Think how long it has been since the St. Petersburg City Council voted on a hot July afternoon in 1986 to take a leap of faith and build a domed stadium in hopes of attracting a Major League Baseball franchise and rejuvenating a dying downtown. It was a risky bet on the future by a stagnant city desperate for a new start, but it was the right decision and it paid off.
Fast forward three decades. The City Council took another difficult vote last week to let the Tampa Bay Rays look for a new home in both Pinellas and Hillsborough counties, opening the door to redeveloping the Tropicana Field site with or without a new stadium. It was the right decision, and it should pay off for the city and the region....
About 8:25 a.m. Tuesday, Gov. Rick Scott's office emailed to reporters his daily schedule, which is a public record.
Surprise. At 8:30 a.m., the governor would sign into law the 2015-16 state budget that the Legislature had just approved four days earlier and announce which projects he had vetoed. The Tampa Bay Times' capital bureau chief, Steve Bousquet, hustled up the hill from the press center to the governor's office on the first floor of the Capitol for the traditional news conference....
Give Rick Scott credit.
The governor's audacity is impressive, his shamelessness is without limits and his disregard for public perception remains strong.
This is the guy who helped build the nation's largest hospital chain, Columbia/HCA. He was the CEO whose empire made $1.5 billion in profit in 1996, awarded big bonuses to top executives and ruthlessly pressured low-performing hospitals to generate more revenue....
It should not have come to this.
Citizens, good government groups and news media organizations should not have to file a lawsuit to force someone to examine whether Florida's highest elected officials violated the Sunshine Law. Yet last week 14 plaintiffs (including Times Publishing Co., which publishes the Tampa Bay Times) filed an amended lawsuit that asks a circuit court judge to find that the governor and Cabinet members conducted public business in secret....
Discouraged but not angry.
That is the general mood of Florida voters heading into Tuesday's election, and it matches mine.
Voters are not outraged like they were in 2010, when Rick Scott spent his millions to ride the tea party wave into the Governor's Mansion. That's bad for Scott, because that wave is not there this year. The mail ballots and early voting numbers suggest Democrats are significantly better positioned heading into Election Day than they were four years ago....
My crystal ball on Greenlight Pinellas is cloudy.
The plan to create a robust transit system with a 1-cent sales tax increase on the Nov. 4 ballot has been in the works for years. You can pick at some of the projections and financial assumptions, just as you can with any ambitious public works project that looks decades into the future. But this has been well-vetted, and a transit system with expanded bus service and light rail is critical to the success of Pinellas and the Tampa Bay region....
Either we are getting soft or the candidates are getting tougher.
Not a single candidate cried this year during interviews with the Tampa Bay Times editorial board. I wanted to cry a couple of times because some candidates were so unprepared, but that's another story.
We kicked off our candidate recommendations for the Aug. 26 primary on Friday in the Hernando regional edition, and we start today on the main editorial page with the Hillsborough School Board. The recommendations will run for about eight more days on the main page as we work through nonpartisan races for judge and school boards, and primaries for county commissions, the Legislature, attorney general and governor. The Pasco and Hernando recommendations will wrap up in the regional editions on Aug. 8. We will compile links to all of the recommendations on our website at www.tampabay.com/opinion....
Rick Scott has done more damage to this state than any modern governor.
The Republican has starved public schools and higher education, disregarded voting rights and privacy rights, and dismantled environmental protections. He has little feel for Florida and sides with electric utilities, property insurers, developers and the National Rifle Association over the concerns of families struggling to pay bills, afford health insurance, find quality public schools for their kids and keep their neighborhoods safe....
They talk a good game in Tallahassee about the importance of open government and conducting the public's business in public.
They just don't practice what they preach.
Here's a good snapshot of just how secretive Tallahassee has become.
The former chief of staff for the late Gov. Reubin Askew asked the Florida Supreme Court to force candidates who have blind trusts, such as Gov. Rick Scott, to report the holdings in those trusts in financial disclosure forms filed when candidates qualify for office. Askew persuaded voters in the 1970s to pass the Sunshine Amendment, which requires elected officials and candidates to list their financial assets so voters can judge potential conflicts of interest for themselves. Scott and Republican lawmakers naturally want the lawsuit to be dismissed, and the Supreme Court punted the issue to circuit court....
When politicians cannot run on their record, they change the subject.
That's what Gov. Rick Scott has been doing. It's hard to win re-election by promoting how your administration has eroded environmental protections, suppressed voting, fouled up school accountability and teacher evaluations, starved higher education and failed to protect Floridians from higher rates for electricity and property insurance. Good luck boiling that down to a catchy bumper sticker....
For a guy who planned for years to run for Congress, David Jolly lacks credibility in his pitch to succeed the late C.W. Bill Young.
This appears to be the Republican's campaign strategy to defeat Democrat Alex Sink in the March 11 special election:
• Pinellas County needs a member of Congress from Pinellas County. I'm from Pinellas County, and she's not.
• I'm running against Washington, and she is a creation of Washington....
For political junkies, it was a remarkable week.
Charlie Crist entered the race for governor as a Democrat after once holding the job as a Republican. St. Petersburg Mayor Bill Foster became the city's first incumbent mayor in more than 25 years to lose re-election — and it wasn't close.
And by Friday, Republicans still couldn't recruit a top-tier candidate to run for the late C.W. Bill Young's congressional seat as Democrat Alex Sink prepared to move from Hillsborough to Feather Sound and became the favorite....
Bill Foster is St. Petersburg's weakest strong mayor.
Before city voters cast their ballots, they should pause and compare Foster to his two predecessors. The record shows he does not measure up in credibility or results.
David Fischer was well-suited to be the first strong mayor in modern times after voters changed the structure of city government 20 years ago. He did not make waves at City Hall, and his unassuming demeanor was comforting during the tumultuous 1990s that included racial disturbances, the arrival of Major League Baseball and the deal to build the BayWalk entertainment complex. Fischer refocused on the poor minority neighborhoods now known as Midtown, grew more neighborhood associations and left a legacy of thousands of trees planted along public rights of way....
This has been one unsatisfying summer.
It's been hot, rainy and uncomfortable. Housing prices are up but jobs are too scarce. The only thing more frustrating than the weather and the economy is the lack of political leadership at every level.
In Tallahassee, Republicans remain the Party of No regardless of the consequences and Democrats are powerless to do anything about it.
Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Will Weatherford and Senate President Don Gaetz won't repeal the "stand your ground" law even after the George Zimmerman trial, even after the protests and even after prosecutors say the law is flawed. Appeals based on emotion or morality don't work. Neither do appeals based on facts. The Tampa Bay Times reviewed about 200 "stand your ground'' cases last year and found the victim was unarmed in more than half of the cases where the killer went free....
It would be funny if it wasn't so sad.
St. Petersburg City Council member Jeff Danner summed up the folly of trying to design a new pier that can win support from a majority of the voters.
"You're never going to get consensus designed by referendum unless you build some Mediterranean inverted Lens pyramid fishing dock,'' Danner said during Thursday night's council meeting, tying together competing suggestions....