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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Clearwater considers switch to once-a-week trash collection

CLEARWATER — Last year, a flurry of angry phone calls prompted Clearwater to cancel a pilot program to reduce trash collection from twice a week to once a week in a couple of neighborhoods.

Now the issue is back. Clearwater leaders are strongly considering switching to once-a-week garbage collection citywide. They know they would take some heat for it, too — especially because residents’ trash pickup bills wouldn’t go down.

“It’s easy for you to say it’s good for the system,” Mayor George Cretekos told a consultant who recommended the change. “We’ve got to justify why it’s not only good for the system, but it’s also good for the customer. The customer is expecting his rates to go down, not to go up.”

No final decision has been made. But a majority of City Council members have agreed to have staffers bring a formal proposal to them in the near future. That will probably happen in December or January.

Florida cities such as Safety Harbor, Lakeland, Ocala, Sarasota and Key West have switched to once-a-week trash pickup. Dunedin will do so Jan. 5. Clearwater would be the largest city in the Tampa Bay area to make the switch. …

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St. Pete council signals support for using Weeki Wachee Fund for park improvements, arts funding

St. Petersburg | The City Council signaled its support on Thursday to fund a handful of projects from the city's Weeki Wachee Fund, including a proposal to support the arts with up to $1 million over the next 5 years.

Other projects that got the green light include a $150,000 proposal to fund lighting at the volleyball courts at North Shore Park, $50,000 for shade structures at Lake Vista and Riviera Bay parks and $25,000 to study the feasibility and potential location of a regional skatepark.

The council declined, however, to immediately advance a proposal to fund a rubber track at Gibbs High School, citing concerns about spending city money for something that would have limited public access.

That stung council member Wengay Newton, who has been working to make the track project happen. Shortly after the meeting adjourned, Newton posted this on his Facebook page:

"Council just Voted 5 to 3 to Split the $4,000,000 Weeki Wachee fund and give The Arts $200,000 for 5 years. Nothing for the Youth Jobs and $0 for Rubber Track at Gibbs. The City Of St. Petersburg has Arrested 1900 Juveniles, go figure. "

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Dunedin aces audit of once-troubled utility billing system

DUNEDIN -- The city passed an audit of its new utility billing system with flying colors.

Last year, the city hired Water Company of America to review new guidelines established after the 2009 discovery that Dunedin had undercharged commercial users of stormwater, water and sewer lines, costing the city $2.2 million over seven years.

WCA general manager Steve Hooper told elected leaders this month that his firm's audit showed Dunedin has a good meter maintenance program and communication between its permitting and utility departments.

"I can say with confidence that the review of billing that we performed ... indicate a clean, well-run system," Hooper said.

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Retiring Commissioner Pat Mulieri endorses Democrat Erika Jean Remsberg

Retiring Republican Pasco County Commissioner Pat Mulieri has crossed party lines to endorse a potential successor.

In a Facebook posting, Mulieri said she planned to vote for Democrat Erika Jean Remsberg for the District 2 County Commission seat. Remsberg is opposed by Mike Moore who won a three-way GOP primary in August and who has raised almost  $170,000 during the campaign, a nearly 20-to-1 margin over Remsberg’s treasury of less than $9,000.

Among Mulieri’s comments:

“Michael Moore states he is running as if he has already won: Attends board meetings, workshops, and is talking to big businesses. I have not seen him at many board meetings. In fact, when asked at one meeting in Dade City why he had not attended meetings, his response, 'I have a job.' My response, 'What will you do when you are elected?'

“Erica has met with me, staff and attends the Citizens Academy to help her understand the workings of government. It is difficult when one becomes a commissioner to absorb all that is going on. Erica is preparing.’’ …

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Tampa Bay area officials studying South Florida ruling in red-light camera case

Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fletcher Avenue, a red-light camera intersection.

BRYAN THOMAS | Times (2011)

Bruce B. Downs Boulevard and Fletcher Avenue, a red-light camera intersection.

A South Florida court ruling Wednesday set red-light camera opponents abuzz statewide.

In a case involving the city of Hollywood, Florida’s 4th District Court of Appeal dismissed a citation against motorist Eric Arem.

The court, based in West Palm Beach, ruled that Hollywood officials delegated too much authority to the vendor of their system when it came to issuing traffic citations.

“You’re essentially playing the police officer before the police officer actually sees it,” said state Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, an opponent of red-light cameras. “I think a lot of cities are going to find their procedures are incorrect.”

Hollywood’s vendor is Arizona-based American Traffic Solutions (ATS), which also runs red-light camera programs in Tampa and other bay area communities.

“The city is not authorized to delegate police power by entering into a contract that allows a private vendor to screen data and decide whether a violation has occurred before sending that data to a traffic infraction enforcement officer to use as the basis for authorizing a citation,” 4th DCA Judge Mark W. Klingensmith wrote in the Hollywood case. …

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Dunedin eyes fire boat purchase, better Pinellas water rescue system

DUNEDIN| The city will train firefighters ahead of buying its first fire boat next year, but not before researching ways it can help improve the countywide response protocol for water emergencies.

Fire Chief Jeff Parks and City Manager Rob DiSpirito said fire crews have been pushing for the boat purchase for years. They said their months-long research was hastened by a September houseboat blaze which raged 35 minutes before a Clearwater vessel arrived with additional firefighting equipment and rescued people trapped on the marina dock.

City commissioners gave city staff their unanimous permission to bring back a contract for the boat, which would be ready to hit Dunedin waters in about six months. The roughly $218,000 first-year implementation cost would come from miscellaneous Penny for Pinellas funds, and the county would contribute about 13 percent toward boat and lift costs.

But commissioners agreed with Mayor Dave Eggers that it appears neither boats nor response times seem consistent, as they are for road service. He questioned whether the county needs to provide more money. …

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Workshops tackle trash pickup

Dunedin's Solid Waste Department is hosting several workshops ahead of the transition in January to once-weekly trash, recycling and yard waste pickup.

For helpful disposal tips, residents are invited to open houses:

- Wednesday: 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Elliot Room of the Dunedin Community Center, 1920 Pinehurst Road.

- Nov. 15: 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Dunedin Library, 223 Douglas Ave.

Questions? Go to or call (727) 298-3215.

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University of Tampa student Tyler Barrett files to challenge City Council’s Harry Cohen

Tyler Barrett has filed to run in Tampa City Council District 4.

Photo courtesy Tyler Barrett

Tyler Barrett has filed to run in Tampa City Council District 4.

Last week was midterm week and thus a busy week at the University of Tampa, but it wasn’t so hectic as to keep UT junior Tyler Barrett from launching his candidacy for City Council District 4.


Barrett, 22, a double major in history and government and world affairs, is the third candidate to file papers to run in the South Tampa district now represented by Harry Cohen, who is nearing the end of his first term. First in was South Tampa businessman Kent King, who raised a little more than $32,000 through Sept. 30, followed by Cohen himself, who has raised $43,250.


This is Barrett’s first run for public office, though he worked as a field organizer for Nan Rich’s campaign for governor, coordinates the College Democrats at UT and has worked with the LGBT film festival at the Tampa Theatre.


“My passion has been getting young voters aware and getting them registered to vote,” Barrett said. Young people, he said, “need a voice in every branch of government,” but city government is one where they don’t have a relationship with decision-makers.


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Seminole Heights activist Susan Long files to challenge Tampa City Council's Mike Suarez

Susan Long is a candidate for Tampa City Council District 1.

Times files (2011)

Susan Long is a candidate for Tampa City Council District 1.

Old Seminole Heights civic activist Susan Long on Friday filed to run for the citywide Tampa City Council seat currently held by Mike Suarez.


“I know how City Council functions," she said, "and I think I would be very good at it.”


With Long’s filing in District 1, all five council members running for re-election have picked up opponents for the March 3 election.


Long, 68, is a frequent speaker on neighborhood issues at City Council meetings. A past president of the Old Seminole Heights Neighborhood Association, she is a member of the city’s Variance Review Board and has served on its Code Enforcement and Public Nuisance Abatement boards.


Long, who has a bachelor’s degree from Syracuse University and an MBA and a doctorate from the University of South Carolina, is an economist who does economic valuations, expert witness work and teaches in an accelerated MBA program two days a month for South University in Georgia.


Long said she expects three issues to play a role in the campaign. First, she said residents are concerned that the City Council has delegated too much authority to the city staff when it comes to reviewing proposed developments.


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Hillsborough School Board candidate takes credit for "temper tantrum" mailer

Yes, that was my mailer, Dipa Shah told Gradebook on Friday.

But, although Hillsborough School Board incumbent April Griffin calls it an attack ad, it's all based on news reports, Shah said in an interview.

The two are in a runoff for the nonpartisan countywide seat.



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Talking dog doo-doo in Clearwater

CLEARWATER -- An item recently appeared on the Clearwater City Council’s agenda: “Pooper Scooper Ordinance.”

It turns out that in Clearwater, you’re not actually required to pick up your dog’s poop. Mayor George Cretekos would like to change that.

“A couple of people have approached me about, why doesn’t Clearwater have an ordinance that says you really are supposed to pick up after your pets when you walk them on public property or even on somebody else’s private property,” Cretekos said.

He asked the city attorney if other cities have such a law. Yes, she said. Lots of them do. St. Petersburg does, for instance. But Clearwater doesn’t.

Elected officials were surprised by this.

“It seems like we’ve got to have this in our ordinances now,” said City Council member Bill Jonson. “Do we not have anything?”

Nope, said City Attorney Pam Akin. “Believe me, I did the research.”

City Council members were all for it, so the attorney will draft an ordinance for them to vote on.

“It is with very great displeasure when I happen to accidentally pass upon that in my yard,” said Jay Polglaze.

“As an owner of two precious Yorkies, I support your ordinance,” added Doreen Hock-DiPolito.

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Buckhorn fundraising tops $100,000

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn's re-election campaign raised $100,190 during its first 2½ weeks.


Buckhorn filed a finance report with the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections showing that 410 donors gave an average of a little more than $244 each to the campaign from Sept. 12, when he filed to run for a second term, through Sept. 30.


That likely would go a long way toward what Buckhorn would need in any compeitive campaign.


In 2011, with five strong candidates in the mayor's race, Buckhorn and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Rose Ferlita raised contributions of about $231,000 and $299,000, respectively, to advance from the primary. In the three weeks leading up to the runoff, he raised another $326,000, while she raised $183,000.


"I'm really happy with the response and certainly grateful for the people who believe in what we've been doing for the last 3½ years and want to see another four," Buckhorn said. "I've just got to try to keep focused and keep running a campaign like I was behind."


So far, Becky Rubright, a Seminole Heights acupunturist who was active in Occupy Tampa, the only other candidate to file to run for mayor during the city's elections on March 3.

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Clearwater community leaders endorse Greenlight Pinellas plan

CLEARWATER -- If light rail comes to Pinellas County, it will run north to a transportation hub in downtown Clearwater, where trolleys and buses would whisk passengers to the beach or Dunedin or elsewhere.

That transportation hub would likely be located at a city-owned lot at Court Street and Myrtle Avenue. On Wednesday, a group of Clearwater business and community leaders gathered there to publicly endorse the Greenlight Pinellas plan.

They included Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos; real estate titan Lee Arnold, CEO of Colliers International; Alan Bomstein, president of Creative Contractors; Frank Dame, chief operating officer of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium; and former Clearwater mayor Brian Aungst Sr.

"We need to do something in Pinellas County to bring us into the 21st century," Cretekos said. The group asserted that more robust mass transit would foster development and help workers and tourists get around.


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Oldsmar City Council refuses to endorse Greenlight Pinellas resolution

OLDSMAR -- Backers of the Greenlight Pinellas plan suffered a setback Tuesday night when the Oldsmar City Council refused to officially endorse the transit referendum.

The council voted 4 to 1 against a resolution supporting the plan that would raise the sales tax by a penny, to 8 cents, to expand bus service and build a light rail system between Clearwater and St. Petersburg by way of the Gateway area.

Mayor Doug Bevis, who also serves on Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors, was the lone yes vote. Vice mayor Linda Norris and council members Jerry Beverland, Gabby McGee and Jim Ronecker voted no.

Ronecker, Beverland and Norris are firmly opposed to the plan, but McGee said she was on the fence because she has concerns about the paying a higher sales tax that does not include a sunset date. After the vote, she made it clear she voted no because she's opposed to voting on a resolution at all. 

"We don't know how all our residents feel about it," she said. "I don't know how I feel about it. If I can't say to myself yes or no, then how can I say in a resolution yes or no?" …

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Attack mailer calls for "time out" for Hillsborough School Board incumbent April Griffin

A Democratic Party leader shared this attack mailer about School Board incumbent April Griffin. The race is nonpartisan.

A Democratic Party leader shared this attack mailer about School Board incumbent April Griffin. The race is nonpartisan.

We knew this one would be blood sport: The race to represent District 6 in the Hillsborough County School Board turned nasty this week, Gradebook reports

As of 5 p.m. there was no word from the campaign of Dipa Shah, Griffin's challenger for the districtwide seat; but lots of comment from April Griffin.

Throughout the campaign, critics have drawn attention to conflict between Griffin and Superintendent MaryEllen Elia. Griffin says others are at least as much to blame, and she's simply trying to hold the powerful superintendent accountable. 

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