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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Dunedin approves $127,000 in incentives for Achieva Credit Union

DUNEDIN -- The city extended an early Christmas gift to Achieva Credit Union in the form of $127,000 in financial incentives.

The City Commission on Thursday unanimously approved the matching grants and waived fees, which were proposed as part of efforts to persuade Achieva to choose Dunedin early this year when relocating its corporate headquarters away from Clearwater.

Achieva started remodeling a former Nielsen Media Research call center at 1659 Virginia St. in late September and expects to complete the first of three phases in late spring.

Under the development agreement, Dunedin will:

- Waive $21,200 in building reviews, inspections and five years worth of business tax and licensing costs.

- Award Achieva matching grants of$5,000 for design assistance, $10,000 for demolition and $42,500 each in fiscal years 2013 and 2014 for facade improvements.

- Foot the $5,835 legal bill for drawing up the contract.

Funding for the incentives will come from the economic and housing development department's budget and reserves. …

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Dunedin lets logo loose

DUNEDIN -- Commissioners unanimously approved the final phase of a controversial branding campaign that they hope will help pad city coffers.

Under the initial rollout, Dunedin will spend about $9,850 on a standing map directory at the marina, free Wi-Fi for downtown visitors, Jolley Trolley advertisements, street banners and magnetic decals for city vehicles. The city is also donating a Web domain,, to the Chamber of Commerce.

Meanwhile, businesses that want to use the new image in their own marketing materials can immediately start filing applications with Dunedin's economic development department. Merchants won't be charged a royalty fee for now, but commissioners asked city staff to research what other city governments are doing.

Future proposed marketing strategies include advertisements at local airports and signs at bus stops.

"It's just the beginning for the chamber (of commerce), Visit Dunedin and the city to implement different avenues to get the brand out there," economic development director Bob Ironsmith said ahead of Thursday's commission meeting. …

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St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster remains favorable to voters, council drops

Mayor Bill Foster continues to draw favorable ratings in the eyes of St. Petersburg voters while City Council's clout is sinking. 

Foster’s approval rating dropped slightly from 55.6 in November to 54.3 in December,  according to

The local pollster took the pulse of 1,916 voters on Dec. 17. Among its findings, dissatisfaction with the City Council grew from 49.7 percent in November to 55.5 percent in December. 

Residents continue to dislike red light cameras. The poll found that 54 percent of voters don't think the city installing red light cameras was "a good thing."

On Thursday, the council will take up the controversial red light cameras. Foster wants to the group to support his plan to expand the program from 22 to 31 cameras. The council has no power to stop the expansion, but the group could decide to end the contract with the private vendor that supplies them, effectively killing the program.

Voters also weighed in on the proposed hiring ordinance and possible candidates who could challenge Foster in next year’s election.

Those finding:

Do you support the proposed local hiring ordinance being considered by the city? 

Yes: 29 percent

No: 23.7 percent …

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Rob Turner's wrongful termination case headed to mediation

The federal wrongful termination lawsuit brought by former human resources director Carolyn Filippone against Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Rob Turner is heading to mediation.

This is standard procedure in federal cases. It doesn't mean the case is heading toward a resolution, but it does indicate the lawsuit is proceeding.

It would also seem unlikely that much will come from the session, scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Wednesday before mediator Peter Grilli, with Turner poised to leave office after four terms in January. If so, the lawsuit may land in the lap of incoming Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez, who undoubtedly would like to resolve it quickly so as not to have it lingering over the office.

Filippone was fired in May as the Tampa Bay Times was preparing a story about a sexual discrimination complaint she had filed against Turner that had recently been dismissed. The story revealed that Turner had sent a number of pornographic emails to Filippone, a woman he acknowledged he had dated while she worked for him. …

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St. Petersburg strikes out by not honoring Rays' hurler David Price


Mayor Bill Foster had a chance to hit a home run, but he didn’t even leave the dugout.

Instead, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn swiped home plate by honoring Tampa Bay Rays’ hurler David Price for winning the American League Cy Young Award. 

On Tuesday, Buckhorn proclaimed the day as David Price Day and presented Price with a key to the city.

The honor comes amid the ongoing debate over where to build a new stadium for the team. The Rays are obligated to play in St. Petersburg's Tropicana Field through 2027. The team has asked the city if it could consider stadium sites in Tampa.Foster has answered with a resounding no. 

Foster and the St. Petersburg City Council fear Tampa and Hillsborough are trying to poach the team. Others fear the team wants to leave the region. Foster did heap praise last month for Price on his official mayoral Facebook page. 

Buckhorn acknowledged the tension Tuesday between the cities but said the team is the Tampa Bay Rays, a regional asset.

Still, the team plays blocks away from St. Petersburg City Hall, not in Tampa. Hopefully, Foster will honor Price before the team needs keys to a moving truck. 


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Hillsborough County Republican Party selects Tom Lee as chairman

Recently reelected to the state Senate, Tom Lee has an another political hat to wear.

Members of the Hillsborough County Republican Executive Committee elected Lee to be their chairman Tuesday night. He replaces Art Wood.

Lee bested state committeeman A.J. Matthews, who was the only challenger after recent Congressional candidate Evelio "E.J." Otero and former Hillsborough County Commissioner Chris Hart withdrew their names from contention.

Lee, a former Senate president, was reelected to that body in November, taking over the seat vacated by Ronda Storms, who abandoned a reelection bid for an unsuccessful run for Hillsborough County property appraiser.

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Group unveils soccer stadium and sports medicine center plans in private meeting

A private group proposing to build a nearly 30,000-seat, $400 million soccer stadium described its plans to a private gathering Tuesday evening at the Tampa Club dowtown.

The presentation by VSI Flames Inc., the U.S. arm of VisionPro Sports Institute Holdings, was made to several muckety-mucks and sports enthusiasts and was invite only. (Bay Buzz was passed over)

People attending the event said the presentation did not stray much from news media reports of grand plans that include a stadium somewhere near the heart of Tampa, a $250 million sports medicine center and a $50 million sports complex with practice fields and a mini-stadium. In other words, there was no great reveal of where the group would get its money. 

No word yet on whether the group plans to put its plans to the public anytime soon. 


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Bill Young on the fiscal cliff and Norquist's pledge

U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who turns 82 in a little over a week, spoke at the Tiger Bay Club’s luncheon on Friday. Here’s some of what he had to say:
On the fiscal cliff:
“On the fiscal cliff, what I think you will see happen is that there will be a 30 day or 90 day extension and leave everything just like it is for 90 days, giving Congress 90 more days to sit around and try to figure out what to do.”
On signing Grover Norquist’s pledge:
“I did sign the pledge…I am really opposed to raising taxes when I know the money is going to be spent and not be used to deal with the budget deficit.”

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University of South Florida might not fill the $250,000 job created for former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker

 A lofty job at the University of South Florida might or might not be available next month.

With former St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker giving up his $250,000 a year position as a vice president of economic development, the university doesn’t know if it will fill the position when Baker leaves at the end of the month.

It might make people wonder if the job was really needed when it was created in 2010. The position was funded by the USF Research Foundation, a private support organization. 

Baker is leaving to become president of the Edwards Group, owned by mortgage magnate and music producer Bill Edwards.

In his new role, Baker will take charge of the former BayWalk shopping center, which is now called the Shops at St. Pete. He’ll also oversee Edwards’ Club at Treasure Island and hotels, entertainment venues and commercial real estate.

This isn’t the first time Edwards plucked someone from St. Petersburg’s hierarchy at City Hall to help run his empire. 

Kevin Dunn, the former managing director of development coordination, retired in August 2011 after spending 31 years with the city. He then joined Edwards’ team.

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