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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Pinellas Park council member Rick Butler gets PSTA's equivalent of an Emmy - a roll of toilet paper

PINELLAS PARK -- For much of the past year, officials in this city have been eyeball-to-eyeball with officials at the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority over one of its bus stops.

It seems that PSTA passengers who were stuck waiting at the station on the south side of the Shoppes at Park Place, 7200 U.S. 19 N, didn't have enough time to find facilities when nature called. So, instead, they ducked behind the Dumpster by a cut-through next to Regal Cinemas for relief.

The theater owner complained, mall owner complained. Pinellas Park police complained and city officials asked the PSTA to build bathrooms. The PSTA refused. The argument wnet back and forth until, finally, PSTA decided to build a transfer station there along with bathrooms.

On Wednesday, the bus agency gave Pinellas Park council member Patti Johnson a plaque and an award for the city's efforts. At Thursday's council meeting, Johnson passed on the plaque and award to council member Rick Butler, who had been in the forefront of the fight. …

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Candidates for Dunedin mayor tout leadership

DUNEDIN -- When former Dunedin Mayor Bob Hackworth stepped down in 2009, he said his work on the Dunedin political scene was done.

Even after launching unsuccessful bids for Congress and the Pinellas County Commission, Hackworth said he was content watching from afar as local elected leaders melded their new ideas with changes he'd helped bring about during his tenure.

But now Hackworth is back, opposing his former commission colleague, incumbent Mayor Dave Eggers, in the Nov. 6 election.

Hackworth said the city needs aggressive leadership he has not seen in the last three years. That approach will be especially important, he said, as the city attempts to attract someone to buy the deteriorating Fenway Hotel and if other cities try to yank away the Toronto Blue Jays, the city's spring training baseball team, which will renegotiate its contract with the city in a few years.

"The ability to be more bold, to advocate for bold initiatives, is within me, and I'm not real sure that Dave has the same ability. He just seems a lot more cautious, a lot more reserved," said Hackworth, 57, a partner in his family's book publishing firm. …

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Brickfield, Justice get endorsement of Clearwater Chamber's PAC

Neil Brickfield and Charlie Justice have received the endorsement of CLEARPAC, the political affiliate of the Clearwater Regional Chamber of Commerce, in their run for the Pinellas County Commission.  Brickfield also got the endorsement of the Florida Professional Firefighters.

Brickfield, a Republican who is seeking his second term on the commission, is facing Democrat Janet Long in the race for the District 1 seat. Long is a former state representative and member of the Seminole City Council. Brickfield served on the Safety Harbor City Council.

Justice, a Democrat who three terms in the state House and one in the state Senate, is challenging Republican incumbent Nancy Bostock for the District 3 seat. Bostock is a former member of the Pinellas County School board who is seeking her second term on the county commission.

Both the District 1 and District 3 seats are at-large and elected countywide. Couny commissioners serve four-year terms and are paid $90,389 a year.

-- Anne Lindberg, Times Staff Writer



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Hillsborough Commission narrows its county attorney search to two

Two Tampa lawyers with experience in local government made the final cut to succeed ousted former Hillsborough County Attorney Renee Lee Tuesday.

Charles R. "Chip" Fletcher, city attorney for the City of Tampa from 2008 to 2011, received supportive votes from six of seven county commissioners to proceed to a series of one-on-one interviews Wednesday. Jim Porter, who left the county attorney's office as a chief assistant county attorney after 14 years in 2004, also heads to the final round of interviews.

Commissioners are expected to make a hiring decision Oct. 3.

Porter, considered an early favorite for the job, barely made the final cut after interviews with five finalists Tuesday as information about circumstances preceding his departure from the county circulated among commissioners in the past week. Each of the seven commissioners were asked to submit their top two choices after a series of nearly hour-long interviews with the finalists. …

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Fund raiser set for Janet Long

A fundraiser for Janet Long, who is running for the Pinellas County Commission, has been set for 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (Sept. 25) at the Historic Peninsula Inn & Spa, 2937 Beach Blvd., Gulfport.

Long, a Democrat who served in the state House and on the Seminole City Council, is challenging Republican incumbent Neil Brickfield in the race for the District 1 seat. District 1 is an at-large seat, elected countywide. Couny commissioners serve four-year terms and are paid $90,389 a year.

-- Anne Lindberg, Times Staff Writer


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Democratic challengers for Pinellas Commission lag in fundraising

This year’s election for two seats on the Pinellas County Commission is proving to be another tough one for the Democratic challengers, at least when it comes to fundraising.

The latest campaign filings show that Janet Long, a former State Rep., and Charlie Justice, a former State Senator, are both trailing the Republican incumbents Neil Brickfield and Nancy Bostock in dollar amounts. And time is running out for them to make up the difference: mail ballots will be sent out to voters who requested them on Oct. 2.

As of Sept. 14, Long had raised nearly $74,000 since she entered the race in April. Brickfield, who began accepting campaign contributions more than a year ago, has pulled in about $102,000.

But on the other side of the ledger, the opponents look similar. Both campaigns have spent about $26,000.

Much of their money is going to direct mail — a tactic many candidates focus on now that mail ballots allow people to begin voting weeks before the actual election.

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Tampa City Council's Mary Mulhern files to run for County Commission in 2014

Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern has filed to run for the Hillsborough County Commission seat that will open up in 2014 when Mark Sharpe leaves because of term limits.

"I'd just like to continue the work that I'm doing and do it on the county level," Mulhern said Monday. "I really think it's a natural transition."

By filing early, she said, "it gives me time to spread out the work I need to do in a campaign so that it doesn't distract from the work I need to do on City Council." Still, she said she does not plan to campaign actively or raise money until after the November elections.

Mulhern is the first candidate to file to run for Sharpe's job, a countywide seat that is expected to draw a lot of interest. Already, the Rev. Thomas Scott, a former chairman of the City Council and County Commission, and Hillsborough County School Board member April Griffin have been mentioned as possible candidates.

Full story here.

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Bostock outraising Justice in Pinellas County Commission race


Less than two months away from the Nov. 6 general election, the only certainty in the race for District 3 on the Pinellas County Commission is that incumbent Nancy Bostock has more money.

Her opponent, Charlie Justice, is a known entity in Pinellas. He served three terms in the state House and another one in the Florida Senate. And the St. Petersburg resident has run successful campaigns that pulled in thousands of dollars from donors in Tampa Bay and in Tallahassee.

But Justice, who estimated he has raised about $10,000 in the last several weeks, said he is finding it harder to get donors to write large checks for a county race, especially in a poor economy. As of Sept. 14, he had pulled in about $27,000.

Read the story here.

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St. Petersburg City Council chair reminds group about excessive talking during meetings

 ST. PETERSBURG -- In order to rein in her talkative colleagues, St. Petersburg City Council Chair Leslie Curran has reminded the group about a resolution passed in 1997.


--Mark Puente, Times staff writer


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East Lake forum a brief introduction to north county races

Candidates for everything from Congress to Pinellas County Commission spoke at a forum in East Lake on Tuesday night. But with 14 candidates on the agenda, no one got to say very much.

Hosted by the Council of North County Neighborhoods, the forum focused on races in the northern part of Pinellas County, including U.S. Congressional District 12, state Senate District 20, and State House District 65.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, who is running against Democrat Scott Swope, attended. As did Republican County Commissioners Nancy Bostock and Neil Brickfield, who are being challenged by Democrats Charlie Justice and Janet Long, respectively.

Volunteers, many of them wearing the candidates’ campaign t-shirts, dominated the audience assembled in the East Lake Methodist Church.

Knowing their time was short, candidates spoke quickly and stuck to their talking points.

Speaking one day before the County Commission votes on tax rate increases to pay for increased Medicaid costs, State Senator Jack Latvala defended the state legislature’s decision to bill counties for years of unpaid Medicaid bills.  …

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The smackdown continues in race for Florida House District 68

If the battle for Florida House District 68 resembled a charcoal grill, the chef wouldn’t need matches or lighter fluid. The charcoal for this blaze is already raging.

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In Pinellas, efforts to reach Hispanic voters are mixed

Keeping the county electorate informed requires election supervisors to buy ad space in local publications, but it’s usually a good idea to make sure your message will reach an audience first.

Between July and August, Pinellas Elections Supervisor Deborah Clark spent about $1,700 on three different ad buys in La Gaceta, a trilingual newspaper based in Hillsborough County.

Here in Pinellas, the paper has 450 subscribers, meaning Clark spent almost $4 to reach each one of them.

"It's to reach our Hispanic population and those folks who may be eligible to vote to provide voter information to them," Clark explained. 

Told of the newspaper's modest local reach, she said it was important to try as many methods as possible to contact potential voters.

"I don't think it's [La Gaceta] very popular within the Hispanic community" in Pinellas, said Andrea Vendetti, the coordinator of the Hispanic Outreach Center in Clearwater. "The radio is where they mostly get their information from."

There are two Spanish-language stations in particular: Genesis, a Christian AM radio station, and Maxima on 92.5 FM. Both of them will run local advertisements, she said. …

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Battle for Florida House District 68 heats up

What happens when a Republican chiropractor and a Democratic lawyer battle each other for a seat in the Florida Legislature?

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Council member Leslie Waters announces Seminole's annual canned goods drive

SEMINOLE - City council members, firefighters, the Teen Board and the Seminole Boy Scouts/West Central Florida Council are coordinating Seminole's fourth annual canned goods drive. All food donated will be given to Aldersgate United Methodist Church for distribution to needy residents. Canned goods can be dropped off from Oct. 1 through Oct. 31 at these locations:

*Seminole City Hall, 9199 113th St. N

*Seminole Chamber of Commerce, 7985 113th St. N, #208

*Seminole Garden Florist & Party Store, 13030 Park Blvd. N

*Barnhorn Financials, 8338 Seminole Blvd., Suite C

Hottin's Trophies, 9275 Park Blvd. N

*The dental office of Dr. Sandra Lilom 8300 113th St. N

*Centratel Telephone Systems, 11193 Seminole Blvd.

*Biker Pros, 9185 Park Blvd.

*Yoga 4 All & Serene Body Care, 8812-8836 Seminole Blvd.

For information, contact Seminole Council member Leslie Waters at (727) 391-0204, ext. 102.


-- Anne Lindberg, Times Staff Writer








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Facebook page seeks to organize anti-Janet Long voters

It didn't take long for social media to light up as the news spread that former state Rep. Janet Long had accused firefighters of using the 9/11 attacks for their own gain. Long, a Democrat now running against Republican incumbent Neil Brickfield for the Pinellas County Commission, made her comments on the eve of the 11th anniversary of the tragedy. A story run on the anniversary in the Tampa Bay Times was posted on Facebook at least 356 times, was Tweeted at least 52 times and was shared more than 400 times.

But someone - Brickfield says he had nothing to do with it - went a step further and created a new Facebook page called "NO Janet Long." This is from the site description:

"Let's show our support of local public safety by NOT voting for Janet Long. (NOT RUN BY JANET LONG OR HER ASSOCIATES). …

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