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....
If President Barack Obama and Congress finally reach a budget deal that significantly reduces the federal deficit and invests in the future, it will be because voters and business leaders like Paul Stebbins are tired of gridlock and are demanding compromise. • Stebbins is executive chairman of the board of World Fuel Services, a Fortune 500 company based in Miami with nearly $39 billion in revenue last year. The company is involved in the marketing, sale and distribution of fuel products, and Stebbins became interested in the federal budget mess after Obama and congressional Republicans narrowly avoided a government shutdown in 2011. He stopped by the office the other day with the nonpartisan Fix the Debt, whose Florida steering committee includes former U.S. Rep. Jim Davis of Tampa. Instead of pitching a specific budget plan, the group wants to mobilize business leaders and voters from both parties to push the president and Congress to agree on a balanced long-term approach....
Two Sundays ago, Will Weatherford was teaching his 4-year-old daughter how to ride a bicycle in their Wesley Chapel neighborhood when it started getting dark. The House speaker promised they would try again when he returned home from Tallahassee at the end of the week.
The next day, Weatherford's wife sent him a text message with a video of his daughter riding her bike without training wheels....
Gov. Lawton Chiles' death near the end of his second term in December 1998 marked the end of an era in Florida. He was the last Democrat to be elected governor, and he most certainly will be the last politician to win statewide election by emphasizing old Florida roots and limiting campaign contributions to $100. There also is a good argument to be made that Chiles was among the last governors to look beyond the next election and pursue public policies that would benefit Floridians for generations....
We are about to find out if Gov. Rick Scott has learned anything about vision and investing in Florida's future — or whether he remains driven by short-term political calculations, rigid ideology and disdain for President Barack Obama.
Shortly after taking office in 2011, Scott turned down billions of federal dollars and killed plans for a high-speed rail line from Tampa to Orlando that would have been an economic boost for the entire region....
Charlie Crist was waiting on a call and had to call me back.
The other caller turned out to be President Barack Obama. The president called the former Florida governor Thursday afternoon to offer his thanks for helping him win re-election. The two men talked briefly about how the voting mess here needs to be fixed.
And before he hung up, Obama told Crist he looked forward to getting together in person to talk about the future....
Let's look into the crystal ball this morning.
It's January 2015, just about 28 months away. Let's assume the elections turn out a certain way between now and then, starting with Tuesday's primary and running through this year and next. Here's what Tampa Bay and Florida could look like, and it's not pretty.
In Pinellas County on New Year's Day 2015, there still is no fluoride in the drinking water and more public money is being spent on dental care for poor children. The county commissioners who voted to take fluoride out of the county's water starting in 2012 — Nancy Bostock, Neil Brickfield, John Morroni and Norm Roche — have all been re-elected and refuse to embrace established science or public health....
It's summertime, and the living is anything but easy.
While many Floridians with a little money and good sense are in the North Carolina mountains, the rest of us are slogging through an unusually early primary election season. It's hot, and we all should be on vacation instead of enduring the attack ads on cable television and in the mailbox. It's hard to get excited about many of these local races on the Aug. 14 ballot when the Republican National Convention is around the corner and the presidential election isn't until November. But absentee ballots are sitting on the dining room table, and early voting starts this week....
The bumper stickers on the cars and pickups outside the Feather Sound Country Club offered the first clue about the group inside.
Ron Paul for president. Support state Rep. Larry Ahern and Pinellas County Commissioner Nancy Bostock, two of the county's most conservative Republican officeholders. "Fluoride: There is poison in the tap water." Pro oil drilling and anti-Obama.
Inside, Barbara Haselden from the South Pinellas 912 Patriots tea party group stood before an audience of about 60 last Sunday and opened the meeting about light rail. The St. Petersburg insurance company executive said elected officials from throughout Pinellas had been invited, but the only familiar faces I saw were county Commissioners Neil Brickfield and Norm Roche, who are also on the board of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority. They are no fans of building light rail in Pinellas. They also are half of the Fluoride Four — the county commissioners who voted last year to ignore science and public health and remove fluoride from the county's drinking water....
Dr. David McKalip's office in St. Petersburg is trimmed in red and blue. He designated the adjacent vacant lot on the southwest corner of Fourth Street and 62nd Avenue N in St. Petersburg as Founders Corner. Four 6-foot-tall granite and limestone monuments sit at the lot's edge with labels such as "individual liberty'' and "free markets.''
Now McKalip has added another marker to reflect those values: a bright yellow 1988 Chevy panel truck with red letters announcing, "The King's Bistro."...
They organized quickly and challenged authority. They invoked civic pride and complained of broken promises. With lightning speed, they forced a big bureaucracy to reverse itself and declared victory.
St. Petersburg's postmark has been saved.
Who says City Hall can't get anything done?
Truth be told, a Postal Service spokeswoman probably misspoke when she said St. Petersburg would lose its postmark after the city's mail processing center closes and mail is routed through the Tampa distribution center. But never mind. Rallying to save it were Mayor Bill Foster, former Mayor Rick Baker, the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce and Leadership St. Petersburg. Of course, what probably really saved the day was a well-placed letter to the postmaster general by U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young. ...
Give JD Alexander credit for doing something positive.
The bully of the Florida Senate has gotten everyone's attention with his attempt to starve the University of South Florida financially if its Lakeland campus does not immediately become independent. There is nothing subtle about extortion, and the Senate Budget Committee chairman's clarity of purpose has done some good.
First, Alexander has united the Tampa Bay community. It rushed to USF's defense with a swiftness and common voice rarely seen around here. From the Tampa Bay Partnership to the St. Petersburg Area Chamber of Commerce, from elected officials and former mayors to civic leaders on both sides of the bay, the outrage and determination to stop these unfair budget cuts has been remarkable....