Clear84° FULL FORECASTClear84° FULL FORECAST
Make us your home page
Instagram

Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Legg snubs Pasco GOP fundraiser

NEW PORT RICHEY – The push back over the Pasco Republican Party hierarchy’s treatment of its longest-tenured GOP club has begun with Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, skipping the party’s largest annual fund-raiser later this month.

Legg, in a May 4 letter to Pasco Republican Executive Committee Chairman James Mathieu, returned his eight tickets to the 2015 GOP’s Reagan Day dinner scheduled for May 28. Mathieu and Republican state commiteeman Bill Bunting recently refused to reauthorize the charter for the 40-year-old West Pasco Republican Club.

The Reagan Day dinner, Legg wrote “is about bringing the Pasco County Republican Party together, strengthening our financial position and preparing for the 2016 presidential election. Unfortunately, recent events have done just the opposite.’’

Club president Anne Corona and others stated previously the denied charter was a political payback to longtime club president Mike Fasano, the Pasco tax collector who supported Democrat Charlie Crist in the 2014 Florida governor’s race. …

Full Story

Legg snubs GOP fundraiser

NEW PORT RICHEY – The push back over the Pasco Republican Party hierarchy’s treatment of its longest-tenured GOP club has begun with Sen. John Legg, R-Trinity, skipping the party’s largest annual fund-raiser later this month.

Legg, in a May 4 letter to Pasco Republican Executive Committee Chairman James Mathieu, returned his eight tickets to the 2015 GOP’s Reagan Day dinner scheduled for May 28. Mathieu and Republican state commiteeman Bill Bunting recently refused to reauthorize the charter for the 40-year-old West Pasco Republican Club.

The Reagan Day dinner, Legg wrote “is about bringing the Pasco County Republican Party together, strengthening our financial position and preparing for the 2016 presidential election. Unfortunately, recent events have done just the opposite.’’

Club president Anne Corona and others stated previously the denied charter was a political payback to longtime club president Mike Fasano, the Pasco tax collector who supported Democrat Charlie Crist in the 2014 Florida governor’s race. …

Full Story

Tampa's efforts to lead in Cuban relations get national attention

That Tampa-Havana connection: Natalie and Shantalie Peraza walk past a mural in Ybor City last week.

MELISSA LYTTLE | The New York Times

That Tampa-Havana connection: Natalie and Shantalie Peraza walk past a mural in Ybor City last week.

The New York Times took a close look Sunday at the work of business and political leaders in Tampa to position the city as a future gateway to Cuba, and the Miami Herald followed up Wednesday with its own front-page, above-the-fold story.

In the New York Times, Tampa's efforts got a compare-and-contract treatment with Miami, touching on U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor's call for an end to the embargo to the welcome mat put out for a Cuban consulate to efforts to have a U.S.-Cuba signing ceremony here.

Those quoted included:

La Gaceta publisher Patrick Manteiga: “You can’t write the history of Cuba without Tampa, and you can’t write the history of Tampa without Cuba.”

• Tampa lawyer and anti-Castro activist Ralph Fernandez: "Everybody is saying that a country that buys less than the city of Lakeland is going to provide riches to the city of Tampa.”

• Former judge and local historian E.J. Salcines: "You can’t ignore a fundamental difference — that the Cubans in Tampa have gone through a much longer churning, maturing period than the Cubans in Miami. Give the Miami Cubans another 50 years, and they might be sounding more like Tampeño Cubans, but they are not there yet.”

Not quoted? …

Full Story

St. Pete kicks off healthy initiative

Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin prepare to hula hoop at Healthy St. Pete event

Charlie Frago

Mayor Rick Kriseman and Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin prepare to hula hoop at Healthy St. Pete event

On the steps of City Hall Friday, Deputy Mayor Kanika Tomalin hula-hooped like a pro. Mayor Rick Kriseman twirled a hoop around one arm. Council member Wengay Newton briefly did a neck twirl.

They might have had different skill levels with the hula hoop, but all three politicians were on the same page: getting St. Pete healthy.

Tomalin is leading the effort which seeks to encourage exercise, healthy eating and wellness for city's residents. A recent survey put Pinellas County 33rd out 67 Florida counties in health outcomes.

"We don't do middle of the pack," Tomalin said. "We lead."

She encouraged people to download the "Health Hero" app for Iphone and Android devices. Tampa Bay Rays president Brian Auld and player John Jaso attended. 

The event wrapped up with a mile-long walk down Central Avenue to the waterfront. 

 

Full Story

St. Petersburg downtown noise ordinance may be muted

A downtown noise ordinance that appeared headed toward enactment a few weeks ago has run into some blowback at City Council. 

Council member Karl Nurse had pushed a tightening of an existing ordinance that would require downtown venues to bring speakers inside and shut doors by 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. Fines would quickly jump to $500 a pop for violators.

Downtown condo residents were the driving force behind the proposal as many had tired of music blaring from the downtown nightlife scene. 

On Thursday, though, council members Steve Kornell and Jim Kennedy expressed concerns about the effects such an ordinance would have on the city's accelerating entertainment sector.  Kennedy asked if the city had done any formal study of the problem. No study has been done, replied City Administrator Gary Cornwell.

Kornell said St. Petersburg's burgeoning music scene was in danger of being stunted. Nashville, Memphis and Austin profit from their vibrant bar and venue culture, he said. St. Petersburg should tread cautiously, he said.

Downtown condo residents don't live in a residential area, he said, they lived in a mixed-use zone.  …

Full Story

Hillsborough State Attorney Mark Ober blasts Barry Cohen over town hall tactics

Mark Ober the cardboard cut-out might not have a lot to say at tonight's town hall meeting on race relations organized by Tampa defense attorney Barry Cohen.

But Mark Ober the Hillsborough State Attorney had plenty to say Wednesday about Cohen and his vow to prop up a two-dimenstional facsimile of Ober if the county's top prosecutor doesn't show up for the forum.

"Shameful."

"Bully tactics."

"Inflammatory."

"Self-promotion."

In a two-page letter to Cohen on Wednesday, Ober attacked Cohen's motives, goals and tactics in organizing the forum.

"I find it shameful that your website announcing this important issue looks more like a billboard advertising you and your law firm than a legitimate effort to engage in a meaningful discussion," Ober wrote. He noted that the questions Cohen proposed for the forum were inflammatory and "designed to provoke expressions of anger and hostility."

"They are not conducive to a respectful and meaningful dialogue regarding important issues such as use of force by our police and race relations in our community," Ober said. …

Full Story

St. Petersburg City Council workshop on Rays bumped for Pier

Anticipating another massively-long meeting involving the city's Pier project on May 7, City Council chairman Charlie Gerdes has moved back a planned workshop on the Tampa Bay Rays stadium deal until later in the month.

The Rays workshop will now be held at 2 p.m. on Thursday May 28, said City Clerk Chan Srinivasa.

The City Council meeting on May 7 starts at 8:30 a.m. but is expected to last 10 to 12 hours, Srinivasa said. The City Council will consider authorizing contract negotations with the designers of Pier Park.

Council member Karl Nurse asked for the Rays workshop in March as a way to persuade some of his colleagues to support a revised proposal that would guarantee the city has complete development rights to Tropicana Field if the Rays announce they are leaving. The agreement also requires the team to provide criteria and updates on the stadium search.

At the beginning of the month, Mayor Rick Kriseman decided against bringing the revised deal back for a council vote because he didn't have the necessary five votes for get it passed. 

Full Story

Historic Kenwood residents wary of city's recycling plan

City officials explain curbside recycling program at the Gladden Recreation Center Tuesday night

Charlie Frago

City officials explain curbside recycling program at the Gladden Recreation Center Tuesday night

St. Petersburg's curbside recycling program is nearly operational, but not everyone is thrilled about the plan.

At an informational meeting at the Gladden Recreation Center Tuesday, Historic Kenwood residents questioned why recycling trucks can't pick up the 95-gallon containers from their alleys instead of the curb.  Many of the homes in the neighborhood don't have paved walkways that allow for easy rolls to the curb. 

But the city is recycling partially to hedge against rising solid waste costs, said Bob Turner, manager for the city's Environmental Sanitation Services. Fashioning different pick-up methods for different neighborhoods would work against that goal, he said.

"It's difficult to come up with custom solutions," Turner said. 

The new recycling trucks recently bought by the city are too large to maneuver down the alleys, officials said. 

Bill Heyen, a Kenwood resident, said he doesn't understand why the city can't accomodate his neighborhood. Residents won't use the service if they have put the large blue containers on their flower beds or lawns. And there is an aesthetic cost, he said, to the every-other-week service. …

Full Story

Montanari kicks off campaign

Ed Montanari officially enters District 3 race

Charlie Frago

Ed Montanari officially enters District 3 race

A packed house at 400 Beach Seafood cheered District 3 candidate Ed Montanari's official entrance into the race Tuesday.

Montanari, whose powerful backers include former mayor Rick Baker and state Sen. Jack Latvala, was introduced by another former mayor, Bill Foster, who said the airline pilot and civic leader would be a great addition to City Council.

It's the second run for Montanari, who lost to term-limited council member Bill Dudley in 2007. He's kept busy in city business, though, serving as vice chair of the Pier Advisory Committee and as a commissioner on the Community Planning and Preservation Commission.

No one else has announced for the seat.

In brief remarks asking for the prayers and support, Montanari referenced Rev. Billy Graham's test of a good preacher--- that a congregation would leave the service ready to make changes. 

The qualifying period runs from June 9-22. 

Full Story

Former St. Petersburg mayor to be named tree czar

David Fischer, who served as St. Petersburg's mayor from 1991 to 2000, will be named the city's tree czar by Mayor Rick Kriseman on Saturday.

Fischer led efforts to plant more than 10,000 trees during his time in office, according to a news release.

As tree czar, Fischer will promote "awareness and appreciation" of trees. It's an honorary position that will be officially minted at the city's Green Thumb Festival at Walter Fuller Park at 1 p.m. 

 

Full Story

Pedalpubs and the Sunshine Law: St. Petersburg Edition

The city's transportation and parking director had a suggestion during Thursday's discussion of amending regulations on pedalpubs.

Why doesn't the council go on a fact-finding tour on the mobile pubs that ply the downtown streets?

"I know you'll laugh at this," said Evan Mory before he made his pitch at the Public Services and Infrastructure Committee meeting.

Newly-nominated City Attorney Jackie Kovilaritch quickly quashed the idea. Eight council members sipping brews and pedaling through the streets would be a violation of the Sunshine Law, she said.

Even if it was publicly advertised? Mory asked.

"A rolling public meeting," roared an apparently intrigued council chairman Charlie Gerdes. 

Eventually, it was decided that if council members wanted to learn the ins and outs of the pedalpub experience, they should do it alone--or at least without their colleagues. 

"Perhaps I should have consulted with legal before suggesting this," Mory said. 

Full Story

St. Petersburg Noise Ordinance Advances

Downtown bars that don't pull their speakers off the street and close their doors at a decent hour will face increasingly hefty fines if a measure approved a City Council committee Thursday becomes law.

A revamped noise ordinance requires bars and venues that have music blaring from speakers to quiet the noise by 11 p.m. on weeknights and midnight on weekends. 

The proposal is a modest request, said council member Karl Nurse.

"We're just asking for what I would consider is simple, honest decency," he said at the Public Services and Infrastructure Commitee meeting.

Council member Jim Kennedy worried that downtown's vibrant nightlife might be circumscribed by limiting the outdoor noise. Travis Norton of the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce said some business owners preferred police enforce noise violations with decibel counters rather than the current standard which allows for more officer discretion. …

Full Story

Longtime St. Pete administrator quietly retires

The old guard is changing in St. Petersburg.

On Friday, news broke that City Attorney John Wolfe was preparing to retire after forty years of working for the city. Two weeks ago, Dave Metz, another four decade veteran retired, but news of his career's end was a quiet affair.

City Administrator Gary Cornwell said that Metz's last day on April 3 was uneventful for a reason---he wanted it that way.

Metz was hired by the city as a labourer in 1971. He left after a few months only to return in 1974 steadily working his way up the ranks from maintenance worker to manager of Park Operations in 1982. 

From there he managed the city's marina and ports until retiring for the first time in 2000. He was rehired in 2003 as Downtown Enterprise Facilities Director among other tasks until being made interim City Development Administrator in March 2014.

After Alan Delisle was hired for that job, Metz served as interim deputy administrator. In all, Metz logged 37 1/2 years with the city.

 

 

Full Story

St. Petersburg touts app's success for nuts and bolts of city government

Mayor Rick Kriseman doesn't always see eye to eye with his often fractious City Council. But Thursday, one of the mayor's intiatives was praised by council.

The biggest gripe was that not enough people know about it.

See Click Fix debuted last June as a website and mobile phone app allowing residents to report an array of problems from potholes to illegal dump sites. 

At a workshop Thursday, David Flintom, who runs the mayor's action center, said the fledgling program had provided city staff with a wealth of data about what needs fixing. And the data will be used in the future to grade city departments on their performance.

"Transparency is overdue in some parts of the way the city operates," Flintom said. 

Council members said the resident who know about the app, love it.

"People are really jazzed up about this," said Karl Nurse.

But plenty of people don't know to go online or download the app to report what they want fixed. Flintom showed a slide in council member Wengay Newton's Midtown district with a large hole of no reports. City offiicials are considering door hangers to spread the word, he said.

But the program is not without its glitches. …

Full Story

St. Petersburg's Waterfront Plan clears first hurdle

The city's downtown waterfront master plan--- or DWMP as one consultant recently referrred to it---won the stamp of approval from the Community Planning and Preservation Commission on Tuesday.

The plan, vetted in series of public meetings and workshops (and plenty of private "stakeholder" gatherings) since August, seeks to create a "conceptual glimpse of the future" (in the words of one city staffer) along the nearly seven-mile stretch of Tampa Bay between Coffee Pot Bayou and Lassing Park. 

The commission agreed that it meshed with the city's comprehensive plan with one dissession: member Will Michaels.

Michaels cast the lone vote against the proposal, saying that it set a dangerous precedent of commercializing the waterfront by including provisions to allow a private partner to develop a hotel and/or conference center near the Mahaffey Theater.

Michaels sought compromise language that would have said the plan "on balance" was consistent with the comprehensive plan, but Dave Goodwin, the city's director of planning and economic development, protested saying that language cast doubt on the waterfront proposal. …

Full Story