It was one of the most memorable protest-related moments of the 2012 Republican National Convention
Then-assistant Tampa police Chief John Bennett kneeled in front of a group of protesters and, as they blew smoke and tossed insults, he patiently explained that they were blocking a main route to the hospital. Eventually, they moved to the sidewalk.
When Bennett retired at the age of 51 after a 30-year career at the department then-Chief Jane Castor called him "my own personal superhero."...
Pinellas County's transit agency is looking to bring in money by spending money -- on a Washington, D.C. lobbyist.
The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board of directors voted last week to hire D.C.-based lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates, Inc. for a five year contract not to exceed $420,000. It's the first time PSTA has retained a federal lobbyist and is needed to land its fair share of federal funding, finance committee chairman Joseph Barkley III told fellow board members....
We're a few days late, but we wanted to be sure to get U.S. Rep. David Jolly on the record about Friday's U.S. Supreme Court ruling on same sex marriage.
The Indian Shores Republican announced his support for gay marriage last summer, so one thing is clear: Jolly's Democratic opponent, whomever that turns out to be, won't be able to use marriage equality as a wedge issue against him. Jolly has said he's considering a bid for Marco Rubio's Senate seat and plans to announce next month whether he'll do so or go for a second term in the District 13 seat he won in a special election last year. Democrat Eric Lynn is in the House race and has made a strong fundraising showing, but both St. Petersburg City Council member Darden Rice and former Tampa City Council member Mary Mulhern are seriously looking at jumping in. ...
06/29/15 Local Government
Starting next week, Pinellas County residents will have five fewer hours a week to pay traffic tickets, get a marriage license or request domestic violence injunctions.
Broward Clerk of Courts Howard Forman says layoffs, furloughs and office-hour reductions are all on the table. In Pasco, Clerk of Courts Paula O'Neil has already laid off two employees.
Clerks of courts throughout Florida say fewer office hours and layoffs are just two consequences from a budget dispute between their offices and state lawmakers....
Pinellas County commissioners are at a level of government far removed from the halls of the Supreme Court, but they also happen to be in office at a time of landmark Supreme Court rulings. So what do they think? Bay Buzz reached out to all seven commissioners (four Democrats and three Republicans). Here's who we've heard from so far and what they said on today's gay marriage ruling:
Ken Welch, Democrat: "The Supreme Court's ruling on marriage equality provides for equal treatment for all citizens, without impacting the personal religious convictions of any individual or denomination. It also highlights the absolute necessity for a strong and independent judiciary."...
ST. PETERSBURG — The weekly coffee talk group gathered a little early Friday at the Metro LGBT Welcome Center in St. Petersburg's Grand Central District. Men sat on sofas and hard-backed chairs as CNN played on the television. They waited for the Supreme Court to rule on same-sex marriage, an issue that has hemmed their lives for decades.
The men are all in their 60s and keen to tell you how much they've seen. But they never thought they would watch their country's highest court declare gay people have the right to marry, same as everyone else. A wave of stunned elation filled the room moments after the announcement....
U.S. Rep. David Jolly used Thursday's Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act to remind folks he introduced a bill last year to repeal the law individual insurance mandate -- and to proclaim that he will continue to push that legislation that died in committee last year.
"I believe the American people should be in control of their own health care coverage decisions, not government," Jolly said in a post on his Facebook page. "Which is why, despite today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling, I am continuing to push legislation (H.R. 143) restoring the freedom of all Americans to decide what health care coverage is right for them and their family."...
ST. PETERSBURG — The 71-foot research vessel Bellows has been a marine sciences workhorse for four decades, helping researchers monitor red tide, analyze coral in the Keys and study oily water after the Deepwater Horizon spill.
Thousands of students have used the ship as a floating lab, as well.
But the 45-year-old Bellows, operated by Florida Institute of Oceanography in St. Petersburg, is near the end of its life. The steel hull is corroding, the massive diesel engines leak oil and replacement parts are hard to find. An assessment done nearly five years ago said the boat should be retired within five years, so the institute has the hull tested every six months to make sure it's sound, said institute director Bill Hogarth....
Lawmakers and supporters of projects throughout the Tampa Bay area celebrated, mourned, or did a little of both moments after Gov. Rick Scott signed the state budget Tuesday in Tallahassee.
Jubilation erupted on both sides of the bay after Scott left intact the $17 million state lawmakers had set aside to move the University of South Florida's Morsani College of Medicine to downtown Tampa and $12.3 million to finish USF St. Petersburg's College of Business by next year....
With a bevy of powerful lawmakers in its corner, the Tampa Bay region was set up to be a big winner in this year's budget.
But that meant Gov. Rick Scott had plenty of Tampa Bay targets for his veto pen, and more than two dozen projects fell off the chopping block.
Here's a rundown by county:
• $3 million, Hillsborough Community College's South Shore campus...
06/19/15 Public Safety
LARGO — Jay Freres traveled the world as a U.S. diplomat, serving in some dangerous corners of the globe before retiring to Florida with his wife.
On Friday morning, the 81-year-old U.S. Army veteran died steps from his home when a bolt of lightning struck him as he strolled alone on Egret Drive, Largo police said.
Friends and family were left to grapple with the shock of the sudden — and statistically rare — way that the friendly, deeply religious man died. Mr. Freres was the eighth person to be killed in the United States by a lightning strike this year, according to the National Weather Service. ...
06/10/15 Local Government
ST. PETERSBURG — Bus-sized beer and liquor ads could soon roll down a Pinellas County road near you.
Searching high and low for extra revenue, the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority is considering changes to its advertising policy to allow ads for alcoholic beverages on its bus fleet.
Proponents say the additional revenue would help an agency struggling to maintain service levels while living within its means, but not every member of PSTA's board of directors supports it....
CLEARWATER -- Pinellas residents will pay a little more for some services offered by Animals Services after the County Commission on Tuesday gave its initial blessing to proposed fee changes.
Among the changes, which will come to the board in August for formal approval:
• A new $25 fee for minimum veterinary services for animals picked up off the street and claimed by their owners....
Following the Pinellas County Commission's lead, Sheriff Bob Gualtieri is setting $12.50 as a minimum wage for his agency.
The move will increase the pay for 20 non-sworn employees and cost Gualtieri's agency about $20,000 a year.
That's on top of the pay increases approved last for 138 non-sworn workers who were making less than $12.50 an hour but received a raise after the County Commission approved funding to fix pay compression problems that had accumulated during the recession, when no one got raises. The agency conducted a market study and adjusted pay for the 138 employees, bringing them up to at least $12.50, Gualtieri told Bay Buzz on Monday....
06/05/15 Local Government
CLEARWATER — Norm Roche was close to another job with Pinellas County government.
The sometimes controversial one-term county commissioner who lost his re-election bid last year recently applied for a job as a customer services specialist position in the county utilities department. He got the post and was told to show up to work on May 18.
But on May 11, Assistant County Administrator Paul Sacco sent Roche a two-sentence letter telling him not to bother....