04/18/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County's Homeless Recovery program did not inspect properties where for years it sent homeless people and millions of public dollars, had no policies to respond to complaints that places were filthy and dangerous, and had insufficient controls over how it spent money, a county audit released Friday has found.
The audit echoes a series of Tampa Bay Times stories last year that prompted county management to shutter the agency and outsource homeless services to local nonprofit organizations....
TAMPA — In recent years, Guavaween has gone through several incarnations as organizers tried to make it both family-friendly and profitable for local businesses.
This week, the Ybor City Chamber of Commerce decided it's time for someone else to run the pre-Halloween party, which dates to 1985 and used to feature a bawdy costume parade led by Mama Guava, a fictional character conceived, as the legend goes, in an unexplained dalliance between the pirate Jose Gaspar and a scrub palmetto. ...
TAMPA -- Hillsborough Area Regional Transit Authority management need to change their view their buses are only for poor people and "retool" the agency into "something dramatically different," County Commissioner Mark Sharpe said Wednesday in an open letter.
Sharpe, who also serves on the HART board, has been vocal about his belief the agency needs to take the lead in expanded transit options for Hillsborough residents. Present HART management, Sharpe wrote in the letter has been "resistant to thinking beyond compliance with regulations."...
04/02/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Red-light cameras were scuttled in St. Petersburg and dragged into a political battle in Tampa, but they're not going anywhere in unincorporated Hillsborough County.
County commissioners affirmed their support for the cameras during a discussion Wednesday prompted by recent votes to end them in Tampa Bay's two biggest cities.
"This is a cost-effective public safety tool we can use to save lives on our roads," said Commissioner Kevin Beckner. "To suggest otherwise would be inaccurate."...
TAMPA -- Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner will launch an Internet show next month he'll co-host with local Republican political consultant Chris Ingram.
The first of four 30-minute broadcasts planned for this year will be available online May 1, Beckner said Tuesday, and more information will be available at commissionerbeckner.com. A portion of the show will be answering constituent questions. Those with questions can email them to email@example.com, with INTERNET SHOW in the subject line. ...
TAMPA -- Hillsborough County's Civil Service Board apologized to Sheriff David Gee last week for statements made by a Civil Service employee to a Florida House committee that implied the Sheriff's Office wants to do away with affirmative action in its hiring.
Civil Service, which performs human resources-type duties for 21 local government agencies, could see its operations slashed by Florida House Bill 683, which would allow local governments to take over many of the duties Civil Service currently performs. On March 12, Alma Gonzalez -- a Civil Service employee -- testified to the House Committee on Local and Federal Affairs that "The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office is not sure they want to do affirmative action the way it is currently being done," according to a press release issued by Civil Service Director Dane Peterson March 26....
03/30/14 Human Interest
ODESSA — The seaplane is so loud, the author said, it scared his wife's horses.
It rattled the orthodontist's new hurricane-resistant windows. It woke the plastic surgeon on a Sunday, just after he returned from vacation in India.
For months, a feud has raged on Lake Keystone. The seaplane, some say, makes the lake its personal runway, buzzing homes and treetops, forcing boats to swerve, shattering the tranquility of this wealthy, waterfront enclave....
TAMPA — To Tampa International Airport CEO Joe Lopano, it's pretty simple: You should be able to hop on a shuttle that goes straight from downtown to the airport. The vehicle should have a place for your luggage, and maybe even Wi-Fi.
But in Tampa, this shuttle does not exist. If you don't want to take a taxicab, there's the Hillsborough Area Regional Transit authority's Route 30, which makes two stops between downtown and the airport, takes about 40 minutes and has no place to stow luggage....
TAMPA -- In the aftermath of two controversial red-light camera votes by local city councils, County Commissioner Les Miller wants to talk next week about cameras in the unincorporated county. Would-be red-light runners shouldn't get their hopes up, though. Miller thinks they work.
Miller has asked for a discussion to be scheduled for the next commission meeting, April 2, for a status report on the cameras, which the county installed in 2009. City councils in St. Petersburg and Tampa have recently voted to end the lights in their cities, however several Tampa City Council members said they'd reverse their votes if the mayor changed how ticket revenue was spent....
TAMPA -- Hillsborough County commissioners gave County Attorney Chip Fletcher a raise this week, and hinted he could see his salary increase again this summer.
During Fletcher's annual evaluation at Wednesday's meeting, commissioners voted to give him the same 3.5 percent raise most county employees got last October. Fletcher's salary will go from $205,000 to $212,175, and the raise will be retroactive to Oct. 1, meaning he'll get paid the money he would have made had the raise gone into effect then....
TAMPA -- After a bill to abolish Hillsborough County's controversial Public Transportation Committee died in December, it appeared the agency would escape the 2014 legislative session unscathed.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) added an amendment to a seemingly unrelated bill that would outlaw the PTC, County Commissioner Victor Crist said Wednesday....
TAMPA — After a bill to abolish Hillsborough County's controversial Public Transportation Committee died in December, it appeared the agency would escape the 2014 legislative session unscathed.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes (R-St. Petersburg) added an amendment to a seemingly unrelated bill that would outlaw the PTC, County Commissioner Victor Crist said Wednesday.
"It basically guts the agency, taking away all of its abilities to regulate," said Crist, also PTC chairman. "In essence, we're dead."...
03/19/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Roaches had nested in the cappuccino machine at the Museum of Science and Industry's cafe, the anonymous caller to the state hotline said, and bugs were crawling around the condiments.
When inspectors arrived two days later, they found bugs by the soda machine, roach excrement on a box of plastic spoons, and rodent feces in the kitchen, according to a Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation report. Conditions were so poor, inspectors ordered MOSI's cafe closed for nearly four hours on March 12....
TAMPA — Two sisters were injured Tuesday morning, one critically, when they were hit by a car as they jaywalked in the dark across Hillsborough Avenue on the way to Middleton High School, authorities said.
Police said the teens, 14-year-old Victoria Velasquez-Cabrera and 15-year-old Norma Velasquez-Cabrera, were crossing the 2500 block of Hillsborough Avenue just north of the school about 7:15 a.m. ...
TAMPA -- The Hillsborough County Tax Collector's Office debuted a new website this month that, among other things, allows users to make appointments and see live reports of office wait times.
The new hillstax.org, which went live March 7, was the product of more than a year of work between the tax collector's office and Bayshore Solutions web developers. The new site features easier navigation, a cleaner design, and cost $68,000, according to Nancy Millan, tax collector office director of community relations. ...