Meeting generates big talk in tiny Tarpon
After Gov. Rick Scott's schedule went out by email Wednesday, Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie's phone blew up with calls.
Archie's name was right there on the governor's schedule after an event at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
For reporters who see the governor's schedule every day, the so-called meet and greet with the mayor of bitty Tarpon Springs was unusual enough to make one wonder: Is the governor vetting Archie as a possible lieutenant governor?
"Not to my knowledge," Archie said after the meeting. "We didn't discuss anything earth-shattering."
Archie lacks widespread name recognition outside of Tarpon Springs. But he is also an African-American Republican from an area that has a history of deciding statewide elections. He could bring diversity to the ticket and is well-liked in Tarpon, where he leads nonprofit Citizens Alliance for Progress and has served on the City Commission for 13 years.
City staff members also were curious about the meeting. The governor's office called City Hall Tuesday and requested the get-together without giving a reason, City Manager Mark LeCouris said. "We're all wondering what this is about," he said.
In the end, Archie said, not much happened.
He and Scott had a friendly conversation that involved flood insurance hikes, among other things. He characterized it as, "not a bad way to spend an afternoon."
'Smoke and mirrors' in covering crashes
Last July, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri sounded an alarm about the Florida Highway Patrol being understaffed in his county and relying on his deputies to respond to car crashes. At times, the agency had only two or three troopers on patrol in Pinellas, he said, a situation that either forced his officers to deal with crashes, or left drivers standing on the side of the highway for hours, waiting for a trooper.
FHP officials challenged his claims, saying there were at least 25 people working in Pinellas, an increase over past years.
Last week, Gualtieri, right, gave a brief update on the situation at a meeting of the Pinellas County Commission and the legislative delegation.
FHP has hired people to fill a handful of vacant positions, he said, suggesting it was a small sign of progress but not one that would have a significant impact on his deputies having to pick up FHP's slack.
"Some of that's smoke and mirrors and some of that's real bodies," said state Sen. Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, above left.
Council gives go-ahead to Greenlight Pinellas
After a vote from the City Council on Thursday, St. Petersburg became the first city to endorse Greenlight Pinellas.
The initiative would use a 1-cent Pinellas County sales tax to generate money for light rail and expanded Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority bus routes. Residents will decide its fate in a referendum next year.
After the vote, council member Jeff Danner (also PSTA chairman) hosted a news conference on the steps of City Hall.
Times reporters Brittany Alana Davis and John Woodrow Cox contributed to this report. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779.