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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Stadium advocacy group ask baseball commissioner to make his intention known about Rays

A group pressing for a new Tampa Bay Rays stadium in downtown Tampa is asking the commissioner of baseball to make his intentions clear on the future of the team in this market. Ryan Neubauer, executive director of Build It Downtown Tampa, has drafted a letter to baseball commissioner Bud Selig, saying the discussion in the region has ground to a standstill. The Rays have said they can't continue playing at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg through the 2027 end of their lease. St. Petersburg officials have said the team must honor its lease. In his letter, Neubauer says he believes Major League Baseball has developed a position on the future of the team. "If that’s true, we’re asking them to make that clear to everyone," said Neubauer, declining to say what he believes that position is. He also asks that Selig assign a fact-finding committee to review the matter as he has in other markets.

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Dunedin's historic Fenway hotel is latest victim of struggling economy

DUNEDIN -- The historic Fenway hotel is the latest Dunedin development project to fall victim to the struggling economy.

Records show RBC Bank hopes to sell the foreclosed downtown waterfront property for $10.8 million - the amount developer George Rahdert owes in loans, interest and other fees.

But Rahdert doubts the building he bought for $8 million six years ago, just ahead of the economic downturn, will sell for that much. Records show the property is now assessed at $2 million.

Over the years, Rahdert says, he has sunk tens of thousands of dollars into the property for things like architectural planning, repairs and regular lawn mowing as he scrambled to secure another buyer, business partner or other funding source to turn the Fenway into a high-end resort.

Now he stands to lose even more. If the 6.4-acre tract at 453 Edgewater Drive is auctioned off for less than $10.8 million, Rahdert will have to make up the difference. That's on top of the $187,000 in unpaid property taxes he already owes.

The online auction is set for 10 a.m. Wednesday at …

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Republican National Convention launches updated website

The address -- -- remains the same, but the Republican National Convention has launched an expanded website with more features and visual pop, including a nice view of the Tampa skyline. The RNC's Committee on Arrangements, which is in charge of convention planning, said the updated site will make possible a "convention without walls," in which the party brings the convention to people via Facebook and other social networks. "Our goal is to tear down the convention walls and make the 2012 Republican National Convention open and accessible to anyone, anywhere," convention Chief Executive Officer William Harris said in a statement Wednesday.

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Raymond James Stadium giving away free tickets to Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw concert

Raymond James Stadium, or technically the Tampa Sports Authority, is giving away 80 free tickets to its Kenny Chesney/Tim McGraw concert June 2. The first stop of the Brothers of the Sun concert tour, which the Sports Authority is promoting, which includes special guests Jake Owen and Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. Four tickets will be given away randomly each week through Facebook and Twitter (@RJStadium). Additionally, there will also be video and photo contests.

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Tom Scott announces run for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections

Former Hillsborough County commissioner and Tampa City Council member Tom Scott says he will seek public office again.

Scott, 58, a Democrat, says he will file paperwork on Monday to run for Hillsborough County Supervisor of Elections. He will join Democrat Craig Latimer and Republican state Rep. Rich Glorioso in the race. Current elections supervisor Earl Lennard is not seeking another term.

 "Now is the time for experienced leadership," Scott said in news release about his candidacy. "I am in this race because many people from throughout this community have asked me to re-enter public service. I am concerned about the direction of our government and I realize that direction starts with voters' rights, their confidence in the election process and access to a fair and non-partisan election system."

His announcement was expected, as Scott has previously confirmed he was considering entering the race.

Scott has been the pastor at 34th Street Church of God for just more than 30 years. The church was the location Tuesday of a rally relating to the shooting death of unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin by a neighborhood watch volunteer in Sanford. …

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Jury shrinks in St. Petersburg vs. Wells Fargo trial

TAMPA -- The challenge of trying a case as complicated as City of St. Petersburg vs. Wells Fargo Bank was even more evident Wednesday.

A juror, a cook from New Port Richey, was excused for the rest of the trial in U.S. District Court after he became ill with the flu.  That leaves seven jurors who must decide whether St. Petersburg can reclaim $11 million it lost by investing in Lehman Brothers corporate bonds before the Wall Street firm went bankrupt in September 2008. The city is suing its former financial advisor, Wachovia Global Securities for the loss, saying it failed to properly notify officials as Lehman Brothers was downgraded that summer. Wachovia was bought by Wells Fargo, which is arguing that the city is responsible for the losses. …

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Hillsborough may hire law firm to seek money for BP oil spill

Hillsborough County commissioners listened to a pitch from lawyers Wednesday who told them they may qualify for settlement money from the 2010 BP oil spill and asked to represent them.

The county could be eligible for millions in reimbursements for lost taxes on everything from hotel room night stays to cigarettes -- anywhere from $2.2 million to nearly $50 million.

Good idea, commissioners said, before voting unanimously to seek bids for the legal work.

"There is nothing here for the county to lose," said Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who invited the lawyers to speak. 

Any firm hired would be asked to work on a contingency basis, meaning they'll get paid only if they manage to collect a reimbursement for the county. They would get paid a percentage of the recovery and bids would be judged partly on how large a cut the firms seek.

Pinellas County voted a week ago to retain the firm Colson Hicks Eidson of Coral Gables to go after some $3 million is taxes and fees it estimates it lost due to the spill in the upper Gulf of Mexico. That firm agreed to a contingency fee of 25 percent of what it gets back for Pinellas County. …

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Mayor Foster, Armstrong etc. to host Welch fundraiser


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UPDATED: Long says Dems pick wrong Janet as "all in"

Former lawmaker Janet Long said Democrats picked the wrong Janet when they sent a newsletter Wednesday afternoon that she is "all in" to run for Pinellas County Commission. The event they cite while extolling Long's virtues is apparently for School Board member Janet Clark the same day, Long said.

"I wouldn't do something like that at someone's house," Long said. As for the Democrats' insight into her decision?

"It might be wishful thinking on their part," Long said. "That's funny."

Former Florida Rep. Janet L ong, a Seminole Democrat, is ready to make her bid for Pinellas County Commission official, according to a newsletter Wednesday for St. Petersburg Democrats. Long will take on Republican Neil Brickfield in a countywide at-large race.

Long didn't immediate return a call seeking comment but here's the scoop from the St. Petersburg Democratic Club newsletter: …

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Rob Wallace to hold state Senate campaign kickoff

Republican state Senate hopeful Rob Wallace will hold his official campaign kickoff and fundraiser Saturday (March 24). Wallace, a former state representative, is challenging fellow Republican Jim Norman for the District 15 state Senate seat. The campaign "party" will be from 2 p.m.  to 4 p.m. at the Keystone Recreation Center, 17928 Gunn Highway, in Odessa.

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Rampello school in downtown Tampa likely to close during Republican National Convention

It’s not official until the Hillsborough County School Board votes, but a downtown Tampa public school will likely close during the Republican National Convention in August.

Under that scenario, the Rampello K-8 Downtown Partnership School would open a week early so students can stay home between Aug. 27 and Aug. 30, when downtown Tampa will be bustling with convention activity. The district-wide start date is Aug. 21. At a recent PTSA meeting, members cited a survey that showed many parents and teachers want to close for the week. Some parents who work downtown will have the week off, and others will be relocated.

-- by Marlene Sokol, Times staff writer

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Justice plans kickoff fundraiser March 29


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Without hearing a word in opposition, Tampa City Council votes to create bay area's first domestic partnership registry

It was a decision that showed how much Tampa has changed in two decades, and was remarkable for the controversy that it did not generate.

In a unanimous vote Thursday, the City Council gave its initial approval to creating the first domestic partnership registry for unmarried couples in the Tampa Bay area.

The registry will be open to both heterosexual and same-sex couples, but its City Council sponsor said it was not a step toward legalizing gay marriage.

Rather, Yvonne Yolie Capin said, it's designed to help ensure that couples can visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions and funeral arrangements for their loved ones and be informed when a partner has been in an accident.

he vote came after an hourlong discussion during which the council heard from nearly 20 supporters of the idea but not a single opponent. Going into the meeting, council members had received nearly 900 e-mails about the proposal, but none in opposition, Council member Harry Cohen said.

That apparent consensus stands in stark contrast to the tenacious, vocal and well-organized opposition that rose up to fight Tampa's early efforts at banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. Full story here.

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Wilton Simpson picks up backing of outgoing Senate Prez Haridopolos

East Pasco egg farmer and businessman Wilton Simpson continues to add big-name backers to his campaign for state Senate. Today he announced the endorsement of outgoing Senate President Mike Haridopolos. And on March 23 he's headed to the Italian Club in Ybor City for a fundraiser with Attorney General Pam Bondi and former Gov. Bob Martinez.

Right now, Simpson is headed toward an expensive Republican primary against state Rep. John Legg, R-Port Richey. Their District 11 was not one of the eight districts invalidated by the state Supreme Court, but the Senate map is far from finished. It's too early to know if there will be any redistricting implications in their race.

In a release, Haridopolos said: "Wilton Simpson is a business leader who understands the challenges that Florida is facing, and I look forward to his leadership in Tallahassee. Simpson is the type of leader necessary to overcome the challenges of this recession."

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Cona drops out of Hillsborough commission race

We recognize this is a few days late -- blame a reporter's vacation -- but Republican Steve Cona has dropped out of the District 6 at-large Hillsborough County Commission race against incumbent Democrat Kevin Beckner.

Cona, the chief operating officer of Associated Builders and Contractors’ Florida Gulf Coast Chapter, was also competing against fellow Republican Margaret Iuculano. And he said he didn't feel like his campaign was picking up the steam needed to unseat an incumbent and, given that, he couldn't justify taking the time away from family to stick with it.

"To beat Kevin is going to take a consolidated effort," Cona said. "I’m not sure I saw enough momentum to carry us to November."

His departure leaves a contest with sharper contrasts. Cona spoke as a pro-business, less-regulation variety of Republican candidate while campaigning. Iuculano thus far appears to be adhering to tea party themes. 


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