12/06/13 Human Interest
SEMINOLE — When Aaron and Jonie Greenwood, a couple from southern Illinois, bought a house overlooking Boca Ciega Bay last July, they moved in and decorated it like a vacation getaway. In the hallway, they hung a sign: "Life is great at the beach."
It was their aspirational home — a two-story house in tropical suburbia, in the right school district, with a pool and a porch. But the ultimate selling point was its location at the end of a brief canal that emptied into the bay, the fulfillment of a longtime wish to live on the water....
12/06/13 Local Government
Meeting generates big talk in tiny Tarpon
After Gov. Rick Scott's schedule went out by email Wednesday, Tarpon Springs Mayor David Archie's phone blew up with calls.
Archie's name was right there on the governor's schedule after an event at All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg.
For reporters who see the governor's schedule every day, the so-called meet and greet with the mayor of bitty Tarpon Springs was unusual enough to make one wonder: Is the governor vetting Archie as a possible lieutenant governor?...
12/04/13 Local Government
Jokes about Floridians exiting their air-conditioned homes only to enter their air-conditioned cars may be on their way out.
A study released Wednesday by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group found that people living in Florida's most populous areas are driving less, mirroring a national trend among urbanites. And in places like Sarasota, Miami and the Tampa Bay area, people are relying more on public transportation, such as buses and rail, to ferry them around....
12/03/13 Local Government
More money to house the homeless, a solution to ballooning flood insurance costs, and changes to the Penny for Pinellas tax — all made Pinellas County's legislative wish list for 2014.
More than 20 items long, the list is largely a repeat from years past with recycled requests for more money and more flexibility that often go unanswered. But at a meeting Tuesday of county commissioners and local state legislators, the latter offered details on bills they plan to propose this spring to address some of the county's most pressing needs....
11/30/13 Local Government
As they travel around Pinellas County talking about their plans to vastly expand the mass transit system, transportation officials often get the same question. What if the federal government doesn't come through with funding for light rail?
To answer that what-if scenario and many others like it, county transit officials commissioned a study by Ernst & Young and a Kansas City. Mo., engineering company called HNTB. For $270,000, the consultants examined the financial assumptions undergirding the county's plans, which depend on voters approving a 1-cent increase to the sales tax in 2014. ...
11/20/13 Local Government
Dissatisfied with the ballot language their own attorneys proposed, Pinellas County commissioners voted on Tuesday to use the wording written by the county's transit authority.
The language will not be finalized until Dec. 10, when the commission votes to put the referendum on the ballot in 2014. But at its meeting on Tuesday, the commission took a step toward selecting which of the several versions of the language will appear before voters....
11/19/13 Local Government
Voters asked next November whether to approve a sales tax increase to pay for expanded bus and rail service are likely to see a ballot that doesn't mention the referendum's two most debated words: "light rail."
Instead, language proposed by the Pinellas County attorney, as well as wording suggested by the transit authority, refer to a "passenger rail service" — a broader term that could include light rail. The idea, according to lawyers for the county and the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority, was not to dodge the politics surrounding the term light rail, but to keep all options open....
LARGO — After they ransacked the house, opened every cupboard and cut apart the sofa, after they shot a man, the men in masks found the closet in which Tamika Mack was hiding.
The 24-year-old begged for her life. She told the intruders she had two young sons to look after. Unmoved, one of them shot her in the head that Easter morning of 2012.
The trial of one of the men accused of killing Mack, 24-year-old John Curry IV, began Tuesday with this version of events from prosecutors, who said Curry was one of two or three men involved in Mack's death. Citing a videotaped confession, they said Curry had admitted to breaking into the house on 11th Avenue S in search of drugs and cash. Though they stopped short of accusing him of firing the single shot that killed Mack, they said Curry heard her pleading and did nothing to intervene....
A poll conducted yesterday evening, hours after Republican State Rep. Kathleen Peters filed to run for Congress, found that she will face an uphill battle to win the District 13 seat, but there’s still room for her numbers to grow.
That's because when St. Pete Polls surveyed nearly 600 registered Republicans, asking them whether they would vote in the Republican primary for David Jolly, Peters, or someone else, nearly a third responded "someone else."...
11/18/13 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — With debate over the city's police headquarters about to enter its fourth year, city officials said Monday they plan to present the council with three construction options early next year.
The scenarios include two that are similar to proposals the council has already debated, as well as a third that falls in the middle, both in terms of cost and the facility's scale. In each case, the new headquarters would go on the north side of First Avenue N, across the street from the existing police station. But what would happen to the current station differs in each of the plans....
11/17/13 Local Government
Michael Raposa remembers the day state investigators showed up in his office and warned him that someone was using the identities of homeless people in his shelter to commit tax fraud.
The investigators wouldn't give him an exact victim count, or say how the names and Social Security numbers had leaked. They told him that, in one case, a homeless person had been paid to hand over his information....
Republican State Rep. Kathleen Peters said she will announce her decision on whether to run for the late U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young’s seat sometime on Monday. The deadline to enter the District 13 race is Tuesday.
Peters, the former mayor of South Pasadena, has so far refused to say whether her interest in running is anything more serious than a thought experiment. But some in Pinellas who don’t like the idea of Young’s former aide, David Jolly, being the only Republican choice, have already backed her undeclared candidacy. Safety Harbor Mayor Joe Ayoub told the Times earlier this week that he believed Peters would get into the race....
Recently-announced District 22 State Senate candidate Judithanne McLauchlan addressed a roomful of Democrats last night in Pinellas Park, where she explained why she's signed up for what will likely be one of the most expensive and competitive local races of 2014.
"For me, it's not about Jeff Brandes, but it's about our families, it's about our communities and it's really about the future of Florida," she told the Greater Pinellas Democratic Club....
Minding p's and q's
At almost every meeting of the Pinellas County Commission there's a public comment period and at almost every meeting the same three or four people show up and berate their elected officials. This has probably been going on for generations, and most of the commission is immune to it, but apparently Commissioner Janet Long has had enough.
"The same three people come up here," Long said at the end of Tuesday's meeting. "One of them is always talking about a School Board issue."...
New to politics, Amy Foster, 36, entered St. Petersburg's District 8 City Council race as one of four candidates and emerged the winner on Tuesday. She won with 67 percent of the vote and the endorsements of major unions, elected officials and newspapers. She talked with the Times Friday about the race and her coming four-year term.
What's the first thing you want to get done on the council?...