09/17/14 Local Government
TAMPA — A lot has changed on the Hillsborough County Commission in 20 months.
Late in January 2013, commissioners voted 4-3 against creating a domestic partnership registry.
In several other cities and counties, similar registries ensuring rights like hospital visitation and end-of-life decisionmaking for unmarried couples, gay and straight, sailed to passage.
But in Hillsborough, social conservatives who argued the registry was tantamount to legalizing gay marriage won the day....
BRANDON — On a Tuesday in August, Bell Shoals Baptist Church again became the center of Hillsborough County's political universe, if only for a night.
For the 20th time in 30 years, the megachurch in eastern Hillsborough hosted a candidates forum. The turnout Aug. 5 was impressive: More than 40 candidates — from aspiring School Board members to incumbent Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam — spoke to a crowd of more than 600....
09/10/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County commissioners quickly and unanimously approved Wednesday evening a tentative $3.96 billion budget for next year, and set a final vote for next Thursday on the 2015 budget and tax rates.
For the 22nd consecutive year, commissioners lowered the property tax rate, although by a tiny amount. For example, the owner of a $150,000 home with a $50,000 homestead exemption would save 17 cents. Because of rising property values, however, the average homeowner will likely not see savings. Commissioners would have had to lower the rate 4.27 percent to keep the average homeowner's tax bill the same....
09/10/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner has sued his former business partner Lance Becatti, accusing him of reneging on a deal to buy Beckner's stake in their financial services company.
Beckner's lawsuit, filed in Hillsborough circuit civil court, accuses Becatti of ignoring contracts the two signed in 2007 as Beckner was preparing to run for County Commission and step back from their Ameriprise franchise. According to Beckner's complaint, the two signed a contract promising that if one left the firm, the other would buy him out. ...
09/04/14 Local Government
TAMPA — In Philadelphia, a plan to prevent violence included picking up trash and planting grass on blighted city lots. In New Orleans, a plan connected unemployed youths with part-time sanitation jobs during Mardi Gras. In Los Angeles, a plan opened city parks after dark in the summer.
In Hillsborough County, the specifics of a plan to combat violence have yet to take shape, but county commissioners agree one is needed. Thursday, they approved an ambitious but vague five-year program that will try to combat violent crime through preventive measures, modeled on similar plans across the country....
TAMPA — After eight years representing a Republican stronghold, can Hillsborough County Commissioner Al Higginbotham broaden his appeal enough to win countywide, where Democrats have the advantage?
That is the prime question facing Higginbotham's campaign this year, as the 60-year-old Plant City native left eastern Hillsborough's District 4 because of term limits to run for the countywide District 7 seat on the commission. And though Higginbotham romped in Tuesday's GOP primary, a closer look shows he has work to do in large swaths of Hillsborough to prevail in the Nov. 4 general election....
08/29/14 Local Government
TAMPA -- A state ethics panel is investigating whether Hillsborough County Commissioner Ken Hagan's financial disclosure forms have not complied with state laws.
The Florida Commission on Ethics is acting on a complaint filed by Dover activist George Niemann, who has previously filed similar complaints against several Hillsborough County officials, including Hagan.
Hagan's financial disclosure forms list investment and retirement accounts but do not list where the money in those accounts is invested. Niemann argues that this defeats the purpose of the financial disclosure forms, which are supposed to let citizens know their elected officials don't have conflicts of interest when voting on issues involving certain people or companies....
TAMPA — Stacy White said all along it didn't matter that his opponents for Hillsborough County Commission in District 4 had more money. White had name recognition as a School Board member, he said, and a track record as a "proven conservative," which matters in his native east Hillsborough.
White was right. The 42-year-old Valrico pharmacist overcame a sizable spending disadvantage to claim a narrow win Tuesday in the Republican primary in District 4, according to unofficial results, which all but guarantees him a spot on the commission....
TAMPA — One campaign advertisement blames a candidate for cutting minorities out of leadership posts when she chaired Hillsborough County's Democratic Party. Another accuses a candidate of being a steroid-addled officer prone to road rage when he patrolled the streets for Tampa police.
With the days waning until Tuesday's primaries, new attack ads hit mailboxes recently in two Hillsborough County Commission races. Both have drawn rebukes from the candidates they target, their supporters and even Tampa police Chief Jane Castor. ...
08/20/14 Local Government
TAMPA — Ed Turanchik told Hillsborough County commissioners in February that his clients had examined 14 potential spots for their proposed high-speed ferry's terminal. Only one worked: the Fred and Idah Schultz Preserve near Gibsonton.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Sandy Murman made a surprise move that Turanchik said could jeopardize the ferry: She asked county staff to start looking for a different spot....
TAMPA — A Hillsborough County shelter may soon become the second Tampa Bay area nonprofit organization to house Central and South American children from this year's deluge of immigrants illegally crossing the border, federal officials confirmed Monday.
The Children's Home near Tampa has been approved to house 27 children, according to Kenneth Wolfe, a spokesman for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families....
TAMPA — The mail advertisement depicts a hand, wearing a white surgical glove, about to snatch a wad of $100 bills from the back pocket of an unsuspecting man.
"Flaming Liberal STACY WHITE," it says in bold white letters about the staunchly conservative Hillsborough County School Board member. "He's a doctor of surgically removing taxpayer dollars and transplanting the cash to bureaucrats."...
TAMPA — When Hillsborough County Commission Chairman Mark Sharpe leaves office in November because of term limits, local transit advocates will lose their biggest ally on the county's governing body.
Sharpe, a Republican, was the commission's most vocal supporter of a 1-cent sales tax to pay for transportation improvements that voters turned down in 2010. Four years later, he's poised to leave office while local leaders are still working out the details to try again, perhaps in 2016....
County Commission | District 7
Commissioner Al Higginbotham, forced out of conservative District 4 by term limits, is instead running countywide for the first time. Political newcomers Robin Lester and Tim Schock are standing in his way in the Republican primary, as is former candidate Don Kruse. Current District 7 Commissioner Mark Sharpe, a Republican, is leaving due to term limits. Will Hobson, Times staff writer...
County Commission | District 7
Two Democratic former County Commission aides are vying to replace Republican Mark Sharpe, leaving due to term limits. Mark Nash worked for current Commissioner Kevin Beckner, while Pat Kemp worked for U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor when she was a commissioner. Both argue it's important to replace outspoken transit advocate Sharpe with a Democrat, as some Republican candidates oppose more taxes for transportation. Will Hobson, Times staff writer...