duplicative in nature. It doubled on what was at Sunlake, I’m very disappointed, but the governor kind of made good not do to anything that was being done already,’’ said Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity.

District officials said they would begin offering aeronautic classes at Zephyrhills High School through its existing partnership with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, but would not be able to construct standalone classroom facilities at Zephyrhills Municipal Airport for airplane mechanics and drone technology. …

Full Story

Newton enters crowded field in St. Petersburg City Council race

ST. PETERSBURG---Winthrop "Will" Newton, the brother of City Council member Wengay Newton, qualified Friday as a candidate in the race to replace his term-limited older sibling.

Will Newton, 49, also known as "Winnie," retired in 2012 after 23 years as a city firefighter/EMT. For 11 of those years, he also served as the union chapter president. 

He now works as the district vice president for the Florida Professional Firefighters, covering Pinellas and Pasco counties.

Newton said he sees municipal office as "a natural progression in my public service." 

His brother encouraged him to run, Newton said. 

Newton joins Lisa Wheeler-Brown and Sheila Scott Griffin as qualified candidates in District 7, which covers much of Midtown and other southern neighborhoods. Aaron Sharpe said he also qualified Friday.

At least three qualified candidates means the District 7 race will have an Aug. 25 primary election. 

So far, Ed Montanari is the only qualified candidate to replace term-limited Bill Dudley in District 3. Incumbents Charlie Gerdes  (District 1) and Steve Kornell (District 5) don't have any official challengers yet. 

The qualifying period ends Monday. 

 

 

Full Story

St. Petersburg announces "smart growth" personnel moves

St. Petersburg-- Mayor Rick Kriseman announced a shuffling of his economic development team Thursday, a change designed to pursue growth in targeted areas, including marine sciences, financial services and the creative arts.

Sophia Sorolis, the city's economic development manager for the past eight years, will be the point person for the "Grow Smarter" strategy, which also seeks to attract and develop businesses in specialized manufacturing and data analytics, according to a news release.

The city's strategy will partner with the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce on the initiative.

Jessica Eilerman, Kriseman's Small Business Liaison, will manage another joint venture with the chamber: The Greenhouse, a small business and startup incubator.

Eilerman will continue to serve in her liaison role as well.

The changes take effect on July 1.  City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle has said it's a high priority for the city to target its economic development efforts to its strengths as a way to distinguish St. Petersburg from other cities and spur related growth.

Full Story

Another Stanley Cup bet, another humbled Tampa politician

Mike Suarez had to wear a Chicago Blackhawks jersey to a City Council meeting to satisfy a bet with a Chicago alderman.

Richard Danielson

Mike Suarez had to wear a Chicago Blackhawks jersey to a City Council meeting to satisfy a bet with a Chicago alderman.

In a sign of solidarity, the City Council has displayed a blue Tampa Bay Lightning rally flag during the team's pursuit of the Stanley Cup.

But Thursday morning, the flag was gone, replaced by a display of Chicago Blackhawks red on the council dais.

Like Mayor Bob Buckhorn and Florida Sen. Bill Nelson, Tampa City Council member Mike Suarez made a bet on the Stanley Cup with his Chicago counterpart and now has to pay up.

But unlike Buckhorn, Suarez's bet included a wardrobe component.

Suarez agreed to wear a Blackhawks' jersey, sent by Chicago Alderman Joe Moore, if the Tampa Bay Lightning didn't win the Stanley Cup. At the start of Thursday's council workshop, Suarez apologized for putting on the "garish" jersey over a blue Lightning T-shirt and noted that it still had the tags attached because it would be returned soon after the meeting ended.

Suarez also agreed to send Cuban sandwiches to feed Moore's staff (six staffers, compared to Suarez's one) and to write a check to Moore's charity of choice, Family Matters, which works with at risk-families in Chicago. Suarez said he directed that his $100 donation be put toward community tutoring. …

Full Story

Kriseman got some, but not all, of his asks on state budget

St. Petersburg--- Mayor Rick Kriseman got some good news from Tallahassee this week as lawmakers wrangled a budget deal, but other items on his wish list will have to wait.

Among the successes:  $4 million for statewide homeless programs; $50,000 study for possible extension of the Albert Whitted Airport runway and $12.3 millon for the University of South Florida at St. Petersburg's Kate Tiedemann College of Business.

In a Tuesday Facebook post, Kriseman said he was pleased with that funding as well as $1 million for a Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service initiative. And he said he was happy that funding came through for Mahaffey Theater renovations and $1 million for the Florida Holocaust Museum. 

But state lawmakers didn't reauthorize the city's Enterprise Zone program or a Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority ask for a Central Avenue bus rapid transit pilot project.  The city didn't get $2 million for its bio-solids water project or $1.25 million for an apprenticeship academy. And $1 million northbound entrance to I-175 from 4th Street was left on the cutting room floor. …

Full Story

St. Petersburg District 7 candidate has checkered legal career

ST. PETERSBURG--When Sheila Scott Griffin announced her candidacy last week to replace term-limited City Council member Wengay Newton, she listed several occupations, including consultant and transportation manager.

But Griffin, 57, had a previous career as an attorney in which her law license was suspended twice in 2007 and 2011. As an attorney, she practiced under the name Sheila D. Turner --at least when she sanctioned--- according to the Florida Bar.

Griffin, who didn't return multiple calls for comment, has said she entered the District 7 race to improve education, strengthen families and make the Florida dream more than a tourist-based myth.

District 7, which includes Midtown and other southern neighborhoods, has one other candidate who had officially qualified as of Tuesday: Lisa Wheeler-Brown, the immediate past president of the Council of Neighborhood Associations.

Aaron Sharpe, a consultant and neighborhood activist, has said he will run, but hasn't yet qualified. …

Full Story

Bob Buckhorn gets ready to pay up on Stanley Cup bet

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made a bet on the outcome of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST | Associated Press

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn made a bet on the outcome of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

With Chicago fans still cheering the Blackhawks Stanley Cup win, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn texted Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel close to midnight Monday.

Emanuel called back, crowd noise in the background.

"He said, I'm lookifng forward to all the goodies that you're sending — and get that check ready," Buckhorn said Tuesday.

In a wager on the series, Buckhorn had promised that if the Blackhawks won the championship, he would send Emanuel some Original "1905" Salad from Tampa's Columbia Restaurant and 122 Cuban sandwiches (the Stanley Cup turns 122 this year). He also agreed to donate to Emanuel's favorite charity for young children, Becoming a Man.

If Tampa Bay had won Emanuel would have sent Buckhorn deep-dish pizza from Giordano's, Eli's cheesecake, a case of Slap Shot Brewing craft beer, mustard-fried catfish and peach cobbler from BJ's market and a donation to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Tampa Bay.

Later this week, the two mayors will cross paths at the U.S. Conference of Mayors. …

Full Story

Scottsdale, Ariz: St. Pete's recycling mentor

An important cameo role in the evolving St. Petersburg Recycling Drama of 2015 has been the city of Scottsdale, Ariz. 

Scottsdale officials advised St. Petersburg not to make alley pick ups, a decision that has come under criticism, especially in neighborhoods like Old Northeast and Kenwood.

Another twist in the Scottsdale and St. Pete recycling relationship? In Scottsdale, the city didn't buy any new trucks when it started its recycling program. Instead, it used its existing garbage truck fleet to pick up recycling on days when they weren't used for trash pickups. 

St. Petersburg spent more than $2.1 million on seven new trucks, six of which are too big for many of the city's alleys. 

"We were able to use what we had," said Frank Moreno, Scottsdale's director of solid waste management. "Just hose them out and get them ready for recycling."

St. Pete modeled its nascent universal curbside program after the Arizona city, pop. 227,000, which started its curbside service in 1994. …

Full Story

Nuisance complaint against Mosley Motel will be heard after judge denies injunction

 

ST. PETERSBURG | A circuit judge declined to grant an injunction that would have halted the city's nuisance abatement proceedings against one of St. Petersburg's most well-known motels.

That means a June 24 city hearing about the Mosley Motel will take place as scheduled.

"We're going to be putting on a lot of people and witnesses for this," said Largo attorney Joseph Perlman, who represents the Mosley.

The 34th Street motel has been the target of criticism by politicians and residents for years. City officials, in an April 27 nuisance complaint, said that between last summer and January, undercover officers and confidential informants purchased drugs at the motel.

The motel in turn sued the city, asking for an injunction that would prevent the hearing from taking place. They called the city's complaints "manufactured" and said they were not given adequate notice of the issues.

Perlman said Pinellas-Pasco senior Judge Robert Beach advised the motel to first go through the administrative process then return to court if it did not like the result. …

Full Story

St. Pete Pride gets city support

St. Petersburg---- Organizers from St. Pete Pride, Florida's largest LGBT event, got what they wanted from the City Council Thursday, but only after members of the public urged council members not offer municipal dollars.

The council didn't heed those appeals, voting unanimously to offer in-kind services like police protection and barricades to the event up to $45,000.

The parade, said Chico Cromartie, who said he was a public policy student at St. Petersburg College, was a "public blight" that would be an insult to "tax-paying Christians" offended by the "immoral public display" of marchers. A Palmetto Park minister said the city should spend its money on blighted neighborhoods instead of immoral activity. And a pro-life group criticized Mayor Rick Kriseman for flying the rainbow flag, a symbol of gay rights while ignoring their request for the city to do the same with their self-designed flag emblazoned with "Pro Life."

Council member Steve Kornell, who is gay, said such rhetoric encouraged violence. A man was shot with a BB gun two years ago at the parade. 

"Words matter," Kornell said. …

Full Story

Kriseman takes 1st trip on taxpayer dime

St. Petersburg----  Mayor Rick Kriseman has done his share of traveling in his first 1 1/2 years as mayor----usually for wonkish gatherings about design or municipal policy. 

But, until now, his travel costs have been covered by conference organizers or other sources that don't tap the taxpayer dime. 

But, after a visit to Montreal to meet with mayors from around the world, Kriseman will travel to the U.S Conference of Mayors' event in San Francisco that will cost $2,366 for hotel, flight and conference registration. 

That outlay is the first time the mayor has used taxpayer money--budgeted for travel, said Ben Kirby, his spokesman. 

The City Council approved about $50,000 for mayoral travel and other activities, including flying in high-level job candidates, Kirby said.

Before leaving town Tuesday, Kriseman said he the expense is worth it for the mix of ideas and networking that such a venue provides. 

The mayor will be back in St. Petersburg for work on June 24. 

 

The original post misstated the mayor's return to work. He will be back on June 24. 

Full Story

Crowded field emerging in St. Petersburg District 7 race

St. Petersburg--- Another candidate has emerged to replace outgoing City Council member Wengay Newton and up to four candidates might eventually contest the seat repesenting Midtown and other southside neighborhoods.

Sheila Scott Griffin qualified for the District 7 race on Wednesday, the second day of the qualifying period. She joins Lisa Wheeler-Brown, who announced her candidacy in January and qualified Tuesday.

Aaron Sharpe has also said he plans to run, although he had not qualified by midday Wednesday. The City Clerk's office also listed Lewis Stephens as an announced candidate who had not yet qualified.

Phone calls to Griffin and Stephens weren't immediately returned. Her filing materials list Griffin as a consultant and manager in both a luxury transportation company and investment firm. 

On a campaign website, Griffin said she is a lifelong resident of the district who is running to improve education, strengthen families and bring the Florida dream from tourist myth to a reality for residents. …

Full Story