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Bay Buzz

The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Proposed complex fuels worry in Tarpon preservation area

When Christine Sanchez and her husband moved from New York 12 years ago, they were eager to escape city life and find a quiet community where they could raise their children.

So they built a house on a quiet tree-lined cul-de-sac west of Alt. U.S. 19 and faced it north, toward 50 acres of preservation area.

Then recently, Sanchez said, she received an alarming notice in the mail that a 126-unit affordable apartment complex might be in the works for the property.

Read more here.

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Legislators file bills to abolish Hillsborough PTC

The push to eliminate the Hillsborough County agency that regulates for-hire vehicle companies, such as taxicab, limousine and ambulance operators, is on.

A pair of state legislators have confirmed that they have submitted a local bill that would allow the voters to abolish the Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission.

"The Public Transporation Commission has evolved from an agency designed to preserve public safety into an agency that is preventing competition in the market and restricting consumer choice," said Rep. Jamie Grant, R-Tampa, who has filed legislation on the House side.

Added Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg: "I have come to believe that the PTC is no longer serving the needs of our community and is placing burdensome restrictions on small businesses that seek to provide transportation options in our region. The transportation marketplace is rapidly changing and the antiquated institution of the PTC is not suited for the dynamic opportunities which lie ahead."

According to a joint news release, if the bill passes both chambers and is signed by the governor, it would create a local referendum on the question of whether to abolish the PTC. …

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Dunedin puts new market manager under gag order

Dunedin city officials were so perturbed by "inappropriate" online comments their former farmers market manager recently hurled their way that they've explicitly spelled out in his successor's contract that such behavior is potential means for dismissal.

The new rules stem from city commissioners' decision this month to approve a city committee recommendation and hire Tampa Bay Markets to manage the city's Green Market instead of Richard Kendler, its founder and longtime manager.

In the weeks leading up to the Oct. 17 vote, Kendler, vendors, customers and city residents lobbied commissioners via email and Facebook to retain Kendler. Tampa Bay Markets complained that Kendler was spreading misinformation about them. And city officials exchanged a flurry of emails expressing their dismay that Kendler was using a Facebook page that gave the impression it was government-related to rally against the city.

Under the contract for the newly-named Dunedin Downtown Market, its manager "shall not disparage or criticize the city, the mayor, vice mayor, city commissioners, charter officials, city staff or the Dunedin market in any way, including but not limited to, verbally, in writing or by Facebook, Twitter or other electronic media."

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Buckhorn: St. Petersburg mayor’s race could make difference in whether Rays stay or leave

Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Tuesday he thinks the outcome of the St. Petersburg mayor’s race between Mayor Bill Foster and challenger Rick Kriseman could tip the scales on whether the Tampa Bay Rays stay in the bay area or leave for another market. His remarks came during an interview on a wide range of topics at his office in Tampa City Hall. Here is an edited transcript:

Q — We have a poll in the paper today indicating that more residents of St. Petersburg think the Rays ought to be allowed to look in Tampa. What do you think the significance of that is?

Buckhorn — I think it’s a recognition of the reality, and the reality is that it doesn’t work at its current location. And I think the voters get it. They realize that. They may not like the thought of losing the Rays from St. Pete, but they recognize that if the attendance is bad, we’re going to lose them somewhere and they would prefer that (the team) stay in the Tampa Bay area, so they’re willing to allow them to look. It’s the same conclusion most of us came to a long time ago.

Q — What is the city of Tampa doing right now? What are you doing right now? …

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Local union president Stephen Sarnoff files to run for District 67 seat

Stephen Sarnoff, president of the local branch of the Communications Workers of America union, has filed to run for State Rep. Ed Hooper’s seat in 2014.

Sarnoff, 61, who works for the city of Clearwater, has never held elected office before but has been involved in local and Democratic politics for years. As president of CWA Local 3179, a position he’s held since 1999, he represents city workers in Clearwater, Largo, Madeira Beach, Port Richey and St. Pete Beach. In the aftermath of the recession, he pushed city leaders to avoid layoffs and service cutbacks.

"I want to run because I simply want to change the balance of power in Tallahassee," Sarnoff said in a brief phone conversation on Monday.

"Whether it's not expanding Medicaid to 1.2 million Floridians, or it's the parent trigger bill to privatize the education system…you name it, I'm tired of it. I want to make sure there’s one more Democrat up there so the Republicans do not have a super majority to continue steamrolling the people of Florida." …

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Lorraine Margeson ad emphasizes her positions on red light cameras, police

ST. PETERSBURG - With just over a week to go before the polls open, District 2 City Council candidate Lorraine Margeson has started running a TV ad touting her positions on hot-button issues like red light cameras and the city's Police Department. The 30-second spot is airing on four channels - CNN, MSNBC, Discovery Channel and Bay News 9 - and is scheduled to run until the election.

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High-end subdivision slated for Keystone Road in Tarpon Springs

Developers are poised to construct 35 high-end homes in a gated subdivision off Keystone Road.

City commissioners easily approved the plan last week, with no objections from residents.

The homes, planned for 11.6 acres south of Keystone Road and north of Lake Tarpon, are expected to be priced at upwards of $500,000, said Karen Lemmons, the city's economic development manager.

Read more here.

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Mathieu files for House District 36 election

PORT RICHEY — Newly elected state Rep. Amanda Murphy has just left campaign mode, but could soon be in the thick of it again.
Just this week, Jim Mathieu, an attorney and chairman of Pasco’s Republican Party, filed to run for House District 36 when the seat comes up for election next fall.
Since the Oct. 15 special election to replace Mike Fasano, now Pasco’s tax collector, and serve the remainder of his term, Murphy has barely had time to savor her win.
She’s interviewing for a district aide and plans to move into Fasano’s old office at 8217 Massachusetts Ave., in New Port Richey, on Monday.
“We’re supposed to get the phones turned on,” she said.
Now comes word that Mathieu is running.
“I heard that,” Murphy said, adding she isn’t surprised that a candidate emerged so quickly. “I had prepared myself that it would be immediate.”
Mathieu, a former city attorney and interim city manager, lost a three-way Republican primary in September.
He said he’s running again because he understands the issues and legislative process better than most elected officials.
“And I’m running because the last time the voters didn’t get a choice,” he said.
Mathieu said he was up against a well-funded candidate in Bill Gunter, who poured tens of thousands of dollars into advertising. Voters missed out in hearing more about Mathieu and, as a result, Gunter won the primary.
By filing early, Mathieu can start to raise money to get his message out, plus the election isn’t that far off, he said. The next primary is 10 months away.
“It’s a short season and this will give me more time to put my message out there,” he said.
Rich Shopes can be reached at rshopes@tampabay.com or (727) 869-6236.

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Clearwater squashes farmer's market at Countryside High

Zoning rules have blocked Richard Kendler, the Dunedin man who last week lost his longtime management contract for that city's Green Market, from launching a new venture in Clearwater.

For weeks, Kendler had been advertising the Nov. 10 opening of an open-air Sunday market on Countryside High School's parking lot. Pinellas County school officials had said a portion of proceeds from the weekly market, set to run through mid May, would be donated to the school.

However, confusion arose this week after city officials caught wind of the plan and informed both Kendler and the school district that farmer's markets run afoul of city code, which forbids "itinerant sales" on private property except in short-term cases (such as for Christmas tree or pumpkin sales).

Officials acknowledge that internal miscommunication may have led Kendler to believe he had the city's permission. But City Manager Bill Horne ultimately said that code enforcement would cite the market if it opened.

Details here.

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County Commission endorses replacing Beckett Bridge

The Pinellas County Commission Tuesday endorsed tearing down the historic Beckett Bridge in Tarpon Springs.

Commissioners voted unanimously to move toward replacing the structure with a new drawbridge that would be less expensive to maintain and safer for drivers.

The county will review that decision, along with other options for replacing or repairing the bridge, after a public hearing in February, according to County Administrator Bob LaSala. But Tuesday's vote gives a strong indication of the county's direction and is likely to ignite further debate on an issue that for years has divided Tarpon Springs.

Read more here.

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Safety Harbor strikes deal with developers on new subdivision

On a former auto salvage yard at 2805 Rigsby Lane, developers plan to build a tree-lined cul-de-sac with 21 homes worth $300,000 or more each.

But to win approval from city commissioners Monday, Tarpon Springs-based Pioneer Homes had to meet the demands of one insistent neighbor: Hilda Van Vliet.

"I really believe there should be some kind of fencing required of the developer to keep his clients off our property," said Van Vliet, throwing a surprise wrench into a proposal that seemed poised to easily pass. "They promised us."

Read more here.

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Clearwater snags another tourism contest win

CLEARWATER-- Clearwater is already the best beach town in Florida, according to a USA Today reader survey announced in January. Now the national newspaper’s travel readers have bestowed another honor: Best Place to Watch a Sunset.

For the honor, announced last week, Clearwater beat out Leland, Mich., where sunset aficionados can watch the blazing orb dip into Lake Michigan.

But taking in the evening ritual from the sugar sand and lapping Gulf of Mexico waves on Clearwater Beach beats a lake, even one of the Great variety, readers decided.

For Mayor George Cretekos, the win represents another “weapon” for the city to deploy to keep tourists packing Clearwater Beach. But the mayor quibbled with the photo that the newspaper selected for the city. For starters, there’s no sun. Just a yellowish tint to the clouds.

“It just wasn’t what I considered a Clearwater Beach sunset,” Cretekos said. “Leland had a beautiful photo. We had clouds, but no sun.”

The photo, apparently taken from the Hyatt Regency Clearwater Beach Resort and Spa, does show some of the Beach Walk, plenty of palm trees and a wide expanse of white sand. …

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Largo mayor to run for Pinellas Commission

Largo Mayor Pat Gerard will run for the Pinellas County Commission seat currently held by Norm Roche.

Gerard, 63, has been Largo’s mayor for seven years, winning three mayoral elections. She was a Largo city commissioner for six years before becoming mayor.

“At this point in time, there’s only one other person who’s filed for that race. I think voters need a choice,” she said. “I think I have a lot of common sense. I make my decisions based on what my community needs, not on what’s going to get me re-elected.”

Gerard isn’t the only experienced politician who will be gunning for the District 2 countywide seat in 2014.

State Rep. Ed Hooper, who’s term-limited in the Florida House, announced earlier this year that he’ll run for Roche’s seat. Like Gerard, Hooper has experience at winning elections, having been elected to the House four times. He previously was a Clearwater city commissioner.

Gerard is a Democrat. Hooper and Roche are Republicans.

Gerard has long worked in social services. She is the chief operating officer for Family Resources Inc., a nonprofit agency that assists troubled teens. …

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Hillsborough legislative delegation to meet at USF in December

This year's pre-session meeting of the Hillsborough legislative delegation is scheduled for 9 a.m. Dec. 2 at the Marshall Student Center on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.

Participating “is critical for those who want to voice their concerns on issues, make suggestions or bring awareness to a topic,” state Sen. John Legg, R- Lutz, the delegation's chairman, said in announcing the meeting.

Check the delegation’s website at hillsboroughcounty.org/legdel for speaker request forms for citizens, officials or groups who want to address general issues or local bills, as well as for rules and other delegation-related materials.

The deadline for submitting materials related to local bills is 5 p.m. Nov. 18. The deadline for speaker request forms is 5 p.m. Nov. 25. Organizers have reserved the top floor of the parking garage near the Marshall Center for people attending the legislative delegation meeting.

Questions? Call Spencer Pylant in Legg's office at (813) 909-9919 or email him at pylant.spencer@flsenate.gov.

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Foster unveils initiatives to help struggling Midtown neighborhoods

In the wake of blistering criticism on the campaign trail, Mayor Bill Foster announced plans Tuesday to create a high-level position to oversee economic development in the city's poorest neighborhoods.

Foster's moves come in the middle of a fierce reelection fight with challenger Rick Kriseman in the Nov. 5 election.

Economic development in the Midtown and Child Park neighborhoods is one of the most contentious issues in forums and debates.

Voters in African-American neighborhoods south of Central Avenue could swing the election for either man. No city administrator has overseen Midtown since Foster fired Goliath Davis, the former police chief and deputy mayor, in 2011.

The new administrator will also oversee the recently approved redevelopment area around Midtown.

Foster plans to take questions from reporters at 1:30 p.m. today about Midtown initiatives like the African-American Heritage Trail and helping land new a restaurant for the historic Manhattan Casino.

Click here for updates and a full report.

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