05/24/13 Local Government
Encouraged by nascent plans for a special taxing district south of downtown St. Petersburg, the Pinellas County Commission is considering using the same method of stoking development in four other low-income areas of the county.
East Tarpon Springs, North Greenwood, High Point, parts of Lealman, and neighborhoods south and west of downtown St. Petersburg have all been identified in a county report as trouble spots. Poverty rates are high in these areas, foreclosures are rampant, and what's potentially more troubling: these low-income neighborhoods are growing....
ST. PETERSBURG — Steve Galvin is not a typical candidate for City Council. His business card reads "Wikked Steel" and features pictures of the sleek custom motorcycles he's built by hand. And he makes a living by recording the sounds and songs used by toy manufacturers.
Yet Galvin is one of five people now hoping to fill the District 8 seat now held by Jeff Danner, who is term-limited. Galvin joins Amy Foster, a program manager for a Seattle-based nonprofit, Alex Duensing, a consultant, William Hurley, an Army veteran who is currently a student, and Robert Davis in the Aug. 27 primary race....
05/21/13 Local Government
Pinellas County commissioners voted on Tuesday to make the East Lake Community Library self-funding, ending a years-long situation in which residents paid more in library taxes than their library got back.
Under the new ordinance, the library will be funded by a local taxing district, using the boundaries of the East Lake Tarpon Special Fire Control District. Instead of paying the nearly half mill countywide library tax, residents within that district will see their taxes fall to a quarter mill, or 25 cents for every $1,000 of assessed, nonexempt property value....
05/20/13 Local Government
Clearwater's Marine Museum won big. As did the Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg.
Each of them secured about a million dollars in state funding in next year's budget and dodged the threat of Gov. Rick Scott's veto pen. On Monday, the governor's office released a list of the projects that were less fortunate.
Rep. Darryl Rouson, whose district includes much of South St. Petersburg, had earmarked $78,750 for renovations to the Fannye Ponder House, a historic site that serves as the home of the National Council of Negro Women's St. Petersburg chapter. An architect had looked at the property, Rouson said, and estimated how much it would cost to bring it up to code....
INDIAN ROCKS BEACH — Nick Rees and his older brother Gordon were getting ready to pay their bar tab and leave on Sunday night when a man barreled into the Red Lion Pub and started stabbing a bartender.
The Rees brothers and Michael Arnold, 26, jumped in. Gordon wrestled the man to the ground and separated him from his fillet knife, but not before being punched in the face. Nick Rees wound up with a gash on his left forearm, Arnold's hand was cut, and the bartender, Rebecca Schaefer, 32, was hospitalized with multiple stab wounds that officials said were not life-threatening....
Only in St. Petersburg
Theatrics are common when controversial votes go before the City Council. And Thursday was no different.
Council members and the public heard one resident quote Shakespeare and the late U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy while pointing his finger at officials. Then Frankenstein arrived.
Resident Howard Taylor played a PowerPoint presentation showing creepy pictures to mock the council members and the proposed Lens. A few officials cracked smiles; the public laughed and clapped at the skit. ...
05/17/13 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Ringed by reporters outside a courtroom in early May, H. Patrick Wheeler left little doubt that if he lost a lawsuit he brought against four Pinellas County commissioners, he would appeal. He was almost sure it wouldn't come to that.
But a day after a circuit judge sided with the commissioners, ruling that they are not bound by the term limits that voters approved in 1996, Wheeler and his two fellow plaintiffs sounded considerably less certain. In a letter the plaintiffs' attorney, John Shahan, sent to reporters on Friday afternoon, the group put out a public call for financial aid: ...
After getting plenty of phone calls and emails this morning from people looking for the Pinellas term limits ruling, I thought I'd put it online.
Here's a link to the pdf.
And a link to my story in today's paper about the judge's order....
05/16/13 Local Government
Pinellas County commissioners are not bound by term limits approved by voters more than a decade ago, a Circuit Court judge ruled Thursday.
The ruling represents a major victory for the four commissioners named in a lawsuit that sought to remove them from office. All four — Susan Latvala, John Morroni, Karen Seel, and Ken Welch — have been on the commission for more than 12 years, winning re-election multiple times and cementing themselves as institutions in the districts they represent....
Long before President Barack Obama told Americans they had the right to be angry over the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups, those groups in the Tampa Bay area already were.
Karen Jaroch, who co-founded the Tampa chapter of Glenn Beck's 9-12 group, remembers the hoops her group had to jump through when it applied to become tax-exempt in 2010. First came the standard 17-page application and the $850 filing fee, she said, but months later she got a letter from the IRS demanding detailed information about the group's activities. The agency wanted copies of the 9-12 group's educational literature, a breakdown of how members would spend their time and the names of political candidates the group would support....
To hear the Pinellas delegation tell it, the list of their accomplishments from the 2013 legislative session is long, but they'd prefer to be remembered for what they didn't do: expand Medicaid to cover a million uninsured Floridians.
At a meeting of the Pinellas GOP last night, members of the state Senate and House said they came under intense pressure, including targeted radio and TV ads, to accept the $51 billion the federal government offered the state to expand health insurance coverage. (They did, however, manage to keep their own healthcare costs down, as the Times reported today.) And in glowing terms, they described how each of them said "no," even though the governor and Republicans in the Senate were pushing for a different answer....
05/14/13 Local Government
The Pinellas County Sheriff's Office is planning to give employees a roughly 3 percent raise next year, the first wage increase for the agency's staff in at least five years.
The starting salary for a sheriff's deputy has held steady for years at $41,000, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said, but that low entry wage is beginning to hurt the agency. Hit with an unusually high attrition rate this year, the agency is struggling to fill positions and is discovering that some of the most desirable applicants are being lured away by higher-paying law enforcement agencies....
In redesigning the bus system, Pinellas County transit officials are hoping to attract thousands more riders, including tourists and commuters. They're also eyeing another target group: high school students.
"All over the world, students ride public transportation to school. Why can't they do it in Florida?" Pinellas County Commissioner Susan Latvala asked recently. "It just makes sense."...
05/12/13 Human Interest
The last time Nicole Nugent brought her daughter Ireland to church, the 2-year-old ran down the hallway, playing a game with the pastor.
On Sunday, the family's first time back to church since Ireland lost her legs in a lawn mower accident, the toddler stuck close to her mother's lap.
"It's a different homecoming," Nugent said. "But one that brings us peace to know that we're back and she still is Ireland and still is that happy little girl, just not running yet, but will be."...