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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

Email: scontorno@tampabay.com

The Contorno file: PolitiFact.com

Twitter: @scontorno

  1. USF kills plans for 'body farm' in Lithia


    TAMPA — A day after strong opposition emerged, the University of South Florida on Friday canceled plans to build an outdoor research facility in Lithia for studying dead bodies.

    Residents of the rural community spoke against the so-called body farm at a packed town hall meeting on Thursday, expressing concerns about the smell and the impact on property values.

    The proposed site was a two-acre spot on the 230-acre Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office training facility in southeast Hills­borough. There, cadavers would be left outside in a fenced-in, open-air facility to naturally rot. About 40 people have already expressed interest in donating their bodies to the program after their deaths....

  2. Residents have say about proposed USF 'body farm'

    Local Government

    LITHIA — About 150 residents packed Pinecrest Elementary School cafeteria on Thursday, many to voice dissent with the University of South Florida's proposed outdoor research facility for studying the effects of the elements on corpses.

    What was intended to be an informational meeting to explain the project turned into an hour of public comments criticizing the so-called "body farm," though some supporters spoke up as well....

  3. Opposition emerges to proposed 'body farm' in Lithia

    Public Safety

    TAMPA — The University of South Florida began its push Wednesday to win over public support for the so-called "body farm" it hopes to build in Lithia to study the effects of the outdoors on cadavers.

    But in a sign of the battle ahead, the Hillsborough County commissioner who represents that community criticized the project and said the farm belongs on university property instead.

    The proposed site is a 2-acre section on the 230-acre Hillsborough County sheriff's training facility in sparsely populated south county. There, USF wants to build an open-air facility where bodies can naturally decay so law enforcement agencies and researchers can better understand how Florida's unique climate affects decomposition....

    USF’s Erin Kimmerle says the research could be used to find missing persons, solve cold cases and identify unclaimed bodies.
  4. Lyft argues it's not a taxi service in appeal of citation


    TAMPA — Ride-sharing company Lyft argued Monday that it's not a taxi service and accused Hillsborough County of violating the law when it penalized the mobile app maker for operating here.

    The latest salvo in the ongoing battle between the county and so-called transportation networking services came during Lyft's appeal hearing for a citation it received in December. The ticket was issued after a Public Transportation Commission sting operation caught a driver picking up passengers using the company's mobile application....

  5. Business interests influencing Hillsborough environmental chief search, conservation groups say


    TAMPA — Prominent environmentalists in Tampa Bay are unhappy with how Hillsborough County is trying to replace the longtime executive director of the Environmental Protection Commission.

    The 13-member panel charged with recommending a new leader to the Hillsborough County Commission has three people representing business interests, including a local oil executive and an attorney for developers, but just one designated appointee from the environmental community....

  6. Gyrocopter flight raises profile on campaign finance reform, but for how long?


    Can one man with a message and a gyrocopter move a nation?

    After Ruskin mail carrier Doug Hughes landed with his flying machine on the U.S. Capitol lawn Wednesday, there were immediate security questions, as well as general curiosity as to how he accomplished the feat.

    But did he actually bring national attention to campaign finance reform, as he set out to do?

    In the short term, the answer appears to be yes....

    A bomb squad technician walks past the gyrocopter that Doug Hughes of Ruskin landed on the lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, April 14, 2015. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  7. Stormwater fee to go up in Hillsborough, but unclear by how much


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County is likely headed for its first stormwater fee increase in more than two decades. How much the rate goes up, though, is still up for debate.

    There was general agreement during Wednesday's County Commission meeting that additional funds are needed to fix and replace the county's aging pipes. Commissioner Kevin Beckner said he lost his home 12 years ago to flooding in part because of an old stormwater culvert....

  8. Kemp to make another run for Hillsborough commission seat


    An open Hillsborough County Commission seat has attracted a second Democrat, setting up an intraparty showdown for 2016.

    Patricia Kemp, former chair of the Hillsborough County Democratic Party, filed paperwork on Friday to run for District 6 commissioner. Kemp, 58, is looking to replace Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who has reached his term limit and can't run again.

    Local transit activist Brian Willis, 31, announced his candidacy last week....

  9. Hillsborough commission eyes stormwater fee increase

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Stormwater fees have not increased in Hillsborough County since they were put in place in 1991.

    That could soon change.

    On Wednesday, county commissioners will look at two plans that would raise the fees for the first time in 24 years — one of them to double the current rates and another that would triple them.

    If adopted, the fee on a single-family home would increase from $12 a year to $24 or $36. Other residences, such as mobile homes, apartments and condos, would go from $6 per unit to $12 or $18....

  10. Transit activist files for District 6 Hillsborough commission seat


    TAMPA — Brian Willis, an attorney and local transit activist, filed Monday to run for the Hillsborough County Commission's District 6 seat in 2016.

    Willis, a Democrat, will vie for the seat being vacated by Commissioner Kevin Beckner, who will reach his term limit.

    The 31-year-old Tampa resident is the co-founder of Connect Tampa Bay, a group that advocates for improved transportation options throughout the region. He also serves as vice chair of the citizens advisory committee for Hillsborough's Metropolitan Planning Organization....

  11. Driving scofflaws offered one-day deal

    Local Government

    TAMPA — Speeders and red light violators with delinquent tickets from Hillsborough County will have a designated day to pay them off and avoid late charges.

    The Hillsborough County Clerk of the Courts will waive surcharges on any outstanding parking tickets or criminal fines and fees paid on April 18. The one-time amnesty is part of a statewide program called Operation Green Light aimed at boosting collections while helping constituents in tough times, said Doug Bakke, Chief Deputy at Clerk of the Circuit Court. ...

  12. Erased: How the biggest baseball win in a small Florida town's history never happened


    When Chicago's Jackie Robinson West Little League team was forced to forfeit the 2014 U.S. Championship for using ineligible players, people of a certain age couldn't help but think of the story of Danny Almonte.

    Almonte looked like a man among boys in the 2001 Little League World Series, captivating the country and pitching the Series' first perfect game in 44 years.

    It turned out Almonte was a man among boys. At 14, he was two years over the Little League age limit. His father and coach faked a Dominican birth certificate that said Almonte was 12....

    Apopka players engulf Brandon Brewer after his three-run homer in the U.S. title game of the 2001 Little League World Series. Apopka won the game but lost to Japan in the world final.
  13. PolitiFact: Is Ted Cruz, born in Canada, eligible to run for president? (w/video)


    For most of his presidential campaign and much of his presidency, President Barack Obama endured erroneous claims that he was born in Kenya rather than the United States. He released the short form of his birth certificate to prove he was born in Hawaii. Then the long form. The conspiracists quieted down but did not go away.

    Now, the first candidate to throw his hat in the ring for the 2016 presidential contest, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was born outside the United States, a fact he willingly offered. ...

    Sen. Ted Cruz announced his candidacy for president last week. He was born in Canada to an American mother.
  14. PolitiFact: The federal health care law, things that came true and things that didn't (w/video)

    State Roundup

    Predictions about the health care law were a dime a dozen back in 2010. Supporters contended that virtually everyone around the country would soon have access to affordable insurance. Opponents said the law would cost a fortune by adding to the national debt and killing jobs.

    Actually, none of those things have happened.

    As the Affordable Care Act makes its way to its fifth anniversary on Monday, the law has taken twists and turns, moving off course from where everyone thought it would be....

  15. PolitiFact: Fact-checking a defense of Hillary Clinton's private email use


    People defending Hillary Rodham Clinton on Sunday over revelations that she used a private email account as secretary of state offered a novel piece of evidence to bolster their argument.

    While the State Department has asked all previous secretaries to turn over their private emails, only Clinton has complied, they claimed. "The State Department asked all secretaries of state to send their emails over, and she's the only one who's done it," Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said on CBS' Face the Nation....

    Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton is under scrutiny for using a personal email account for official business while in office.