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Steve Contorno, Times Staff Writer

Steve Contorno

Steve Contorno is a staff writer for the Tampa Bay Times covering Hillsborough County. He previously worked for PolitiFact in the Times Washington, D.C. bureau. Prior to joining the Times, he covered Congress and Virginia politics for the Washington Examiner as well as state and local governments in Wisconsin for the Green Bay Press-Gazette. A native of the Chicago suburbs, Steve graduated from the University of Illinois with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism and a minor in political science, and holds a master's degree in public affairs reporting from the University of Illinois-Springfield, where he covered the Illinois legislature for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Phone: (813) 226-3433


The Contorno file:

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. Jim Norman's campaign logo, colors appear Tampa Bay Lightning-themed


    Jim Norman is a Republican but his campaign literature is blue … and black and white.

    The Hillsborough County commission candidate’s mailers and pamphlets have a distinct Tampa Bay Lightning theme to them, almost making it seem as though Norman is the team’s candidate.

    He’s not, though. The team has not endorsed anyone at this point, a Lightning spokesman said....

    A campaign postcard sent from Republican Jim Norman.
  2. Greater Tampa Chamber kind of sort of weighs in on Hillsborough transportation plan


    TAMPA — The business community has weighed in on Hillsborough County's transportation funding debate — sort of.

    The Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce board of directors on Thursday released a statement regarding transportation that is vague in its wording and somewhat cryptic. But chamber president Bob Rohrlack said Friday the board's intent was to support putting a sales tax transportation referendum on the 2016 ballot....

    Community members attend a Go Hillsborough meeting in Town ’N Country on Monday. The meeting was one of the last in a series aimed at developing a countywide transportation plan to fix overcrowded roads and improve limited transit offerings. [Photo courtesy of Parsons Brinckerhoff]
  3. Tampa Chamber vague on support of Hillsborough transportation sales tax increase


    Tampa’s business community weighed in on Hillsborough County’s transportation funding debate — kind of.

    In a somewhat cryptic statement approved Thursday and released today, the Greater Tampa Chamber of Commerce board of directors said it would “support a referendum that includes measureable (sic) transportation outcomes, including mobility options and additional funding sources.” It also said that the board believes “transportation investment in the community requires additional funding sources to solve our transportation challenges.”...

    Traffic backup on eastbound Lutz-Lake Fern Road at Sunlake Boulevard.
  4. Once 'welcoming,' Hillsborough County now debates taking in Syrian refugees

    Local Government

    TAMPA — This summer the Hillsborough County Commission unanimously voted to designate the county as "welcoming" to refugees. Now that has become a contentious issue after the deadly terrorist attacks in Paris.

    Commissioner Stacy White said he now has reservations about Hillsborough joining "Welcoming Cities and Counties," a national program that helps localities improve outreach and helps refugees who relocate to the United States....

    Commissioner Stacy White wants the county to reconsider.
  5. Commissioner Beckner defends Hillsborough's 'Welcoming County' program amid Syrian refugee debate


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner reached out to concerned citizens Wednesday to clarify that the county has no say in whether Syrian refugees settle here, despite a recent resolution that designated Hillsborough a “Welcoming County.”

    After a handful of angry and concerned calls and emails in the wake of the Paris attacks, Beckner sent a letter to constituents explaining that the “Welcoming Cities and Counties” program Hillsborough joined this summer merely acknowledged that Hillsborough would be more inclusive and improve outreach toward refugees assigned to relocate here. It didn’t, however, mean Hillsborough was committed to taking on more refugees....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner sent a letter about the county's 'Welcoming County' program to citizens concerned about Syrian refugees
  6. Three reasons Victor Crist won't vote for the Hillsborough transportation sales tax referendum


    Yesterday, Bay Buzz laid out the case for why Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist might vote to put the half cent sales tax transformation referendum on the 2016 ballot. You can read that here.

    Today, here’s three reason why Crist, currently positioned as the tiebreaker on this, won’t vote for the referendum....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist is the swing vote likely to decide whether Hillsborough moves forward with a sales tax referendum for transportation
  7. What are carbon offsets and how might they help save more environmental lands in Hillsborough?


    A few months back, I spoke with Hillsborough County Administrator Mike Merrill about the county’s Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program. At the time, the program, known as ELAPP, was running out of money, even though voters in 2008 overwhelmingly approved $200 million in new borrowing to purchase and preserve more environmentally sensitive lands....

    The Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve, viewed from a canoe, was bought under the Environmental Lands Acquisition and Protection Program. The preserve offers bird watching and fishing.
  8. Three reasons Victor Crist will vote for the Hillsborough sales tax transportation referendum


    As we wrote over the weekend, Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist is the clear swing vote positioned to decide whether the county will move forward with a referendum to raise the sales tax by a half cent to fund 30 years of transportation projects. The vote to put the question on the ballot could come as soon as next month....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist is the swing vote likely to decide whether Hillsborough moves forward with a sales tax referendum for transportation
  9. Commissioner Victor Crist positioned as swing vote to decide Go Hillsborough debate

    Local Government

    TAMPA — The fate of Hillsborough County's ambitious transportation initiative appears to lie in the hands of one man: Commissioner Victor Crist.

    County commissioners will soon decide whether to ask voters for a half-cent sales tax increase that would raise $117 million a year for transportation projects. Six of seven commissioners have staked out positions.

    Commissioners Kevin Beckner, Ken Hagan and Les Miller back the sales tax referendum as the county's best option to improve roads, highways, bridges and transit. Commissioners Al Higginbotham, Sandy Murman and Stacy White oppose it in favor of other solutions that don't need voter approval but provide less flexibility and fewer dollars....

    Commissioner Victor D. Crist sits with his daughter, Sophia. He often cites his daughter’s future in transportation discussions.
  10. Republican challenger in Hillsborough County property appraiser race loaned his campaign $100,000


    Republican Todd Jones is apparently willing to spend quite a bit of his own money to unseat incumbent Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob Henriquez.

    Jones, a career real estate appraiser who announced his bid October 1, loaned his campaign $100,000 last month, according to campaign finance reports due Tuesday. Outside of the six-figure contribution to his own campaign, Jones raised $3,850....

  11. Four questions after yesterday's shocking Hillsborough County leadership vote


    Republicans hold a 5-2 majority on the Hillsborough County Commission but in a stunning turn Tuesday they decided to vote a Democrat, Les Miller, the new chairman. The decision came at the expense of Commissioner Sandy Murman, who lost her bid for a second term as chair, with two Republicans, Commissioners Victor Crist and Ken Hagan, voting for Miller over her....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner for district 3, Les Miller, Jr., is the new commission chairman.
  12. Murman spurned as GOP-controlled Hillsborough commission names Democrat Miller chairman

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman lost her bid Tuesday for a second term as the commission's leader. It was a surprise rebuke that came just days after she spoke out against a proposed sales tax increase to fund the county's transportation needs.

    Surprise was then followed by shock: The Republican-controlled board named Democratic Commissioner Les Miller the new chairman for the next year....

    After the vote, Les Miller, said he doesn’t “take this lightly.”
  13. Penny Vinik, wife of Lightning owner, donates to Kevin Beckner campaign


    Penny Vinik, wife of Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, donated $500 to Democrat Kevin Beckner in his clerk of the circuit court race against incumbent Democrat Pat Frank.

    The contribution was part of a $11,460 haul for Beckner, according to campaign finance records posted Tuesday. It was his strongest month of fundraising since July. Beckner has raised more than $140,000 to date....

    Lightning owners Penny and Jeff Vinik attend the Cattle Barons’ Ball in Tampa in April. The Viniks live in Boston, but they’re building a home in South Tampa.
  14. Les Miller, a Democrat, named head of GOP-dominated Hillsborough commission


    TAMPA -- In a surprise move Tuesday, the Hillsborough County commission named Democrat Les Miller its new leader for 2016.

    The commission, made up of five Republicans and two Democrats, voted to name Miller chairman, unseating outgoing chairwoman Commissioner Sandy Murman. 

    Murman was nominated for another year as chair but failed to get the four votes needed to secure a second term. Miller, who was nominated by Republican Commissioner Victor Crist, said he was stunned but honored to receive the accomodation. ...

  15. Ban on LGBT discrimination could go before Hillsborough voters in 2016

    Local Government

    TAMPA — It wasn't long ago that Hillsborough County banned gay pride parades.

    What a difference a couple of years make.

    The pride parade prohibition was lifted in 2013. A year later, the county commission moved unanimously to ban government discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Along the way, a historic U.S. Supreme Court decision opened the door for hundreds of Hillsborough same-sex couples to marry....

    Tampa Pride Parade participants march down Seventh Avenue in Ybor City on March 28. This year’s parade was the city’s first gay pride parade in 13 years.