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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Buck-O-Meter updates four more ratings on Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn

The Buck-O-Meter has four new ratings today on Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn:

The promises (with the Buck-O-Meter’s updated rating) are:

Appoint a Chief Technology Officer with specific responsibilities. (Compromise)

Create a housing program modeled after the Challenge Fund. (Stalled).

Strengthen the Nuisance Abatement Board. (Compromise)

Launch a public service campaign for bicycle safety. (Promise Kept)

The Buck-O-Meter is produced by PolitiFact Florida, the Tampa Bay Times’ political fact-checking team.

Buckhorn, who will reach the halfway point of his four-year term on Monday, says he intends to run for re-election. During the mayoral campaign in 2010 and 2011, he made 34 campaign promises now being tracked by the Buck-O-Meter. So far, he has kept 17 of them. On another eight, he has taken steps — often quite substantial, but usually different from his original promise — that amount to a compromise. He has broken three, has four still in the works and is stalled on two.

For PolitiFact Florida's story summarizing Buckhorn's performance on his campaign promises over the past year, click here.



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St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster convenes meeting on homeless

With a recent uptick in homeless, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster will meet with county officials to find ways to get some people off the streets.

Foster said he and Police Chief Chuck Harmon will meet next week with Pasco-Pinellas Public Defender Bob Dillinger, Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Thomas McGrady, chief judge of the Pinellas-Pasco County Circuit.

One topic is the many people arriving from New Jersey since Hurricane Sandy hit the state in October, Foster said.

Many homeless people are telling outreach workers that St. Petersburg is a destination because of the services it provides, he added. The city, Foster said, can’t solve the issue by simply slapping handcuffs on people.

“We’re looking at alternatives to jail,” the mayor said.

Council member Charlie Gerdes praised city workers for their work, saying: “Doing a wonderful job at things has a double-edged sword.”

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Clearwater grapples with new City Hall, Crest Lake Park

Clearwater's elected officials will be grappling with two big issues at their meetings next week -- where to put the next City Hall, and what to do with Crest Lake Park.

A City Council work session begins at 1 p.m. Monday in preparation for a public meeting at 6 p.m. Thursday. Both will be held at City Hall, 112 S Osceola Ave. Both meetings are televised and are broadcast live on the web at On TV, the meetings are on Bright House channel 615, Knology channel 15 and Verizon channel 30.

Fair warning: There's a long agenda, and the meaty stuff comes at the end.

CITY HALL: In about seven months, Clearwater voters will decide whether to allow a large new Clearwater Marine Aquarium to be built on the city-owned site where City Hall stands now on Osceola Avenue overlooking Clearwater Harbor. If voters say yes, the question becomes: What happens to City Hall? Council members appear to be leaning toward building a new one on a mostly vacant city-owned block on Myrtle Avenue, just east of the Clearwater Police Department and just south of the city’s Municipal Services Building. That would give the city a compact campus of public buildings downtown. …

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Pier workshop moved to April 18


The St. Petersburg Pier workshop scheduled for Thursday has been moved to April 18.

City Council Chairman Karl Nurse has scheduled a public workshop for April 4 so architect Lisa Wannemacher can answer questions about building materials being used on the propsed Lens.

Members of Concerned Citizens of St. Petersburg, a group trying to halt the project, have questioned the decision to use aluminum panels instead of the initially proposed concrete for the canopy of the new structure replacing.

Nurse wants answers before the council votes next month to award several million dollars to Los Angeles architect Michael Maltzan, the lead designer behind the Lens.

At the urging of Mayor Bill Foster, the meeting was moved in order to have enough staffers available to answer questions, Nurse said.

Still, there’s no guarantee the workshop will take place. The full council needs to approve the matter on April 4.


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If you go: Dunedin City Commission agenda for April 4

While many items at next week's Dunedin City Commission will likely fall under the category of routine housekeeping, a few topics might generate discussion among city leaders or residents. They include:

The City Commission meets at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, April 4 at Dunedin City Hall, 542 Main St. Get a full copy of the agenda here.

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PolitiFact Florida's Buck-O-Meter sizes up Bob Buckhorn's performance at the two-year mark

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn marks two years in office — the midpoint of his four-term term — on Monday, so it seems like a good time to check on whether he's keeping the promises he made as a candidate.

The Buck-O-Meter, a project of PolitiFact Florida, the political fact-checking arm of the Tampa Bay Times, is out today with the first of eight new updates on the mayor’s follow-through since taking office.

The campaign promises (and the Buck-O-Meter's ratings):

Establish a "One-Stop Licensing Program" available in person and online (Compromise).

Establish accountability standards for infrastructure upkeep and repair (Broken).

Incorporate New Urbanism concepts in land development codes (Compromise).

Create a series of initiatives to improve parks and public spaces (In the Works).

Check back for more new updates on Friday.

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A St. Petersburg City Council race heats up


One St. Petersburg City Council race is gaining steam.

District 4 candidate Darden Rice says she is close to collecting $25,000 in contributions and is asking supporters to push her over the edge.

“Let’s do this. Only $1,400 away from reaching our $25,000 fundraising goal. Please donate tonight — at whatever level comfortable for you — and we can knock this out of the park. St. Pete Strong,” Rice wrote on her campaign’s Facebook page.

Her opponent, Dr, David McKalip, isn’t deterred.

He tweeted earlier this week: “Our Money Bomb is going well as people respond to my call to cut taxes in St. Pete.”

McKalip also challenged Rice Thursday to a debate.

“Will you fight to cut taxes for all in St Pete? I will!” McKalip wrote on Twitter.

Both camps have tweeted responses, but Buzz doesn’t see a debate date.

McKalip and Rice are battling for the seat held by Leslie Curran, who faces term limits.


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St. Petersburg works to keep tower open at Albert Whitted Airport

The fight is on to keep the control tower from closing at Albert Whitted Airport.

During an agenda-review meeting Thursday, Mayor Bill Foster told the City Council that staffers are pleading with federal officials to keep workers in the tower next month.

“We’re exploring every option,” Foster said.

City staffers, he said, have contacted the Federal Aviation Administration, Florida’s two U.S. senators, Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and other elected officials.

Staffers are pointing out that Albert Whitted’s tower needs controllers since it is close to MacDill Air Force Base, Tampa International and St. Petersburg-Clearwater airports and an urban core, Foster said.

As a result for forced budget cuts, the Federal Aviation Administration announced it would go forward with closing the tower at Albert Whitted Airport, one of 149 towers at small airports nationwide that will start going dark in April.

The agency said it had no choice but to subject most of its 47,000 employees, including tower controllers, to periodic furloughs and to close facilities at small airports with lighter traffic. …

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Lawsuit to save St. Pete Pier in judge's hands

...The hearing at times had the feeling of a professor holding court with two students around a coffee table. Several times Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Judge Jack Day asked the lawyers to stop talking while he read case law or searched for files on his computer and desk.

Day also interrupted both lawyers to encourage them to catch their breath. He even jokingly asked whether St. Petersburg had a mechanism to impeach Mayor Bill Foster. Patner declined to answer the question since his response would be on the evening news...

Read the rest of the story here.

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Romano: Public ignored in Pier decision

"To say residents had plenty of time to offer input has some revisionist history to it. It's true the task force to study the future of the Pier was formed in the spring of 2009, and the decision to demolish it didn't come until late the following summer.

"But there are a couple of details that get left out of that sequence," John Romano writes.

Read some off them here.

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In search for new money, Crist proposes offering zip-lining at county parks

Hillsborough County commissioner Victor Crist suggested some new ways for the county to make money Wednesday: Think zip-lining in county parks, opening more to horseback riding, even building cabins for overnight camping.

"I'm intrigued by the opportunity to expand on economic development through ecotourism," Crist said. "We have some of the most beautiful natural resources to be found anywhere in the state, if not the country."

His suggestion came as commissioners discussed whether they need to revisit the fees they charge for existing services. Crist was suggesting the county offer new programs for which it can charge.

Read the full story here.

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Dunedin honors fallen soldier with burial plot

The city of Dunedin will foot the $3,500 cost of a cemetery plot for Army Spc. Zack Shannon.

The 21-year-old Dunedin native was among five U.S. soldiers who died in a March 11 helicopter crash near Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Upon his wishes, he was buried today at Dunedin Cemetery rather than Arlington National Cemetery.

"We’re going to tell the family that the plot here in the city is on the residents of this community, and I think that’s just a great message to send," Mayor Dave Eggers told his City Commission colleagues, who unanimously supported the gesture last week.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott decreed that all state and national flags outside the Pinellas County Courthouse, Dunedin City Hall and the Capitol in Tallahassee be flown at half-staff today in Shannon's memory.

Several businesses hung signs and banners, while hundreds of people across the Tampa Bay area lined the streets to pay tribute to the late Black Hawk helicopter mechanic during homecoming celebrations this week.

Click here and here to read more about ceremonies honoring Shannon.

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Higginbotham holds fundraiser at gun shop

Hillsborough County commissioner Al Higginbotham held one of his first major fundraisers Tuesday evening as he seeks to jump to an at-large seat in 2014. Higginbotham, a Republican who must leave his current District 4 seat representing largely eastern Hillsborough, held the fundraiser, or the fundraiser was held for him, at Shooters World in northern Hillsborough.

Shooters World is the gun shop and range opened last month on N Dale Mabry Highway by developer Bing Kearney, opthalmologist Greg Henderson (fiance to Attorney General Pam Bondi) and others.

Higginbotham, once an active hunter, said he was not making any sort of gun rights statement as the nation debates gun control proposals. It was just an available venue. And he said the main organizer for the event was actually engineer and planning commissioner Hung Mai, not the owners.

If he was making a statement with the selection of the venue it was in support of small businesses. He noted that shortly after Shooters World opened, he sent out a tweet in praise of the venture for creating 65 new jobs without a government subsidy (in contrast to, say, Bass Pro Shops). …

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Tarpon Springs breaks ground on long-delayed water plant

Wearing hard hats, Tarpon Springs officials plunged gold-painted shovels into the ground Tuesday in the symbolic groundbreaking ceremony for a $35 million project that will enable the city to generate its own drinking water.

It was a day of celebration for commissioners and other city officials, who hatched the plan for the reverse osmosis water plant three mayors ago and saw lawsuits and other issues delay the project for a decade.

The project is partially financed with a $20.1 million grant from the Southwest Florida Water Management District.

Read more here.

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Tampa state of the city bonus: one hard-working football player

If you watch Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn’s state of the city speech on YouTube, the coverage begins with the City of Tampa Gospel Choir singing stirring renditions of Amazing Grace and Order My Steps.

But if you were among the 600 or so people inside the old Kress building Tuesday morning, there was bonus material.

Before the choir, the audience spent about five minutes watching — without an introduction — a video of a muscular, tattooed and usually shirtless young man practicing broken-field running on a beach, jogging on the side of a road, doing agility drills, working through a grueling circuit of weight training, taking handoffs, catching passes, doing more workouts at the gym, hopping back and forth over a fence, sprinting uphill and sprinting uphill backwards. And over these scenes, he narrates: …

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