1. Florida Politics

DOT: Jackie Toledo campaign didn't get permit for video in I-275 work zone

In a video on YouTube, Tampa council candidate Jackie Toledo talks with several workers while examining blueprints.
In a video on YouTube, Tampa council candidate Jackie Toledo talks with several workers while examining blueprints.
Published Feb. 18, 2015

TAMPA — City Council candidate Jackie Toledo appears in a campaign TV commercial talking with construction workers on Interstate 275 and wearing a pink hard hat.

Toledo, the narrator says, is an engineer with "the expertise and knowledge to solve Tampa's traffic and infrastructure challenges."

But her campaign did not get permission from the Florida Department of Transportation to shoot video in a restricted construction zone, an agency spokeswoman said. Nor did it provide the DOT with proof that it had the required $1 million in liability insurance for the shoot.

"Awkward," the DOT's Kris Carson said. "You just can't go into a construction zone and film a commercial without letting DOT know."

The TV spot was shot on I-275 near W Cypress Street, part of a four-year, $215 million project to widen the interstate to four lanes in each direction. The video shows Toledo walking toward and looking into the camera, examining blueprints with workers while holding another set of blueprints under her arm and pointing at something in the distance.

A 1-minute Toledo campaign video posted to YouTube includes some of the same scenes. On Tuesday, the YouTube video had been made private.

Executives for the project's contractor told state officials they didn't know anything about the video, Carson said.

The DOT allows video crews on limited-access state roads, but only after they file a detailed application and show proof that they have at least $1 million in liability insurance. The agency then works with the crew to minimize traffic disruption.

The DOT rules also say an off-duty law enforcement officer must be present during shooting "in areas of congestion, critical traffic flow or situations that may cause hazardous conditions."

Toledo said she went to I-275 to talk to workers. She had just met with labor unions, and she wanted to ask whether workers on the project were local or from out of state.

"I was just doing research," she said. Yes, someone with her had a small, hand-held digital camera, but she said it was not a big video production.

At the suggestion of a friend who was with her, she said, she also asked if the workers would mind if someone made a video while they talked. Asked who the friend was, she said she only knew him by his first name. Later, she said, the campaign determined that "we got great footage, and we're like, okay, we need footage."

In the March 3 election, Toledo faces Tommy Castellano and Guido Maniscalco in District 6, which covers West Tampa and parts of South Tampa.

"If she didn't have proper approval to film, then it's wrong to proceed with a commercial like that," Maniscalco said. "Is it an issue to me? No. . . . It's a DOT issue, if it is an issue."

State officials plan to reach out to Toledo's campaign this week.

"We need people to be safe up there," Carson said, "and the fact that someone got up there and filmed a commercial without letting DOT know is concerning."

Given the DOT's concerns, would Toledo do it differently the next time?

"I don't think I did anything wrong," she said. "I was just going up there. I see YouTube videos of people all the time doing crazy things. I don't think what I did was anything crazy."

This is the second time Toledo's campaign imagery has raised questions.

In May, five photography experts told the Tampa Bay Times that it appeared someone digitally pasted Toledo's photo over a photo of Mayor Bob Buckhorn standing in front of the city's seal at City Hall.

Buckhorn said then the doctored photo could mislead voters into thinking Toledo has an endorsement that he didn't give. He later said he's teased Toledo about the photo, which remains on her campaign Facebook page.