Cristina Silva, Times Staff Writer

Cristina Silva

Cristina Silva covers politics and government in St. Petersburg. She grew up in Miami and is fluent in Spanish and English. She is always looking for story ideas.

Phone: (727) 893-8846

E-mail: csilva@tampabay.com

  1. Smith Center for performing arts brings culture out of Las Vegas Strip's shadow

    Visual Arts

    LAS VEGAS — It's a desert oasis that hangs its priciest paintings on casino walls, where neon signs are a point of a pride. Still, Las Vegas' cultural offerings have long taken a back seat to the glamor and crudity of its most notorious vices. People come here to party, the stereotype goes, not broaden their artistic horizons.

    Now a new $470 million arts complex is daring to challenge that. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, a gleaming art deco-inspired jewel in a downtown redevelopment zone, hopes to reintroduce Las Vegas as a cultural destination in its own right. ...

  2. Florida gubernatorial candidates support E-Verify system to solve immigration issues

    Business

    Regardless of who voters name as the state's next chief executive, Florida's latest strategy for countering illegal immigration will likely play out not along its borders, but in its boardrooms.

    Florida's four leading gubernatorial candidates want businesses to use E-Verify, a federal online employee verification database, to weed out unauthorized workers.

    This would be a dramatic change for some of the state's largest industries and its sprawling immigrant communities....

  3. NOW endorses Kendrick Meek in Senate race

    Blog

    The National Organization for Women's political action committee endorsed Kendrick Meek in the Florida Senate race Thursday.

    "Mr. Meek has been a real friend to women's rights in the House of Representatives," said Terry O'Neill, NOW's president, in a conference call with reporters.

    Meek said his rivals in the race, who are all men, did not have "stellar records" on women's issues."My track record is solid and I look forward to working with NOW in years to come in the United States Senate," Meek said. ...

  4. Bill McCollum unveils illegal immigration proposal

    Civil

    Florida Attorney General and Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum unveiled a sweeping immigration bill Wednesday that in some ways goes further than Arizona's controversial law to apprehend undocumented workers and residents.

    The move could propel Florida to the forefront of a national debate over border security.

    "Arizona is going to want this law," McCollum said. "We're better, we're stronger, we're tougher and we're fairer."...

  5. Bill McCollum says gays shouldn't serve as foster parents

    Blog

    Republican gubernatorial contender Bill McCollum reiterated his opposition to gay foster parents Wednesday, after a Florida Baptist publication quoted his controversial views on gay parents. ...

  6. Bill McCollum and Republicans unveil Arizona-style immigration law

    Blog

    Attorney General Bill McCollum unveiled a proposed bill Wednesday that would require police officers to verify a suspect's immigration status during all lawful stops, detentions and arrests when reasonable suspicion exists.

    "Arizona is going to want this law," said McCollum. "We're better, we’re stronger, we’re tougher and we’re fairer."

    The law differs from the Arizona law in that it would allow judges to consider immigration status when setting bail. Illegal immigrants would also face stiffer criminal sentences than legal residents who committed the same crime.  Unlike the Arizona law, citizens would not be able to sue law enforcement agencies for not enforcing the law. Instead, that watchdog role would fall to the state attorney general. ...

  7. Marco Rubio shrugs at debate over 14th Amendment and babies of illegal immigrants

    National

    TAMPA — A Republican-led charge to block children of illegal immigrants from birthright citizenship has become a distraction, said Marco Rubio, the Republican front-runner in Florida's U.S. Senate race.

    "The fundamental issue we need to focus on is border security. These other things are really not at this moment pressing issues," said Rubio, when asked about calls to revise the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution....

    Mark Dillon, left, president of Tampa Bay Steel, shows products to Marco Rubio, who talked about the economy on Tuesday.
  8. Cloudy times for Florida's solar energy future

    Energy

    In a remote field awash with 90,000 solar panels, President Barack Obama praised the launch last year of the country's largest solar plant in secluded Arcadia as a watershed moment for Florida's emerging green economy.

    Roughly 10 months later, Florida's time in the sun has darkened, with a smattering of renewable energy programs in place and other projects stalled.

    Meanwhile, other states are busy promoting renewable energy policies aimed at reducing dirty fuel consumption and stimulating nascent solar manufacturers....

    Richard McNeil was promised a $500 rebate from the state’s stalled solar rebate program for the solar heater he installed on his Trinity home. He has been on the waiting list since October 2009.
  9. Crist no longer for McCollum

    Blog

    Charlie Crist says he won't endorse in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

    But back when Bill McCollum was the only major candidate in the race and Crist was still running as a Republican, Crist gave $500 to the McCollum campaign. Carole Crist, his wife, also gave $500 to McCollum in August 2009. ...

  10. Crist won't endorse a GOP governor candidate in primary

    Blog

    Florida's former top Republican said he won't pick a favorite in the Republican gubernatorial primary. "I am not going to endorse in that race," said Charlie Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent. "I have my hands full with my race."

    What about Democrat Alex Sink? "I will have a favorite by Nov. 2," said Crist. Asked if he would share that name with voters, he said, "I doubt it."...

  11. Florida Democrats focus on Bill McCollum's ADA votes

    Blog

    Gubernatorial hopeful Bill McCollum has been in politics for much of his adult life, charting a wide map of potential minefields for his enemies to use against him.

    The Florida Democratic Party, no stranger to partisan warfare, took such aim in a July 26, 2010, press release, using the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act to remind voters of McCollum's initial concerns about the sweeping civil rights legislation:  "He urged then-President George H.W. Bush to reconsider his support of the ADA ... McCollum also voted for numerous amendments to weaken the legislation, even voting to make trains less accessible to those in wheelchairs. McCollum then voted for final passage of the ADA, saying 'politically, it's a very tough vote.'"

    In fact, congressional records show McCollum voted for several amendments to the bill....

  12. Florida owes $52.7 million in unpaid solar energy rebates

    Energy

    LARGO — The state owes Floridians $52.7 million in unpaid solar energy rebates and has no immediate plan to honor its financial promise.

    More than 15,800 people await the rebates, which were dangled before homeowners and businesses to encourage greater investment in solar energy technologies such as solar-power water heaters and electric systems.

    The state's new fiscal year, which started in July, marks the second consecutive year that the Florida Legislature has refused to fund the popular program....

  13. Nelson blasts BP over 'toxic brew' of oil and dispersants in gulf

    Energy

    TAMPA — U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called for a federal investigation Monday of BP's use of chemicals to break down oil as it spread across the Gulf of Mexico.

    He called it a "toxic brew" that might result in greater environmental troubles than if the oil had been allowed to sit on the surface until it was collected.

    The Democratic senator also introduced a bill to require companies to disclose chemicals used in future oil spill cleanups....

  14. The women behind the men who would be Florida's senator

    National

    Florida's Senate race is about four men elbowing each other in a fierce bid to join the most powerful legislative branch in the United States.

    But behind the candidates' nasty accusations are four spouses with mirror ambitions. They are their husbands' ultimate political accessories, the lapel flag in human form: slim legs, coiffed hair, dazzling smiles, a walking thesaurus of their spouses' winning attributes. ...

    Mei Greene
  15. Son of former Gov. LeRoy Collins struck, killed on bike in Tampa

    Accidents

    TAMPA — LeRoy "Roy" Collins Jr., a retired two-star admiral, successful businessman, champion for veterans and son of one of Florida's best-known governors, died Thursday when a sport utility vehicle struck his bicycle. He was 75.

    Hours after Mr. Collins' death, ruled an accident, Gov. Charlie Crist interrupted a Cabinet meeting to announce the news and observe a moment of silence. ...

    In 2006, LeRoy “Roy’’ Collins Jr. entered the Republican primary for U.S. Senate an hour and a half before the qualifying deadline.