West section of park reopens
The west section of Wall Springs Park in Palm Harbor is now open. It had been closed since Sept. 11, when a fire destroyed the observation tower located on the west side of the park. Pinellas County staffers have cleared the area, and the public is asked to stay away from the immediate area of the tower's foundation.
The tower, which cost $315,000 to build, is expected to be rebuilt. The parks staff is currently working on the plans with engineers.
Funds and 'friends' of CMA, Clearwater
The money race between supporters and opponents of a new downtown aquarium is tighter than many expected, but not quite as neck and neck as it appears in fundraising reports filed last week.
Friends of CMA, the pro-aquarium PAC, announced it has raised $32,200. Friends of Clearwater, the anti-aquarium PAC, listed $31,620 in contributions.
Here's the twist: Judy Bennett, chief operating officer at Bob Carter Companies LLC, a Sarasota fundraising consultant firm, mistakenly gave $2,000 to Friends of Clearwater, who oppose the $160 million, three-story proposal that will advance if voters approve on Nov. 5.
"There are too many 'friends' out there," Bennett said Friday. She has contacted the Friends of Clearwater to get her money back. She will then contribute the cash to Friends of CMA, her intended target.
Bob Carter Companies is working with CMA on a fundraising strategy to raise cash from private donors and corporations if the referendum passes.
An amended political scorecard would then read: Friends of CMA raised $34,200, Friends of Clearwater raised $29,620.
Formed in mid-August, Friends of Clearwater raked in $29,620 by Sept. 30. Most of those dollars came from residents of Water's Edge and Pierce 100, high-rise luxury condo towers that would be the downtown neighbors of a new aquarium located on waterfront land now occupied by City Hall.
Interestingly, former Mayor Rita Garvey, who served 12 years as mayor in the 1980s and '90s, gave $250 to the anti-aquarium PAC. Garvey lost to Brian Aungst in 1999 and Frank Hibbard in 2008.
Garvey said Friday she thought the City Hall property was the wrong location for an aquarium and was concerned about clogged traffic in the area if an aquarium were built.
Two people join City Council Seat 5 race
Two political novices are erasing former City Council member Hoyt Hamilton's previously unopposed path back to the council.
Morton Myers, 34, who lives in the Manor neighborhood near the Long Center, said he decided to run for Seat 5, currently occupied by term-limited Vice Mayor Paul Gibson, because he wants to see a prosperous downtown and a reformed policy on red-light cameras.
Red-light cameras on Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard and Chestnut Street snag too many tourists who are unfamiliar with Florida's new law allowing them, Myers said. He's ambivalent about a proposed downtown aquarium, especially if it involves tearing down City Hall, but wants to be involved in the process.
Myers, a Clearwater native, owns an Oldsmar area pawnshop and a business that subcontracts labor and information for theme parks and other clients.
Myers is married with two young children.
He decided to compete against Hamilton because Seat 4 incumbent Bill Jonson once served on his Eagle Scout committee and he holds him in high regard.
Another entry into the Seat 5 race is Jon Paul Rosa, who lives in an apartment near Gulf-to-Bay Boulevard. He didn't return calls requesting comment.
Hamilton, 55, served on the City Council from 1999 to 2006. According to campaign finance records through Sept. 30, he has raised $4,450.
Jonson will face David Allbritton, chairman of the Downtown Development Board, for the Seat 4 spot in the March 11 election.