Tony Marrero, Times Staff Writer

Tony Marrero

Tony Marrero, a native of Baltimore, joined the Times in 2009. He covers breaking news, crime and courts in Hernando County.

Phone: (352) 848-1431


Twitter: @TMarreroTimes

  1. Q and A: How would light rail work in Pinellas?


    In the fight over the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum, the light-rail piece of the plan has drawn the most ire.

    Critics say the 24-mile line in one area of Pinellas County would be a boondoggle and few would use it. Proponents call it the spine of a transportation network that would transform the county.

    Still have questions ahead of Election Day? Here are some answers.


  2. Church of Scientology resists Clearwater aquarium's plans to move downtown

    Local Government

    CLEARWATER — It can be argued that the two biggest names in Clearwater are Winter the dolphin and L. Ron Hubbard. Now a behind-the-scenes dispute between their followers has broken out into the open.

    Officials from the Church of Scientology, the biggest property owner in downtown Clearwater, are quietly lobbying Pinellas County commissioners, voi­cing their opposition to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium's plans to relocate downtown....

    Members of the Church of Scientology walk along Fort Harrison last year after the dedication of its massive new Flag Building. Officials from the church, the biggest property owner in downtown Clearwater, are lobbying Pinellas County commissioners, voicing opposition to a plan to relocate the Clearwater Marine Aquarium downtown.
  3. Campaign jabs aside, Pinellas commission candidates differ on key issues


    Ugly and expensive.

    The race for the Pinellas County Commission's countywide District 2 seat has been both. For months, Largo Mayor Pat Gerard and state Rep. Ed Hooper have hurled accusations at one another and spent tens of thousands of dollars on attack ads and direct-mail pieces.

    Hooper, a Clearwater Republican, had raised nearly $230,000 by last week and spent about $180,000. Democrat Gerard had spent all but $8,000 of the $180,000 she collected....

    Largo Mayor Patricia Gerard is running for the Pinellas County Commission District 2 seat.
  4. PSTA board unmoved by more calls to fire top executive

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — Facing another round of calls for their chief executive's resignation, Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority board members on Wednesday again stood by Brad Miller.

    In the last meeting before a critical Nov. 4 vote on the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum, a half dozen frequent PSTA critics and Greenlight opponents demanded Miller step down after a news report that claimed he deliberately misused a grant from the Department of Homeland Security to promote the Greenlight plan....

    Critics have called for the ouster of Brad Miller, CEO of the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
  5. For some, Greenlight debate is about getting to work, school


    Cindy Dawson misses her Mazda.

    The 66-year-old retired vacation saleswoman loved to zip around in her sporty gold RX-7. It was freedom in the form of a sporty stick shift.

    Then, three years ago, a heart condition forced the Gulfport resident to give up the keys and sell her car. Now she relies on the county's bus system to shop, get to the doctor and visit friends.

    "I had to learn to just chill out because it takes quite a bit of time to get around," said Dawson, one of thousands who struggle each day with limited offerings from the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority and are now caught in the middle of a fierce debate over the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum....

    Bill Miller, 77, of Clearwater hails a PSTA North County Connector shuttle on  Tuesday while en route to a workout at Anytime Fitness in Dunedin. Miller, who is legally blind and doesn't drive, uses the service several times a week to commute from his home at the Villas at Countryside to the gym, grocery store and doctor. The Connector buses, still relatively new, deviate from their routes by up to 3/4 of a mile to pick up passengers at or near their doorsteps, a big help to Miller. [DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times]

  6. Pinellas County Commission: District 4


    County Commission | District 4

    Longtime commissioner Susan Latvala decided not to run again for this north county seat, prompting a bevy of interest. Dave Eggers beat six other contenders in the Republican primary. He now faces Democrat Mark Weinkrantz and no-party candidates Carl Folkman and Marcus Harrison in a district that leans Republican. Only voters in the district can make a selection in this race. By Tony Marrero, Times staff writer...

  7. Pinellas County Commission: District 2


    County Commission | District 2

    State Rep. Ed Hooper made incumbent Norm Roche a one-term commissioner with a decisive victory in August's GOP primary. Now Hooper, who must leave the Legislature due to term limits, is locked in an ugly battle with Largo Mayor Pat Gerard for the countywide seat. All registered voters can make a selection in this race. By Tony Marrero, Times staff writer...

  8. Greenlight Pinellas campaign surpasses $1 million fundraising mark


    ST. PETERSBURG — The backers of the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum have hit their million-dollar goal.

    The Friends of Greenlight political committee filed a financial disclosure report Wednesday showing $1.03 million in contributions through Oct. 10. It's the magic number that supporters have said would allow the Yes on Greenlight campaign to mount an effective effort to pass the 1-cent sales tax to expand bus service and build a 24-mile light rail line connecting St. Petersburg and Clearwater....

  9. Pinellas commission open to more arts funding — next year

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — A parade of arts advocates pleaded with the Pinellas County Commission to restore funding to restore arts funding wiped out during the recession.

    The board's reply: Come up with a plan and we'll consider it for next year.

    "Please get more people involved with the ask," Commissioner John Morroni said near the end of the three-hour workshop dedicated to an overview of funding and arts and culture. "I'd like to hear from people from Tarpon Springs all the way down to Gulfport. I think we got the message today that we need to do more than we're doing right now."...

  10. Father of nine found fatally shot in his truck


    ST. PETERSBURG — The 6-year-old boy, shirtless and tanned, plopped down into the lawn chair next to his grandmother.

    "I miss Daddy," the boy said, his thin legs swinging.

    His grandmother, Janet Gonyer, sat in another chair Saturday morning. Her son, the boy's father, had left Friday afternoon for an overnight fishing trip. Three hours later, police found Francis "Frankie" McDermott fatally shot....

    Francis “Frankie” McDermott, 36, was going fishing.
  11. Amid a flash mob, a surprise proposal (w/video)

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — The sounds of a synthesizer filled the air as Nelson Flores and the man he wanted to spend the rest of his life with strolled by the massive banyan trees in North Straub Park.

    Betty Who's Somebody Loves You blared from a single speaker a man had rolled onto the sidewalk a moment earlier, at precisely noon on Saturday. Three men then joined in to the choreographed routine. ...

    Mike Nakelski, 29, on bended knee, surprises Nelson Flores, 25, with a flash mob proposal on Saturday at North Straub Park in St. Petersburg. “It’s a miracle that I found you,” Nakelski said.
  12. Oldsmar City Council refuses to endorse Greenlight Pinellas resolution


    OLDSMAR -- Backers of the Greenlight Pinellas plan suffered a setback Tuesday night when the Oldsmar City Council refused to officially endorse the transit referendum.

    The council voted 4 to 1 against a resolution supporting the plan that would raise the sales tax by a penny, to 8 cents, to expand bus service and build a light rail system between Clearwater and St. Petersburg by way of the Gateway area....

  13. Hillsborough transit advocates hope for wins in Pinellas, Polk

    Mass Transit

    TAMPA — Hillsborough County leaders are carefully eyeing neighbors to the east and west as they prepare a potential 1-cent sales tax of their own to pay for transportation improvements.

    County officials have time and again said the fate of any initiative in Hillsborough is linked to the votes Pinellas and Polk county residents cast in November.

    "In no uncertain terms, all of us need to do whatever we can to help these two counties pass," Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn said at a recent transportation forum sponsored by the Tampa Bay Partnership. "The successful passage (of these referendums) will allow us moving into 2016 to really come into that environment with a lot of positive support."...

  14. Scott: Florida prepared for Ebola cases; Sarasota patient 'highly unlikely' to have virus


    TAMPA — Gov. Rick Scott huddled with state health officials Saturday in a closed-door meeting to discuss Florida's readiness in case of an Ebola outbreak.

    In Sarasota, meanwhile, doctors said Saturday that it is "highly unlikely" that a hospital patient who had recently been to West Africa has the deadly virus. The male patient was taken out of isolation.

    After the governor's meeting in a downtown Tampa hotel, Scott said there were no confirmed cases of Ebola in Florida. But if one is found, the governor said, the state is ready....

  15. Greenlight supporters tout benefits for Midtown residents


    ST. PETERSBURG — Backers of the Greenlight Pinellas transit referendum put the focus on St. Petersburg's Midtown area Thursday, casting the plan as a surefire way to boost redevelopment there.

    Under a steamy midmorning sun, U.S. Rep Kathy Castor joined Midtown business owners on St. Petersburg College's 22nd Street S campus to tout Greenlight's potential to transport workers, students and visitors in and out of a poor area optimistic about the rebirth of its business district....

    Democratic U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor announces support for the Greenlight Pinellas initiative Thursday in St. Petersburg’s Midtown area, saying an improved transportation system will benefit residents looking for affordable ways to get to work and school.