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Michael Van Sickler, Tampa Bay Times

Michael Van Sickler

Michael has been with the Tampa Bay Times since 2003. A Cleveland, Ohio, native, he graduated from Allegheny College in Meadville, Pa., and got his master's degree at the University of Florida. He has worked at the Ledger and the Palm Beach Post. For the Times, he has covered everything from mortgage fraud, growth and development in Tampa Bay, St. Petersburg City Hall and state government in Tallahassee. He's now assistant metro editor for the paper.

Phone: (727) 580-9650.

Email: mvansickler@tampabay.com

Twitter: @MikeVanSickler

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  1. News Service of Florida: After Pulse, Rick Scott expressed support for gay rights

    Blog

    From our friends at The News Service of Florida:

    In the days after 49 people were killed at a gay nightclub in Orlando, Gov. Rick Scott privately expressed some support for gay rights to the state's only openly gay state lawmaker, a Miami Beach House member told a gathering in Philadelphia on Wednesday.

    "We didn't talk about specific laws, but what he said to me privately and in the presence of his staff is that he's a grandfather and if any of his grandchildren happened to be gay he would want them to be treated with dignity and respect and have their rights," state Rep. David Richardson told the News Service after a panel discussion. "And he also told me that for anyone that might be critical of him and having these meetings, that he got elected to represent all 20 million Floridians."

    Richardson, a Democrat, said the Republican governor's office called him after the Pulse nightclub killings, seeking help reaching out to the gay community. Richardson said he responded, "I'm willing to help you but only if you can do this on my terms, and my terms are no press and no photo opportunities."

    "I didn't want to be used to facilitate him after he has not been responsive to our community," Richardson told audience members at Wednesday's event hosted by the Equality Forum at the National Museum of Jewish American History in conjunction with the Democratic National Convention.

    Richardson, who had recently returned from attending a vigil in Orlando, hopped in his car and made the trek northward, holding meetings with faith leaders and representatives of the LGBT community.

    "He respected all my wishes," Richardson said.

    Richardson said the meetings with Scott offered some leverage that he would use depending on what bills reach the governor's desk.

    "I will happily call him up and remind him what he told me in Orlando," said Richardson, who told the audience he was sharing the story as an example of "relationship-building."

    Richardson told the News Service he had no compunction about publicly sharing the meetings because the secrecy was on his terms.

    "I'm not violating any trust by telling a story," said Richardson, who said he doesn't talk about the meetings a lot because he's not a "cheerleader" for Scott.

    The meetings came after Richardson texted Scott's chief of staff, Kim McDougal, complaining about the lack of mention the gay community received in Scott's remarks right after the shooting, which occurred in the early hours of June 12.

    "He didn't say anything about the gay community, the LGBT community. I text her and I said, 'Would you tell him that he has to say the word gay?' " Richardson told the News Service. "He has to say the word gay because the gay community is taking note that he's not acknowledging the community."

    Wednesday's panel, which also included New York Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney, was moderated by Aisha Moodie-Mills, CEO of the Victory Fund, which aims to help elect members of the LGBT community in "low-equality states," including Florida.

    "Florida is absolutely one of those states," Moodie-Mills told the News Service....

    Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, said that Rick Scott privately expressed to him support for gay rights after the Pulse nightclub killings.
  2. Charlie Crist surprised to learn he's in running for Clinton's VP

    Blog

    Like most political observers, former Florida governor Charlie Crist thought he had a good handle on who Hillary Clinton was considering for her VP, which she's expected to announce soon. 

    But then his phone started ringing from reporters about a tweet from CBC News Alerts claiming that he, Charlie Crist, candidate for U.S. Congress, was in fact on Clinton's short list.
    This guy for Clinton's VP? In a word: "No."
  3. On Trump's big night at RNC, Rubio expected to be at Tampa watch party

    Blog

    As the Republican National Convention coronates Donald Trump on Thursday night in Cleveland, the man many once considered the GOP's best bet for the job will be 1,100 miles away watching the event on TV in a Tampa bar.

    At least, that's what a flier for a Republican Party of Hillsborough watch party says will happen on the last night of the RNC.

    The "Unifying for America/Trump for President/Convention Watch Party" will have as a very special guest, WFLA 970-AM's Tedd Webb. The master of ceremonies will be retired Lt. Col. Steve Emerson of the U.S. Marine Corps. It starts at 6 p.m. at 81 Bay Brewing Co., 4465 W. Gandy Boulevard, Tampa. ...

    Rubio won't be this close to Trump on Thursday
  4. 538: Tampa Bay is a lot like 'Normal America'

    Blog

    Tampa Bay is often characterized as just another example of weird Florida. So it was interesting to see a completely different take on our region in Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight blog. ...

    Think Tampa Bay is weird? It's not.
  5. Toll roads surge in U.S. as rest of infrastructure declines

    Blog

    Notice how infrastructure spending has lagged in the U.S. compared to other countries?

    Or that the federal gas tax hasn't been raised since 1993?

    How about that the federal share of revenue paying for Florida's roads, once more than 50 percent, is now below 25 percent?...

  6. What the 8 years since the recession torpedoed Florida’s state budget tell us about Gov. Rick Scott’s priorities

    State Roundup

    Gov. Rick Scott vowed to make steep spending cuts upon taking office in 2011. With an assist from state lawmakers, he's done just that in the past six years.

    More than 13,000 state positions have been eliminated, which will save $152 million next year. The state has slashed more than $800 million in its mental health and elderly services. Florida Bright Futures dropped by a third, or $120 million....

  7. St. Pete Pier design wins top award for NYC architects

    Blog

    The architects for St. Pete's new pier picked up a prestigious design award this week.

    The New York Chapter of the American Institute of Architects gave Rogers Partners Architects + Urban Designers the Merit Award, which recognizes distinguished achievement in urban design....

  8. Think TBX is getting opposition? Check out what's happening outside Seattle

    Blog

    FDOT's $3.3 billion Tampa Bay Express plan (or is it $6 billion?) has drawn mounting criticism and protests for months for its proposed use of toll lanes....

  9. Post recession: "American Dream" takes a hit in Florida, among older millennials

    Blog

    How much has the housing market changed since the Great Recession?

    Quite a bit, according to an analysis by Mark Uh, a data scientist at the real estate blog Trulia.

    Of the 50 largest metro regions, Tampa had the fifth largest climb in the percentage of renters from 2006 to 2014. Here are the top 10:...

  10. As Kriseman pushes for bike share, Seattle offers up a cautionary tale

    Blog

    St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman has struggled to get City Council members to support his bike-share program. 

    They resisted the idea of using BP settlement money for the program last year. After raising a series of questions about the viability of the program last week, Council members decided to bring it up again next month....

  11. GE brings to light just how far Tampa Bay is slipping behind top tier cities

    Blog

    It's hard to imagine, but there was a time during the 00's that Tampa Bay leaders really believed suburban office parks would be the future.

    They planned to make Interstate 4 a "High Tech Corridor" lined with massive office parks, from Tampa to Orlando.

    "Economic developers and corridor promoters agree that the coming decade will be the critical time to position Florida's High-Tech Corridor as more high-tech companies nationwide seek out a home base," Florida Trend wrote in 2001. "While not yet on par with the big-league regions, central Florida's manufacturing and high-tech companies have gained real momentum. Says Guy Hagen, assistant director for economic development at USF: 'The (growth) curve is beginning to be visible.'"  ...

  12. New census data reveals economic picture for bay area after collapse of housing market

    Growth

    We're still making sense of how the Great Recession changed Tampa Bay.

    But make no mistake. This region will never be the same.

    Last month, the U.S. Census Bureau released data that provides one of the best glimpses yet of how the the 2008 housing crash transformed a nation.

    Since 2005, the bureau conducts an ongoing survey that samples about 3.5 million addresses per year.

    The American Community Survey collects data on a wide range of demographic, social, economic and housing characteristics over a 60-month period that are designed to produce critical information previously collected in the decennial (every 10 years) census. ...

    [STEVE MADDEN | Times]
  13. Peak-hour myopia: Why we're doomed by rush hour traffic

    Blog

    Larding up any Department of Transportation work plan are projects that cost millions, but do little to improve our quality of life. (Exhibit A: The $100 million + Bruce B. Downs expansion project -- all that money and it won't even ease congestion). ...

  14. Rick Scott appoints Green Bench owner and Bill Foster to St. Pete College board

    Blog

    Gov. Rick Scott on Friday appointed former St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster, who lost a re-election bid despite winning Scott's endorsement two years ago, and growler champion Nathan Stonecipher, the owner of Green Bench Brewing Co., to serve on the District Board of Trustees for St. Petersburg College....

    On the same team
  15. The New Yorker: As sea levels rise, disaster scenario unfolding in Miami Beach

    Blog

    If you thought The New Yorker's story about what would happen if an earthquake were to rattle the Northwest was unsettling (and it was), wait until you read this week's story about Miami Beach.

    In "The Siege of Miami", staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert writes about a problem that we know all too well: The daily high water mark has been rising almost an inch a year in the Miami area. To compensate, the city of Miami Beach has spent a hundred million dollars, with many more planned. Hal Wanless, the chairman of the University of Miami's geological-sciences department, dismissed the city's efforts, according to Kolbert....