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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas Realtor Organization endorses Charlie Justice

An influential block in Pinellas County is backing the challenger in a race for a seat on the county commission.

Charlie Justice announced on Thursday that he has won the endorsement of the Pinellas Realtor Organization in his campaign to unseat Nancy Bostock for the District 3 at-large seat on the county commission.

Justice, a Democrat from St. Petersburg, was a State Representative and then Senator for ten years. He left Tallahassee in 2010 to make an unsuccessful run for Congress.

Bostock, a Republican from Treasure Island, was elected in 2008, and voted with the majority in the controversial 4-3 vote to remove fluoride from the county’s water. When he entered the race in March, Justice cited her fluoride vote as a reason for jumping into the race.

Here's the press release:

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RNC unveils insider video series

Billed as your "backstage pass" to the Republican National Convention, a new video series unveiled today will offer a glimpse each week into some aspect of the event's planning or Tampa Bay area attractions.

The inaugural video (below) highlights the huge number of people expected to descend on Tampa Bay in August and recent renovations to the Tampa Bay Times Forum.  Catch the weekly broadcasts at the official RNC site or via the convention's various social media channels.

“People see the speeches, the balloons and the confetti, but often ask what it takes to put together an event of this magnitude,” convention Chief Executive Officer William Harris said in a news release. “Convention Insider will provide them that insight and we think they’ll find it fascinating.”


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Appointment of former mayor to Dunedin finance board draws protest

DUNEDIN -- tom_anderson.Everyone agrees that former Dunedin Mayor, Commissioner and state Rep. Tom Anderson (photo at right) will do a great job in his role as the newest member of Dunedin's Board of Finance. 

But not everyone - including two residents who have resigned their positions on four other citizen advisory boards - approves of how he got there.

Controversy has erupted since last week's 3-2 vote by the Dunedin City Commission to appoint Anderson to the finance board, a group of 13 volunteers that advises the commission and city manager on budget proposals and other financial matters.

Under the normal appointment process for a city advisory board, the members review applications from individuals who want to fill board vacancies, then recommend their top pick to the City Commission. Commissioners make the appointment.

But last week, Commissioner David Carson made a motion to immediately appoint Anderson to one of two finance board vacancies, circumventing the board's desire to vet eight potential applicants itself.  …

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Les Miller asks Hillsborough administrator to increase employee salary boost

Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill officially unveiled his $3 billion budget proposal for next year and county employees may be heartened by the discussion that followed.

Merrill has proposed that all county employees -- himself excluded -- get a one-time cost-of-living salary adjustment of $1,200 next year to make up, at least partially, for the past five years of frozen wages. Commissioner Les Miller wants to top that.

Miller asked Merrill to come back with the report on the ramifications of bumping that up to $1,500 for each employee.

"I think that would make a major difference to our employees," Miller said.


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Buckhorn speech + Springsteen lyrics = Nervous laughter

Just an hour or so after hearing that the city had won a $10.9 million grant to finish the Riverwalk, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn was understandably charged with excitement, so you could forgive him a rhetorical excess or two in a lunchtime speech Tuesday to the Tampa Downtown Partnership.

Still, the mayor provoked a little nervous laughter when he started quoting Bruce Springsteen lyrics.

Warming up some of his standard stump-speech themes — knowing your history, being optimistic and pursuing your destiny — Buckhorn recalled how he had come to the partnership’s annual luncheon last year and quoted (at length) from Springsteen’s Land of Hope and Dreams.

“It’s a song that I love,” Buckhorn said Tuesday. “And it talked about this train is leavin’. This train is headin’ down the tracks, and we’re taking whores and gamblers with us.”

Cue the laughter, not very loud.

“We’re takin’ losers and winners,” Buckhorn said. Then he paused. “I’ll bet the last mayor never said ‘whore,’ did she?”

Bigger laugh. Then he said, "this is a far more robust administration, I've got to tell you." And then, to the clergyman who gave the invocation, "Sorry, pastor."


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Tampa Bay Host Committee spotlights local cities in new promotional videos

The people and places of the Tampa Bay area sparkle on a quartet of promotional videos released this week by the Republican National Convention’s host committee.

A main video highlights the b ay area as a whole, from the Tarpon Springs Sponge Docks to the Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota . Three more focus individually on Tampa , St. Petersburg and Clearwater , touching both on the obvious and some below-the-radar points of pride. The one on Clearwater, for example, touts the city’s sugar-sand beaches and Winter the dolphin, but also mentions Clearwater High School graduate and NASA astronaut Nicole Passonno Stott. Clearwater High itself gets a shout-out for equipping its student body with Kindle e-readers.

The promotions use a wide variety of well-known local figures, including Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon, fight doctor and painter Ferdie Pacheco, current and former members of the Rays, Bucs and Lightning and the mayors of the three featured cities. …

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Turner to talk China trip at upcoming fundraiser

Builder Bing Kearney, who has been less generous with his political giving in recent years as his company has faced bankruptcy, has reemerged to organize a fundraiser for embattled Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner.

An executive assistant for The Kearney Companies sent out email invitations to unnamed recipients earlier this week saying Kearney and his wife will serve as hosts for the fundraiser from 6 to 8 p.m. June 27 at Malio's Prime steak house in downtown Tampa. One selling point: "If you are able to attend, you will get to hear about Rob’s recent trip to China!" Turner has acknowledged a planned trip to China but has refused to specify the date or duration, though his chief deputy has said he is currently on vacation and unavailable.

Turner has been in the news a bit lately for his pornographic correspondence with a former human resources director, as well as for frequent travel on behalf of an international assessor association for which he is president-elect. The news has spurred challenges to his reelection bid by fellow Republican Ronda Storms, the state senator, and former Democratic state Rep. Bob Henriquez. …

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President Obama to visit Hillsborough Community College's Dale Mabry campus Friday

We've got details on President Barack Obama's previously reported visit to Tampa:

"On Friday, June 22, President Obama will hold a grassroots event on the Dale Mabry campus of Hillsborough Community College," the campaign says.

"At the event, President Obama will continue to outline how far we’ve come and the clear choice that voters face in this election: whether we continue to move our country forward by creating an economy that’s built to last based on a strong, secure middle class, or go back to the same failed policies that led to the financial crisis that left middle-class Americans struggling to make ends meet. "

A specific time was not given, only "late afternoon." Earlier Friday, Obama will be in Orlando to address the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. Mitt Romney will be there Thursday.

-- Alex Leary

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Ron Paul to hold his own event before Republican National Convention


TAMPA  – Now there are three. Ron Paul’s presidential campaign said Monday that the libertarian candidate will not be attending Paul Festival 2012, a three-day event being organized in his honor by some of his supporters just before the Republican National Convention.

That's because Paul plans to hold a rally of his own on Aug. 26, the day before the convention starts, said Paul campaign deputy national press secretary James Barcia.

Paul campaign chairman Jesse Benton and convention spokesman James Davis said late Monday that the convention and the campaign are working to secure a site for the candidate's event. The convention is looking at its list of 73 official RNC venues for a location, though Benton said the campaign is not looking at the Florida State Fairgrounds, the planned site for the Paul Festival.

Paul's event will celebrate the candidate's accomplishments in the cause of liberty and will set a tone of "professionalism and respect" for Paul's delegates going into the Aug. 27-30 convention, Benton said. It will be an open event. …

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RNC musical lineup: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trace Adkins, Kid Rock

Check out these big names in the entertainment mix for the week of the Republican National Convention: Lynyrd Skynyrd, Trace Adkins, Kid Rock.

Liberty Plaza Events tells POLITICO that it has signed Lynyrd Skynyrd to play Aug. 26, the day before the convention begins, Trace Adkins for Aug. 28 and Kid Rock for Aug. 29. Another big act for the closing night "Wheels Up" party is yet to be announced.

Previously, Tampa Bay Host Committee president Ken Jones said he expects to see Lynyrd Skynyrd and Kid Rock playing here during the Aug. 27-30 convention.

"I've been told that these guys are coming," he said late last month, adding that private groups, not the host committee, were doing the booking. …

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Daniel Ruth: Rice so far right he's wrong

Tampa Bay Times' op-ed columnist Daniel Ruth took former Pinellas County Sheriff Everett Rice to task Friday for embracing far-right groups in his bid to win back his old job. Read Dan's column here. Read Peter Jamison's initial story on Rice's stances here.

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Bob Buckhorn on Obama speech: 'The right vision to guide this nation'

After President Barack Obama's speech in Cleveland on Thursday, the president's re-election campaign released a statement from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, a Democrat, praising Obama's plan.

Here is the text of the statement, which Buckhorn has confirmed: "The president laid out a blueprint today that will create value-added jobs, grow our economy and tackle the deficit. He made it clear to us in Tampa that he has the right vision to guide this nation's economic future." 

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Ex-Media General leader talking to USF about 'economic development' job

John Schueler, a former executive at the company that owns the Tampa Tribune, is talking to the University of South Florida about a job -- for the second time since he was removed from his top role at Media General late last year.

A USF spokesman confirmed that the university is now in "the conversation stage" with Schueler about a role in helping USF with "economic development", specifically around the downtown area.

It would be a modification of a position left vacant by Kathy Betancourt, USF's former associate vice president for governmental relations, who retired in 2011 after nearly 20 years. Betancourt's job was more focused on promoting USF on a state and national political scale, said USF's Michael Hoad. Her ending salary was $141,3335.

Schueler's potential salary has not been worked out, along with many other details, Hoad said. "It's all ideas now."

Schueler, who was a finalist in the search for a new business school dean at USF in December, did not return a call seeking comment. …

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John Legg picks up endorsement from incoming Speaker Will Weatherford

Incoming House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, has endorsed his colleague in the Florida House, John Legg, in his bid a Tampa-area Senate seat.

Legg, R-Trinity, will square off against current state Senator Jim Norman, R-Tampa, and Rob Wallace, a Republican and former board member of Citizens Property Insurance. John Korsak, a Republican, is also running in the primary for Senate District 17.

Calling Legg the "true conservative" in the race, Weatherford said Legg has a track record of fighting to create jobs and hold government accountable.

“John is a fighter for improving education and has the know-how to make sure the families in our local communities and across the state are given more choices and every opportunity to excel in and out of the classroom. I support John, the true conservative for Senate District 17,” said Weatherford, in a statement. …

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Dunedin code enforcement board fines Fenway Hotel owner over unsafe violations

DUNEDIN -- Remember last week's story about a judge appointing a Tampa firm to clean up trash, graffiti and other code violations at the old Fenway Hotel and to secure the property against squatters and other trespassers?

In a new development this week, Dunedin's Code Enforcement Board decided to start charging the hotel's owner $250 each day that the most egregious of violations cited in a 23-page violation notice from January aren't resolved. City officials say the violations (we're talking open and poorly secured doors and windows, shards of broken glass, and nails sticking out of fallen boards) are a direct threat to public safety.

The move introduced a potentially tricky situation for city officials, for whom -- as Dunedin planning director Greg Rice put it -- the "chance of seeing anything (in this case) is slim to none."

That's because hotel owner George Rahdert already owes at least $10.8 million in loans, interest and other fees to PNC Bank, which is foreclosing on the waterfront landmark. Furthermore, Rahdert says he is already deeply in debt after spending thousands of dollars maintaining the property until earlier this year. …

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