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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Charlie Crist endorses Greenlight Pinellas in visit to St. Pete church

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin spent about 20 minutes campaigning at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg Sunday morning.

Courtesy of Sherry Robinson

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin spent about 20 minutes campaigning at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg Sunday morning.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Charlie Crist and St. Petersburg Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin spent about 20 minutes campaigning at Bethel Community Baptist Church in St. Petersburg Sunday morning.

Tomalin urged the congregation to vote for the Greenlight Pinellas transit issue because of the jobs it would create -- and then Crist endorsed the ballot item as well.

"Greenlight is good -- good for transportation," Crist told the congregation.

Crist also knocked Gov. Rick Scott for his cuts to the education budget and for not expanding the Medicaid program, as well as ending a program Crist had started as governor to automatically restore the rights of ex-felons who have served their time. To restore that program, though, Crist said he would "need a little help with the Cabinet," and so he urged the voters to pick Democratic attorney general candidate George Sheldon over incumbent Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican.

"I'm in, and I need you to be all in," Crist told the congregation before handing the pastor, Rev. Manuel L. Sykes, a pair of Crist bumper stickers. "I'm sure you've got a friend," he told Sykes as he handed him the second bumper sticker.

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Support for Pinellas transit plan wavers in Pasco

Pasco County officials so far are refusing to lend a hand to Greenlight Pinellas.

Asked Thursday to support the transit-expansion initiative, board members for Pasco's Metropolitan Planning Organization couldn't muster enough votes to back the plan.

The initiative would raise Pinellas' sales tax rate to 8 percent while removing the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority's property tax levy. Supporters say the measure will increase bus service and create a 24-mile light rail line from Clearwater to St. Petersburg.

But the issue has divided Pinellas voters. A recent phone survey by St. Pete Polls found 48.3 percent of 1,640 likely voters would vote "no" on the plan while 35.9 would vote "yes." Another 15.8 percent said they weren't sure.

Greenlight backers recently wrote to Pasco's MPO requesting support. After a 10-minute discussion, boardmembers deadlocked 3-3 -- meaning the MPO won't give its blessing to the plan.

Pasco commissioiners Jack Mariano and Kathryn Starkey, and New Port Richey Councilman Jeff Starkey, no relation to Kathryn Starkey, voted in favor. Zephyrhills Councilman Jeff Smith and commissioners Henry Wilson and Ted Schrader voted against it. …

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Kriseman optimistic about Rays deal by end of 2014


St. Petersburg----Mayor Rick Kriseman says that he's optimistic that the city and the Tampa Bay Rays can reach a deal by the end of the year on a site for a new stadium, but he's keeping mum on the details. 

One reason the discussions have gone so well, Kriseman said Thursday, is that both sides have kept them private. 

"There has been a tremendous amount of respect and trust that's been reestablished and shown to each other. And I think that bodes well for us going forward," Kriseman said. 

Kriseman met with Rays President Matt Silverman this month and plans to meet again in September. 

The mayor said his first goal is to keep the team in St. Petersburg. The Rays want to look at sites in Tampa. But recent comments to the Tampa Bay Times by Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg are encouraging, he said. 

Sternberg said early in the week that nothing is "imminent" on the Rays stadium situation, but the team hopes to have more "substantive" discussions with Kriseman once the season is over.  

"He seems to be optimistic," Kriseman said. "I think it's been relayed to him that we've had very meaningful discussions." 



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Bill Young's big get: NASCAR driver Kurt Busch

Republican Bill Young has a big endorsement this morning: NASCAR driver Kurt Busch.

Busch appears in a brief video touting Young, who is battling Democratic Rep. Dwight Dudley in the state House District 68 race: "Hi, I'm NASCAR champign Kurt Busch. I'm endorsing Bill Young for Florida state House. I knew his father very well, and he did a lot for our military, and I know that Bill will not let us down. Vote for Bill Young."

In a statement Young said, “I’m proud to have the endorsement of Kurt Busch. We share a passion for helping those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to protect us. Kurt’s dedication to our veterans and work with the Armed Forces Foundation should be admired by all.”

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Nurse opens home for Crist commercial


St. Petersburg----Council member Karl Nurse made an unusual foray into the governor's race this week -he let Charlie Crist's campaign use his Old Southeast home for a campaign commercial. 

The Crist campaign asked to use his house because they wanted one house with rooms that look different enough so that it appears  the action takes place in several different houses, Nurse said. 

Nurse didn't charge his fellow Democrat for the use of his home. But if time is money, then Crist came out ahead: the filming took five hours. 

"It was all volunteers. That's why it took so long," Nurse said. 

As for having the interior of the house he's lived in for 24 years on television screens across the state? 

"That'll be weird," he said. 



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Clearwater police chief considers using body cameras

CLEARWATER| Chief Dan Slaughter announced at a recent open forum that he is thinking about acquiring body cameras for officers at the Clearwater Police Department.

"It's a shift that's going to occur in this industry at some point whether it happens in Clearwater in the next two years or 10 years," he said, adding "there's still some stuff that really has to be worked out."

Slaughter said he'd like input from officers to determine how and when the cameras will be used.

Other agencies in Florida will soon be equipped with the cameras, including the Tampa and Sarasota police departments.

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Dunedin moves to once-weekly trash pickup in January

DUNEDIN| Homeowners will move to once-weekly trash, recycling and bulk pickup on Jan. 5.

City commissioners recently approved the move away from twice-weekly trash service following a seven-year voluntary recycling pilot program then two years of analysis under a mandatory single-stream recycling model.

Eliminating the "underutilized" second trash collection day will save the city about $700,000 a year by reducing equipment costs, manpower and wear and tear on roads, officials said. The change also jibes with Dunedin's push to reduce its carbon footprint.

Most residents' collection day will not change, but simply occur on the same day as their current recycling and yard waste pickup day.

The city will include more specific information in utility bills. Go to or call the Solid Waste Division at (727) 298-3215 for more details.

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Clearwater surgery update

CLEARWATER -- It turns out that Sen. Jack Latvala isn't the only well-known political figure in Clearwater who's had hip surgery recently.

When we saw former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard the other day, he was jauntily using a golf club as a cane. He had just had hip surgery.

Hibbard was also 30 pounds lighter. He lost the weight to make his recovery from surgery go more smoothly. He totally changed his diet. "I'm not on the chicken dinner circuit," said Hibbard, who's not running for office.

He was at a news briefing where the Clearwater Marine Aquarium was announcing updated plans for a new aquarium. The event was attended by Clearwater's current mayor and its two previous mayors. "Solidarity," former mayor Brian Aungst deadpanned when asked about it.

Hibbard had also recently dropped in on Clearwater City Council Member Jay Polglaze, who's recovering from surgery of his own. Polglaze showed up to the last City Council meeting in a neck brace. 

After stints in construction and the military and lifting weights, Polglaze was suffering from a degeneration of the spine. He had surgery to remove several discs and to fuse the rest of his spine together. …

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Precinct maps show lopsided Pasco wins

The polling numbers in the countywide Pasco Commission primary races tell one story: Republicans Mike Moore and Mike Wells trounced the competition.

But to see just how lopsided their wins really were last week, check out the precinct results at Pasco Superintendent of Elections Brian Corley's web site,

There's a map that represents the precincts Moore locked up en route to an easy victory:

As it shows, pretty much every precinct sided with Moore, who outspent his two opponents in campaign advertising almost 10 to 1.

While one of those opponents, Ken Littlefield, captured three east Pasco precincts - the 21st, 56th and the 87th - the other, Bob Robertson, failed to gain even one.

More surprising was Wells' complete domination of the political landscape over incumbent Henry Wilson.

Wells captured every precinct except one, the 94th, which went to Wilson. Take a look:

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Property tax hike proposed in Safety Harbor

SAFETY HARBOR| At at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Sept. 15, the City Commission will host hearings on the proposed 2015 budget. Among the highlights:

*The property tax rate would jump nearly 9 percent from $3.73 per $1,000 of taxable assessed property value would rise to $4.05 - aiding a bump in revenue from higher property values by generating nearly $600,000 for city coffers.

*The city would spend $1.6 million for design and other startup costs for a long-anticipated waterfront park along Old Tampa Bay.

*The controversial monthly $4.25 streetlight fee would decrease $3.25 per month, or $39 a year - a savings of $12.

*The Chamber of Commerce, Neighborly Care Network and Mattie Williams Neighborhood Family Center would continue receiving a combined $77,000 in assistance despite initial resistance from several commissioners.

More details here. The new budget year starts Oct. 1.

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Pinellas County Commission candidate Johnson takes loss -- and $40,000 hit to his bank account -- in stride

The day after a disappointing loss, Johnny Johnson headed north.

The retired Tarpon Springs pediatric dentist owns a 470-acre pine tree farm between Chiefland and Cedar Key, a place to relax and hunt deer and feral hog. Whether he won or lost Tuesday's District 4 Republican primary, the plan was to spend some time there this week to take a break after months of steady campaigning.

Johnson won about 22 percent of the vote, coming in a very close third behind former state Rep. Peter Nehr in the race for the north county seat that retiring Republican Commissioner Susan Latvala has held since 2014. Dunedin Mayor Dave Eggers came out on top of the field of seven candidates, winning about 30 percent of the vote.

"It was a victory either way," Johnson told Bay Buzz on Friday when he managed to get cell phone reception on the farm. "Everybody worked hard and believed in me and we grew together. We were successful in how we ran our campaign, and we accomplished what we wanted to accomplish. We just didn’t get enough votes to take it to the next level." …

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No Tax for Tracks to rally at Indian Rocks Beach sushi place

Both sides of the debate over the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum are gearing up for the last critical days of the campaign before the Nov. 4 vote.

On Thursday, a new group called Women Leaders for Greenlight Pinellas announced a Sept. 9 fundraiser at the Hyatt in Clearwater, and the opposition group No Tax for Tracks blasted out a flyer about its upcoming rally on Sept. 8.

That event is set for 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. at IRB Sushi, 416 1st St. in Indian Rocks Beach. There is no admission fee but donations will be accepted, said organizer Betsi Burgess. Capacity at the restaurant is limited to about 80 people. Refreshments will be provided. 

The scheduled speakers are Seminole Vice-mayor Tom Barnhorn (who joined a majority of his council members who last month rejected an endorsement of the Greenlight plan) and Randal O’Toole, a public policy analyst for the Cato Institute who has written a white paper about the Greenlight plan.

If that’s enough of a lure, Nashville country music artist Darryl MacQuarrie will be singing his "signature ballad of 'No Tax for Trax,' " the flyer says.

For more information, call Burgess, (727) 374-7883.

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Prominent women raising cash for Greenlight Pinellas campaign with Sept.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Some of the Bay area’s most prominent women are working to raise cash for the group backing the Greenlight Pinellas transit plan. 

Women Leaders for Greenlight Pinellas, which bills itself as “a grassroots group formed to support the county’s upcoming transportation referendum,” is holding a fundraising reception next week for the Yes on Greenlight campaign, which is funded by the Friends of Greenlight political committee.

The event slated for Sept. 9 at the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa is “designed to galvanize Greenlight support from women in Pinellas” and will focus on “the need for better transportation options,” according to a news release sent Thursday.  Pinellas County Commissioners Susan Latvala, Janet Long and Karen Seel will speak about the Greenlight plan and “how it will improve the quality of life and foster economic development in the county,” the release says. …

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Mary Mulhern vs. Harry Cohen?

Is term-limited Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern considering running against the colleague she sits next to on the council dais — South Tampa representative Harry Cohen?

Yes, Mulhern acknowledged Thursday, but that’s only one of a lot of things she’s looking at.

“I’m thinking about everything,” said Mulhern, who will be out of her current job after her four-year term ends next March. She’s also exploring potential opportunities in the private sector, as well as considering county or other offices scheduled to come up for election in 2016. “There’s nothing I’m not thinking about.”

How about running for mayor?

No, Mulhern said. Not that. But she said a lot of people are urging her “to stay in public service, in government.” (Mulhern had been a candidate for the Hillsborough County Commission this year, but she dropped out of that race in January. She said the demands of serving on the City Council, raising a family, running countywide and contending with a relapsing-remitting form of multiple sclerosis, which she has had for 25 years, forced a difficult decision to withdraw from the race.) …

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On the Hillsborough School Board campaign trail

Dipa Shah's campaign explains their response this month to a racially charged hate mailer. April Griffin says she's tired of being blamed for School Board disharmony when there's plenty of blame to go around. And Sally Harris was surprised by what she got when she asked for Michael Weston's support. Gradebook is following the three campaigns for Hillsborough County School Board.

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