Saturday, January 20, 2018
Politics

Tampa Bay Rays chamber luncheon avoids stadium talk

Not a day for politics

With the baseball season under way and the St. Petersburg mayoral election only months off, not a single mention of a new stadium reared its head Thursday at the annual Tampa Bay Rays luncheon sponsored by the St. Petersburg and Clearwater chambers of commerce.

Senior vice president Mark Fernandez described the team's community work, including $2 million in donations to various children's programs. Manager Joe Maddon reassured an enthusiastic audience that the Rays would win 90 games this year and be "back on top of the American League East.''

With Mayor Bill Foster sitting at a front table, neither team official even alluded to stadium issues or mentioned that other city across the bay.

Another Latvala in Tallahassee?

Chris Latvala, son of Republican state Sen. Jack Latvala, said on Wednesday that he is thinking of running for state Rep. Ed Hooper's seat in 2014. Hooper, who has held the District 67 seat covering much of Clearwater and Largo since 2006, is barred from seeking re-election because of term limits.

With Hooper's seat up for grabs, two Republican candidates have already filed to replace him — Christopher Shepard and Frederick Thomson. Latvala said he would not make a decision on whether to enter the race until after this summer.

The 31-year-old is the vice president of his father's printing business, which makes signs for political campaigns. He has been involved in politics ever since he graduated from the University of Central Florida in 2004 and began working on campaigns. In 2011, he became the political director of the Pinellas County Republican Party.

Sticky fingers

During the St. Petersburg City Council's Public Safety & Infrastructure Committee meeting last week, the group discussed creating an "open-container district" where revelers could hop between bars with their favorite libations. Ideal locations include Central Avenue and Beach Drive.

But one member of the group feared people would swipe wine glasses from places like Parkshore Grill on Beach Drive. Council member Leslie Curran said no way, adding: "If anything, I'm going to take the plate. Just kidding."

The votes continue

The four Pinellas County commissioners named in a lawsuit over term limits can continue to vote, make decisions, and spend taxpayer money — so says a ruling handed down last week.

Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court Judge John Schaefer granted county lawyers' request to dismiss a lawsuit filed by seven plaintiffs, including vocal light-rail opponent Barbara Haselden.

The suit was an attempt to bar four commissioners — Ken Welch, Karen Seel, Susan Latvala and John Morroni — from taking positions on issues while a suit challenging their right to remain in office makes its way through the courts.

The group also asked for an injunction to prevent the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority from spending public money on an educational campaign for the referendum, which rail opponents have said is biased in favor of light rail.

Times staff writer Stephen Nohlgren contributed to this column. Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow @markpuente on Twitter. Anna M. Phillips can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8779. Follow @annamphillips on Twitter.

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