Sunday, June 24, 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
Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six candidates waltz into their seats as qualifying ends. The rest still have a fight

Six local candidates across Tampa Bay — all county commissioners and city council members — effectively won their elections Friday by default: No one qualified to run against them.The rest still have a fight.Some will square off in an Aug. 28 primary...
Published: 06/22/18
Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

Former Tampa police corporal qualifies as Democrat to run for Hillsborough sheriff

TAMPA — A Democrat has officially joined the race for Hillsborough County sheriff.Gary Pruitt, a 50-year-old former Tampa police corporal who now works as director of security at a local mall, qualified Friday to challenge Republican Sheriff Chad Chr...
Published: 06/22/18
Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

Carlton: Could anything be more partisan than going nonpartisan?

So Hillsborough County commissioners — most of them, anyway — want voters to consider dropping political parties from certain elections, making those races nonpartisan instead.This would mean when you go to vote in those elections, you won’t know if ...
Published: 06/22/18
Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

Hotel renovator approved by council to restore New Port Richey’s Hacienda Hotel

NEW PORT RICHEY — A seasoned historic hotel renovator and operator is going to take a crack at getting New Port Richey’s city-owned Hacienda Hotel back into action. New Port Richey City Council members, acting as the Community Redevelopment Agency, u...
Published: 06/20/18
Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

Pope Francis criticizes Trump’s family-separation policy on migrants, says ‘populism is not the solution’

VATICAN CITY - Pope Francis stepped into a growing controversy over President Donald Trump’s immigration policies, criticizing the separation of migrant families at the U.S.-Mexican border and saying that "populism" and "creating psychosis" are not t...
Published: 06/20/18
Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Raburn out in State House 57 race. Now who’s in?

Well, that didn’t last long.U.S. Army veteran Michael Sean McCoy filed to run as the Republican candidate in the State House, District 57 race just hours after incumbent State Rep. Jake Raburn, R-Lithia, announced he was stepping down.McCoy, who live...
Published: 06/19/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

Romano: A Tampa Bay ‘superstar’ caught in the crosshairs of Trump’s border policy

At this moment, she is Tampa Bay’s most influential export. A smart, accomplished and powerful attorney making life-altering decisions on an international stage.But what of tomorrow? And the day after?When the story of President Donald Trump’s border...
Published: 06/19/18
‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

‘Don’t leave me, Mom’: Detainee tells of separation from son

SEATTLE — The call came at mealtime — an anonymous threat demanding $5,000 or her son’s life. So Blanca Orantes-Lopez, her 8-year-old boy and his father packed up and left the Pacific surfing town of Puerto La Libertad in El Salvador and headed for t...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

Trump defiant as border crisis escalates, prepares to lobby House GOP on immigration bills

WASHINGTON - As he prepared to visit Capitol Hill, President Donald Trump on Tuesday continued to insist that Congress produce comprehensive immigration legislation, while anxious Republicans explored a narrower fix to the administration policy of se...
Published: 06/19/18
Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

Trump, GOP to huddle as outrage builds over border policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Calls are mounting on Capitol Hill for the Trump administration to end the separation of families at the southern border ahead of a visit from President Donald Trump to discuss legislation.Trump’s meeting late Tuesday afternoon with...
Published: 06/19/18