Incumbents, office holders show best fundraising totals
Here are some final numbers in the legislative fundraising reports involving Pinellas County races of note. General theme: Incumbents and office holders still do best.
In House District 45, Republican Kathryn Starkey raised $20,100 and spent $16,488. Overall, Starkey, a Pasco School Board member, has raised $84,900 and spent $25,200. That leaves her behind Republican Richard Corcoran, who overall has raised $133,300 and spent $33,700.
Republican Fabian Calvo raised $4,236 and spent $5,751. Calvo has raised $17,131 and spent $17,217 to date, widening the gap between him and the other candidates.
In House District 53, Rep. Rick Kriseman raised $10,660 and spent $875. Overall, Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg, has raised $28,460 and spent $10,260.
Republican Thomas Cuba raised nothing and spent $491. His spending came from $1,000 loaned to his campaign.
Republican Jesse Wayne Giles raised and spent nothing for the last quarter.
In House District 54, Rep. Jim Frishe, R-St. Petersburg, raised $10,900 and spent $5,435. He has raised $48,444 overall and spent $10,600.
Democrat Mary Russell, a former School Board member, raised $700 and spent nothing. Overall, she has raised $1,570 with nothing expended.
Jean-Paul Piccion did not submit a report.
The Pinellas County Democratic Party raised just $2,265 and spent $8,447 in the final three months of 2009. That leaves the party at $42,328 raised overall last year, and $38,005 spent, some of the better numbers in recent years, particularly for an off year.
The results leave Democrats well behind Republicans' fundraising last year. The GOP raised $132,622 and spent $121,942 last year.
Firefighters' outreach includes council meeting
Passersby might have wondered about a Lealman fire truck parked outside the Community Hall during last week's council meeting.
No, there was no fire. Instead, the uniformed crew sat next to Ron Neuberger, a candidate for Town Council in the March 9 election. Neuberger, 42, is a Lealman firefighter whose candidacy has already been controversial in part because of a contractual dispute between the town and the Lealman Fire District.
Kenneth City contracts with Lealman to provide fire service to its residents. But Lealman canceled the contract last year after the town annexed several properties out of the fire district. The town approached Pinellas Park about providing the service, but that city pulled out when Kenneth City continued to negotiate with Lealman. The issues of annexation and the future of the contract are still up in the air.
Rumors circulated that the crew from Fire Station 18 was there to support Neuberger. But Lealman fire Chief Rick Graham said that's not the case. Firefighters have attended many Kenneth City meetings during the past few months, he said. It's all part of the department's community outreach. They also attend meetings of the Lealman and Tierra Verde community associations.
Unless, of course, there's a fire. Then they go there, Graham said.
There's a political reason to push census
Here's one more reason beyond federal funding that St. Petersburg and Pinellas County officials are emphasizing a high census turnout: a new congressional seat.
City Council member Herb Polson said last week that a high response could help Pinellas land another congressional seat.
Florida stands to gain a seat after the next count, estimates show. But will it be in Pinellas?
Census estimates have shown the county losing population while Pasco and Hillsborough gained people at a higher rate since 2000.
Commission picks Snack Shack operator
With reluctance, the City Commission picked Paradise Sweets last week to run a food concession at the Snack Shack at Archibald Park.
A majority really wanted to move the 1930s-era log cabin to South Beach at John's Pass or to the city's marina to avoid a possible lawsuit over commercial use of the beach park. In the late 1990s, the city paid $500,000 to settle a lawsuit with a vendor over the same issue.
Alex Archibald, a descendent of the original property owner, has threatened to sue the city over any commercial use on the property, which he says violates terms of the 1931 deed giving the beach property to the federal government. The U.S. Department of Interior turned the beach park over to the city in 1972.
"I prefer not getting sued," Commissioner Terry Lister said. "The citizens of Madeira Beach can get snacks anywhere up and down the beach. I am in favor of moving the building, absolutely."
The commission opted to reopen the building as a beach concession — largely because residents overwhelmingly voted in 2008 to bar a city plan to tear the building down.
The commission voted 4-1 to direct the city manager to negotiate a concession agreement with Paradise Sweets. Vice Mayor Nancy Oakley dissented.
St. Pete Beach
City denies hotel's zoning change request
After more than six hours of impassioned debate last week, the Coconut Inn lost its battle to rebuild on its two Pass-a-Grille lots.
Owner Joe Caruso wanted to delay a hearing on his request for a zoning and land use change but was turned down by the commission.
"There is more than just the applicant to consider here," said Commissioner Bev Garnett, who strongly opposed Caruso's proposal. "Our district has been held hostage by this since August."
Many Pass-a-Grille residents said Caruso's request to be allowed to rebuild using a now-empty lot on 12th Avenue and directly behind the 84-year-old inn at 113 11th Ave. would intrude into a largely residential neighborhood.
Commissioners Jim Parent and Christopher Leonard joined Garnett in rejecting Caruso's request.
Times staff writers David DeCamp and Anne Lindberg and correspondent Sheila Mullane Estrada contributed to this report.