Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg has a fruitful year in Tallahassee

ST. PETERSBURG — Art O'Hara didn't have any expectations last fall when he asked legislators if they would help him get $122,500 to expand the Louise Graham Regeneration Center, a local nonprofit that gives developmentally disabled adults jobs in the recycling industry.

"I thought (my chances) were pretty slim, considering we really didn't know what the state budget looked like," said O'Hara, the center's executive director. "But I thought if we don't ask, we won't get it."

Barring the swipe of Gov. Rick Scott's veto pen in coming weeks, O'Hara will get exactly what he wanted. As will many other St. Petersburg projects.

For the first time in a long time, legislators packed $16.8 million for hometown projects into the state budget, part of a largesse of funding headed to the Tampa Bay area.

After several years of recession, there was a surplus this year that made the timing ripe for new requests.

Some attribute St. Petersburg's windfall to new Mayor Rick Kriseman, who jokingly called this year his "best session ever" even though he's no longer in the Legislature.

During a meeting with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board last week, Kriseman touted the fact that unlike his predecessor, he had no problem leaning on his former Tallahassee colleagues.

Bill Foster made only a couple of trips to the Florida Capitol during his four years as mayor.

Kriseman went twice this spring to advocate for projects like the antipoverty 2020 Plan (which stands to get $1.625 million), and a new business college building for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg ($10 million).

He also hired Sally Everett to be the city's lobbyist, a position that Foster cut.

"The city of St. Petersburg was well served by the mayor's past experience in the Legislature … and the relationships he built during his time," Everett said Friday. "I think that goodwill is reflected in the many programs that were approved."

Other St. Petersburg projects slated to get money include marine science labs and classrooms at St. Petersburg College ($2.5 million); renovations to the historic Ponder House ($100,000); kitchen upgrades and other improvements at the Mahaffey Theater ($500,000); and $2 million for the All Children's Hospital/Johns Hopkins Pediatric Research Zone.

Dr. Jonathan Ellen, president of All Children's, said the state money will help the hospital expand into cancer and genetic research, attracting high-paying jobs for scientists and medical professionals.

"I'm very pleased by what we have in the budget right now. I think it's been very successful for our community," Kriseman said Friday. "I really feel like it's a real advantage to have someone who understands the process."

Still, Kriseman, said, he didn't do it alone.

He said he stayed in frequent contact with state Reps. Kathleen Peters, Darryl Rouson and Ed Hooper and Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes about the St. Petersburg projects in play.

Sophia Wisniewska, regional chancellor of USF St. Petersburg, said the collaboration of the mayor, city and Pinellas legislators around the college's request was "energizing."

"There were so many different efforts taking place that it created a lot of synergy," she said.

If the money ultimately comes through, the university will be able to break ground on its the new building by year's end.

Elsewhere in Pinellas, lawmakers secured $1.27 million for a BMX supercross track in Oldsmar, $500,000 for improvements to the cultural center in Largo, and $2 million to build a new aquarium in Clearwater.

O'Hara's request, made in October to the county delegation, will allow the Louise Graham Regeneration Center to expand its paper-shredding and recycling operation, which provides jobs for about 25 disabled adults.

"We have some very capable legislators," O'Hara said. "I think they really try to do what's right and make sense."

The center shreds about 90,000 pounds of paper each month, and customers are added each day, O'Hara said. The state money would allow the organization to buy two more trucks and add workers.

"We need this shot in the arm," O'Hara said.

Kameel Stanley can be reached at kstanley@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8643. Follow on Twitter @cornandpotatoes.

St. Petersburg projects that

stand to get state money

ProjectAmount
University of South Florida St. Petersburg; new building for the College of Business$10,000,000
St. Petersburg College marine science labs/classrooms$2,500,000
All Children's Hospital/Johns Hopkins Pediatric Research Zone$2,000,000
City of St. Petersburg for Agenda 2020 antipoverty plan$1,625,000
Mahaffey Theater for improvements$500,000
Renovations to the Ponder House, a house on Ninth Avenue S owned by the Metropolitan Council of Negro Women and named after a late community leader$100,000
Louise Graham Regeneration Center$122,500

St. Petersburg has a fruitful year in Tallahassee 05/03/14 [Last modified: Saturday, May 3, 2014 11:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tributes pour in for ex-national security adviser Brzezinski

    Nation

    WASHINGTON — Well before he went to the White House in 1977, Jimmy Carter was impressed by the views of foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski. That Carter immediately liked the Polish-born academic advising his campaign was a plus.

    Foreign policy expert Zbigniew Brzezinski died Friday.
  2. One year after deaths, Sunset Music Festival kicks off with emphasis on water and security

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — Before the beat drops, or even builds, you hear Steve-O.

    "If you don't get water you're lame!"

    "Hey! Free water! Come on!"

    Steve "Steve-O" Raymond motions to guests making the line to grab free water bottle at the entrance of the Sunset Music Festival on the grounds of the Raymond James Stadium parking lot in Tampa. ( LUIS SANTANA   |   Times)
  3. Twins eventually cash in as Rays lose, fall back to .500 (w/video)

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — The Rays could only battle their way out of trouble for so long Saturday afternoon before succumbing in a 5-2 loss to the Twins.

    MINNEAPOLIS, MN - MAY 27: Brian Dozier #2 of the Minnesota Twins celebrates hitting a two-run home run as Derek Norris #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays looks on during the eighth inning of the game on May 27, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The Twins defeated the Rays 5-3. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images) 700010973
  4. Rays Tales: The stories behind Corey Dickerson's ascension

    The Heater

    The 25 pounds DH/LF Corey Dickerson lost during the winter through diet and exercise are considered the primary reason for his ascension to one of the American League's most productive hitters, going into the weekend leading in hits, multi-hit games and total bases, and ranked in the top five in average, runs and …

    Tampa Bay Rays designated hitter Corey Dickerson (10) connects for a sac fly, scores Tampa Bay Rays first baseman Steve Pearce (28) in the fourth inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Wednesday, June 15, 2016.
  5. Fans in Florida and beyond won't forget Gregg Allman

    Music & Concerts

    The end can come quickly for those who live fast and live hard, who create worlds with their talent and sometimes come close to throwing them away.

    This Oct. 13, 2011 file photo shows Gregg Allman performs at the Americana Music Association awards show in Nashville, Tenn. On Saturday, May 27, 2017, a publicist said the musician, the singer for The Allman Brothers Band, has died. (AP Photo/Joe Howell, File)