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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Only 70 houses missed so far in St. Pete recycling roll out

St. Petersburg---A day after some residents in a southeastern neighborhood complained about being skipped over in the city's initial recycling pick up effort, Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration reported only 70 houses citywide had been skipped in the first two days of the fledgling program.

How many of those dwellings were in Bayou Bonita Park, near Coquina Key, is unclear, said Ben Kirby, Kriseman's spokesman. 

Residents of that neighborhood contacted the Tampa Bay Times when their bins, scheduled for a Monday pickup, hadn't been emptied lateTuesday.

The recycling effort has gone smoothly overall, Kirby said. With brand new routes, new trucks and new employees a few houses missed was to be expected, he said.

Those houses that were missed should have had their big, blue bins picked up either yesterday or by the end of business today, Kirby said. 

Overall, the city distributed close to 80,000 bins citywide. 

 

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Recycling kickoff leaves Bayou Bonita Park residents feeling left out

ST. PETERSBURG---- By most accounts, the city's universal curbside recycling kickoff went smoothly. The first neighborhoods to get their big, blue bins picked up Monday were on the city's southeastern side. Mayor Rick Kriseman stood with the Old Southeast Neighborhood Association's president to symbolically christen the city's belated entry into the recycling game.

But, farther south, at least some owners of the 100 or so homes in Bayou Bonita Park,along the shores of Little Bayou, followed the heavily-publicized celebration in confusion, then dismay. Their bins never got picked up.

As of late Tuesday, they still hadn't been. And the dismay was curdling into anger among residents of the neighborhood,  which stretches east of Fourth Street roughly between 46th Ave S and Sunrise and Paradise Drives S.

"My neighbors are livid," said Michael Maiello, who lives on Juanita Way S. "I saw the article in the paper saying everything is beautiful. Yeah, my a**."

The city told him to expect a pick up sometime before the end of the week. That wasn't welcome news for Maiello and his neighbors.

"Politicians," said Maiello with a tone that could fairly be described as disgusted. …

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Retired assistant Tampa police chief tapped for assistant Pinellas administrator post

It was one of the most memorable protest-related moments of the 2012 Republican National Convention

Then-assistant Tampa police Chief John Bennett kneeled in front of a group of protesters and, as they blew smoke and tossed insults, he patiently explained that they were blocking a main route to the hospital. Eventually, they moved to the sidewalk.

When Bennett retired at the age of 51 after a 30-year career at the department then-Chief Jane Castor called him "my own personal superhero."

Now Bennett is a Pinellas County government employee.

County administrator Mark Woodard recently tapped Bennett to serve as an assistant county administrator over public health, safety and welfare. Bennett will oversee the county's 911 center, public safety radio and technology, ambulance billing and financial services, emergency management, EMS and fire administration, human services, veteran services, animal services and justice and consumer services.

Woodard's former chief of staff, Bruce Moeller, oversaw those areas for a while and recently returned to his director post overseeing just the public safety departments. Moeller is leaving this week to enter semi-retirement. …

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Former assistant Tampa police chief tapped for assistant Pinellas administrator post

It was one of the most memorable protest-related moments of the 2012 Republican National Convention

Then-assistant Tampa Police Chief John Bennett kneeled in front of a group of protesters and, as they blew smoke and tossed insults, patiently explained that they were blocking a main route to the hospital. Eventually, they moved to the sidewalk.

When Bennett retired at the age of 51 after a 30-year career at the department then-Chief Jane Castor called him "my own personal superhero."

Now Bennett is a Pinellas County government employee.

County administrator Mark Woodard recently tapped Bennett, 52, to serve as one of four assistant county administrators. Responsible for "public safety, health and welfare," Bennett will oversee the county's 911 center, public safety radio and technology, ambulance billing and financial services, emergency management, EMS and fire administration, human services, veteran services, animal services and justice and consumer services.

Woodard's former chief of staff, Bruce Moeller, oversaw those areas for a while and recently returned to his director post overseeing just the public safety departments. Moeller is leaving this week to enter semi-retirement. …

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PSTA hires first federal lobbyist

Pinellas County's transit agency is looking to bring in money by spending money -- on a Washington, D.C. lobbyist.

The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors voted last week to hire D.C.-based lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc. for a five year contract not to exceed $420,000. It's the first time PSTA has retained a federal lobbyist and is needed to land its fair share of federal funding, finance committee chairman Joseph Barkley III told fellow board members.

Barkley noted most transit systems have a lobbyist in Washington, including the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority.

"What we're doing here is attempting to maintain our position among competitive transit systems," said Barkley, a Belleair Bluffs commissioner.

One of the firm's main directives is to secure federal funding for new buses. Earmarks for buses and other capital needs have dried up in recent years and PSTA is struggling to find money in its own budget to update its fleet and maintain service levels. …

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For the record: Jolly on Friday's same sex marriage ruling

We're a few days late, but we wanted to be sure to get U.S. Rep. David Jolly on the record about Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage.

The Indian Shores Republican announced his support for gay marriage last summer, so one thing is clear: Jolly's Democratic opponent, whomever that turns out to be, won't be able to use marriage equality as a wedge issue against him. Jolly has said he's considering a bid for Marco Rubio's Senate seat and plans to announce next month whether he'll do so or go for a second term in the District 13 seat he won in a special election last year. Democrat Eric Lynn is in the House race and has made a strong fundraising showing, but both St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice and former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern are seriously looking at jumping in. 

Here's Jolly's statement:  …

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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." …

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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.. …

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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. …

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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. …

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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. 

 

 

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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.

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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. …

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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. …

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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. …

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