Monday, April 23, 2018
News Roundup

5 things to watch in Tampa today

TAMPA — There seems to be something for everyone today at Tampa City Hall.

Unmarried couples and backyard chickens could move closer to legal protection. Security for the Republican National Convention and Guavaween will be discussed. And officials will try to answer the question: Are corporations people, too?

Here's a glimpse of each issue, four of which are scheduled to come up at 10 a.m. or later at the City Council.

Domestic partnership registry

An ordinance drafted at the request of council member Yvonne Yolie Capin would make Tampa the first city in the bay area to create a domestic partnership registry for unmarried couples.

Tampa's registry would be similar to existing registries in Orlando, Gainesville and the counties of Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach.

Among other things, it would protect unmarried couples' abilities to visit each other in the hospital, make medical decisions for partners who are incapacitated, make funeral arrangements for a partner who dies and be notified as a family member in an emergency involving a partner.

Tampa's registry would be open to both heterosexual and homosexual couples, but Capin doesn't see it as a step toward legalizing same-sex marriage. The proposed ordinance says nothing in it "shall be construed as recognizing or treating a domestic partnership as a marriage."

City Council members have gotten more than 800 emails on the ordinance, the vast majority in support of it.

"This is something I'm pretty proud of as a community," Mayor Bob Buckhorn said. "I have not gotten one email, had one conversation, had one phone call in opposition to what City Council's going to do. That tells me not only that, as a city, we have come a long way, but that people see this registry as basic human decency."

Backyard chickens

Keeping chickens in Tampa is essentially illegal, but that would change if Susan Ramos has her way. Ramos, 45, wants to start a business selling coops to people interested in raising backyard hens.

Since 1990, the city's code has required that fowl and other farm animals be enclosed in an area at least 200 feet from neighboring homes. When a neighbor complains, code enforcement officers issue citations and urban chicken owners have to get rid of their brood.

Council members are scheduled to get a report on the issue, but not necessarily to take any action. Ramos suggests that Tampa follow the example of the Pinellas County Commission, which voted in December to allow up to four hens in unincorporated residential areas.

Republican National Convention radios

Council members will vote on whether to pay $6 million to Communications International of Vero Beach for more than 1,900 handheld and vehicle-mounted radios for the Republican National Convention, scheduled for Aug. 27-30.

Police say the radios are needed because up to 3,000 officers from other parts of Florida will be working convention security, and every officer needs to be on the same communications system.

Money for the radios would come from a $50 million federal grant. If approved, the purchase will be Tampa's largest RNC acquisition yet, bringing the total spent so far on convention-related technology and equipment to nearly $12 million.

Guavaween's fence

At 9 a.m., the Ybor Merchants Association is scheduled to make a presentation about its concerns over Guavaween.

City officials expect to hear complaints about Guavaween's fence. It allows the festival's sponsor, the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce, to charge admission and raise money, but merchants have said it kills business.

Fence or no fence, Buckhorn says he's focused on city costs.

"I don't care what you do; that's up to you, but if you need police officers, firefighters and solid waste crews, you're going to pay for them," he said. "If they take the fence down, and they still need the cops and the other extra stuff they're going to have to find a way to pay for it."

Corporate personhood

And if the rest of this isn't enough, council members are scheduled to discuss whether corporations ought to have the same rights as people to participate in politics.

At the request of council member Mary Mulhern, the council will consider a resolution to support amending the U.S. Constitution to provide that corporations are not entitled to the same rights as "natural persons." In particular, the proposal says corporate money spent freely to influence elections should not be considered constitutionally protected speech.

The "corporate personhood" resolution comes in response to the Citizens United U.S. Supreme Court ruling that opened the door to unlimited corporate and labor spending in federal elections. City councils in New York, Los Angeles and Portland, Ore., have passed similar measures.

Comments
The key to the Lightning’s success

The key to the Lightning’s success

This is quite the run the Lightning is on over the past five years.A playoff appearance in 2014. A trip to the Stanley Cup final in 2015. A return to the Eastern Conference final in 2016. A near-miss of the postseason last season. And now back in the...
Updated: 5 minutes ago
Work starting on JW Marriott, but Water Street Tampa expects to have 10 buildings under way within a year

Work starting on JW Marriott, but Water Street Tampa expects to have 10 buildings under way within a year

TAMPA — Water Street Tampa marks the start of construction Tuesday on its first building, the posh JW Marriott hotel, but there’s a lot more to come.And soon.Within a year, developers said Monday, construction should be underway on 10 — 10! — of Wate...
Updated: 8 minutes ago

Updated: 13 minutes ago
Foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa draws praise, criticism at penalty hearing

Foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa draws praise, criticism at penalty hearing

CLEARWATER — Homeowners from as far away as Texas and North Carolina crowded a Pinellas County courtroom Monday in support of embattled foreclosure defense attorney Mark Stopa. Facing possible disbarment for professional misconduct, Stopa also drew s...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Tampa workers accuse General Dynamics unit of underpaying

Tampa workers accuse General Dynamics unit of underpaying

TAMPA — The Tampa call center of a federal contractor is being accused of underpaying its employees. Workers for General Dynamics Information Technology filed wage theft complaints with the Department of Labor Monday, calling for an investigation int...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Romano: Forget the sewers, St. Pete has a crisis of trust

Romano: Forget the sewers, St. Pete has a crisis of trust

Imagine what kind of spin the world might have endured had St. Petersburg sewer officials been asked to explain the final Hindenburg flight.• The landing, city leaders acknowledged, was bumpy.• Some passengers chose to disembark before the airship re...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

Alex Cobb and Logan Morrison have ex-Ray vision. Here’s what they see.

ST. PETERSBURG — Absolutely, Alex Cobb was saying over the phone, it's going to be weird pitching Tuesday against the Rays.The organization that he owes so much for rearing him since high school, standing by him through assorted injuries, enabl...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Police: Baby taken with stolen car found in St. Petersburg parking lot

Police: Baby taken with stolen car found in St. Petersburg parking lot

ST. PETERSBURG — Someone stole a car with an 8-month-old baby inside Monday afternoon, police said, and then abandoned the baby in an apartment complex parking lot.The boy was found unharmed at 800 71st Ave. N, according to St. Petersburg police. The...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Deputies: Parents may have fled with newborn ordered taken by court

Deputies: Parents may have fled with newborn ordered taken by court

TAMPA — Deputies are searching for a missing and endangered one-month-old baby boy.Sage Cooper was last seen Friday at a home on Oak Pride Court in Tampa with his mother, Kaitlynn Lovel. Investigators believe that Lovel, 25, absconded with the child,...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Shaquem Griffin on TODAY show: ‘I’m not limited to nothing’

Shaquem Griffin on TODAY show: ‘I’m not limited to nothing’

Shaquem Griffin's ability to play football without a left hand has made him the talk of the NFL draft. But the former Lakewood High and UCF star is determined to silence such talk with his play."It gets tiring," Griffin said today...
Updated: 1 hour ago