Sunday, January 21, 2018
News Roundup

Hillsborough leader willing to play "boyfriend" in Rays-St. Petersburg divorce

TAMPA — Mayor Bob Buckhorn said Wednesday he doesn't have a problem with Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Ken Hagan saying he wants to force the issue on the troubled marriage between St. Petersburg and the Tampa Bay Rays.

"Anything we can do to energize this discussion is fine," Buckhorn said before giving a speech to the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce. "It's going to come to a head at some point, so the more we talk about it, and the more we engage, I think the better we are."

In the next breath, however, Buckhorn retreated to his standard position on the issue — that the future of the Rays in St. Petersburg is something to be decided by that city and the team alone.

And that's where he stayed.

"I am respectful of that contract and I am respectful of that relationship," he said. "We can prepare as a region to be ready, and we can do everything that we have to do if given the opportunity. But ultimately, those two parties are going to have to decide what that future looks like, and I'm not a party to that, and I don't plan on being a party to that."

In contrast, Hagan on Tuesday told the Tampa Bay Times, "I'm willing to be the boyfriend that causes the divorce."

That's a riff on Buckhorn's oft-quoted remark that he does not want to break up the Rays and St. Petersburg.

Hagan described himself as "beyond frustrated at the lack of progress regarding the Rays' long-term future in the Tampa Bay region."

"For me, just sitting by idly and hoping issues will work themselves out is counterproductive," he said.

As a result, Hagan said he plans to ask county attorneys in coming weeks for an opinion on whether the Rays' lease at Tropicana Field stops Hillsborough from talking directly to the team about its future in the region. If the county can pursue those talks, he wants to ask the team what it wants and how local government can help.

The Rays did not comment on Hagan's statements but maintain that Tropicana Field is not suitable for them in the long term. And in recent years, the team has said it wants to consider other locations, including in Hillsborough County.

That idea got a boost two years ago, when the ABC Coalition, a private business group, concluded that a stadium in or near Tampa would sell more tickets and attract more corporate support.

Meanwhile, St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster and other officials insist that the Rays honor their lease, which binds them to the Trop until 2027. Anyone who comes between the team and its obligations to the city could be sued for interfering with the lease, City Attorney John Wolfe has suggested.

Hagan contends the Trop is not a viable permanent home for the Rays, so it makes no sense to delay the inevitable conversations. But he said St. Petersburg's threat of litigation has a "chilling effect" on discussions about the Rays' future.

Foster said Tuesday that Hagan's remarks surprised him, even though this isn't the first time that Hagan's comments about the Rays have raised eyebrows.

Two years ago, Hagan invited the ABC Coalition to discuss its conclusions with the County Commission, saying the board should not wait while the fate of so important a regional asset hung in the balance. Both then and now, he also said he would be okay if the Rays moved to a new stadium in Pinellas, such as in the Carillon area.

Unlike Buckhorn, however, Hagan said he wants a more active role in moving the discussion forward, including by courting the Rays, if necessary. He even volunteered to be the boyfriend in January when he saw team president Matt Silverman at a Rays charity event in Tampa.

Silverman laughed then, Hagan said, and on Wednesday Buckhorn said he's heard the same thing from Hagan.

"I've heard him use this analogy before," Buckhorn said, but "we haven't talked. There's no master plan. There's no strategy. If he wants to step on my dance card, that's okay."

Richard Danielson can be reached at [email protected] or (813) 226-3403.

Comments
Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

Record number of inmates died in Florida prisons last year. And they died younger than past years.

More inmates died in Florida prisons last year than in any other year on record, leaving the state scrambling to identify causes and find solutions. The tally, 428 inmate deaths in 2017, was released late Friday by the Florida Department of Correctio...
Updated: 15 minutes ago

Hillsborough diver who died in Eagle’s Nest Cave was adventurous but experienced

Davin Brannon was a pilot, a spearfisherman, an avid cave and open-water diver and an experienced all-around adventurer, said those close to him ."I guess you could say he died doing what he loved," his cousin Pam Kirven said. "But I also know he’d n...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Oxfam highlights sharp inequality as Davos elite gather

DAVOS, Switzerland — A CEO from one of the world’s top five global fashion brands has to work for just four days to earn what a garment worker in Bangladesh will earn in an entire lifetime, campaigning group Oxfam International said Monday. In advanc...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Amazon opens cashier-less store in Seattle

SEATTLE — Amazon employees have been testing it, but is the public ready for a cashier-less store? More than a year after it introduced the concept, Amazon is opening its artificial intelligence-powered Amazon Go store today in downtown Seattle. The ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
At second St. Petersburg Women’s March, 5,000 focus on

At second St. Petersburg Women’s March, 5,000 focus on "what we can do"

ST. PETERSBURGNear Mirror Lake, as protesters posed for pictures, hung signs on their dogs and distributed chant scripts just after noon Sunday, Linda Pair and her friend Beth Gavin arrived to march.Asked why she came out, Pair, 72, of Largo put it b...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

Add swagger to Lightning’s loss column

CHICAGO — It didn’t take the sound of a door slamming in the visitor’s dressing room Saturday night to sense this Lightning team is frustrated.Tampa Bay believed it had worked hard against the Wild — at least, harder than it did in Thursday’s letharg...
Updated: 1 hour ago
USF women blow late lead, lose at Wichita State

USF women blow late lead, lose at Wichita State

WICHITA — USF led by eight points in the fourth quarter but went cold, and Wichita State pulled off the upset 64-56 Sunday afternoon in a potentially costly loss for the Bulls.USF (15-5, 5-2 American Athletic Conference) missed 14 of its last 15 fiel...
Updated: 2 hours ago
‘Big Hug’ brings out fun-loving  crowd

‘Big Hug’ brings out fun-loving crowd

GABRIELLA ANGOTTI-JONES | TimesDaniel Evangelista, 17, dressed as a rooster; Knox Johnson, 16, dressed as Stay Puft Marshmallow Man; Rachel Rowland, dressed as a panda; and Luke Evangelista, 15, dressed as Captain America, joke around before comp...
Updated: 2 hours ago

Deputies: 18-year-old speeding on U.S. 19 faces charges of DUI, fleeing scene

PALM HARBOR — A speeding driver on U.S. 19 refused to stop for deputies and took off, later rear-ending a car and injuring three people early Sunday morning, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office.A little after 1:30 a.m., Kingzig Montanez...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Factory fire traps in workers, killing at least 17; Kabul siege ends violent 24 hours; more in world news

Factory fire traps in workers, killing at least 17; Kabul siege ends violent 24 hours; more in world news

IndiaFactory fire kills at least 17A fire at an industrial building on the outskirts of New Delhi broke out as workers were stuffing gunpowder into firecrackers, trapping many of them on the factory’s upper floors as it spread, and leaving at least 1...
Updated: 4 hours ago