Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Anti-rail tax group lacks elected allies

Standing alone, front and center

There was a moment at a rally last week for the main group opposing the county transit referendum when it became abundantly clear just how wide the gulf is between the local tea party and the Pinellas Republican Party.

Organized by the group No Tax for Tracks, the event drew more than 100 people to a Largo church, where they watched an hourlong presentation on the proposal to raise the county's sales tax for an expansion of the bus system and the construction of passenger rail. But before that got under way, one of the event's organizers asked elected officials to stand and be recognized.

Everyone looked to the left. Everyone looked to the right.

Only one person was standing: County Commissioner Norm Roche, who has been the sole voice of opposition on the commission to the transit tax. As the debate over whether to approve the tax increase heats up (it'll be on the Nov. 4 ballot) look for him to be exactly where he was on Tuesday night — front and center among the plan's critics, dressed in the campaign's color of stop-sign red. And look for much of the Republican Party to be on the other side of the issue.

Kriseman heads south to watch TV

When the nation tunes in on Tuesday to watch President Barack Obama deliver his State of the Union address, St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman will watch the address with members of the Democratic Club of Sarasota.

"Rick's victory in the recent election is a big win not just for St. Petersburg but for all Democrats in the state of Florida," according to a statement on the club's website. "A past speaker at club luncheons, Rick is a favorite with our members.''

Sarasota Democrats ran phone banks to help track down absentee voters for Kriseman in November, the Sarasota Herald Tribune reported.

This time, candidate wants to be sheriff

Perennial candidate Paul Congemi, top right, wants to be the sheriff.

The St. Pete resident and two-time mayoral loser says he filed paperwork to challenge Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, right, in 2016. Congemi, 56, a singer and songwriter, didn't make it out of the mayoral primaries in 2009 and 2013.

"This is bigger than the mayor's race," Congemi told the Buzz on the telephone. "I intend to win against Robert Gualtieri."

Gaultieri welcomes that challenge.

"Anybody has the right to run for anything," Gualtieri said. "It's a tremendous amount of responsibility."

Money where their mouths are

St. Petersburg City Council members met last week in the first of many workshops about next year's budget. Very quickly, they came to a consensus.

It's time to make "economic development" more than a buzz phrase, they said. Council member Charlie Gerdes, left, said he wants to see the city spend $300,000 to $350,000 more on the issue.

"We can leverage that three or four times with private partnership," he said, adding the city must spend to "get on the road, go pitch these employers with $60,000- to $80,000-a-year jobs and get them here."

Shoring up reserves and investing in an arts endowment and youth employment programs were other priorities, members said. Officials also said they'd like to get moving on a new police station, increasing savings through sustainability measures and giving raises to city employees.

Council Chairman Bill Dudley joked leaders could solve everything if they just invested in a printing machine to make more money.

Mark Puente can be reached at or (727) 893-8459. Follow him on Twitter @markpuente. Anna Phillips can be reached at

Anti-rail tax group lacks elected allies 01/24/14 [Last modified: Friday, January 24, 2014 4:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Clearwater residents avoid tax rate increase for ninth year in row

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — Residents will avoid a rate hike on their property taxes for the ninth year in a row as taxable values continue to recover from recession levels, padding city coffers.

    Clearwater Mayor George Cretekos said the city must be prepared for unexpected expenses. JIM DAMASKE   |   Times
  2. Rays beat Orioles, but tough stretch looms that could change their plans (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tuesday was a step back in the right direction for the Rays, who halted a season-high five-game losing streak by hanging on — and we mean that pretty much literally — for a 5-4 win over the Orioles.

    The Rays’ Tim Beckham celebrates with Mallex Smith after hitting a three-run homer in the second inning for a 5-0 lead.
  3. Diaz, Taddeo win easily in special Miami Senate primaries


    Two Miami state Senate candidates who raised and spent the most in their respective primaries — Republican Rep. Jose Felix Diaz and Democratic businesswoman Annette Taddeo — notched easy victories in a special election Tuesday night.

    Republican candidate Jose Felix Diaz is surrounded by supporters after he won the primary for Florida’s Senate District 40 race. Democrat Annette Taddeo, right, celebrates her victory with supporter Venus Lovely at BJ’s Restaurant in The Falls.
  4. In live debate, Kriseman and Baker ask St. Pete: Is the city better off?



    Mayoral candidates Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker made their best pitch to voters in front of a live television audience on Tuesday night. The candidates essentially asked this: Is the city better off now than it was four years ago?

    Incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman and former Mayor Rick Baker debate in front of a live television audience during the City of St. Petersburg Mayoral Debate at the Palladium Theater in St. Petersburg on Tuesday evening. The event was sponsored by the Tampa Bay Times and Bay News 9. [DIRK SHADD   |   Times]
  5. Romano: It all comes down to sewage in this mayoral race

    Local Government

    Well, poop.

    Nothing else really matters, does it?

    Schools, economic development, public safety? Pfft. The Rays stadium, affordable housing, the pier? Ack. When it comes to the St. Petersburg mayoral election, sewage is the yin, the yang and the yuck.

    At Tuesday’s debate, incumbent Mayor Rick Kriseman said responsibility lies on him regarding the sewage crisis.