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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

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  1. Transit at center of debate of Hillsborough County's transit-less transportation plan

    Transportation

    TAMPA — There is a relatively small amount of money, about $1 million, for transit projects in the 10-year, $812 million transportation plan that Hillsborough County commissioners discussed Wednesday.

    Yet transit dominated most of the two-hour conversation.

    There are two transit-related items in the spending package: $750,000 for a study of a proposed ferry connecting MacDill Air Force Base to south county and $350,000 for a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority pilot program for on-demand car service to and from bus stops....

    Commissioner Ken Hagan says a tax increase could help 
pay for transporta?tion needs.
  2. Pesticide meeting highlights ties between Forest Hills, Babe Zaharias Golf Course

    Environment

    TAMPA — The Tampa Sports Authority is still considering whether it will fumigate Babe Zaharias Golf Course with a controversial pesticide but it's running out of time and options.

    That's the message Forest Hills residents heard Tuesday night from sports authority leaders as they once again grapple with the same issues that sparked protest here over the use of the pesticide Curfew eight years ago....

    A meeting Tuesday night showed that some residents of Forest Hills aim to continue fighting  proposed use of the pesticide Curfew at the Babe Zaharias Golf Course while others trust course operators to do the right thing. [Times file, 2012]
  3. Jackson House supporters confused by Commissioner Crist's plan to save black landmark

    Human Interest

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Victor Crist warned recently that local officials need to step in — and fast — to save the historic Jackson Rooming House.

    Crist suggested the county should acquire the century-old Tampa landmark, which once housed black entertainers including Ray Charles and Ella Fitzgerald when they came to town, to salvage what it can of the aging building before it's too late....

    Victor Crist said the Jackson House property is near other county holdings.
  4. Hillsborough won't increase accepted lead levels in wastewater but arsenic limits remain undecided

    Water

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County won't allow industrial companies to dump more lead into its wastewater system after all.

    As for arsenic, that's still up for debate.

    County commissioners voted unanimously on Wednesday to keep at existing levels the allowable concentrations of toxic materials in wastewater from industrial facilities, backing away from a proposal to raise the threshold for nine chemicals, including lead....

  5. Hillsborough advances proposal to offer government employees more paid parental leave

    Blog

    TAMPA -- Hillsborough County took steps Wednesday to extend paid parental leave for government workers.

    Commissioners voted unanimously to have staff review how much paid time off other local governments and businesses offer for employees after they have or adopt a child. Under the county’s existing policy, new parents receive one week of paid leave but after must use vacation time or can take up to 12 weeks off without pay....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Sandy Murman has proposed providing more paid parental leave to county government workers. Commissioners voted unanimously to have the idea reviewed by county staff.
  6. Hillsborough Republican wants paid parental leave for county employees

    Health

    TAMPA — A Hillsborough County commissioner wants to follow the lead of Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn and offer paid parental leave for county employees, too.

    Commissioner Sandy Murman said providing the benefit to the county's government workers would help attract and retain talent while investing in local families.

    "If we're going to be the best place to live, work and play then we have to put our policies behind that statement," Murman said. "If we're doing all this economic development and marketing and attracting tourists coming here, we want to show our best side and show them our government is modern."...

    Hillsborough County will consider whether to offer paid parental leave to its employees at Wednesday's commission meeting. iStockphoto.com
  7. Controversial pesticide re-emerges to treat Tampa Sports Authority golf courses

    Agriculture

    TAMPA — When infestations from a parasitic roundworm ravaged two golf courses last year, the Tampa Sports Authority turned to a familiar but controversial cure.

    It's called Curfew, a soil treatment made by Dow AgroSciences.

    It was the first time the TSA had used the pesticide since 2008, when its deployment at the Babe Zaharias Golf Course generated public outcry and accusations the chemical made a nearby resident sick....

    Rogers Park Golf Course in Tampa, seen here on March 4, 2015, was treated in June for a nematode infestation with a product called Curfew, which has caused concerns locally in the past when it was used. OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times 

  8. Rep. Castor 'very frustrated' ferry to MacDill Air Force Base is taking so long

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — There would be no hard feelings if Hillsborough County decided to turn down federal money for a ferry connecting MacDill Air Force Base to south county and go it alone, U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor said.

    Still, Castor told the Tampa Bay Times she is "very frustrated" that county leaders are only now debating the best path forward to make the ferry a reality. Castor announced the $4.8 million Federal Transit Administration grant in 2014 and the project remains in limbo three years later....

    Passengers board the Cross Bay Ferry near the Tampa Convention Center on Monday, Nov. 14, 2016. Local leaders are considering adding a ferry line to connect MacDill Air Force Base to south Hillsborough County, but U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor is frustrated it's taking so long. JAMES BORCHUCK   |   Times

  9. After pressure from House speaker, Visit Tampa Bay turns over financial details

    Tourism

    TAMPA — After a lawsuit threat from House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Visit Tampa Bay released records Wednesday that showed the organization gave out $295,000 in bonuses last year, including $66,000 to its top executive.

    The disclosure was the first glimpse into financial information that Visit Tampa Bay has long insisted is private, even though the nonprofit organization's budget is largely paid for with Hillsborough County taxes....

    House Speaker Richard Corcoran
  10. Visit Tampa Bay turns over its operation details to House Republicans

    Blog

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County’s tourism marketing firm said Wednesday it has complied with demands from House Speaker Richard Corcoran to release detailed financial information on its operations, though the organization maintains it shouldn't have to.

    Hours before a 6 p.m. deadline, Visit Tampa Bay sent Tallahassee hundreds of pages of documents on its operations. The organization, a non-profit hired by the county to market the area to tourists, also made the information available to the Tampa Bay Times, the first time Visit Tampa Bay has publicly disclosed certain details about its operation....

    Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada sent hundreds of pages of details on its operations to House Republicans on Wednesday.
  11. Visit Tampa Bay will respond to Speaker Corcoran's demand for financial details by deadline

    Blog

    TAMPA — After coming under fire for not meeting House Speaker Richard Corcoran’s demands for financial disclosure, Visit Tampa Bay will provide the Republican leader … something.

    Patrick Harrison, chief marketing officer for Visit Tampa Bay, said the agency is planning to comply with a Wednesday deadline to turn over more details, but he wouldn’t say what that will entail....

    Visit Tampa Bay President and CEO Santiago Corrada will respond to a request from the House Republicans to turn over detailed financial information by a Wednesday deadline, a spokesman said.
  12. Hillsborough tax collector offers to take on regulating cabs, Uber for embattled agency

    Transportation

    TAMPA — The embattled Hillsborough County Public Transportation Commission has in the last six months seen its chairman leave, a commissioner quit and its former executive director investigated for public records violations.

    So who in their right mind would want to take on its responsibilities?

    Hillsborough County Tax Collector Doug Belden, that's who.

    Belden has offered to take over the PTC's regulatory duties if the Florida Legislature goes through with plans to dissolve the agency and put the county in charge of regulating for-hire vehicles, he told the Tampa Bay Times....

    Kyle Cockream
  13. Speaker Corcoran threatens to sue Visit Tampa Bay over financial records

    State Roundup

    TAMPA — Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Friday threatened to subpoena and even sue Hillsborough County's tourism marketing firm if the organization doesn't turn over detailed financial information related to its operations.

    Last month, Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, requested from 13 local tourist development councils their fiscal year 2016 revenue and expense reports. In addition to advertising expenses and economic development projects, the demands included a list of employees and their salaries and every expenditure on food and travel down to the penny, according to a copy of the letter sent to localities obtained by the Tampa Bay Times....

    Santiago Corrada, President/CEO Visit Tampa Bay, speaks during a news conference to discuss final preparations for the College Football Playoff Championship game on Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2017. Corrada has so far spurned Republice House Speaker Richard Corcoran's requests to turn over Visit Tampa Bay's financial data.  WILL VRAGOVIC   |   Times

  14. Road-widening foes question Stacy White's role on Brandon chamber

    Human Interest

    BRANDON — Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White defended his work on a local chamber of commerce against allegations it presented a conflict of interest.

    White said he didn't need to recuse himself from voting on whether to widen Lithia Pinecrest Road just because he's a board member for the Greater Brandon Chamber of Commerce.

    The Brandon Chamber supports the widening....

    County Commissioner Stacy White need not recuse himself from a road-widening vote just because he’s a member of the Brandon Chamber of Commerce, the county attorney’s office said.
  15. Hillsborough board chairman 'deeply opposed' to becoming sanctuary for undocumented immigrants

    Blog

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said Thursday he is “deeply opposed” to designating the county as a sanctuary for immigrants.

    The declaration, made in a memo to his colleagues, comes a day after the county’s Diversity Advisory Council voted to recommend that Hillsborough considers becoming a so-called “sanctuary county.”

    White said as board chairman he “does not intend to bring this issue before the board for discussion,” though he noted other commissioners have the authority to place it on a commission meeting agenda if they wish....

    Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White said he opposes designating Hillsborough as a "sanctuary county" for illegal immigrants.