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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. Hillsborough commissioners pass on raising toxin levels in industrial wastewater for now


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners delayed a vote Thursday that would have raised the acceptable levels of lead and other toxins in wastewater from manufacturing plants and hospitals.

    And now one commissioner, Pat Kemp, wants to prevent the levels from increasing, citing environmental concerns.

    “There is nobody asking to exceed the current standards so why can’t we keep them at the most stringent?” Kemp said after the meeting....

  2. Hillsborough may increase allowable levels of lead, other chemicals in industrial wastewater


    TAMPA — Industrial plants, hospitals and manufacturing facilities will be able to increase the amount of toxins they expel into Hillsborough County’s wastewater system under new rules commissioners will consider Thursday.

    The proposal would increase the daily allowable levels of nine substances in industrial wastewater. The allowable levels of lead would triple from 0.15 milligrams per liter to 0.45 milligrams per liter and arsenic levels would more than double. Acceptable levels for one substance, silver, would decrease....

  3. Tampa Theatre asks Hillsborough for $325,000 to replace outdated seats

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County taxpayers are likely to help the Tampa Theatre buy new seats for its 90-year-old building.

    The theatre, which is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, has applied for a $325,000 grant from the county that would go toward replacing the existing seats with more comfortable chairs.

    County commissioners will decide whether to approve the grant at their Thursday meeting. The vote is scheduled for the consent agenda, a point during the meeting when commissioners typically approve dozens of items in one unanimous vote and almost always without any debate....

    An artists' rendering of new chairs and carpeting planned for historic Tampa Theatre.
  4. Hillsborough Commissioner Stacy White to attend Trump's inauguration in Washington


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White will be among the tens of thousands of people traveling to Washington, D.C. for the inauguration of Donald Trump next week.

    White, an east Hillsborough Republican, and his family decided to attend the Jan. 20 ceremony soon after Trump’s election night victory in November.

    He said it was a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for himself, his wife and three children, two girls ages 17, 14 and a 12-year-old boy....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White will attend next week's inauguration in Washington, D.C.
  5. Hillsborough commissioners wash hands of School Board's bus cuts


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County sent a message Tuesday to parents concerned about the school district's decision to end some busing services in August:

    We had nothing to do with this, and there's not much we can do to fix it.

    The Hillsborough County School Board voted in December to end so-called "courtesy busing," meaning free bus service for middle and high school students who live within 2 miles of their school....

    As a cost-saving measure, the Hillsborough County School District is stopping bus runs for students living within 2 miles of their schools. [SKIP O’ROURKE  |   Times (2015)]
  6. New rules for medical marijuana dispensaries move forward in Hillsborough County


    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners on Tuesday narrowly rejected a call to delay the opening of new medical marijuana dispensaries until October.

    Instead, commissioners set a schedule that would put them on track to approve new regulations for such facilities by April, when the county's six-month moratorium on new medical marijuana establishments is set to expire.

    Several commissioners insisted the county board should extend the moratorium until after the 2017 legislative session ends to see how state lawmakers address the expansion of medical marijuana that Florida voters approved in a November referendum. It’s possible whatever happens in Tallahasse could undo any rules Hillsborough passes regarding where medical marijuana dispensaries can operate....

    Hillsborough County commissioners set a schedule to vote on new rules for medical marijuana dispensaries, despite calls by some commissioners to extend a moratorium until after the legislative session.
  7. Two tales of dedication from Clemson and Alabama fans

    Human Interest

    Clemson and Alabama return to college football's summit Monday night in a rematch of last year's national championship game. And many of the fans who watched the teams battle in Arizona are making the trip to Tampa for round two.

    The Tampa Bay Times spoke with two of these "super fans'' this week. Here are their stories:

    • • •

    Carrie Walden Thompson, a lifelong Clemson Tigers football fan, didn't miss last year's College Football Playoff National Championship game — at least not in the photos....

    Fan Central will be open from 3 to 8 p.m. today and noon to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Tampa Convention Center.
  8. Yellow Dot program could help Hillsborough residents pass along life-saving information


    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County may soon provide a new way for residents to relay important information to first responders during an emergency.

    County commissioners voted Thursday to explore joining the “Yellow Dot” program, an initiative that allows drivers to alert first responders that their glove compartment holds a card with their emergency contacts or pertinent medical information by placing a yellow sticker on their rear windshield....

  9. View-Masters, flash drives and 3-D glasses: All helped Tampa land the college football title game

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Before Tampa could win the bidding war to host this year's College Football Playoff National Championship, the city had to lose one first.

    In 2013, the heavy favorite to host the inaugural playoff championship was Arlington, Texas, where Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones had recently opened a football mecca that could hold more than 100,000 fans.

    The choice was such a foregone conclusion that no other city bothered to make a serious run at the game — except Tampa....

    In November, Bill Hancock, executive director of the College Football Playoff, announced details of a three-day concert series at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park that begins Friday and ends Jan. 8 with a performance by Usher.
  10. Ethics probe in Go Hillsborough complaint still open after a year


    TAMPA — More than a year after the Florida Commission on Ethics agreed to investigate several complaints filed against three local elected officials, the cases remain unresolved.

    Several citizens accused Hillsborough County commissioners Sandy Murman and Ken Hagan and Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn of steering a $1.3 million Go Hillsborough contract to the client of a politically connected public relations consultant....

    Bob Buckhorn
  11. Airbnb nears tax deal with Hillsborough County as college football championship nears


    TAMPA — After a yearlong impasse, the Hillsborough County Tax Collector's office and Airbnb are nearing an agreement that would require the peer-to-peer rental company to collect taxes on each night booked through its online portal.

    A deal could be reached before Tampa hosts the College Football Playoff National Championship on Jan. 9, expected to be one of the busiest tourism weekends in Tampa Bay area history....

    Hillsborough County tax collector Doug Belden is a 1972 graduate of Tampa Catholic.  (Yearbook photo courtesy of Tampa Catholic)
  12. Hillsborough commissioners advance plan to ban texting with lobbyists during meetings


    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County Commissioners took a step Wednesday to ban texting with lobbyists during meetings, a move that would echo similar reforms coming to Tallahassee.

    In a 5-1 vote, commissioners asked county staff to draft an ordinance that would prohibit electronic communications with registered lobbyists during county board meetings or other committee meetings where there’s a quorum. If a lobbyist or commissioner violated the policy, the communication would have to be disclosed immediately....

  13. Hillsborough program would provide new way to finance energy-efficiency upgrades


    TAMPA — Hillsborough County is close to creating a new way for property owners to pay for upgrades to make their homes or businesses more energy-efficient or hurricane-resistant.

    The County Commission recently signaled that it wants to start a Property Assessed Clean Energy, or PACE, program that allows certain environmentally friendly improvements to be financed through a home or business property tax bill. ...

  14. No one wants to sit on the Hillsborough Public Transportation Commission


    TAMPA — Apparently, nobody wants to serve on the embattled government agency that oversees taxi cabs and ridesharing companies in Hillsborough County.

    County commissioners met Tuesday to organize for 2017 and dole out assignments to various boards and committees. Commissioner Victor Crist begged to be taken off the Public Transportation Committee, where he just spent as chairman during the acrimonious and litigious Uber/Lyft debate....

    Times Uber driver Jonathan Torres speaks outside Hillsborough County Center in opposition to the creation of new regulations governing the rideshare service. Uber drivers and others rallied before a vote scheduled Wednesday by the Public Transportation Commission.
  15. Transportation looms large as Hillsborough commissioners sworn in


    TAMPA -- If you thought transportation was going away as Hillsborough County’s top issue, think again.

    Recently elected county commissioners were sworn in Tuesday during an investiture ceremony. As the new board was seated, each commissioner highlighted their agenda for the coming year, and there was a persistent nod to the continuing need to address the county’s gridlock and crumbling roads....