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The staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Jolly continues to court black vote

Outgunned on TV and with a smaller pile of campaign cash, U.S. Rep. David Jolly is trying to cut into what most observers assumed would bedrock support for former Governor Charlie Crist.

For the last two weeks, Jolly's efforts have been focused in Midtown, Childs Park and other African-American neighborhoods in St. Petersburg, added to the 13th Congressional District in a court-ordered redraw last year.

Much of that effort has been negative--with TV ads and door-hangers reminding voters of Crist's one-time support for chain gangs..

When Jolly brought the issue up at the one debate between the two in September, the normally-courtly Crist upbraided him --"I'm embarassed you'd say that about a fellow Floridian," Crist told Jolly.

But Jolly has doubled down on the strategy. On Monday, his campaign announced the endorsement of the sister and brother-in-law of the late Harry Singletary, Florida's first black prison director. 

Framed by a grainy 1995 black and white newspaper photo of Crist standing near kneeling chain-gang prisoners, the statement by Terrye Singletary and Rudy Bradley, a former Pinellas County state representative, runs below: …

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Democrats push for down-ballot support at St. Petersburg rally

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 13, speaks with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, during a rally Sunday afternoon at Williams Park in St. Petersburg.

[Octavio Jones | Times staff]

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, the Democratic candidate for U.S. House District 13, speaks with Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, during a rally Sunday afternoon at Williams Park in St. Petersburg.

ST. PETERSBURG — Democrats gathered Sunday afternoon in Williams Park to implore voters to get to the polls early and vote their party in down-ballot races.

"This is now crunch time," said American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten, who stopped in Pinellas on a tour through the state this week. "This is when an election is won or lost in Florida."

Weingarten was joined by a cast of politicians and officials including U.S. House District 13 candidate and former Gov. Charlie Christ, county commissioners Charlie Justice and Ken Welch, and state house candidates Ben Diamond and Jennifer Webb.

The speakers sent a similar message to an audience of about 30 people mostly made up of volunteers and campaign staffers to vote Democrat "from the White House all the way down to the local house," as school board member Rene Flowers put it. Crist then led a march to the Supervisor of Elections office at 501 First Avenue N, where early voting has been under way since Monday. …

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Environmental groups target Gulfport on its sewage woes

Environmental groups announced their intent late Friday to sue Gulfport over its recent sewage spills.

Suncoast Waterkeeper and other environmental groups announced their intent to file a federal lawsuit against Gulfport, similar to the one they've threatened to lodge against St. Petersburg for massive sewage spills and dumps.

They would do so in federal court alleging violations of the Clean Water Act. 

Justin Bloom, Executive Director of Suncoast Waterkeeper said, “Gulfport's sewage woes are emblematic of a region-wide failure to address aging sewage infrastructure and increasing incidents of pollution inundating communities and the coastal waterways that they rely on and enjoy, like Gulfport's beautiful Boca Ciega Bay and Clam Bayou."

The 60-day notice of intent is the first step on the way to federal court. Next, the groups, which also include two other environmental groups, Our Children's Earth Foundation and Ecological Rights Foundation, will try to negotiate with the city.

As the release came after 5 p.m., officials in Gulfport weren't able to be reached for comment. Nor were officials in St. Petersburg. 

Full release below: …

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Back in Buckhorn's town, Graham campaigns openly for governor

Gwen Graham

Tampa Bay Times

Gwen Graham

It’s a long road to the 2018 Florida governor’s race, but U.S. Rep. Gwen Graham, D-Tallahassee, was on that road Friday morning, packing a roomful of civic leaders in South Tampa.

And it just happened to be in the hometown of a potential Democratic primary competitor, Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn.

“I don’t do coy,” Graham told the Café Con Tampa gathering, making it clear she’s running unless something comes up to change her mind.

But she did get a bit evasive when asked about a primary against Buckhorn. He’s made it clear he’s interested in the race but hasn’t gone as far as Graham in stating his intentions.

“The people of Tampa are very invested in learning about the potential candidates and are civically engaged, which I applaud,” she said of a potential primary and the enthusiastic, mostly Democratic crowd.

Graham, a moderate, business-oriented Democrat who boasts about her ability to win Republican votes and work with Republicans in the House, sits squarely on the same ideological turf as Buckhorn. But as the daughter of the iconic former governor and senator Bob Graham, she has a built-in statewide political base he lacks. …

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Appeals court says Oldsmar red light cameras are legal

The Second District Court of Appeal has ruled that Oldsmar's red light camera program is legal

Times file photo

The Second District Court of Appeal has ruled that Oldsmar's red light camera program is legal

A second Florida appeals court has sided with communities that use cameras to catch red light runners.

The Second District Court of Appeal today ruled that the City of Oldsmar’s camera program is not an illegal delegation of a law enforcement function to a third party.  It follows a similar ruling issued in July in a case filed against the City of Ventura.

But the issue could still be heading to the Florida Supreme Court since the rulings conflict with the 4th District Court of Appeal 2014 ruling that shut down the City of Hollywood’s cameras. 

The Oldsmar case was filed by the consortium of South Florida attorneys that successfully challenged Hollywood’s program. They argued that it was illegal because American Traffic Solutions workers did the initial screening of camera video to identify potential. 

The three-judge panel said that the Hollywood decision may have been made by a review of the contract language and not the procedure the city used. …

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Utilities contribute to PAC friendly to Jolly

David Jolly has been trailing badly in the money race against Charlie Crist in the 13th Congressional District.

The Republican incumbent hasn't gotten any significant outside help while Crist has been aided with substantial ad buys from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and environmental groups.

But Florida utilities have spent some money in support of Jolly recently. Florida Power and Light contributed $250,000 on Oct. 6 and Duke Energy gave $100,000 on Oct. 13 to People for Pinellas, a PAC supporting Jolly.

The latest campaign filings through Oct. 19, show a narrowing cash-on-hand margin. Crist has $169,149 on hand to Jolly's $158,630. 

During the first 19 days in October, Crist outraised Jolly $101,202 to $93,274. 

Campaigns are mostly won with money, but endorsements help. Both candidates have racked up plenty--from their own parties.

Jolly announced a raft of endorsements from Pinellas County Republican elected officials and some former mayors like St. Petersburg's Rick Baker, who is chairing Jolly's campaign and former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. …

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Utility contribute to PAC

David Jolly has been trailing badly in the money race against Charlie Crist in the 13th Congressional District.

The Republican incumbent hasn't gotten any significant outside help while Crist has been aided with substantial ad buys from the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and environmental groups.

But Florida utilities have spent some money in support of Jolly recently. Florida Power and Light contributed $250,000 on Oct. 6 and Duke Energy gave $100,000 on Oct. 13 to People for Pinellas, a PAC supporting Jolly.

The latest campaign filings through Oct. 19, show a narrowing cash-on-hand margin. Crist has $169,149 on hand to Jolly's $158,630. 

During the first 19 days in October, Crist outraised Jolly $101,202 to $93,274. 

Campaigns are mostly won with money, but endorsements help. Both candidates have racked up plenty--from their own parties.

Jolly announced a raft of endorsements from Pinellas County Republican elected officials and some former mayors like St. Petersburg's Rick Baker, who is chairing Jolly's campaign and former Clearwater Mayor Frank Hibbard. …

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Jolly, Crist, other local candidates talk sewage, the Rays, education at Gulfport forum

U.S. House Debate Congressional District 13 between U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican incumbent, and Democrat Charlie Crist, at the Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg in September.

Times archives

U.S. House Debate Congressional District 13 between U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican incumbent, and Democrat Charlie Crist, at the Palladium Theatre in St. Petersburg in September.

GULFPORT -- Several candidates appearing on the Gulfport general ballot took to the podium for a few minutes Thursday night to talk about their past experiences and future aspirations.

The forum at the Catherine A. Hickman theater featured 13th Congressional District candidates David Jolly and Charlie Crist, Pinellas County Commission District 3 candidates Mike Mikurak and Charlie Justice, state house district 70 candidate Wengay Newton, state house district 69 candidate Jennifer Webb and Pinellas County School Board District 1 At-Large candidates Matt Stewart and Joanne Lentino. All had a few minutes to address the audience and answer a follow-up question by the moderator and president of the Gulfport Area Chamber of Commerce, Barry Rubin. 

Here's what the candidates had to say:

Congressional District 13 …

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Republican Congressman David Jolly challenges Charlie Crist in St. Petersburg's Democratic strongholds

ST. PETERSBURG — David Jolly has represented the 13th Congressional District since 2014. But the incumbent Republican has never represented large portions of southern Pinellas County, which were recently brought into the district after a court-ordered redrawing of the lines last year.

Those voters were represented by Tampa Democrat Kathy Castor. But now they’re part of the new 13th District.

Neighborhoods like Midtown and Childs Park, traditionally Democratic and predominantly black, have become an unexpected battleground between Jolly and his Democratic opponent, former governor Charlie Crist.

Jolly has sought to cut into what are expected to be large voting margins favoring Crist by making frequent forays into St. Petersburg's southern neighborhoods.

For his part, Crist has made plenty of campaign appearances in Clearwater, where large numbers of the district's Republican voters live.

Over the weekend, Jolly campaign workers hung placards reminding residents that Crist had once championed "chain gangs" for prison inmates. …

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Charlie Crist finally asks DCCC to kill that fake David Jolly/Donald Trump ad

Democratic congressional candidate Charlie Crist on Monday finally called for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to stop running that fake ad with altered images pairing U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican incumbent in the 13th District, with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Jolly has never met Trump and doesn't plan to vote for him. The DCCC said it would stop airing the ad.

Democratic congressional candidate Charlie Crist on Monday finally called for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee to stop running that fake ad with altered images pairing U.S. Rep. David Jolly, the Republican incumbent in the 13th District, with GOP presidential nominee Donald Trump. Jolly has never met Trump and doesn't plan to vote for him. The DCCC said it would stop airing the ad.

ST. PETERSBURG — Charlie Crist says he had a change of heart on a misleading political ad that has emerged as the focal point of a nationally scrutinized congressional race.

On  Monday, a Tampa Bay Times editorial criticized the former governor about a Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee ad that portrayed U.S. Rep David Jolly, Crist’s Republican opponent in the 13th Congressional District race, as a pal of Donald Trump.

That editorial was posted online on Friday afternoon.

Jolly, though, has never met Trump and has said he won't vote for the GOP candidate for president.

After reading the editorial, Crist said, he called the DCCC and asked them to take down the ad.

Crist said the DCCC later took down the ad.

“I wish I’d done it sooner,” Crist said. “I was moved.”

Jolly, the Republican incumbent, wasn’t in a forgiving mood. The ad has run for two weeks, typically the lifetime of a political ad. The Jolly campaign pointed to information on the Federal Communications Commission website that appears to indicate the ad was only supposed to run through today.  …

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Consultant: St. Petersburg has too many consultants working on its 900-mile sewer system

Much of the millions of gallons of sewage that St. Petersburg has dumped roadways and waterways over the last 14 months is due to its three sewage plants and aging pipe system being overwhelmed by storms such as Tropical Storm Colin in June and Hurricane Hermine in September. Those plants include the Southwest plant by Eckerd College.

[EVE EDELHEIT | Times]

Much of the millions of gallons of sewage that St. Petersburg has dumped roadways and waterways over the last 14 months is due to its three sewage plants and aging pipe system being overwhelmed by storms such as Tropical Storm Colin in June and Hurricane Hermine in September. Those plants include the Southwest plant by Eckerd College.

ST. PETERSBURG — The city has too many consultants advising it on how to run its 900-mile sewer system, the City Council learned Monday.

Who told them? A consultant.

The council spent the day hearing testimony from eight teams of consultants working on St. Petersburg’s wastewater system, and the picture that emerged was that of a city where no one is really in charge of its failing sewer system.

That’s because the work on individual sewer projects had been farmed out to consultants. No one entity — not city officials, not the consultants — was overseeing the big picture. Council member Darden Rice likened it to the parable of blind men examining an elephant. No one was able to grasp the problem in its entirety.

Despite paying for those squads of outside help, council members marveled at the absence of any kind of coordinated response to the city’s sewage crisis. St. Petersburg has released about 200 million gallons of sewage into neighborhoods, road and waterways since August 2015.

Some consultants who were hired to study the city’s system didn’t realize that the city had shut down one of its four sewer plants last year. …

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Letter to Clearwater residents has confusing, but benign water warning

About 22,000 residents in Clearwater recently found a jargony letter in their mailboxes from the city about a chemical found in the drinking water.

But don't panic.

Cities are required by federal law to test once a year and ensure there are no traces of a variety of chemicals in the drinking water.

If any amount of a list of banned chemicals is found during the test, cities must test again every quarter that year to make sure there's no reoccurring problem.

A very small trace of cis-1,2-Dichloroethylene (as I said, jargony) was found during the annual test in January but city officials did not follow up with a retest the next quarter.

Once the oversight was discovered, the city was required by federal law to let residents know the follow-up test wasn't done.

“This is not a water quality issue, it's a reporting issue,” said Public Utilities Director David Porter.

About 0.6 parts per billion of the chemical was found in the January test, well below the 70.0 parts per billion maximum limit that's considered safe. …

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Montelione "humbled" by Obama endorsement

President Barack Obama

Whitehouse.gov

President Barack Obama

Endorsements of political candidates don’t generally do much to move the needle for a campaign.

But might that be different when that endorsement comes from the occupant of the White House?

The Florida Democratic Party announced this morning that President Barack Obama is endorsing 13 Democratic candidates running for in Florida legislative races including state House District 63 candidate Lisa Montelione.

The 55-year-old, who is resigning her Tampa City Council seat to run for the state House, is looking to unseat incumbent Republican Shawn Harrison.

The endorsement from the president is somewhat a completing of a circle for Montelione, who was a volunteer in Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign and said speeches he delivered when he was an Illinois senator inspired her to run for office.

“Having our President’s trust to carry on the fight for our shared Democratic values in Tallahassee is a responsibility I am proud to take on,” she said in a statement. …

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PTC board chairman calls emergency meeting to discuss agency's relationship with taxicab and limo firms

Kyle Cockream addresses members of Palm Beach County Commission during a discussion on ridesharing rules in April

Courtesy photo

Kyle Cockream addresses members of Palm Beach County Commission during a discussion on ridesharing rules in April

The Public Transportation Commission governing board is to hold an emergency meeting next week to look at allegations that the agency collaborated with the taxicab industry

PTC Board Chairman Victor Crist sent a memo to board members Thursday calling for the meeting that could determine the future of PTC Executive Director Kyle Cockream.

It comes after the Tampa Bay Times reported that the PTC used workers from taxicab and limousine firms in stings targeting Uber and Lyft drivers and that Cockream shared emails from the agency’s attorney and lobbyist with a taxicab owner.

In a memo to board members, Crist said the meeting is to discuss recent allegations “attacking the integrity, character and independence of our director, staff and board,” it states.

The Times report led State Rep. Dana Young, R-Tampa, to request an investigation of the agency by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Uber officials to claim that the PTC is siding with the taxicab industry, which has argued that Uber and Lyft should be subject to the same regulations they follow. …

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New Trop development plan: Keep I-175

HKS Architects, a New York firm that his crafting a master plan for the future of the Trop’s 85-acres, updated City Council members Thursday on the status of the plan, which is near completion. The big change? The interstate stays.

[SCOTT KEELER | Times]

HKS Architects, a New York firm that his crafting a master plan for the future of the Trop’s 85-acres, updated City Council members Thursday on the status of the plan, which is near completion. The big change? The interstate stays.

ST. PETERSBURG — So that idea to raze the Interstate 175 ramp to forge connections between Midtown and a redeveloped Tropicana Field? It’s not going to happen.

HKS Architects, a New York firm hired by St. Petersburg to craft a master plan for the future redevelopment of the Trop’s 85 acres, on Thursday updated City Council members on the status of the plan, which is almost finished.

The biggest change? The interstate stays.

Turns out not many people, or at least those with clout, were happy with the idea of getting rid of the mile-long highway spur that runs to the south of the Trop, said Randy Morton, who is leading the project for HKS. “Architects are at the bottom of the totem pole,” he said.

Mayor Rick Kriseman withheld his opinion when the idea first surfaced in August. At that time, Morton told city officials the interstate’s concrete barriers effectively shut out Midtown from the anticipated benefits of a revitalized Trop district, which could add 9 million square feet of development over the next three decades. …

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