Wednesday, November 14, 2018
News Roundup

Clearwater’s strong mayor question draws dollars from Belleair neighbors

CLEARWATER — Wealthy business executives, a financial company, and political action committees.

Those are some of the top donors to the PAC advocating for the Nov. 6 referendum that would eliminate the city manager form of government in place for nearly 100 years and give day-to-day authority to an elected strong mayor.

More than half of the $33,350 raised by individuals, rather than businesses or PACs, has come from residents of Belleair, the affluent community to the south of Clearwater, as of Aug. 31, the most recent available report.

Belleair resident Dan Doyle Jr., CEO of Tampa copier and printer leasing company DEX Imaging and owner of the Pelican Golf Course, formerly Belleview Biltmore Golf Club, is the PAC’s top individual donor, giving $10,000 to the effort. Doyle did not respond to requests for comment.

Insurance executive John Connelly, a Belleair resident, has given $5,000 to the cause. He did not respond to requests for comment.

Overall, the Accountable Government committee has raised $80,755 as of Aug. 31 in its first month of fundraising, according to Florida Department of State records.

If passed, the strong mayor system would take effect in 2020, when longtime City Manager Bill Horne plans to retire and Mayor George Cretekos’ term is up.

A handful of local businessmen approached Horne and Cretekos in April, prompting the council’s vote last month to put the question on the ballot. Clearwater Downtown Partnership Chair Matt Becker formed the Accountable Government PAC in July but the group’s spokesman, Zach Thorn, a project manager for downtown investor Daniels Ikajevs, now chairs the committee. Thorn did not respond to requests for comment.

Frank Crum Jr. of Clearwater said his business, Frank Crum Corporate Inc., contributed $5,000 to the PAC because of the benefits he thinks a strong mayor could bring to the business community, helping the city compete on the level of Tampa and St. Petersburg.

While city manager governments have a professional, appointed manager running day-to-day operations and implementing policy that the council votes on as a body, strong mayors have authority to negotiate deals without council consensus. Thorn has previously said this makes the elected mayor accountable to voters every four years, while a city manager is hired and fired by the council.

"If I really felt strongly that something was wrong with the city, I could go to one person and probably express my frustration and that person may or may not do something," said Crum, whose national human resources and insurance firm sits on 15 acres east of downtown. "But if they did decide to do something they would have power to influence it, whereas a city council, I would have to convince all of them to do that."

That concentration of power is one of the concerns driving the movement against the referendum. Clearwater based political consultant Beth Rawlins formed the No Boss Mayor PAC Aug. 20, since raising $350 from five Clearwater residents on top of the $1,000 she contributed, according to the most recent available filing.

But Rawlins, who works for International City/County Management Association, said the whirlwind process that drove the question to the ballot three months after being publicly discussed has given the group less time to get the word out and fundraise.

"We are currently using grassroots organizing to spread the word by word of mouth," Rawlins said. "I think it’s very telling that the city of Belleair has such a keen interest in the way the citizens of Clearwater are governed. This is pretty simple. There’s a bunch of rich guys on one side."

Other top gifts to Accountable Government include $5,000 from the Suncoast Better Government Political Committee, run by state Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater; and $13,155 from Restore Florida Inc., which is funded by prominent Pinellas County Republicans.

Bill LaGamba, majority owner of three restaurants in Clearwater, including the soon-to-open Black Brick Tavern and Kitchen on Cleveland Street, gave $5,000 to the PAC in part because "we don’t seem to be taking that next step as far as downtown Clearwater is concerned."

LaGamba said he believes some of the confusion and difficulty in getting businesses open downtown could be eliminated if entrepreneurs had one point-person to talk through issues with or seek out for direction.

After city officials approved building plans for Black Brick, LaGamba said an inspector later raised concern over a vent for a hood in the kitchen, setting him back three months.

"I think the city could use additional direction," LaGamba said. "My experience, as a business owner, it’s been difficult to get projects across the finish line."

2018 CLEARWATER STRONG MAYOR COVERAGE

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: A strong mayor for Clearwater? Some think it’s time.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Clearwater mayor warns against being ‘bamboozled’ by pitch to change government

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Here’s what a strong mayor would look like in Clearwater

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Clearwater voters: a strong mayor question is official on the Nov. 6 ballot

Contact Tracey McManus at [email protected] or (727) 445-4151. Follow @TroMcManus.

Comments
Hillsborough to be a dumping ground for clay from Hardee County phosphate mine

Hillsborough to be a dumping ground for clay from Hardee County phosphate mine

Hillsborough County Commissioners on Wednesday voted 4-2 in favor of a controversial request by Mosaic to dump clay from its Ona Mine into the Four Corners Mine in southeast Hillsborough County.
Updated: 18 minutes ago
USF marks construction milestone at medical school building in Water Street Tampa

USF marks construction milestone at medical school building in Water Street Tampa

The University of South Florida and Tampa leaders Wednesday marked the "topping off," or completion of vertical construction, on the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.
Updated: 23 minutes ago
Buccaneers All-22: Tony Dungy wants to know what happened in the debacle against Washington. Here are the answers, coach

Buccaneers All-22: Tony Dungy wants to know what happened in the debacle against Washington. Here are the answers, coach

Stop blaming the play-caller. Dirk Koetter wasn’t the reason why Tampa Bay scored only three points.
Updated: 24 minutes ago
NHL taste is a ‘dream come true’ for Lightning’s Erik Cernak

NHL taste is a ‘dream come true’ for Lightning’s Erik Cernak

What does a prospect’s first call up to the NHL look like?
Updated: 1 hour ago
Pro wrestler’s legacy expanded through his sons, Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage and Leapin’ Lanny Poffo

Pro wrestler’s legacy expanded through his sons, Randy ‘Macho Man’ Savage and Leapin’ Lanny Poffo

This story was first published on March 12, 2010.Dr. Jerry Graham lit his cigars with $100 bills. Gorgeous George died broke. Ric Flair blew big paychecks for 15 straight years.Those were all big stars in professional wrestling, their names plastered...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bulls show mild uptick in graduation success rate

Bulls show mild uptick in graduation success rate

USF has posted a GSR of 82 percent or better five consecutive years
Updated: 1 hour ago
A new, smooth boardwalk greets visitors at Temple Terrace’s Riverhills Park

A new, smooth boardwalk greets visitors at Temple Terrace’s Riverhills Park

For a cost of just under $200,000, the project replaces a decaying wooden boardwalk that had been in use for about 30 years.
Updated: 1 hour ago
State Attorney said Tampa cop had consensual sexual contact with woman at traffic stop in 2016

State Attorney said Tampa cop had consensual sexual contact with woman at traffic stop in 2016

Hillsborough County's top prosecutor said new evidence surfaced during investigation showing the woman consented to the contact.
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rays coaching update: Linares may be in, Sandberg in talks

Rays coaching update: Linares may be in, Sandberg in talks

The Rays are closing in on hiring a third-base coach, with longtime Astros minor-league coach/manager Rodney Linares the leading candidate.Discussions remaining ongoing to fill the other opening on the staff for a major-league field coordinator, with...
Updated: 1 hour ago
State attorney: Tampa cop had consensual sexual contact with woman at traffic stop

State attorney: Tampa cop had consensual sexual contact with woman at traffic stop

Hillsborough County's top prosecutor said new evidence surfaced during investigation showing the woman consented to the contact.
Updated: 1 hour ago