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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

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 “The VPC continues to use outdated and inaccurate information to create campaigns that mislead our voters and erode their confidence in the election process.”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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Five seek Pasco contract to lobby in Tallahassee

Five companies, including the incumbent, are seeking a Pasco County contract to lobby in Tallahassee.

On Tuesday, county commissioners will be asked to allow the staff to short list the five companies to three and to schedule oral presentations for Oct. 19.

The applicants include the Pittman Law Group of Tallahassee, whose government clients include the cities of Miami, Orlando, Tallahassee, Port Orange, North Miami, Royal Palm Beach, and Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties; Public Affairs Consultants of Tallahassee which represents the municipal governments of the village of Tequesta and Jupiter Inlet Colony; Smith, Bryan & Myers, whose client list includes the Florida Association of Counties, the city of Pembrook Pines and Osceola County; incumbent Shawn Foster whose Sunrise Consulting Group is based in Trinity; and the county’s former lobbyist, The Advocacy Group of Cardenas Partners. …

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Shocker: Tampa Bay shut out of "Great Places in America" awards

Where the sidewalk ends

Michael Van Sickler

Where the sidewalk ends

The American Planning Association announced its 15 great places for 2015 and not a single neighborhood, street or public space in Tampa Bay made the list.

Since 2007, the APA has recognized 246 places, with Tampa Bay getting recognized a grand total of once (7th Avenue in Ybor City was recognized in 2008). 

Winners this year included Miami's Wynwood neighborhood, which can be found north of downtown Miami. During the 1920s, this was where Miami's garment district was, ranking second only to New York City in fashion production. By the 1980s, businesses moved out. It redeveloped in the late 1990s and early 2000s, however. Industrial spaces were transformed into studios, galleries, bars, restaurants and other creative spaces. Recent enhancements include smart-growth practices, four bike-share stations and overall walkability.

Other neighborhoods on APA's 2015 great neighborhood list include Phoenix's Roosevelt Row, Kansas City, MO's Crossroads Arts District and downtown Plano, Tx.  …

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St. Petersburg architect unveils plans for Tropicana Field site

Tropicana Field plan

OT9 Design, LLC

Tropicana Field plan

St. Petersburg architect Sean Williams has watched the long-running saga of "What to do with the Trop site" that has played out City Council chambers for the better part of a decade. 

A few months ago, he decided to enter the fray, drawing up renderings and shopping them to Mayor Rick Kriseman, City Development Administrator Alan DeLisle and St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Chris Steinocher.

"I see it as a conversation starter," said Williams, 38, who helped design the Salvador Dali Museum.

The roof of the 30,000-seat stadium would reference the Dali's roof and allow natural grass to be grown, a priority for the Rays (and probably centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier's longevity).

Williams' first draft was a Central Park-like space with luxury condos. Kriseman suggested more of a mixed-use feel to allow for economic development.

Williams' second try at the 85-acre parcel includes a "Riverwalk" restaurant and retail space along Booker Creek, a corporate or institutional campus, workforce housing and bike trails.  …

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2007 recession still haunts cities

The National League of Cities had mostly good economic news in its annual survey of city finance officers.

Of those surveyed, 82 percent said they were optimistic about meeting their city's financial needs, while 18 percent said they were "less able" to do so. Revenues have grown for three consecutive years. Ending balances are now at pre-recession levels. 

But compared to previous recessions in 1990 and 2001, the effects of the 2007 recession have been tough to shake.

It took four years for general fund revenues to return to pre-recession levels after the 1990 slow down. It took nearly six years for revenues to exceed pre-recession levels after the 2001 recession. But nine years after the 2007 recession, revenue still lags behind pre-2007 recesssion levels, logging in at only 91.6 percent of where revenue was. 

We're still waiting for cities to make their full recovery.

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Healthy design in Jeff Vinik's project a hot West Coast trend

The healthy design that Jeff Vinik plans for his big development project near downtown might sound inventive.

And that's certainly how the project is touted by Vinik.

"We foresee our Tampa urban district setting a new standard for wellness and sustainability,” Vinik said in a Delos statement.

While clearly innovative, the project Vinik envisions is hardly alone. Wellness design is a real thing, especially on the West Coast.

It's such a trend that the Urband Land Institute San Francisco and ULI Northwest did a survey of existing healthy design projects in the San Francisco Bay area (the Dogpatch live/work neighborhood in San Francisco, Oakland's Fruitvale Village, Silicon Valley's Champion Station and the Intuit and Google campuses) and Seattle (Via6, Microsoft's Redmond campus, the Bullitt Center, Pike Place Market and Central Waterfront Redevelopment in Seattle, and Bainbridge Island Grow Community).

ULI came up with five characteristics of healthy design:

-- Transportation strategies set the stage for health

-- Healthy food and open space bring communities together

-- Health care organizations make excellent partners

-- Health is driving innovation for home and workplace …

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City Council asks Kriseman again to study Trop site

Mayor Rick Kriseman had already turned down council member Jim Kennedy's request to have the Urban Land Institute conduct an economic impact study on the 85-ace Tropicana Field site last week in a memo.

But at the council's Thursday meeting Kennedy asked the mayor to reconsider and a majority of council agreed in a 4-3 vote.

Kriseman had argued that the study wasn't going to reveal anything. He left the chambers without comment after the vote.

His chief of staff said the mayor will reconsider Kennedy's request.

Does that mean Kriseman will move forward with the study?

"He'll just reconsider the request," King said in a text.

King said he didn't know of any timetable for the mayor to reach a decision. The council can only ask the mayor to undertake such a study. It's up to the mayor to decide whether or not to proceed.

Council member Amy Foster said a study might help present a vision to the Tampa Bay Rays of what redevelopment of the site with a baseball stadium might look like.  That pleased Kennedy, who said his main purpose it to keep the Rays in the city. …

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St. Petersburg Council pushes Rays bed tax resolution back a week

The City Council decided to push back a vote until next week on a resolution to ask the county to freeze any decisions regarding $6 million in annual bed tax money for the Rays.

Council chairman Charlie Gerdes wanted to send a message to the County Commission and the Tourist Development Council about the money, which had been dedicated to paying off bonds for the construction of Tropicana Field.

But Mayor Rick Kriseman, who sits on the tourist board, said he didn't have a problem with Gerdes' resolution, but wasn't sure how much good it would do with the hotel, beach and North County interests on the TDC.

"How much weight it carries with the TDC is another story," Kriseman said. 

Council member Steve Kornell said the city should show it was serious about keeping the Rays by putting up city funds as a show of good faith.

But the city has structured its bond payments related to Trop construction in a way that made any immediate commitment difficult, said City Administrator Gary Cornwell. 

The real source of city revenue would be the redevelopment of the Trop, said council member Karl Nurse. …

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Abercrombie Park expansion approved

The City Council gave its final approval to a $1.74 million purchase of 2.3 acres bordering Abercrombie Park, coveted by city staff as a rare opportunity to expand parkland in Florida's most-densely populated county.

Rare Native American artifacts are also present on the property, currently a private home and grounds owned by Evelyn Kuttler, the former wife of retired St. Petersburg College President Carl Kuttler. 

The property at 8336 40th Ave. N will be added to the West St. Petersburg park by the end of next year, said Parks and Recreation Director Mike Jefferis. 

The vote was unanimous. 

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St. Petersburg revamps school-zone crossings

St. Petersburg's 70 school-zone crossings are getting a make over  to comply with state law after the City Council voiced displeasure with the perception that the city is creating speed traps in the zones.

Mayor Rick Kriseman said he has directed staff to comply with all state rules and regulations. Interim Public Works Administrator Tom Gibson said the work should be completed by November.

The City Council took up the issue after a WTSP Channel 10 report that found St. Petersburg had issued more speeding tickets in school zones that the rest of Pinellas, Hillsborough and Polk counties combined.

Police have issued an average of about 1,700 tickets a year. So far this year, about 1,100 drivers have been ticketed, said assistant police chief Luke Williams.

Kriseman said the city has acted in the interest of children's safety. Police and city officials said that there was no targeting of motorists.

But activist Matt Florell, who successfully campaigned for the city to end its controversial red-light ticket program last year, said the city has signs that are too small, not high enough and obscured. …

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Corley seeks another term as Pasco elections supervisor

Pasco Supervisor of Elections Brian Corley filed campaign papers Thursday morning to seek re-election in 2016.

Corley, a Republican, was appointed to the job in 2007 by Gov. Charlie Crist to fill the vacancy after Crist named then-Elections Supervisor Kurt Browning as Florida secretary of state. Corley, 45, defeated Democrat Patricia Carroll in 2008 and ran unopposed four years ago. The current president of the Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections, Corley was instrumental in working with the Legislature to authorize online voter registration beginning in 2017.

Corley announced his candidacy via Twitter, something he does for each candidate submitting pre-qualifying papers at his office. This time, however, he wondered if he should do likewise for his own candidacy and ended up conferring with his teen-age daughter, Sarah, a high school sophomore.

“She said, ‘If you do it for everyone else, you should do it yourself,’ ’’  Corley said.


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