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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Florida Young Democrats to hold convention in Ybor

From a release:

Young Democrats across the state of Florida will convene at The Italian Club, located in historic Ybor City, just outside downtown Tampa, on May 19-21, 2017. The Florida Young Democrats (FYD) is the official statewide federation of the Young Democrats of America. FYD is a political organization dedicated to building the future of our party by developing the next generation of Democratic leaders and ensuring youth turnout in local, state and national elections.

Young Democrats, activists, community leaders and more will come together for three days of current event panels, leadership skill trainings, and multiple networking opportunities. More than 150 young Democrats are anticipated to be in Tampa for the weekend. …

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St. Petersburg City Council signs off on solar panels for new police headquarters

ST. PETERSBURG — A lower than expected bid and better return on investment persuaded St. Petersburg City Council members on Thursday to support a solar panel project for the new police headquarters.

City staff presented a bid from Miller Electric for $2.3 million, about $400,000 less than previous estimates. The company is also offering a 25-year-warranty on the panels.

The panels would be paid off with reduced energy costs after 27 years, about six years faster than previous estimates.

Earlier this month, council members balked at the cost and length of time it would for take the panels to pay back the city's investment costs through reduced energy costs.

The new figures put City Council member Charlie Gerdes at ease. He noted that the “break-even” point was close to the end of the warranty.

And he said the project served a larger purpose. Last year, the council voted to make the Sunshine City the first in Florida to eventually operate 100 percent on renewable energy.

“We passed a resolution to be a 100 percent clean energy city. We either did that because we meant it or we did it because it would sound good. My vote was because I intended to go in that direction,” Gerdes said. …

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Baker wants to talk about the Rowdies, but Tiger Bay was interested in if he's running for mayor

Rick Baker has been the point man on the push for a May 2 referendum to negotiate a longterm lease for the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium to boost their bid for the MLS

Times File Photo

Rick Baker has been the point man on the push for a May 2 referendum to negotiate a longterm lease for the Tampa Bay Rowdies at Al Lang Stadium to boost their bid for the MLS

Former Mayor Rick Baker came to the Tiger Bay luncheon Wednesday to talk about the Tampa Bay Rowdies' bid to join soccer’s big leagues.

Pretty much everyone else wanted to know if he plans to run for mayor of St. Petersburg against incumbent Rick Kriseman.

“Which would you rather be? The president of a major-league soccer franchise based in Tampa Bay? The governor of Florida? Or the mayor of St. Petersburg,” asked Peter Schorsch, a political consultant and owner of SaintPetersblog who also introduced Baker to the smallish crowd at the St. Petersburg Yacht Club.

Baker paused.

“So I’m going to answer that question as directly as I can,” Baker began before abruptly returning to a previous question about how a Major League Soccer franchise playing in an expanded Al Lang Stadium would affect downtown parking that prompted laughter from the crowd..

After running out the clock, Baker mock apologized for not having enough time to address Schorsch’s question.

After several more attempts to pry out the former mayor’s plans, the final questioner was blunt:

“Are you going to run for mayor or no?”

“So the answer is that I’m going to vote on May 2 for the Rowdies,” Baker said. …

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One St. Pete council member endorses possible successor, another prefers to wait

City Council member Karl Nurse is going to wait before endorsing a successor in a crowded District 6 field

Times File Photo

City Council member Karl Nurse is going to wait before endorsing a successor in a crowded District 6 field

For nearly a decade, City Council member Jim Kennedy avoided endorsing candidates in other council races, saying that he didn't think it was appropriate and could damage working relationships on the council.

Now Kennedy, who is stepping down as District 2 council member at the end of year, has endorsed one of two candidates vying to replace him: Barclay Harless.

So far, Harless and Realtor Brandi Gabbard are the only two candiates in the race to represent the northeastern neighborhoods of the city. 

"We need to keep trust in local government and Barclay will be a budget watchdog, an independent thinker and bring a fresh perspective to city council," Kennedy said in a news release by the Harless campaign last week.

Harless has worked as a legislative aide to then-State Rep. Darryl Rouson and now works as a manager for Bank of the Ozarks.

Karl Nurse, who is also stepping down after nine years on city council, said Monday he'll wait to see how the already crowded field in District 6 shakes out before he endorses, probably shortly before the Aug. 29 primary. …

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Tampa extends moratorium on new local rules for medical marijuana dispensaries

The Tampa City Council on Thursday voted to extend a moratorium on rezonings or permits for medical marijuana dispensaries. A 90-day moratorium that the city enacted before the Legislature’s spring session is scheduled to expire on May 17. The council voted to extend it to Aug. 15.

iStockPhoto

The Tampa City Council on Thursday voted to extend a moratorium on rezonings or permits for medical marijuana dispensaries. A 90-day moratorium that the city enacted before the Legislature’s spring session is scheduled to expire on May 17. The council voted to extend it to Aug. 15.

With competing bills in the Legislature on how to implement the voter-approved constitutional amendment to legalize medical marijuana, Tampa City Hall has decided to wait a little longer before drafting its own zoning or other rules for pot dispensaries.

So on Thursday, the City Council voted to extend a temporary moratorium on rezonings or permits for medical marijuana dispensaries. A 90-day moratorium that City Hall enacted before the Legislature’s spring session is scheduled to expire on May 17. The council voted 6-to-1 to extend it to Aug. 15.

The no vote came from Frank Reddick, who said he felt the city could move sooner. But a city attorney said the proposed extension would allow the city to look at whatever laws Tallahassee passes in response to Amendment 2, then come up with ideas and maps, hold a council workshop on June 15 and have time for any proposed development rules to be reviewed by the Hillsborough County City-County Planning Commission and go through two public hearings. …

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Former Hillsborough Commissioner Beckner named director of county civil service

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner was named the director of the county county civil service.

Times File Photo

Former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner was named the director of the county county civil service.

The Hillsborough County Civil Service Board has selected former Hillsborough County Commissioner Kevin Beckner as its new executive director.

The job was slated to pay $115,000-$140,000.

Beckner has said if he got it, he’d stay out of elective politics for the indefinite future.

Term-limited in his countywide commissioner’s seat last year, Becker challenged Clerk of Court Pat Frank in a Democratic primary, but lost in a hard-fought race that created enmity among Democrats on both sides.

There were more than 200 applicants to replace Director Dane Petersen, who’s retiring after 30 years with the agency.

The Civil Service Board, among other things, hears appeals of disciplinary actions by employees of county government and various county agencies. The seven-member board is appointed by the governor.

Beckner was one of four finalists for the job along with Alma Gonzalez, currently the board’s employee relations manager and a high-level Democratic Party activist.

Beckner’s resume listed no experience in employment law or human resources organizations, but he said his eight years as commissioner and experience in running small businesses gave him that experience.

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Hillsborough takes step to bring back Cross-Bay Ferry in November

Hillsborough County Commissioners voted Wednesday to explore how to bring back seasonal CrossBay Ferry service this November.

Times File Photo

Hillsborough County Commissioners voted Wednesday to explore how to bring back seasonal CrossBay Ferry service this November.

TAMPA -- The Cross-Bay ferry’s six-month trial hasn’t even ended yet and Hillsborough County Commissioners are already looking to bring it back.

Commissioners on Wednesday directed county staff to identify money in next year’s budget that could again contribute to a seasonal ferry connecting the downtowns of St. Petersburg and Tampa. Hillsborough, along with St. Petersburg, Tampa and Pinellas County, contributed $350,000 last year to pay for the ongoing pilot program.

The show of support for the ferry came after St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman updated commissioners with preliminary ridership figures and survey data on the habits of its users.

In all, the Cross-Bay Ferry has carried more than 36,000 riders -- including 5,100 in the first few weeks of April. He said ridership could reach 10,000 this month before the pilot program ends.

Kriseman also predicted that each government will have about $30,000 returned to them since ticket sales have exceeded their investments.

“The future of this service is exciting,” Kriseman said. “I think all of us come May 1 are going to hear from our constituents, 'Where did the ferry go, and when does it come back.'" …

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Hillsborough honors former Tampa Tribune editorial writer Joe Guidry with inaugural conservation award

Former Tampa Tribune editorial writer Joe Guidry was named the inaugural recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Hillsborough Forever Conservation Award on Wednesday.

Times File Photo

Former Tampa Tribune editorial writer Joe Guidry was named the inaugural recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Hillsborough Forever Conservation Award on Wednesday.

TAMPA -- Hillsborough County Commissioners on Wednesday honored former Tampa Tribune journalist and editorial writer Joe Guidry with the county’s new conservation award.

A committee chose Guidry as the inaugural recipient of the Theodore Roosevelt Hillsborough Forever Conservation Award last month because of his career advocating for the county’s natural resources and the environment through the power of the press.

A Tampa native and University of South Florida graduate, Guidry spent 45 years as a newspaperman in his hometown, first with the Tampa Times and then at the Tampa Tribune. In congratulating Guidry, commissioners credited his countless editorials for championing the clean up of Tampa Bay and pushing the creation of the county’s environmental lands preservation program.

Guidry continues to write on water issues for the Florida Aquarium.

In accepting the award, Guidry said he “can’t imagine a better job than writing editorials about what you care about in your hometown.” And while the Tampa Tribune editorial board was known as a conservative voice in the Tampa Bay area, he said proudly pushed back against claims that their environmental stances skewed liberal. …

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Political activist Sam Rashid sues former hair salon employee over Facebook post

East county political activist and donor Sam Rashid is suing a former employee

Times file photo

East county political activist and donor Sam Rashid is suing a former employee

Powerful east county political activist and donor Sam Rashid has twice in recent years walked away from seats on prestigious boards because of fallout from controversial posts he made on social media. 

Now, he is suing a former employee for her Facebook post.

In a lawsuit filed in Hillsborough County Friday, Rashid claimed that he has been libeled on social media by Jacqueline Lilley, a former worker at a Brandon hair salon and spa that he co-owns.

The complaint against Lilley includes a screen grab of a March 6 Facebook post about her former workplace in which she wrote that “the owners are thieves.” The post also states that workers at Divine Designs Salon and Spa employees were told they cannot communicate or even text with former workers who left on “bad terms.”

The post attracted more than 39 comments and was “liked” at least 14 times, the lawsuit states. Rashid is seeking damages in excess of $15,000.

A Republican, Rashid has had Facebook trouble of his own in the past.  …

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James Scott is 8th candidate in crowded St. Pete Council race

James Scott says sustainability and resilience should be top city priority

Charlie Frago

James Scott says sustainability and resilience should be top city priority

James Scott, a 29-year-old graduate student and community organizer, told about a dozen supporters Tuesday on the steps of City Hall that he had done his homework and was ready for City Council.

Active in the city’s Sustainability Council and local Sierra Club, Scott said the city needed to prioritize sustainability and resilience in the face of climate change and rising seas that threaten a city surrounded on three sides by water.

“We are a vulnerable community and I don’t like that,” Scott said.

Scott said he’s pored over city budgets, helped found the city’s sustainability council and supported its commitment to become fully reliant on renewable energy.

“I’ve practiced for the role of public leadership for many years,” he said.

Although he had strong opinions on the environment, transportation and economic development, Scott said he planned to listen to voters in the district, which stretches from Midtown, through downtown and into Old Northeast.

“What’s really important is what the people of St. Pete want,” he said.

Scott’s announcement made him the eighth candidate to declare for the District 6 race, a crowded field likely to get even more so before the filing period ends in June. …

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$33,000 lawnmower blows St. Pete council member Ed Montanari's mind

St. Petersburg Council member Ed Montanari

Times File Photo

St. Petersburg Council member Ed Montanari

St. Petersburg Council member Ed Montanari has a keen eye for items tucked away on the City Council's consent agenda, a document usually containing dozens of purchases, contracts, and other city business.

Consent agendas are usually approved in full; usually without discussion.

It's called consent, after all, because the items on it are not considered to be controversial.

That's not always the case. Montanari pulled a $225,000 item to pay for "influencers" and other marketing campaigns off of a consent agenda last month, sparking a political brushfire. Mayor Rick Kriseman's office hasn't brought that proposal back to council.

On Thursday, at a preview meeting for the council's April 20 meeting, Montanari had another bone to pick. This time, with three high-priced lawnmowers the city wants to purchase for cutting its golf course greens and raking sand traps.

The price tag? $82,398. 

"We keep them a long time," said Leisure Services Administrator Sherry McBee. In fact, the city is replacing lawnmowers that it has operated for 17 and 18 years respectively.  …

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DOT: Revamped TBX plan expected in 2019

Opponents of Tampa Bay Express march past Interstate 275 in Tampa during a 2016 protest of the $6 billion toll road project.

Times file photo

Opponents of Tampa Bay Express march past Interstate 275 in Tampa during a 2016 protest of the $6 billion toll road project.

The Florida Department of Transportation is taking two years to reevaluate its controversial plan, known as Tampa Bay Express, to add toll lanes to nearly 100 miles of interstates.

Director of Development Bill Jones made a 10 minute presentation to the Tampa City Council Thursday about what exactly the TBX “reset” means. He told the board for the Community Redevelopment Area that DOT will have a new plan for the project by the end of 2019.

“Over next two years, 30 months, express lanes are going to be reevaluated,” Jones said. “We’re also going to look at other options as well.”

Former DOT Secretary Jim Boxold called for the reset at the end of 2016 following public outcry against the project which would bulldoze minority-dominated neighborhoods in downtown Tampa and also convert an existing free lane on the Howard Frankland Bridge to a paid toll lane. …

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Solar panels on new police headquarters would take 1/3 of a century to make good on cost, council hits pause button

Faced with estimates that placing solar panels on the roof of the new police headquarters would take 32 years to start making good on the $2.7 million cost, St. Petersburg City Council members decided to hit the pause button Thursday.

Several council members questioned whether it made better sense to wait for technology to produce more efficient panels in a few years.

“Thirty two year rate of return. That’s not impressive to me,” said council member Jim Kennedy, chairman of the Budget, Finance and Taxation Committee.

Council chairwoman Darden Rice argued that while it might not show up on a spreadsheet, moving forward with the 489 kilowatt solar array on the $79 million new headquarters, made long-term sense. The panels would save the city from burning about 100 tons of coal per year, she said.

“That cost isn’t measured here,” Rice said, waving a sheet of paper showing the return on investment for the solar panels.

St. Petersburg has made a commitment to being a green city, she said.

“It comes back to walking our talk as a city,” Rice said. …

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Justin Bean jumps in St. Pete City Council race

Justin Bean jumps in St. Pete City Council race

Justin Bean Twitter profile picture

Justin Bean jumps in St. Pete City Council race

Justin Bean has been active in city politics for the past several years.

Appointed by Mayor Rick Kriseman to the Pier Uplands Selection Committee, Bean is also part of the Complete Streets Committee, which seeks to make the city’s streets safer for bikers and pedestrians.

He worked as a consultant on a proposal to redevelop Tropicana Field.

Bean, 30, is also spearheading a fledgling business district for the downtown Williams Park area. He also recently served as chairman of the St. Petersburg Young Professionals.

Jumping in the crowded District 6 City Council race is a logical next step, he said.

“I really just want to continue what I’ve been doing,” Bean said.

Bean also addressed a 2013 DUI conviction in an interview with the Tampa Bay Times. He was arrested in Tampa that February with a blood-alcohol level more than .15. The legal limit is .08.

“That was a mistake. It’s something I learned a lot from since then. I made a bad decision, since then, I’ve moved away from that kind of thing,” Bean said. …

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Cross-Bay Ferry enters final weeks of pilot

People take advantage of the view from the upper deck as the ferry left Tampa for St. Petersburg on Feb. 9.

Octavio Jones | Times

People take advantage of the view from the upper deck as the ferry left Tampa for St. Petersburg on Feb. 9.

The Cross-Bay Ferry is entering the final stretch of its 6-month pilot program, which is set to end April 30.

March was a record month for ticket sales, said spokesman Richard Mullins. The ferry generated more than $57,000 in ticket sales to return to the the cities of St. Petersburg and Tampa, and Hillsborough and Pinellas counties.

HMS Ferries started covering its management costs in late January, which meant money from ticket sales has since gone back to the four governments who invested in the pilot.

Since March, nearly $112,000 has been returned. This is less than one-thirteenth the $1.4 million paid by the four governments at $350,000 each.

Those who are interested in riding the ferry before the pilot ends can purchase tickets through the mobile app or www.crossbayferry.com.

Tickets are $10 each way, though promos can be found on the website. The ferry makes two or three roundtrip departures each day between St. Petersburg and Tampa.

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