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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Kriseman in Albuquerque for entrepreneurial conference

Mayor Rick Kriseman is attending a conference in New Mexico on how cities can foster entrepreneurship.

The trip, paid for by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which organized the conference, will continue until Thursday.

The conference will address the role of private charities in encouraging start-ups, how "community assets" can spur entrepreneurial growth and how to track entrepreneurial activity, among other topics.

In a statement, Kriseman said he was pleased to join mayors from around the country and sharing ideas.

"Nourishing entrepreneurship and small businesses has been the focus of my administration," Kriseman said in a statement Tuesday.


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Deaths in auto crashes decline, but not for everyone, study says

Accident investigators gather at the scene of an accident that killed a Chamberlain High student on her way to school Tuesday morning on Busch Boulevard in Tampa.

Octavio Jones, Tampa Bay Times

Accident investigators gather at the scene of an accident that killed a Chamberlain High student on her way to school Tuesday morning on Busch Boulevard in Tampa.

It's been deadly out there on Hillsborough County roads the last couple of days.

A 17-year-old Chamberlain High Student died Tuesday when she was hit crossing Busch Boulevard. A 43-year-old Brandon man was killed on U.S. 301 when his pickup truck crashed into a light pole. On Monday, a 67-year-old Riverview man was killed by a hit-and-run driver on Orient Road. 

Busch Boulevard. U.S. 301. Orient Road.

All three are known as treacherous drags with unsafe conditions for both drivers and pedestrians.

According to new research by Sam Harper, Thomas J. Charters and Erin Strumpf, deaths in motor vehicle accidents have declined overall between 1995 and 2010. But death rates varied depending on socio-economic status.

"We found larger mortality decreases among the more highly educated and some evidence of mortality increases among the least educated," the authors concluded in Trends in Socioeconomic Inequalities in Motor Vehicle Accident Deaths in the United States, 1995-2010. …

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St. Petersburg white-collar workers unionize

In the midst of a contentious labor negotiation between the city's union members and Mayor Rick Kriseman's administration, a new group of white-collar workers has decided to join their ranks.

About 240 white-collar workers, in city departments like information technology and engineering, voted 73-70 Tuesday to organize with the Florida Public Services Union, which already represents many of the city's workers.

In March, Kriseman gave an unbudgeted 2.5 percent raise to non-union employees in the midst of the union drive. That move drew the ire of the union, but administration officials said it was just overdue compensation, not an attempt to undermine the campaign.

Tuesday's vote will become official in 15 days. Rick Smith, the union's chief of staff, said he planned to meet with city officials soon after to negotiate a "non-traditional, innovative" contract for his newest bargaining group.

Kriseman's spokesman Ben Kirby said the administration would reserve comment until the election was verified by a state labor relations board.  

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Eckerd president blasts St. Petersburg sewer study

In a strongly worded letter sent to Mayor Rick Kriseman, Eckerd College's president says a review of the city's wastewater system was a sham and needs to be revamped.

"This is not the independent inquiry that the City Council requested and that we believe is necessary to determine how the spill occurred and what should be done to ensure that such an incident never happens again," wrote Donald Eastman in an Oct. 2 letter and obtained Tuesday by the Tampa Bay Times.

Last week, representatives from Eckerd and the Alliance of Bayway Communities met with the city's public works staff and CH2M consulting firm. The plan that emerged from that meeting didn't impress Eastman.

Eastman said the scope of that study isn't sufficient and supervision should be shifted to the city's internal auditor Brad Scott "to ensure an independent review."

Eckerd also wants the city to release information about "exactly what was in the wastewater" that overflowed onto the college's campus on Aug.3.  

Last month, the city announced that an additional 15 million gallons had spilled around Eckerd that it had not previously publicized to the City Council or public, although it did report it to the state. …

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Pier approach project narrows field of architects to five

A selection committee on Tuesday eliminated one of six design teams competing for the $20 million project to link the city's downtown to the new Pier.

OT9 Design, a small firm from St. Petersburg, did not make the cut.

Among those going on to the next round are the designers of Pier Park, which will continue the city's more than century-old waterfront tradition. The team, ASD, Rogers Partners and Ken Smith Landscape Architect, touts the selection of its Pier Park design as an advantage to being able to fulfill the city's goal of completing both projects in time for "one ribbon-cutting."

What's being referred to as the Pier Approach Project will include areas of Bayshore and Beach drives and feature a grand entry, pedestrian art promenade, an art bridge, an open-air market and two restaurants. 

Also going forward in the quest to design the approach is W Architecture and Landscape Architecture of New York, which is teaming with local firm Wannemacher Jensen.

Civitas of Denver, which redesigned Tampa's Julian B. Lane Riverfront Park and is working with St. Petersburg's Mesh Architecture, also hopes to win the project. …

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U.S. Chamber: Raise the gas tax (emojis explain why)

U.S. Chamber of Commerce Graphics

How much momentum is a hike in the gas tax getting? Turns out, one of the most reliably anti-tax organizations is now advocating for raising the gas tax. And it's doing so with everyone's favorite form of textual explainers: emojis.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce posted a breakdown Monday of the issues plaguing the Highway Trust Fund, which is responsible for repairing and replacing roads, highways and bridges. 

According to the post, "one third of our major roads are now in poor or mediocre condition, and one out of every nine bridges has been deemed structurally deficient." Insert sad and angry face emojis reacting to potholes and traffic jams.

The Chamber points out that the gas tax, currently at 18.4 cents-per-gallon, hasn't been raised since 1993. "A modest increase in the user fee would basically catch us up to how much we were paying per mile of road used back in 1993, when our infrastructure was in better shape." …

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Toytown: And then there were two

Rule No. 1 when bidding on a project: Don't lobby Pinellas County commissioners or government employees.

Rule No. 2: Don't forget Rule No. 1.

In its bid to develop Toytown, Meridian Realty Capital LLC forgot those rules, says Pinellas County's director of purchasing Joe Lauro.

"This letter is written to inform you that your firm's RFN response for sale or lease of the Toytown Site has been disqualified for consideration per Section 2-189 of County Code which pertains to lobbying activity. This decision is based upon your correspondence dated October 2, 2015 which was sent to the Board of County Commissioners and evaulation committee members. To summarize, the lobbying of evalutation committee members, County government employees, elected/appointed officials or advisory board members is strictly prohibited from the date of advertisement until an award if final or the competitive selection process is otherwise concluded. The RFN document expressed this prohibition on Page 2, paragraph 4."

So that leaves SunRay Park and its planned solar energy facility, and SportsPark Partners LLC's plan to build, among other things, a spring training facility for the Atlanta Braves.

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Orlando's SunRail provides comparison for potential Tampa Bay commuter rail

CSX is willing to sell two of its Tampa Bay freight lines for commuter service.

Tampa Bay Times

CSX is willing to sell two of its Tampa Bay freight lines for commuter service.

Commuter rail could become a reality in Tampa Bay in the not-so-distant future. Railroad giant CSX told Tampa Bay transit leaders last month that it's interested in selling two lines for passenger rail. And the lines — which span almost 100 miles — already connect three major downtowns and four counties. Check out our full story that ran in Monday's paper on this transit possibility.

But the idea is still in its infancy. The closest comparison Tampa Bay has for converting freight lines to commuter is Orlando's SunRail. Limited information is available for what commuter rail in Tampa Bay would look like, but here are a few SunRail stats to mull over:

• SunRail is 61.5 miles long and includes 17 stops.

• The state and local partners spent $150 million to purchase the tracks.

• FDOT pays for operations and maintenance of the system for the first seven years, but then it will be turned over to the Central Florida Commuter Rail Commission, which will assume all costs and responsibilities. …

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Kriseman names lawyer to new education post

Mayor Rick Kriseman added to his executive team Monday, hiring Leah McRae to the city's newly-created position of Director of Education and Community Engagement.

McRae, 42, will act as an advocate for St. Petersburg schools and serve as a liaison with the Pinellas County School Board and other education-policy institutions.She'll also lead the mayor's service learning initiative where school children engage in service projects in the community. 

She'll make $72,000 a year in the post.

McRae is an attorney who most recently served as court specialist for the Sixth Judicial District. She's served as a volunteer attorney for the Guardian ad Litem program. She is also the vice-chair of the South St. Petersburg Community Redevelopment Program's Citizen Advisory Committee.

She also comes from a prominent St. Petersburg family. Her great-uncle, Don McRae, was the city's first black city manager whose 1992 firing of controversial police chief Curt Curtsinger for racial insensitivity and acting like a rogue administrator.  …

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Bonnie Zimmer, ex-Pasco commissioner and school board member, dies at 81

LAND O’ LAKES – Bonnie Zimmer, who served as both a Pasco School Board member and a county commissioner during her political career, died Friday at the age of 81 after a lengthy illness.

The 1990 election of Zimmer and fellow Republican Ed Collins over two entrenched Democratic commissioners became a precursor for the GOP’s dominance in Pasco County politics that would be cemented later in the decade.

 Zimmer, who lost to Pat Mulieri in a Republican primary four years later, put much of her emphasis on social issues during her tenure. She routinely opposed non-controversial alcohol permits near churches an schools, unsuccessfully pitched a resolution asking commissioners to go on record favoring the return of public prayer in schools and pushed an anti-nudity proposal when T-back wearing hot-dog vendors popped up along busy roads. 

The anti-nudity idea floundered after it drew the ire of the nudist communities in Zimmer’s central Pasco-based district, but Zimmer maintained a sense of humor about it. When she departed the commission in fall of 1994, she presented then-County Administrator John Gallagher with a purple and green T-back swimsuit. …

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Pinellas, Pasco elections supervisors say group's registration mailer confuses voters

Elections supervisors in Pinellas and Pasco counties are calling out a Washington, D.C. nonprofit group whose past campaigns to register voters have drawn complaints from elections officials who say the mailings are confusing.

Pinellas Supervisor Deborah Clark and Pasco Supervisor Brian Corley sent out news releases this week to alert voters to a new mailing from the Voter Participation Center that indicates a voter is not registered to vote or has not updated their voter registration information. 

“The irresponsible actions of the Voter Participation Center have once again caused unnecessary confusion for Pinellas County voters,” Clark said in her Friday release. “The VPC continues to use outdated and inaccurate information to create campaigns that mislead our voters and erode their confidence in the election process.”

Clark spokesman Jason Latimer said the office has received seven calls this week, including one from a voter whose mother received a voting application. The mother, though, has been dead for 20 years. Another voter received a mailer but had already provided the elections office with updated address information. …

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Allegiant is an airline that acts like Apple

An Allegiant Air flight takes off from St. Pete Clearwater International Airport.

Jim Damaske

An Allegiant Air flight takes off from St. Pete Clearwater International Airport.

Apple is known for its shiny state-of-the-art iPhones, tablets and computers. Allegiant, on the other hand, owns a fleet of mostly elderly MD-80 jets: Average age: 25 years; known as: the ''jalopy of the skies''

What connects the huge company and the tiny airline? Both are highly profitable.

Analysts say the secret to the airline's success is so obvious, most people miss the point. Allegiant, they say, has more in common with Apple than Delta  because the airline earns so much income hawking high-margin products: Hotel bookings and rental cars, on top of entertainment tickets and even the occasional game show at 30,000 feet.

Of late though, most of the attention on Allegiant has focused on aborted and delayed flights and emergency landings, including one at St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport that led to the pilot being fired. 

For better or worse, Allegiant has become a major player on Tampa Bay's travel scene and a force for economic development. Tampa Bay Times business reporter Bill Levesque takes a broad look at an airline that has thrown away the air travel playbook.  …

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27 percent of Tampa Bay area renters pay at least half their income in rent, study says

More than a quarter of the Tampa Bay area’s renters spend at least half of their pre-tax household income on rent and utilities, according to a survey from the renter advocacy campaign Make Room.

That’s a level that’s considered to be a “severe” burden on the 114,342 local renters who are paying it, said Make Room, whose sponsoring partner is the Maryland-based nonprofit Enterprise Community Partners.

The Tampa-St. Petersburg-Clearwater area’s 27.4 percent of “severely burdened renters” put the region in the No. 6 spot on the list of Florida’s 10 biggest metro areas. The Miami-Fort Lauderdale-West Palm Beach area has the highest percentage at 35.7 percent. Other areas with higher percentages than Tampa Bay are Deltona-Daytona Beach-Ormond Beach (30.1 percent), Orlando-Kissimmee-Sanford (29.7 percent), Palm Bay-Melbourne-Titusville (28.2 percent) and Cape Coral-Fort Myers (27.5 percent).

Statewide, the rate for all metro renters is 30.5 percent, higher than 26 percent national average for the 42 million renter households in the U.S.  …

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Brits want NFL team within 5 years as Bucs push for second 'home' game away from Ray Jay

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, center, holds a New York Jets shirt, left, and Miami Dolphins shirt, as he poses for pictures with former football players Dan Marino, right, and Curtis Martin, during a media event inside 11 Downing Street in London, on Friday.

Justin Tallis, Polol via AP

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne, center, holds a New York Jets shirt, left, and Miami Dolphins shirt, as he poses for pictures with former football players Dan Marino, right, and Curtis Martin, during a media event inside 11 Downing Street in London, on Friday.

Just before the NFL's first London game of the 2015 regular season on Sunday, Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne told reporters Friday that he hopes to bring an American football team across the pond within the next five years. 

According to Reuters, Osborne met Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, New York Jets owner Woody Johnson and NFL executive vice president Mark Waller to discuss how to entice an NFL team to move to London.

"I want London to be the global sporting capital," Osborne said. "That's why I am supporting the NFL to bring one of their 32 teams to London permanently."

Interesting timing.

Back in Tampa Bay, the Buccaneers this week unveiled the team wants the ability to play a second "home" regular season game away from Raymond James Stadium starting in 2018. In exchange, the Bucs will inject upto $75 million to improve Raymond James and waive the Tampa Sports Authority's obligation to build the team a pradctice stadium. …

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Florida Wildlife Commission investigating city over sewage spills

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission confirmed Friday to the Tampa Bay Times that the agency's law enforcement divison is investigating the city of St. Petersburg's sewage spills in August.

Since the investigation is ongoing, the agency can't release many details, said Kelly Richmond, a spokeswoman for the commission.

After several weeks of heavy rains, the city released more than 31 million gallons of raw and partially treated sewage into Clam Bayou, Tampa Bay and the campus of Eckerd College in the first ten days of August.

Shortly after the spills, Mike Connors, the city's longtime director of public works, abruptly retired after a brief meeting with Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The state Department of Environmental Protection said last month it wouldn't fine the city for the spills because they occurred during a state of emergency declared by Gov. Rick Scott. 

The mayor's office was not aware of the investigation when contacted by Times on Friday

Check back to the Times for more on this breaking news story. 


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