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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

U.S. House District 12 news

Social media alert: The Democrat candidate for U.S. House District 12,  Jonathan Snow, will hold a “town hall” meeting on Obamacare from noon to 12:30 p.m. Saturday on Blogspot radio. He will take calls and talk with Tarpon Springs orthopedic surgeon Lawrence Floriani. To join in, call 713-955-0555(cq on number) or go to for link to listen online.

This from anti-establishment crowd: John Russell, running with no party affiliation in U.S. House District 12, has announced his endorsement by David Cobb, a Texas attorney who ran for president in 2004 on the Green Party ticket. Cobb is currently a spokesmen for Move to Amend, a group trying to change the U.S. constitution so corporate political contibutions can be banned.


--Stephen Nohlgren, Times staff writer

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St. Petersburg sanitation workers plan Labor Day protest

ST. PETERSBURG - City sanitation workers plan to protest on Labor Day.

Before the workers rumble on city streets in their big rigs, they plan to send a message to city leaders for making them work on a federal holiday.

The 100 union members will gather at 6 a.m. at the Joseph Savage Sanitation Complex on 28th Street N.

 “There is no rhyme or reason for this,” said Rick Smith, chief of staff for the Florida Public Services Union. "We are trying to save the city money."

The workers usually have Wednesdays off. City managers, Smith said, will not let workers consolidate routes next week like they had done around other holidays.

The city, he said, would save money by letting the workers spend Monday at home with their families. “Nobody puts their trash out on a holiday,” Smith said.

--Mark Puente, Times staff writer


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Protester who interrupted Paul Ryan's speech tells her tale

Laura Mills nearly blew it.

She is 21, from Washington D.C., and a member of the activist group Code Pink. Today, however, she is much better known as the woman who interrupted Paul Ryan’s speech at the Republican National Convention and befuddled viewers worldwide. But her big moment almost didn’t happen.

She was hanging outside the Tampa Bay Times Forum Wednesday when a group of angry Ron Paul supporters stormed out. She and a fellow Code Pinker, Ann Wright, asked for their credentials. The delegates obliged.

“I didn’t have to do anything crazy to get in,” said Mills, wearing one of the group’s infamous vagina costumes outside a Tampa Hooters Thursday afternoon.

Credential in hand, Mills walked inside the building and into the security area. When she raised up her arms to be searched, her protest sash fell out. She wouldn’t say where it was hidden: “That’s our trick of the trade."

Surely, Millls thought, she would be caught. No one noticed.

“I was trying,” she said, “not to make eye contact with any of them.” …

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Mayor Bill Foster feels benefit of Republican National Convention

St. Petersburg is already feeling the impact of the Republican National Convention.

While convention activities are centered in Tampa, Mayor Bill Foster said convention delegates and visitors have heaped praise on the Sunshine City.

Although delegates don’t have much free time during the day, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster said visitors have been impressed by the hospitality and city venues.

“Everyone I talk with says they want to come back,” said Foster, a Republican. “We want them to come back. I am trying to be a good host.”

On Wednesday, Foster said he greeted a group Republicans at an event headlined by Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in a private home.

Foster also appeared Wednesday morning with Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney at All Children’s Hospital for a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Romney brought many of her 18 grandchildren to the event.

“It was neat seeing her with all the kids,” Foster said.

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Poor economy prompts new plan for Dunedin's downtown Gateway project

DUNEDIN -- The long-awaited downtown Gateway project inched one step closer to reality last week.

In a 4-1 vote, the Dunedin City Commission gave developers with Pizzuti Builders LLC the okay to continue pursuing a plan that shifts the mixed-use project's heaviest focus away from commercial use and places greater emphasis on housing.

Conceptual plans now call for 138 upscale apartments, along with two restaurants and other ground-floor retail, on a vacant 4-acre tract at the corner of Main Street and Milwaukee Avenue.

The mixed-use complex, first approved in 2007, was initially to have mostly offices and retail anchored by an upscale grocery store. But the project faltered along with the recession, and developers have since quadrupled the amount of residential space in the project after the market for commercial tenants collapsed.

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Former Dunedin City Manager John Lawrence dies

DUNEDIN --  Take a walk through Dunedin and it's nearly impossible to escape former City Manager John Lawrence's legacy.

It's in the renovated baseball stadium. It's in the Pinellas sheriff's vehicles patrolling city streets. It's especially in the landscaped sidewalks and shops that line the city's bustling downtown, which was little more than narrow, deserted roads and orange groves prior to his tenure. john_lawrence.jpg

Lawrence, the longest-serving city manager in Dunedin's 113-year history, died Sunday following a three-year battle with liver disease, his family said. He was 66.

"Almost everywhere you look in the city today," said former Dunedin Mayor Tom Anderson, "his leadership was involved in making that happen."

Lawrence came to Dunedin in 1980 as a city planner and worked his way up to city manager - a position he then held 21 years.

He retired in 2005 and moved to Powder Springs, Ga., to be closer to family. There, relatives said, Lawrence worked for the city as a special projects coordinator and taught urban design at a local university.


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Developer finally releases statement on new stadium in St. Petersburg

The firm behind a proposed new baseball stadium in St. Petersburg has finally spoken.

But it wasn’t much.

CityScape released a statement Friday, saying it would remain silent until it shares its plan before the City Council, the Pinellas County Commission and the Tampa Bay Rays.

The presentation could occur next month. The firm, owned by developer Darryl LeClair, hopes the discussion keeps the team in St. Petersburg.

“Out of respect for the Council’s invitation, we will postpone any public comment until after our presentation,” said Chris Eastman, president of CityScape.

The proposal, Eastman said, would show a traffic analysis, demographics, designs, and alternative cost models. CityScape wants to build a the stadium in the Carillon business park in the city’s Gateway area.

Team owner Stuart Sternberg sent a letter to the City Council on Thursday, saying members would attend the meeting as a courtesy to the council. The Rays still do not want to be tied to any one site in St. Petersburg. It wants to explore options around Tampa Bay.

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Busy signals block many St. Petersburg residents from enrolling in new recycling program

A busy signal won’t let many residents “Go Green” in the Sunshine City.

As St. Petersburg switches recycling firms, phone lines at Waste Pro of Florida rang busy most of Friday as many residents tried enrolling in the service. Even a city official had a hard time

The firm sent 8,000 pamphlets to homes, urging residnets to "Go Green."

“They were a little unprepared for the volume of calls,” said Mike Connors, the city’s public works administrator.

The problem won’t happen Monday.

Waste Pro has contracted with a call center for 15 operators to handle the calls for about three weeks, Connors said.

Waste Pro will also add a message to the phone line asking residents to call back Monday. Operators will also call residents next week to pitch the service.

The busy phones wasn’t the best way to start a new service, Connors acknowledged. He learned of the busy signals from the Tampa Bay Times.

The City Council voted last month on a three-year contract with Waste Pro, which would keep a voluntary curbside program in the city through 2015. …

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St. Petersburg's new welcome tower could meet Tropical Storm Isaac

St. Petersburg’s newest beacon — touted to withstand 150 mph winds — could get its first test in the coming days.

And the heavy winds aren’t from the thousands of Republicans and journalists invading Tampa Bay for next week’s Republican National Convention.

The 75-foot Gateway Welcome Tower could meet Tropical Storm Isaac.

City officials officially unveiled the $600,000 tower Wednesday as the tropical storm grew bigger in the Caribbean and continued west on a path that could threaten Florida.

The tower resembles two other Mediterranean Revival towers that were installed in the late 1980s at the downtown entrances from Interstates 175 and 375.

A copper dome sits atop the new tower in the Gateway area on Interstate 275. Drivers should see the tower from more than a mile away.
City officials included the tower in the 2004 budget but could never find the cash -- that is until Bill Edwards stepped up this year.

The mortgage company executive and entertainment producer donated $600,000 for the tower. With 10,000 journalists arriving to report on the convention, Edwards wanted to draw worldwide attention to St. Petersburg. …

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St. Petersburg to Tampa Bay Rays: Let's talk stadium

ST. PETERSBURG — It’s official. The City of St. Petersburg sent a formal letter Friday to the Tampa Bay Rays, inviting them to a presentation next month by a private company pitching a new baseball stadium in Carillon business park.

The letter also offers to amend the team’s contract with the city to allow the Rays to negotiate with the company, CityScape, or others about a new stadium — as long as the would-be site lies in St. Petersburg or adjacent land in the Gateway area.

Rays officials have said they are not interested in talking about new stadium sites unless the city frees them to pursue sites anywhere in the Tampa Bay area. The Rays declined to comment Monday about Friday’s invitation.

Read Mayor Bill Foster's letter here.

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Frank Frakas tops Daryle Hamel in House District 68

 Political veteran Frank Farkas will be the Republican candidate for state House District 68 after beating a political newcomer.

Farkas topped Daryle Hamel by winning 75 percent of the 10,309 votes  cast in the district covering much of northeast St. Petersburg and eastern Pinellas Park.

Farkas, who was elected to the state House in 1998 and re-elected in 2000, 2002 and 2004, said he operated his campaign like an underdog and didn’t anything for granted.

“I’m honored with the support we got,” he said. “It’s onward to the general (election).”

In November’s election, Farkas will face two St. Petersburg attorneys, Democrat Dwight Dudley and independent Matt Weidner. Dudley has about $38,000 in his campaign account; Weidner has $66.

Farkas, who founded the Farkas Chiropractic Clinic and reports a net worth of $3.5 million, raised $78,626 between June 6 and Aug. 9 and spent $19,209 in the same period.

State representatives serve two-year terms and are paid $29,697 a year. …

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Turner appears headed to crushing defeat as Hillsborough appraiser race

State Sen. Ronda Storms is holding on to her dominating lead over incumbent Republican Rob Turner in the Hillsborough County property appraiser primary.

With roughly half of precincts reporting, Storms held a well more than 2 to 1 lead over Turner. Storms vote dominance is spread pretty much throughout the county. Totals so far include much of South Tampa, where Turner lives.

Turner has spent 16 years in office and was seeking a fifth term, which seemed assured until this summer. With weeks to go before qualifying, Turner faced token opposition.

Then came revelations that he sent porn to his former human resources director, a woman he dated while she worked for him.

Storms got into the race, as did state Rep. Bob Henriquez, who awaits the winner in the general election along with two no-party candidates.

Update: Storms lead remains the same with 280 of 347 precincts reporting.

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Storms takes lopsided lead in Hillsborough appraiser race after early, absentee voting

State Sen. Ronda Storms is off to a lopsided lead over incumbent Republican Property Appraiser Rob Turner after early and absentee voting in Hillsborough County.

Storms was leading Turner by a 71 to 29 percent margin, after the first batch of vote totals were released by the Supervisor of Elections shortly after 7 p.m. This is hardly the end of the night, but those are scary numbers so far for Turner. Absentee totals can be an indicator of campaign organization, as well, and Turner hardly campaigned at all, except for a couple of last-minute, low-budget mail pieces.

Storms was a late entry into the race after the Tampa Bay Times reported Turner had sent porn to his former human resources director, whom he once dated and subsequently fired as the Times was preparing its story. …

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Low turnout expected in Hillsborough County elections

Polls officially closed about 10 minutes in Hillsborough County, and results from absentee ballots and early votings should be posting soon at

As of 4:40 p.m., only 12.56 percent of registered voters had cast ballots.

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Last minute signs about tolls on Howard Frankland Bridge pop up in Senate race between Brandes and Frishe

 A last minute push to sway primary voters’ minds in the competitive Senate District 22 race between Republicans Jim Frishe and Jeff Brandes has resulted in the Tampa Bay area being blanketed with yet another batch of campaign signs.

The signs, which seemed to pop up almost overnight in both Hillsborough and Pinellas counties, seek to link Brandes to an idea floated earlier this spring by the Florida Department of Transportation about eventually turning the Howard Frankland Bridge into a toll road when it’s rebuilt 10 years from now.

signphoto.jpg …

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