Friday, May 25, 2018
Politics

Following Rays vote, spotlight turns toward Tampa Park Apartments

TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Rays won't announce their preference for a stadium site for months, maybe longer, but the day after the team got a green light to look in Hillsborough County, Mayor Bob Buckhorn couldn't deny he had a favorite site.

It's the Tampa Park Apartments, a nearly 50-year-old apartment complex for 372 low-income families between downtown and Ybor City.

"I don't hide my optimism for that particular site," he said after a City Hall news conference Friday.

Yes, Buckhorn said, the Rays will look elsewhere, including probably Jefferson High School in West Shore, vacant land near Raymond James Stadium and the Florida State Fairgrounds. But the Tampa Park Apartments have a good location and are close to parking garages in both downtown Tampa and Ybor City.

The complex also presents a challenge: It's full of poor, mostly black families, some who have lived there for generations.

So wouldn't evicting them for a new stadium just repeat what happened in St. Petersburg's Gas Plant neighborhood before Tropicana Field was built?

"That would be the biggest issue," Buckhorn conceded.

The 21-acre complex and a neighboring shopping plaza are owned by a nonprofit organization whose board is led by S. Kay Andrews, publisher of the Florida Sentinel Bulletin newspaper.

County Commissioner Ken Hagan, who has worked on Rays issues in Hillsborough for six years, has said he has talked with her periodically about the complex.

"Her primary concern was ensuring that her residents were taken care of, and, if that were possible, she would entertain or consider that location," he said.

On Friday, Andrews said she had "no comment at this time."

Under two agreements with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the nonprofit couldn't evict residents without advance warning.

That's because tenants in 206 of the 372 apartments get federal Section 8 housing subsidies.

In late 2014, HUD officials told the Times the two agreements expire on Sept. 30, 2017. If the owner wants to opt out of the Section 8 program then, it must give renters one year's notice.

It also must confirm its opt-out decision at least 120 days before the agreements expire. That gives HUD time to arrange assistance for eligible residents.

Fortunately, Buckhorn said, local officials have experience successfully moving residents out of communities — College Hill Homes, Ponce de Leon, Central Park Village and (soon) North Boulevard Homes — where old subsidized housing is to be bulldozed for new mixed-income neighborhoods.

Buckhorn also said a stadium could probably fit on the Tampa Park Apartment property without having to move the neighboring Booker T. Washington Elementary School.

"I think it would be in everyone's best interest to avoid disrupting Booker T. Washington, given its historic nature," he said.

On Friday, Hagan exchanged voicemails with Rays president Brian Auld. That followed a conference call Hagan and top county staff members had Thursday with New York attorney Irwin Raij, the county's outside counsel on stadium issues, about setting up a meeting with the Rays.

Given the Rays' past reluctance to discuss their search during the season, "It's in everyone's best interest that we attempt to compress the timeline and begin discussions as soon as possible," Hagan said. "Candidly, we do not have the luxury of wasting another six or seven years."

Listening to the St. Petersburg council discussion Thursday, Hagan said he was "extremely pleased" to hear Rays principal owner Stuart Sternberg say he wants the team to stay in the bay area for generations to come.

The same day, Buckhorn went to a Tampa meeting of chamber of commerce leaders from the United States and Canada. Seeing the head of the Montreal chamber, he delivered a message.

"I told him if he doesn't stay away from our Rays, I was going to have him Tased before he left."

Times staff writer Anthony Cormier contributed to this report.

Comments
North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

North Korea demolishes nuclear test site as journalists watch

PUNGGYE-RI, North Korea — North Korean leader Kim Jong Un made good on his promise to demolish his country’s nuclear test site, which was formally closed in a series of huge explosions Thursday as a group of foreign journalists looked on. The explosi...
Published: 05/24/18
Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

Trump violated the Constitution when he blocked his critics on Twitter, a federal judge rules

President Donald Trump’s decision to block his Twitter followers for their political views is a violation of the First Amendment, a federal judge ruled Wednesday, saying that Trump’s effort to silence his critics is not permissible under the U.S. Con...
Published: 05/23/18
All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

All those city services that fuel Lightning fever? Team, not taxpayers, foot the bill

TAMPA — All those public watch parties during the Tampa Bay Lightning’s postseason run? And how about the rally at Joe Chillura Courthouse Square Park with the big white Lightning logo spray-painted on the grass? You need police to prote...
Published: 05/23/18
Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Romano: A pathetic legacy for Florida’s all-or-nothing Democrats

Explain this to me: In the world of partisan politics, how is being an independent thinker a bad thing? When it comes to general elections, we seem to like rogues and mavericks. We want outsiders and swamp scrubbers. Folks appreciate a good finger-...
Published: 05/22/18
‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

‘World’s most expensive Witch Hunt’: Trump lashes out at New York Times, Democrats

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump lashed out Sunday at "the World’s most expensive Witch Hunt," trashing a new report in the New York Times that said an emissary representing the governments of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates offered help...
Published: 05/20/18
Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Obama’s education secretary: Let’s boycott school until gun laws change

Former Education Secretary Arne Duncan pushed a radical idea on Twitter: Parents should pull their children out of school until elected officials pass stricter gun control laws.His tweet came hours after a shooting rampage at a Houston-area high scho...
Published: 05/20/18
China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

China offers to buy more US products to reduce trade imbalance

WASHINGTON - China offered to boost its annual purchases of U.S. products by "at least $200 billion" Friday as two days of talks aimed at averting an open breach between the two countries ended in Washington, a top White House adviser said.Larry Kudl...
Published: 05/19/18
Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

Hillsborough candidate falsified contract for fund-raising gospel concert, lawsuit says

TAMPA — A concert organizer is accusing Hillsborough County Commission candidate Elvis Piggott of falsifying a contract and prompting the headline act to pull out of a gospel show.In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough Circuit Court, Corey Curry claims h...
Published: 05/18/18
Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

Gina Haspel confirmed as CIA chief despite scrutiny of her role in interrogation program

WASHINGTON - The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Gina Haspel as the next CIA director after several Democrats were persuaded to support her despite lingering concerns about her role in the brutal interrogation of suspected terrorists captured after ...
Published: 05/17/18
GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

GOP pushes for speedy confirmation vote for CIA nominee

WASHINGTON — Republicans are pushing for a speedy confirmation vote as early as Thursday after the Senate intelligence committee endorsed President Donald Trump’s CIA nominee Gina Haspel to lead the spy agency. But opponents concerned about Haspel’s ...
Published: 05/16/18