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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Clerk complaint raises questions about Pinellas judicial candidate's demeanor in court

Curtis Korsko, Pinellas County judge candidate

Korsko campaign Facebook page

Curtis Korsko, Pinellas County judge candidate

For 11 years, Pinellas County judge candidate Curtis Korsko had an unblemished track record as a traffic hearing officer — until last year in May, when a clerk sent a scathing e-mail to court officials.

“He has taken polls of the people in the audience as to whether they agree with his ruling on a case,” it read. “He really makes the court system look bad.”

Then-chief judge J. Thomas McGrady assigned a court counsel attorney to investigate.

“Your telephone conversation to me last week NOT ONLY stole my soul, but has embarrassed me to the extent that I feel I cannot even walk into that courthouse,” Korsko wrote to the attorney.

The buzz eventually receded.

“A review was conducted and it was decided (Korsko) should continue working as a traffic hearing officer,” Sixth Judicial Circuit spokesman Stephen Thompson said in a statement. Korsko quit his post, but rescinded his resignation and presided over traffic court until this spring, when he left to run for Pinellas County judge.

But an audio recording of a three-hour traffic court hearing obtained by the Tampa Bay Times captured Korsko, a Tampa civil litigation lawyer, making some remarks that could be considered questionable. …

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Can you spell "commission?"

Hillsborough County Commission candidate Jim Norman's

Special to the Times

Hillsborough County Commission candidate Jim Norman's

Candidates in the crowded District 6 race for the Hillsborough County Commission have a potential new campaign slogan against a former commissioner hoping for a comeback:

Jim Norman Can’t Even Spell County Commission!

Norman, a former state senator who withdrew from re-election in 2012 after an ethics scandal, is now running for a county seat against Democrats Tom Scott, John Dicks, Pat Kemp and Brian Willis and fellow Republican Tim Schock.

This week Norman confirmed that 50 to 70 of his posted campaign signs contain the misspelled word "commision" — as in, missing a necessary "s."

Of course Norman can spell commission, having previously been a longtime and powerful figure on that board.

He says it was a printer error that will be remedied with a corrective bumper sticker placed over each sign.

"You just gotta roll with it," Norman said.

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Largo officials: townhouse development still on for site on potential Rays stadium list

A list of potential stadium sites for the Tampa Bay Rays includes a former citrus grove in the city of Largo that developers are eyeing for townhouses.

That project is still moving forward on the site near the corner of U.S. 19 and Belleair Road, said economic development manager Teresa Brydon in an email chain between city officials and commissioners. The land was previously home to one of the Orange Blossom Groves locations.

Brydon said the conditions of the development agreement will go before commissioners in the coming weeks. 

According to Pinellas County Property Appraiser's records, the site is still owned by the Repetto family, which ran the citrus grove. The family is under contract to sell the land to M/I Homes of Tampa, according to DeLoach and Hofstra, the law firm handling the Repetto family trust.

Commissioner Curtis Holmes brought up concerns raised by residents who live off the oak tree-lined Belleair Road regarding the townhouse development, mainly over traffic. 

"Belleair Rd would NEVER be approved and I'm confident the neighborhood would picket city hall with pitchforks and torches," he wrote. …

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Officials get early look at new Largo High School

Officials take in the view from a stairwell.

Kathryn Varn | Times

Officials take in the view from a stairwell.

The football stadium was the only thing on his high school campus that looked familiar to Largo Mayor Woody Brown.

Oh, and the auditorium – if you squint, he said.

Brown, along with several city and state officials, got an early look Tuesday at the new Largo High School, which is almost at the end of a $65 million renovation. 

Two rising seniors gave a tour of their new stomping grounds, which included a gym that holds 1,600 people, several classrooms with high-tech equipment and a spacious courtyard with arches and stairwells leading into each building.

“We really truly believe this is the finest school in the state of Florida,” Principal Bradley Finkbiner said.

The school is split into several buildings. One is devoted to academics, with humanities subjects on the first floor and science, technology, engineering and math classes on the second floor to make it feel more like a college, Finkbiner said.  …

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LGBT Awareness month rejected by Hillsborough County commissioners

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner helps raise the LGBT pride flag outside of the county center Wednesday. But Beckner did not convince his colleagues to name each June LGBT Pride Awareness month.

Caitlin Johnston, Times

Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner helps raise the LGBT pride flag outside of the county center Wednesday. But Beckner did not convince his colleagues to name each June LGBT Pride Awareness month.

TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners soundly rejected a proposal Wednesday to designate each June as LGBT Pride Awareness and History month in Hillsborough County.

Despite an impassioned plea from Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who sought the designation in light of last month’s massacre at an Orlando gay night club, none of the commissioners supported his motion with a second and it failed as a result.

Because there was not a second, there was no discussion among commissioners, so none of them explained their opposition, nor was there a vote.

Beckner, the county's first openly gay commissioner, last month won support from the commission to raise a LGBT Pride flag for the rest of June after the shooting. However, that show of solidarity was not repeated on Wednesday.

Live blog: Hillsborough commissioners reject LGBT Awareness Month

The decision to raise the flag in June grew contentious after Commissioner Stacy White said an employee anonymously complained that it was an affront to her Christian beliefs and created a hostile work environment. He also criticized the county administrator for not warning commissioners that raising the Pride flag could be problematic for some employees. …

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County sewage had dangerous bacteria

A University of South Florida study released today found antibiotic-resistance bacteria in untreated sewage spilled from a broken Pinellas County sewer line in the Joe's Creek area, north of St. Petersburg, into Boca Ciega Bay in 2014.

Two USF researchers published their findings Wednesday in the Applied and Environmental Microbiology Journal, concluding that the sewage "raise several significant public health concerns."

The 500,000 gallon spill in September 2014 was significantly smaller that subsequent spills from the city of St. Petersburg spills in 2015 and last month, which released more than 40 million gallons of sewage into Tampa Bay and Boca Ciega Bay. Tampa and Largo have also had significant discharges in the last two years. 

Suzanne Young, a PhD student in environmental microbiology who co-authored the study, said the county spill was studied because reasearchers found out about it from news coverage. They haven't had tested the more recent spills from the city, but hope to do so in the future.

"Environmental surveillance is really important," she said. …

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Police union to host 'Meet a Cop & Thank a Cop' event in St. Petersburg

ST. PETERSBURG — The premise is simple.

The local police union on Saturday will host an event called “Meet a Cop & Thank a Cop,” a fundraiser for the Sun Coast Police Benevolent Association at 9th Avenue N and 23rd Street.

But this month, after two officer-involved shootings left black men dead in Louisiana and Minnesota, and two ambushes left eight officers dead in Texas and Louisiana, the concept is especially relevant.

“Recent events demonstrate the importance of knowing, and thanking, our local ‘peace officers.’ ” the union said in a statement.

Several officers will attend the fundraiser along with a police dog. There will be free food and live music.

The relationship between police and the communities they serve has come under increased scrutiny in recent years after several high-profile officer-involved shootings sparked protests and rallies across the country. Both police and protesters say that officers’ relationship with citizens is fractured by poor communication, racial tension and hostility. …

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Crist leads 13th District race in new poll

A new poll shows former governor Charlie Crist with a 12-point lead in the 13th Congressional District over incumbent Republican David Jolly.

Jolly had been running for Marco Rubio's U.S. Senate seat before Rubio decided to fight to keep it late last June. Jolly then announced he would defend his congressional seat. 

The Anzalone Liszt Grove Research poll conducted 501 telephone interviews with likely voters in the November general election between July 12 and July 17.

The results showed Crist with a 50 percent to 38 percent lead over Jolly. Twelve percent remain undecided.

The poll, with a margin of error of 4.4 percent, found that Crist leads among independents and moderate by wide margins.

Crist also has a higher name recognition with 89 percent of voters in the district to Jolly's 61 percent.

The pollsters, commissioned by the Crist campaign, concluded that "Charlie Crist's brand makes him a very strong challenger for this Pinellas-based seat."

The Crist campaign didn't offer any comment on the poll, but the Jolly campaign fired back quickly. …

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UPDATE: St. Pete asks Tampa, Hillsborough to halt final vote on ferry

HMS Ferries would provide this 149-passenger vessel for a pilot project of ferry service between St. Petersburg and Tampa.

Photo courtesy of HMS Ferries

HMS Ferries would provide this 149-passenger vessel for a pilot project of ferry service between St. Petersburg and Tampa.

St. Petersburg city officials asked Hillsborough County and Tampa to delay final action on the ferry contract Tuesday.

After asking Hillsborough County to make a last-minute addition to its agenda to consider the ferry contract, St. Peterburg put on the brakes because the contract still isn't finalized, said Ben Kirby, Mayor Rick Kriseman's spokesman.

The Pinellas County Commission will also delay its vote, he said.

St. Petersburg, which originally wanted to all parties to sign off by Aug.1, now is aiming for mid-August, Kirby said.

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Here's the original story that posted Tuesday morning:

TAMPA — A proposed ferry route between St. Petersburg and Tampa that will begin operation this fall needs final approval, and quickly, from Hillsborough County commissioners and Tampa City Council.

St. Petersburg City Hall recently reached an agreement with HMS Ferries to run a six-month pilot program that will take passengers across Tampa Bay starting Nov. 1. The program comes with a $1.4 million price tag, to be split equally between four regional governments: St. Petersburg, Tampa, and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. …

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Joyner endorses Sean Shaw for state House 61

State House District 61 candidate Sean Shaw

Sean Shaw campaign

State House District 61 candidate Sean Shaw

One day after endorsing state House District 63 candidate Lisa Montelione, veteran state Democratic lawmaker Athenia Joyner has also lent her backing to another Democrat: state House District 61 candidate Sean Shaw.

Shaw, an attorney, served as the state’s Insurance Consumer Advocate from 2008 to 2010. 

“Sean Shaw is the fighter we need in Tallahassee," Joyner said in a statement. "He'll stand up for working people and raising the minimum wage; he'll stand up for our kids and more money for our public schools; and he'll work to get more Floridians out of emergency rooms and into doctors' offices by expanding Medicaid.”

Shaw is in a three-way Democratic race to win the seat in the August primary along with East Tampa businesswoman Dianne Hart and Walter Smith II, the son of former Florida A&M University president Walter Smith.

No Republicans have qualified to run for the seat that covers Tampa Heights, Seminole Heights and Temple Crest. The election is on Aug. 30.

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Master plan for Trop redevelopment begins

Residents gathered at the Coliseum Monday night to pitch their ideas on how to redevelop Tropicana Field

Charlie Frago

Residents gathered at the Coliseum Monday night to pitch their ideas on how to redevelop Tropicana Field

The city kicked off its public discussion Monday on how to reimagine the 85 acres around Tropicana Field as planners and city officials promised a dense, walkable destination that, for now, includes a baseball stadium.

The city has paid $320,000 (with the Rays kicking in $100,000)  to HKS Architects to come up with a master plan for the Trop site. Originally due by the end of September, HKS said it was working with the Tampa Bay Rays to extend the deadline by about a month.

On Monday a healthy crowd turned up at the Coliseum to sketch their dreams and trade ideas in small groups. Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin urged them to dream big.

"What you think absolutely matters and it's how we get to the right place," she said.

Architect Randy Morton said the emphasis would be on a pedestrian and bike friendly landscape. He pointed to another plan the firm had done for the Braves on a slightly smaller site in Cobb County outside Atlanta as an example of having a site that isn't dominated by parking lots.  …

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Joyner endorses Montelione for state House

State House 63 candidate Lisa Montelione

City of Tampa

State House 63 candidate Lisa Montelione

TAMPA - State House District 63 candidate Lisa Montelione today announced she has picked up the endorsement of veteran Democratic state lawmaker Arthenia Joyner.

Joyner, who is retiring from politics,is the Democratic leader of the Florida Senate and has served in both the state House and Senate during the past 16 years.

She said she was thrilled to endorse Montelione, who is resigning from her Tampa City Council seat to run for the state House.  

“She is a tireless worker who stands up for the people she represents, fighting for better jobs, education, and opportunity,” Joyner said in a statement. “I know Lisa will do in Tallahassee what she has done her entire career; stand up as a strong voice for the people of her district.”

Montelione faces Republican Shawn Harrison in the race for a seat that in recent years has swung between Republican and Democrat. The seat includes parts of Avila, Lutz, Lake Magdalene, Old Carrollwood and Northdale.

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Crist has cash edge in 13th District

The latest campaign cash filings in the 13th Congressional District were't accompanied by trumpeting news releases.

Instead, they were filed quietly with the Federal Election Commission.

Democrat Charlie Crist raised $216,943 from the beginning of April until the end of June. Jolly, who switched from running for a U.S. Senate seat to the House race, raised $184,840, according to FEC records.

Mark Bircher who is running against Jolly in the Aug. 30 Republican primary raised $1,620. 

As for totals, Jolly leads with $1,489,148 to Crist's $996,357. Bircher has raised $5,121 and has $30,000 in loans.

As for available cash after expenses or "cash on hand," Crist has an edge. He has $670,689 to Jolly's $409,101. Bircher has $8,432.

Jolly, the incumbent, has said he won't directly solicit money to keep his seat. But his campaign staff has said he'll be busy campaigning in the district now that Congress is out of session.

Crist has a fundraiser in downtown St. Petersburg Monday hosted by Mayor Rick Kriseman.

 

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Beckner removes campaign link from county website

A screenshot of Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner's county website, which included a link to a Facebook page posting campaign material. The link was removed on Thursday.

Times Photo

A screenshot of Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner's county website, which included a link to a Facebook page posting campaign material. The link was removed on Thursday.

TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner removed from his county-operated website a link to a Facebook page for his campaign Thursday after the Tampa Bay Times asked him questions about it.

Promoting campaign material from a taxpayer-funded website is a no-no and it apparently has gone on for more than a year. But Beckner said Friday he wasn’t aware it was there and promptly removed it after the Times messaged him about it.

Beckner is challenging Hillsborough County Clerk of the Circuit Court Pat Frank in next month’s Democratic primary.

“It was brought to our attention that the link was there and we brought it down,” he said.

Beckner said the Facebook icon with a link to his page was added to his commissioner website in January 2015. At the time it only posted news about county business by an aide in his office, Jennifer Groff, in charge of keeping up his social media accounts. …

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Senate District 19 candidates struggle to distinguish themselves at forum

Florida Senate District 19 candidates struggled to distinguish themselves at a Suncoast Tiger Bay forum Friday afternoon.

State Reps. Ed Narain, D-Tampa, and Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, touted their records and long lists of endorsements while political newcomer Augie Ribeiro cast himself as an outsider not tied down by political interests and campaign donations.

Former State Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, was not present, though a placard and meal were waiting for her at the head table. 

It was hard to draw distinctions among the three men during the 75-minute panel, especially as the time was split with candidates running for House District 70. They all expressed similar stances on restoring rights for felons, instituting a complete ban on assault weapons, and concerns they have if Republican candidate Donald Trump is elected president.

Pinellas County Commissioner Ken Welch asked each candidate to explain the pressing issue in the district, which crosses the bay and covers both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. …

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