As rumors swirl around Midtown about a new grocer opening in Tangerine Plaza, residents might know details in August about efforts to fill the space partially built with tax dollars.
Larry Newsome, head of Urban Development Solutions, told the St. Petersburg City Council on Thursday that he is still seeking a retailer to replace Sweetbay Supermarket.
“We’re negotiating for a new tenant,” he said. “Hopefully, we’ll have news to share in the next 60 to 90 days.”
The City invested million in public money to help bring Sweetbay to the plaza in 2005. The project was viewed as the catalyst to revitalize Midtown. But Sweetbay closed in February, leaving an oasis of empty parking spots and struggling businesses.
Sweetbay still pays rent to Urban Development Solutions. Full Story
After getting plenty of phone calls and emails this morning from people looking for the Pinellas term limits ruling, I thought I'd put it online.
Here's a link to the pdf.
And a link to my story in today's paper about the judge's order.Full Story
After a slow start, East Lake Fire Rescue has launched an investigation into whether a lieutenant sent racist text messages to firefighters and harassed the department's only minority.
Lt. James Finley is accused of sending at least two messages, including one of a black man popping out of a brown box with this message: "Thanks for the gift, but I am sending it back it won't f------ work."
Fire Chief Tom Jamison originally said he couldn't punish Finley because the texts were sent while he was off duty. After records obtained by the Tampa Bay Times showed Finley was on duty, Jamison said he had made an error and would investigate.
Read more here. Full Story
ST. PETERSBURG -- Candidates in the St. Petersburg District 4 City Council race have been busy – with fundraisers, endorsements and a news conference.Full Story
St. Petersburg neurosurgeon David McKalip held a news conference near the Pier on Wednesday to discuss his proposal for redeveloping the St. Petersburg icon.
Instead of proceeding with the proposed replacement called the Lens, which he described as “a glorified sidewalk that no one wants,” he suggested opening the process to a private developer. A private business would build a new Pier on its own, without government financing. Options might include a hotel, an entertainment complex, sports facilities, TV studios or some other venture, he said.
The privately financed plan would then go to voters for approval.
McKalip said the Chelsea Piers in Manhattan was developed this way, to great acclaim. And even though it went over budget, it was private developers, not the city, that paid the bills, he said.
With this plan, he said, the city gets a nice new attraction and taxpayers would be off the hook. Also Wednesday, McKalip went to have a fundraiser – at the Pier.
Also this week, Darden Rice gave the City Clerk’s office more than 500 petitions signed by residents of District 4 as a way of qualifying for office. She’s the only candidate in the district who did so by Tuesday’s deadline. The other candidates must pay a qualify fee of $150.
Rice said it was important to her to gather the petitions because it shows her campaign as a solid grass-roots organization. “We wanted to walk the streets, talk to voters directly,” she said.
She also received the endorsement of the Suncoast PBA, which she called an important show of support.
“Ensuring the public's safety and working collaboratively with our city's police force is one of the Council's top responsibilities and we have to get it right,” Rice said in a news release.
Meanwhile candidate Carolyn Fries, who describes herself as a “technology entrepreneur and community leader,” has scheduled a fundraiser for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Doyle Wealth Management, 333 Third Ave. N., suite 300. Attendees are asked to RSVP to (727) 898-3063 and to make a contribution of $25 to $500.
Host committee members are: Hope Botterbusch, Robert and Jillian Doyle, Dr. John Harrison, Chris Kelly, William R. Lane Jr., Daniel James Scott.
Campaign news is emerging in the quest to become the next mayor of Florida’s fourth-largest city.
While Foster racks up support from police unions, Buzz wonders how much this will help him when voters cast ballots. Hundreds of police officers live outside of St. Petersburg and can’t vote in city elections.
Months after launching a new city logo and slogan, Dunedin city staffers are looking into the cost of hiring an advertising or public relations firm to help promote the new brand.
The proposal will be presented to the City Commission Thursday, along with a briefing on the final marketing plan crafted by Wilesmith Advertising and Design (which designed the new brand).
Under the first phase of the brand rollout, Dunedin installed street banners featuring the new image and magnetic decals for city vehicles, among other things. For phase two, Wilesmith is recommending that the city wraps funds into its 2014 budget for billboard or airport advertisements, as well as embark on agressive social media and mobile marketing campaigns.
In a memo to commissioners, economic development director Bob Ironsmith has suggested that the city also gather cost estimates on firms that could help the city get the word out. …Full Story
TAMPA - Hillsborough County will explore the idea of reconfiguring its county commission seats to create a district that concentrates Hispanic residents. Commissioners voted 6-0 Wednesday to hold public workshops and hearings that could lead to a referendum on the November 2014 ballot.
If passed, it would take effect in 2016. Commissioner Les Miller's proposal would reduce from three to two the number of commissioners who are elected to countywide seats on the seven-member board.
The at-large seat that would likely be converted to a district is now held by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who must leave office in 2016 due to term limits. The proposal would also require the county commission to redraw boundaries for all of the district-based seats.
The so-called Hispanic opportunity district is needed, Miller said, because of the county's growing number of Hispanics. Read more.Full Story
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is planning to give employees a roughly 3 percent raise next year, the first wage increase for the agency's staff in at least five years.
The starting salary for a sheriff's deputy has held steady for years at $41,000, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, but that low entry wage is beginning to hurt the agency. Hit with an unusually high attrition rate this year, the agency is struggling to fill positions and is discovering that some of the most desirable applicants are being lured away by higher-paying law enforcement agencies.
In Hillsborough County, starting deputies can make $44,335, according to the agency's website. In Tampa, a beginning police officer can earn a minimum of $46,384, and in Clearwater, $44,471 is the base pay for a police officer.
"We're way behind," said Gualtieri, who is considering raises in the range of 3 to 3.5 percent. (That would not affect his salary, which is set by the state.) Full story here.Full Story
When Hillsborough County commissioners voted earlier this year to create a diversity advisory panel charged with making their government more responsive to people with varied backgrounds, Terry Kemple asked for an appointment.
Kemple explained why in an email to members of his Christian-based Community Issues Council:
"Since you regularly receive my emails, you know that whenever you hear the word 'diversity' in relationship to our culture," Kemple wrote. "it is code for some effort to forward the homosexual agenda."
He urged recipients to apply for appointments.
"If we don't, then the County Commission will (be) pressed by council members who don't have any concern for the thoughts of God or the Judeo-Christian values upon which this great country was founded," Kemple wrote. …Full Story
The Florida Green Party will hold its annual membership meeting in Tampa May 24-26.
Along with electing officers and working on outreach and recruitment strategies, the party will hold a Q-and-A session with Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party's 2012 presidential candidate, from 7 to 9 p.m. May 25 at the St. Petersburg Museum of History, 335 Second Ave. NE.
Sessions are scheduled for:
• 6:30 to 10 p.m. May 24 at the Sacred Grounds Coffeehouse, 4819 E Busch Blvd., Tampa.
• 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. May 25 at the Franciscan Center, 3010 N Perry Ave., Tampa
• 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. May 26 at the Franciscan Center.
A $20 fee will cover facility rental, and organizers suggest that members bring their voter ID cards or registration numbers. Vegetarian breakfasts and lunches will be available for purchase.
Click here for the proposed agenda and here for more information on the party.
To hear the Pinellas delegation tell it, the list of their accomplishments from the 2013 legislative session is long, but they'd prefer to be remembered for what they didn't do: expand Medicaid to cover a million uninsured Floridians.
At a meeting of the Pinellas GOP last night, members of the state Senate and House said they came under intense pressure, including targeted radio and TV ads, to accept the $51 billion the federal government offered the state to expand health insurance coverage. (They did, however, manage to keep their own healthcare costs down, as the Times reported today.) And in glowing terms, they described how each of them said "no," even though the governor and Republicans in the Senate were pushing for a different answer.
"The challenge of Medicaid was not easy,"said Rep. Jamie Grant, who represents District 64, which straddles north Pinellas and Hillsborough. “On one side you had a feel good story that said: ‘Don’t you believe that everybody should have access to healthcare?’ Well, yeah I do. Do you think that the taxpayers and that future generations should be burdened with it, is a very different question.
The meeting, held at the Feather South Country Club, was attended by State Sen. Jeff Brandes ‑ the lone member of the Senate to vote against a plan to expand coverage using private insurers - as well as Reps. Larry Ahern, Ed Hooper, Kathleen Peters, and Grant.Full Story
SKIP O'ROURKE | Times (2012)
Hillsborough County School Board member Candy Olson talks with Yazmyn Thornton,6, about a book that Yazmyn was reading about cats during a 2012 visit to Mitchell Elementary in Tampa.
After 20 years on the Hillsborough County School Board, Candy Olson is stepping down when her term ends in 2014.
"As I look at myself and the work I do, I couldn't commit to putting the same level of energy, passion and patience into it for five and a half more years," Olson said Tuesday.
At 65, Olson said she does not intend to retire, and age is not a factor.
"But after 20 years, it's time," she said. "I've done similar work for 20 years."
Nor, she said, was she concerned about what would have likely been a contentious race against challenger Michael Weston, a high school teacher who already has made a habit of criticizing Olson publicly.
"I've run against ugly campaigns before," Olson said. "He was one that made me hesitate. It might have been an interesting campaign."
Full story here.Full Story
The Clearwater City Council stamped out a plan Monday for a concrete playground resembling a giant sand castle on Clearwater Beach, saying beach residents and businesses didn't want it.
At the council's work session, members scuttled the play structure proposed near Pier 60. It had been touted as a tourist-drawing landmark that would help cement the beach's reputation as best in the country.
Last week, the Clearwater Beach Chamber of Commerce and the Clearwater Beach Association announced their opposition, saying the $440,000 slated for the project would be better spent on additional parking and extended hours for the beach library and recreation center.
Full story here.Full Story
EDMUND D. FOUNTAIN | Times (2011)
Then-campaign aide Siobhan Harley shakes Mayor-elect Bob Buckhorn's hand on election day in 2011. The following day, the Scottish-born Harley took the oath to become a naturalized U.S. citizen and promptly registered to vote.
Siobhan Harley, special assistant to Mayor Bob Buckhorn and a rising star in Tampa Bay area Democratic political circles, is resigning to go to work for a political consulting firm in Nashville.
Harley, who was the first campaign staffer Buckhorn hired when he ran for mayor, is leaving City Hall Friday to take a job as a campaign manager with the Calvert Street Group, which does work in 30 states, plus Canada.
Harley, 25, signed on to Buckhorn's mayoral campaign largely because of his focus on making Tampa a better place for young professionals. After his election, she moved from the campaign to City Hall and is credited with helping Buckhorn spread that message during his two years in office.
"She has been really the force behind the coolness," City Council member Lisa Montelione said. "All of the technology stuff — Foursquare and Twitter — all the social media: it's all her. She really deserves a lot of credit for bringing young individuals to the table and energizing her generation and ... making them feel like they can make a difference."
Full story here.
Charlie Crist, the lifelong Republican who could be the Democrats' best hope at taking back the Governor's Mansion in 2014, told activists in Tampa Saturday night that his old party has changed to the point that he's far more comfortable as a big-tent Democrat.
"It's about blacks, it's about whites, it's about gays, it's about wherever you come from, you're welcome in this party," said the former Republican governor, recounting how former Democratic Gov. LeRoy Collins stood beside civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. despite political repercussions such as the ones Crist faced after embracing President Barack Obama and his stimulus package.
Crist's eight-minute speech drew an enthusiastic response from the 300 activists gathered for the annual Kennedy-King fundraising gala for the Hillsborough County Democratic Party. It was a healthy, but hardly overwhelming crowd that suggested Crist can't expect a coronation should he jump into the Democratic race for governor.