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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Tampa investor gives $50,000 to move Confederate monument, Buckhorn donates $1,000

A check from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for $1,000 to remove the Confederate monument from downtown Tampa.

Photo courtesy of Twitter.

A check from Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn for $1,000 to remove the Confederate monument from downtown Tampa.

TAMPA — Donations to remove a Confederate monument from downtown Tampa have skyrocketed since Hillsborough County commissioners tied the statue’s fate to the success of the campaign, including a $5,000 donation from former Tampa Bay Bucaneers coach Tony Dungy and one $50,000 donation from a local businessman.

Dungy tweeted that he and his wife Lauren were giving $5,000 to the fundraising efforts and he was challenging "Bucs Rays Lightning to help!" 

He posted a picture of the Tampa Bay Times front page about yesterday's decision by the county.

In an email to the Times, former Tampa Bay Storm owner Bob Gries said he told Buckhorn he would donate $50,000 to remove the statue. 

"I hope it will inspire others to contribute whatever they can so that we can insure that the tragic events which occurred in Charlottesville never happen in Tampa," said Gries, the founder and managing partner of Gries Investment Funds in Tampa.

Count Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn among the latest donors, too.

On Thursday morning Buckhorn posted to social media a picture of a signed check from him for $1,000 to the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners. …

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Kriseman and Crist rally troops for final push in St. Pete mayor's race

Rick Kriseman and Charlie Crist pose for a group photo Wednesday evening with progressive activists at Allendale United Methodist Church

Charlie Frago

Rick Kriseman and Charlie Crist pose for a group photo Wednesday evening with progressive activists at Allendale United Methodist Church

Elections have consequences. Donald Trump. Charlottesville.

That was the message delivered by Congressman Charlie Crist and Mayor Rick Kriseman as they rallied progressives Wednesday in a get-out-the-vote effort with less than two weeks to go before the Aug. 29 primary.

Trump’s actions prove that what happens in Washington, D.C. and Tallahassee matter to St. Petersburg, the Democratic mayor said.

“Yeah, it matters. It impacts us here every day” Kriseman told a crowd of about 75 people at Allendale United Methodist Church during a meeting of Fired Up Pinellas, a progressive organization.

Kriseman’s opponent, Rick Baker, a Republican, has criticized the mayor for being more interested in taking stands on national issues or tweeting at Trump instead of focusing on the nuts and bolts of governing.

But Baker has also refused to say if he voted for Trump and has tried to minimize what has become an intensely partisan race for what is officially a non-partisan office. …

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After monument vote, Confederate activist named to Hillsborough County diversity council

David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.

Times File Photo

David McCallister won a spot on Hillsborough County's Diversity Advisory Council on Wednesday.

TAMPA — Moments after Hillsborough County commissioners made uncertain a previous decision to move Tampa's Confederate monument, they voted to put the area's most vocal advocate of Confederate causes on a citizen committee to promote diversity. 

Four of six commissioners present nominated David McCallister, commander of the Sons of Confederate Veterans' Judah P. Benjamin Camp, to be the representative of Northern & Southern Europe on the county's Diversity Advisory Council. 

The diversity council includes representatives from various ethnic groups as well as the LGBTQ community. Its job is to “facilitate communication between county government and its diverse populations, addressing matters related to diversity that are important to everyone.”

McCallister has helped organize opposition against removing a Confederate monument from outside the old county courthouse in downtown Tampa. He appears at nearly every county commission meeting wearing a stars and bars tie to advocate for recognition of Southern Heritage and Confederate veterans of the Civil War, which he calls "The War Between the States."

Commissioners passed over McCallister for a spot on the diversity council last year. …

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Limit on number of taxicabs on the road may survive end of PTC

Taxi cab drivers wait at an offsite area for fares at Tampa International Airport

Times

Taxi cab drivers wait at an offsite area for fares at Tampa International Airport

TAMPA State lawmakers abolished the Public Transportation Commission in part because they believed its regulations protected the taxicab industry from competition.

But Hillsborough County’s replacement plan may also include a provision that makes it tougher for new taxicab firms to get a foothold in the market.

County commissioners on Wednesday gave initial approval to continuing the PTC’s cap on the number of taxi permits. That could mean fledgling firms would have to try and buy permits from existing taxicab firms. The regulation could also make a dent in an estimated savings of $1.5 million that county officials say will result from abolishing the agency.

To legally justify a cap, the county would have to commission a study that could cost about $100,000, county attorneys told commissioners.

The push for a cap was a surprise to officials working on the plan to replace the PTC, said Kevin Jackson, the agency’s interim executive director.

“The more the process makes its way through the system, I’m afraid it’s going to look more like the PTC than originally intended,” he said. …

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Stormwater rate hike coming to Hillsborough residents, businesses

Knee-deep water lasted in the Lutz neighborhood of Faircloth Estates days after a 2015 storm long after other neighborhoods dried up.

Times File Photo

Knee-deep water lasted in the Lutz neighborhood of Faircloth Estates days after a 2015 storm long after other neighborhoods dried up.

TAMPA -- Stormwater fees in Hillsborough County are going up for the second time in three years after remaining flat for more than two decades.

Single-family households will pay $36 this year, an increase of $6. Apartment complexes will now pay $18 per unit and non-residential parcels will pay $0.03 for every 1.5 square feet.

The new rates, approved 5-1, also give commissioners the option of raising the rate for residents to $42 next year.

Commissioners hope the hike can help the county address a significant backlog in the kind of culvert and watershed improvements that can alleviate flooding that habitually occurs after even modest rains.

“I’m exhausted in my office dealing with situations of storm water problems. My staff is exhausted,” Commissioner Sandy Murman said. “We are trying to answer the needs. This is a quality of life issue that’s really important to our residents.”

It’s necessary for Hillsborough to address stormwater infrastructure because of its “special problems” as a coastal county that sees heavy rainfall in summer months and is susceptible to sea level rise and tropical storms, Commissioner Pat Kemp said. …

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Les Miller on Charlottesville: 'This is not what we should be about'

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.

Times File Photo

Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller prayed for unity during Wednesday's Hillsborough County Commission meeting, following the violent protests in Charlottesville that left 19 injured and one dead.

TAMPA -- In the aftermath of the violent protests in Charlottesville, Va., and ahead of today's continued conversation on Tampa's Confederate monument, Hillsborough County Commissioner Les Miller on Wednesday looked to inspire unity in an invocation that a colleague called "inspirational."

In it, Miller said after the weekend's events, which he called an "ugly scene," it seems "we’re going backwards instead of forward."

"This is not what we should be about," Miller said. "We should be moving forward, regardless of our race, creed, color, national origin or our beliefs."

Miller, the county's lone black commissioner, was the catalyst who called for Hillsborough to move a Confederate monument from outside the old county courthouse. Commissioners voted last month to relocate the monument to a private family cemetery in Brandon. …

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Kriseman removes Confederate marker from St. Pete's waterfront

A historical marker commemorating a highway named for Confederate general Stonewall Jackson occupies a modest space on St. Petersburg's waterfront

Charlie Frago

A historical marker commemorating a highway named for Confederate general Stonewall Jackson occupies a modest space on St. Petersburg's waterfront

ST. PETERSBURG — Once it was a small, obscure reminder of the Confederacy sitting on the downtown waterfront. Now it’s gone.

A local chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy put down the stone marker noting the southern terminus of the Stonewall Jackson Memorial Highway at the intersection of Central Avenue and Bayshore Drive on Jan. 22, 1939. It has gone mostly unnoticed since then.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: For Tampa's Confederate monument, racist history clouds claims of heritage

The Tampa Bay Times asked the city about the marker on Monday. A mayor’s spokesman said they were trying to figure out whether it was on public or private land.

But on Tuesday, Mayor Rick Kriseman decided to act: He ordered city workers to remove the marker around noon.

The mayor made his decision at his weekly cabinet meeting and consulted with Police Chief Tony Holloway, who suggested removing it quietly without alerting the public or the media in the interests of public safety, said mayoral spokesman Ben Kirby. …

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Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority picks builder for $230 million Selmon extension to Gandy Bridge

This new rendering shows the planned $230 million extension from the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority awarded a contract to design and build the project to a team consisting of Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and AECOM.

Rendering courtesy Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority

This new rendering shows the planned $230 million extension from the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge. The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority awarded a contract to design and build the project to a team consisting of Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and AECOM.

The Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority has awarded a $230 million contract to design and build an extension from the Lee Roy Selmon Expressway to the Gandy Bridge to a team of Kiewit Infrastructure South Co. and AECOM.

The extension will be a 2-mile-long toll lane in the median of Gandy Boulevard that will let drivers go to or from the expressway to the bridge without driving on Gandy Boulevard. The project will be paid for using toll revenues and money borrowed from the bond market.

Construction is expected to begin in early 2018, with an opening anticipated in late 2020.

The Kiewit-AECOM team was one of four that presented proposals to the expressway authority’s board. The board scored the teams on factors that included design, the number of days needed to complete the project, price and lane and road closures.

The result, said board chairman Vince Cassidy, will be “a signature bridge.” …

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Facing elimination from Tampa budget, public access TV pleads its case

Tampa Bay Community Network executive director Louise Thompson urged Mayor Bob Buckhorn not to cut city funds to public access television, which she said offers unique programs and job training.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2011)

Tampa Bay Community Network executive director Louise Thompson urged Mayor Bob Buckhorn not to cut city funds to public access television, which she said offers unique programs and job training.

When Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn last month unveiled a city budget that would raise property taxes to address two debts from the 1990s, he told City Council members that the city proposed to eliminate subsidies for a couple of nonprofit organizations, and that City Hall was sure to hear from them.

“We are asking our not-for-profit partners, some of whom have lived off the city dole, to take a haircut as well this year,” he said on July 20. “There are two or three that don't serve a critical need for us that we will in a longer be subsidizing. I am certain you will hear from some. But I would ask you that you ask them to recognize our reality and be sympathetic to that and not just continue to come to the government so that they can survive.”

Outside the meeting, Buckhorn said the budget would “zero out” city support for the Tampa Bay Community Network, often known as public access, which last year received $207,360, and the Tampa Bay Arts & Education Network, which received $108,629.

“We have our own TV station,” he said. “We really don’t need to be subsidizing that.” …

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Former Tampa police chief Jane Castor forms political committee, raises $16,250

Former Tampa police chief Jane Castor has formed a political committee, Tampa Strong, in advance of what is expected to be a run for mayor in 2019.

Times files

Former Tampa police chief Jane Castor has formed a political committee, Tampa Strong, in advance of what is expected to be a run for mayor in 2019.

Former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor, a likely but so far unannounced candidate for mayor in the 2019 election, has quietly formed a political committee.

The committee, Tampa Strong, was formed July 11. It collected $16,250 that month, according to its first finance report.

Of that, $15,000 came from Bear Defense Services, a defense aviation contracting firm headed by Darrell Egner, a former Tampa police officer who worked in aerial surveillance.

Castor couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday afternoon. But the husband of another donor, Tampa insurance executive Guy King III, a Castor backer, said the purpose of the committee was to support her, though he said he didn’t know if it was aimed specifically at a mayoral race.

“I hope she does run,” King said, “I’d certainly support her.”

King recently paid for a poll that showed Castor leading the pack among several potential candidates.

Paperwork to form the committee was filed by Ana Cruz, a political adviser to Castor. …

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Kriseman bests Baker in latest campaign cash filings, but trails overall in money race

Mayor Rick Kriseman beat Rick Baker in latest two-week individual contribution filings

Dirk Shadd

Mayor Rick Kriseman beat Rick Baker in latest two-week individual contribution filings

Mayor Rick Kriseman edged out his main opponent in individual campaign donations in the latest two-week filing period.

It’s welcome news for the incumbent Democrat who is locked in a historically expensive race against a well-funded Republican opponent.

Kriseman has been trailing Rick Baker in fundraising in what has long been the most expensive mayoral race in the city’s history ---still more than two weeks away from the Aug. 29 primary.

But Kriseman netted $41,124 in individual donations between July 22 and Aug. 4, besting Baker’s haul of $35,995.

Overall, Kriseman now leads Baker by a $393,339 to $391,485 in total contributions.

The mayor is spending money faster than it comes in, though. He spend $59,591 over those two weeks, leaving him with $54,958.

Baker is also spending more than he raised in the same period. He spent $99,976.

But the former mayor still has a bigger pile of cash left to burn:  $87,297. …

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Tampa council denies rezoning for proposed Hyde Park assisted living facility

This rendering shows the 9-story assisted living facility that developer Grady Pridgen proposed for the corner of S Hyde Park Avenue and W De Leon Street, near the bridge leading to Davis Islands. The Tampa City Council voted Thursday night to deny a rezoning for the project.

City of Tampa

This rendering shows the 9-story assisted living facility that developer Grady Pridgen proposed for the corner of S Hyde Park Avenue and W De Leon Street, near the bridge leading to Davis Islands. The Tampa City Council voted Thursday night to deny a rezoning for the project.

The Tampa City Council voted 4-2 late Thursday night to deny a rezoning for a 175-bed assisted living facility that developer Grady Pridgen proposed in Hyde Park near the bridge to Davis Islands.

During a lengthy public hearing, residents contended that the 9-story building at 509 S Hyde Park Ave., was out of scale with the neighborhood, would exacerbate an existing parking problem and could create traffic hazards on a route leading to Tampa General Hospital.

Pridgen’s development team, however, said the project met all city codes, had more parking than the city required and — with no residents having cars of their own — would generate fewer traffic trips to and from the 1.2-acre site than the office building that’s there now.

In an effort to address neighborhood concerns, Pridgen offered to reduce the number of beds from the 215 he first requested to 175 and agreed to make a dozen changes to the plan to ease the project’s impact on the neighborhood.

“So far, every request they have made, we have done,” Pridgen told the council.

But that was still too much for opponents. …

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Baker extends cash advantage in St. Pete mayor's race

Baker has raised just under $1 million in three months in his bid for the St. Petersburg mayor's office

Dirk Shadd

Baker has raised just under $1 million in three months in his bid for the St. Petersburg mayor's office

In the escalating cash race to fund the expensive mayoral race in St. Petersburg, Rick Baker has opened a commanding lead.

In July, Baker’s Seamless Florida PAC raised $84,500 more than four times as much as Mayor Rick Kriseman’s Sunrise PAC, which netted $21,000.

Baker, mayor between 2001 and 2010, has now raised $624,053 in PAC money compared to Kriseman’s $326,950.

Kriseman has spent $210,804, leaving his PAC with $116,146 on hand.

Baker’s PAC has spent $406,914, leaving him with $217,139, nearly double Kriseman’s available PAC cash.

The latest individual campaign contributions are due tomorrow. Through July 28, Kriseman had raised $352,124 slightly trailing Baker’s total: $355,490.

Baker had a sizable cash-on-hand lead in that money pot as well: $151,279 to $73,334.

In all, Baker has raised just shy of $1 million in three months.  Kriseman, who has been fundraising since December 2015, has raised about $679,000, which easily bests any previous mayor’s fundraising for campaigns lasting until November.

But the primary is Aug. 29. And there is a lot of money likely to be spent over the next 19 days.

 

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Pastor decides he backs Rick Baker after all

Pastor Ron Gibson is backing Rick Baker after all. A report last week indicated that he had been wrongly included on a list of 40 pastors backing the former mayor

Chris Urso

Pastor Ron Gibson is backing Rick Baker after all. A report last week indicated that he had been wrongly included on a list of 40 pastors backing the former mayor

Judging from his comments to Gypsy Gallardo, it's been a rough week for Pastor Ron Gibson.

Gallardo reported last week that Gibson, despite being included in a list of 40 pastors backing Rick Baker, hadn't endorsed the former mayor in his bid to unseat Mayor Rick Kriseman.

The apparent flub was seized by Kriseman supporters as evidence that Baker was overstating his support in the black community. Kriseman himself criticized his opponent via Twitter on Aug. 5.

The mayor tweeted: "Our faith community and residents throughout our city deserve better than this." and linked to Gallardo's Aug. 5 report.

Thursday, Gallardo reported that Gibson, in fact, does back Baker. He told her that the past week he has been inundated with calls. 

The primary is Aug. 29

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Baker and Kriseman agree: St. Pete is awesome

Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker played nice Wednesday at a forum focused on quality of life issues

Dirk Shadd

Rick Kriseman and Rick Baker played nice Wednesday at a forum focused on quality of life issues

The two Ricks turned over a new leaf Wednesday. Or maybe they just took a break from the cage match of a nasty, expensive mayoral race during a sedate forum in which Mayor Rick Kriseman and former mayor Rick Baker attempted to outdo one another in praise of the beauty, uniqueness, character and plain awesomeness of the Sunshine City.

A nearly two-hour forum at the Museum of Fine Arts was by invite only. About midway through the crowd started to thin. By the end, Kriseman felt obliged to thank the hardy audience who stuck it out.

Organized by St. Petersburg Preservation, the topics were limited to the “four cornerstones” of the city: the arts, historic preservation, locally-owned businesses and neighborhoods.

Gary Mormino, a renowned historian of Florida who moderated the event, cautioned Kriseman and Baker from deviating from those topics and “to avoid the temptation of wading in to sewage plants.”

Baker and Kriseman obliged. They also managed to avoid tussling over crime rates, who cares more about Midtown and who is taking the city forward or backward.

There were a few points of disagreement. …

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